Monthly Archives: March 2012

NIOSH Alerts Home Healthcare Workers About Latex Allergies

Today we have a guest post from my colleague Jon Gelman of New Jersey.

NIOSH (The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety) has published a booklet to educate Home Healthcare Workers about preventing latex allergies. Latex products are made from natural rubber, and sensitivity can develop after repeated exposure. Limiting exposure to latex can help prevent allergic reactions for both home healthcare workers and their clients.

Once Natural Rubber Latex (NRL) sensitivity occurs, allergic individuals continue to experience symptoms, which have included life-threatening reactions, not only on exposure to NRL in the workplace but also upon receiving or accompanying a family member receiving healthcare services at inpatient as well as office-based settings.

In September of 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule requiring cautionary statements in the labeling of all medical devices that contain natural rubber likely to come in contact with humans. The rule provides that such products must contain the following cautionary statement in bold print: “Caution: This product contains natural rubber latex which may cause allergic reactions.” Additionally, the FDA issued a final ruling that the labeling of medical devices that contain natural rubber, likely to come in contact with humans, shall not contain the term “hypoallergenic”.

Over the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of workers’ compensation claims filed against employers on behalf of individuals who have suffered latex allergic reactions. Scientists and government officials estimate that about 950,000 U.S. health care workers have developed an allergic sensitivity to latex.
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For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman 1.973.696.7900 jon@gelmans.com have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Temporary Employees Are Eligible For Workers' Compensation Benefits

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of our colleague Paul McAndrew of Iowa.

According to a recent decision by the Texas Supreme Court, a temporary employee cannot be excluded from an employers’ workers’ compensation policy.

In 2005, Rafael Casados was killed on his third day at work at a grain storage facility owned by Port Elevator-Brownsville L.L.C. Because Casados was a temporary employee of Port Elevator at the time of his death, he was initially awarded a liability ruling of $2.7 million directly from Port Elevator. However, according to the latest Supreme Court ruling, Casados’s family should receive remedy under Port Elevator’s workers’ compensation policy instead. Port Elevator’s insurance provider is liable for Casados’s death benefits, despite the fact that Port Elevator never paid workers’ compensation insurance for any of their temporary employees.

According to the decision: “If Port Elevator’s policy had set out certain premiums solely for temporary workers and Port Elevator had not paid those premiums, Casados would still have been covered under the policy and the failure to pay premiums would be an issue between Port Elevator (their insurance provider).”

Workers’ Compensation Q&A: What Should I Do If I Receive A Bill From My Workers’ Compensation Doctor?

Put your money back in your wallet. Your employer's insurance carrier is responsible for medical treatment of work-related accidents.

Today’s post comes to us from my colleague Amanda Katz of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano in New York.

Question: I received a bill from my doctor for treatment relating to my workers’ compensation claim. Am I responsible for payment?

Answer: You do not have to pay your doctor for treatment resulting from your work-related accident.

There is often confusion about paying doctor bills related to work-related accidents, but the reality is relatively simple. Take for example Joanna. While at work, a heavy box fell on Joanna’s foot. As a result, she was unable to walk and had to immediately go to the emergency room. Following treatment for her broken foot, Joanna received an expensive bill from the hospital. What should Joanna do?

Joanna should not pay the bill!

Under workers’ compensation law, Continue reading

Truck Drivers Beware – Your Insurance May Not be What You Think

Truckers should be aware of the potentially dangerous 104 week provision.

There is a scam out there and truck drivers are the victims, especially if they are seriously injured in a trucking accident. It works like this: an out of work driver hears about a job and fills out an application with a national trucking company. He then gets a call saying he has been accepted as a driver, contingent on a physical exam and a drug test. The driver is then asked to show up at work on an appointed date for his first delivery job. When he shows up he is asked to “sign papers” which allow him to lease/own the truck as he drives it across the country, and he signs a contract that declares that he is an independent contractor (although in reality the trucking company controls the deliveries and is the only source of revenue for the driver). Further, he is required to purchase accident insurance through a broker designated by the trucking company and the premiums are taken out of his paycheck. Because the driver is anxious to work again and is not particularly experienced in reviewing legal documents the driver signs the papers, gets in the truck and begins working again as an interstate truck driver.

The costs of this workplace injury are now shifted from the employer/insurer to the taxpayer.

Like most of us, these drivers never expect to be in a serious accident. If they unfortunately do have an accident while driving the truck, they look to the accident policy they purchased. If they are disabled, it pays the same benefits as workers’ compensation and provides medical coverage. Many drivers think they are actually on workers’ compensation. The catch is that all benefits stop after 104 weeks (2 years). If after that time if the driver is still disabled and still needs medical care, it is a shock to find out none is available under this contract.

Is there no hope for the truck driver under these circumstances?

Why 104 weeks? Most states have workers’ compensation systems that require the claim be filed within 2 years. Since the 2-year period has run, the driver is out of luck and cannot file for workers’ compensation under state law. What happens if the driver needs additional surgery and continues to remain disabled? Most likely federal assistance programs like Medicaid or Medicare enter the picture and the costs of this workplace injury are now shifted from the employer/insurer to the taxpayer.

If involved in a serious accident, be aware of the 104-week provision and file a workers’ compensation claim before that time period expires.

Is there no hope for the truck driver under these circumstances? Although it might be a tough fight, most workers’ compensation statutes specifically state that an employer cannot contract away its obligations under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Thus, the truck driver’s legal argument is that the contract designating the driver as an independent contractor was void as a matter of law. If the employee has been the subject of fraud, equity may allow the driver to go ahead and file a claim and pursue the action even through the 2-yr period has run. Under these circumstances, certainly in North Carolina, the driver would have an opportunity to pursue this claim.

The lesson to be learned by truck drivers is not to assume that the contract you have innocently signed is valid. If involved in a serious accident, be aware of the 104-week provision and file a workers’ compensation claim before that time period expires. Finally, if you are asked to sign one of these contracts and you have options of other employment, you may want to decline this job offer and work for a company that is more ethical. Your livelihood and the welfare of your family may depend on this important decision.

NIOSH Acts To Prevent Lifting Injuries For Home Healthcare Workers

Today’s post comes to us from my colleague Jon Gelman of New Jersey.

The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) has published educational information to prevent musculoskeletal injuries at work. Injuries caused by ergonomic factors have been a major issue of the Federal government for decades and have been the basis for repetitive trauma motion claims for workers’ compensation benefits. While the Clinton-Democratic administration had advocated strongly for ergonomic regulations, the Bush-Republican administration took action to reject the reporting of ergonomic injuries to OSHA.

A work-related musculoskeletal disorder is an injury of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, joints, cartilage, bones, or blood vessels in the arms, legs, head, neck, or back that is caused or aggravated by work tasks such as lifting, pushing, and pulling. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, numbness, and tingling.
Lifting and moving clients create a high risk for back injury and other musculoskeletal disorders for home healthcare workers. Continue reading

Unsafe Workplaces Lead To More Injuries

 

Today’s guest post comes to us from Tom Domer of Wisconsin.

The connection between unsafe workplaces and the increased frequency of work injuries seems like a no brainer. A study released by NCCI Holdings indicated worker’s compensation claims rose by 3% during 2010 (the first rise in frequency in over a dozen years). The study attributed the increased frequency to several factors including increases in employment since the onset of the recession in 2008, workers possibly being less fearful of losing their jobs for filing claims, and a lack of light duty jobs to which injured workers could return because of the poor economy.

Because of these repeat violations,OSHA cited United Contracting and placed the firm on its “Severe Violator Enforcement Program”

One factor not referenced is the connection between increasingly unsafe work environments and work injuries. Two recent news stories in Wisconsin underscored this connection. OSHA fined a Wisconsin contractor $150,000

for violations while working on two bridges along highways in Wisconsin. The violation is more alarming because the contractors were working under a State contract to repaint the bridges. OSHA charged that the company did not have proper scaffolding at the bridges exposing workers to falls, and in fact one worker was injured in June after falling from a scaffold at one of the bridges. Because of these repeat violations, Continue reading

Premium Fraud: North Carolina Man Sentenced on Workers’ Compensation Insurance Scam

My colleague Jon Gelman shared this piece of news on his blog late last week. I am reprinting here, with his permission.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Dan Anderson, Director, Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, announce the March 3, 2012 sentencing of defendant Carl Dale Fuller, 52, of Wake Forest, North Carolina.

U.S. District Court Judge Donald L. Graham, sitting in Ft. Pierce, Florida, sentenced Fuller to five years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. In addition, Fuller was ordered to pay $2, 859,067 in mandatory restitution.

Fuller previously pled guilty to mail fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud National Employees Services (NES) of more than $2.8 million in what the company believed were insurance premiums for workers compensation insurance. NES, a Florida Corporation located in Avon Park, Florida, is a provider of cost-effective services for businesses that out-source employee insurance, including workers compensation insurance.

To execute his scheme, Fuller used the name David Walters in e-mails and phone calls and held himself out to NES as an insurance broker. Fuller falsely claimed that he would obtain workers compensation insurance policies for NES and the companies they represented. Instead, Fuller kept the payments and never provided insurance coverage.

From mid-2005 through September 2008, Fuller received more than $2 million of NES premium payments, which he used to fund his extravagant lifestyle in Wake Forest and Pinehurst, North Carolina. NES sent the premiums to Fuller under the name of Southeast Services, a company created and controlled by Fuller. The checks were deposited into numerous accounts all controlled by Fuller. Continue reading

Workers, Beware Of Fraudulent Employers

Could your employer be hiding something from you?

Today’s post comes to us from my colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin.

Over the course of 35 years representing injured workers, I have heard some whoppers – Employers’ questionable tactics that make even my jaw drop. With all the insurance company generated blather about “employee fraud” incidences of employer fraudulent tactics abound. Workers beware of the following:

  • Recorded statements taken by worker’s compensation carrier adjuster while employee is under medication or in the hospital still suffering from the injury. Questions such as “It’s true you had (low back pain, arm pain, fill in the blank pain, etc.) before your work injury, correct? You’ve had lots more pain from (your motor vehicle accident, sports injury, etc.) than you’re experiencing from your work injury, correct?
  • Employer “channeling” a work to its “Return to Work Clinic” (doctors on company payroll whose opinion is “like some athletic coaches, ‘rub some dirt on it and get back in the game’.”
  • Telling employees to take sick leave rather than claim worker’s compensation.
  • Telling employees to file medical bills under their group insurance, not worker’s comp.
  • Nurse Case Manager who initially befriends the employee but later makes every attempt with the worker’s doctor to prematurely return the worker to the job before a healing occurs.
  • Employer paying worker in cash with no payroll stub (or gives workers a Form 1099 rather than a W-2). Continue reading