Monthly Archives: September 2012

Drug Watch: Zimmer Knee Implants Plagued With Failure

Knee implants you thought would last decades may only last 3 years.

Today’s post comes from guest author Brenda Fulmer from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

Zimmer is an international medical device manufacturer based in northern Indiana. It was founded in 1927, and focuses on the manufacture of products for orthopaedic surgeries. Zimmer’s sales in 2009 were $1.76 billion, and it is estimated that the NexGen family of knee implants make up about 2% of the overall sales of Zimmer.

Flex implants are not lasting nearly as long as intended.

The Zimmer NexGen Knee Implant is not a specific device, but rather a family of devices. Within this NexGen device family, there are different models of implants: NexGen CR-Flex, NexGen LPS-Flex, NexGen High Flex, NexGen LPS, NexGen MIS.

Unlike most knee implants, the Zimmer NexGen CR-Flex is attached without the use of cement, which may cause the system to loosen or detach completely.

The Zimmer NexGen CR-Flex implant was designed to give patients better range of motion than the customary NexGen device. Scientific studies have been accumulating for years with regard to concerns over the safety of the NexGen CR-Flex. Interestingly, the U.S. Continue reading

Misclassification Task Force Has First Meeting

Wayne Goodwin

North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin

Wayne Goodwin, the North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance, held the first meeting of the Governor’s Misclassification Task Force on September 20, 2012 in Raleigh. Commissioner Goodwin set the tone for the meeting by saying that the purpose of the Task Force was to solve a serious problem but not to get into fiinger pointing. He expects to issue a report early next year and will hold at least two other meetings to gather information.

Elaine Marshall, Secretary of State, and Pamela Young, Chair of the Industrial Commission, were present along with representatives from the Sheriffi’s Association, Public Safety, the Attorney General’s office, the Department of Labor, and the Administrative Office of the Courts. After taking several questions from Task Force members, Commissioner Goodwin recognized Carol Brooke and Harry Paye of the North Caroina Justice Center, who discussed statistics related to the significant number of misclassified employees who have been discovered in other states. Milions of dollars in revenue, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation insurance premiums have not been paid as a result of improperly classifying employees as indepednent contractors.

Doug Burton, the owner of a masonry company, addressed the Task Force and told of the widespread problem in his industry and how it is getting worse, which means that those employers who are abiding by the rules and deducting proper taxes are losing out on jobs to those who cheat the system. As a competitor told him recently: “The best thing to ever happen to my business was getting rid of all my employees.” The Task Force will look into a possible ban on “ghost policies” and possibly recommend a statutory definition of “independent contractor.” It will look at how state agencies can share data to identify misclassified employees. The next meeting will probably be in November but no date has been set.

Scarring And Workers' Compensation: Myth Vs. Truth

Today’s post comes from guest author Ryan Benharris from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices in Massachusetts. In North Carolina, we have similar provisions concerning scarring. The maximum benefit is $20,000 for facial scarring and $10,000 for bodily scarring.

It might be mighty cheesy to dispense legal advice by citing a bad, sappy love ballad from 90’s alternative rock; but the Goo Goo Dolls put it perfectly when they said, “Scars are souvenirs you never lose.” In the case of scars, burns or disfigurements that resulted from a work injury, a scar is a souvenir (courtesy of your employer) that you never lose, that you also never wanted.
Very often, clients are confused about the laws governing scarring, disfigurement in the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation system. Here is a brief list of some of the truths and myths about scarring, loss of function and disfigurement.

MYTH: “I can be paid for my scar regardless of where it is on my body.”

TRUTH: The insurer must compensate you for a scar; but only for a scar that appears on your hands, neck or face. Any scar that is visible to your hands neck or face is compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Statute. Section 36 of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Statute is the section that governs compensable scars and disfigurements. Burns and other types of visible disfigurements are also covered under this section. A visible walking-limp is also a type of compensable disfigurement under this section.

MYTH: “In order to receive money for my disfigurement, I needed to have lost significant time at work.”

TRUTH: You do not have to have missed work in order to receive payment for compensable scars. In fact, the vast majority of claimants seeking payments for scarring have not missed any significant time (or any time at all) as a result of their scar. This is particularly true with claimants who work in the food preparation industry. Cuts and burns are the most common injury in those types of jobs. If you cut or burned yourself while working in a kitchen, you do not have to have missed any time at work to receive payments for the lasting disfigurement.

MYTH: “My scar needs to meet a certain minimum length in order to be compensable.”

TRUTH:  All scars, regardless of length, are compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Statute. As long as the scar is on your hands, neck or face it will be measured and calculated to determine how much your payment will be. Also, you can be compensated for every scar you receive to a compensable part of your body in one injury. Multiple scars are all collectively compensable.
Check back next week for part two in this series on scarring, disfigurement, and Massachusetts law.

Well-documented Expense Records Increase Value of Your M&T Reimbursement

Today’s post comes from guest author Michael Furdyna from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano. In North Carolina, if medical travel is 20 miles or more round trip the rate of reimbursement after January 1, 2009 (on a Form 25T) is .55 cents per mile.

While receiving medical treatment related to a workers’ compensation case, claimants often have additional expenses such as mileage, fuel costs, transportation fares, and out-of-pocket prescriptions. Yet many claimants don’t realize they are entitled to reimbursement for expenses they incur in obtaining treatment. Submitting information related to these expenses is an important part of the workers’ compensation process. Problems can arise, however, when incomplete or disorganized information is provided to an insurance carrier. This can result in delays and errors in receiving the proper amount to which they are entitled. Claimants can avoid these sorts of problems with small acts of diligence and record keeping.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Save your receipts and keep a record of your doctor visits. Keeping a log and saving receipts incurred from specific doctor visits provides a “narrative” that makes it easier to tie together dates and expenses.
  • Make sure to use the correct form. The New York State WCB requires Continue reading

Misclassification Fraud Across the Country

Governor Bev Perdue“Misclassification” is a poorly chosen word to describe fraudulent conduct by employers who misclassify the status of their employees. For example, a roofing company may have 30 roofers doing the actual work but these workers are classified as “independent contractors” instead of employees. Why would they do that? At the end of the year these workers are sent a 1099 tax form that reports the wages paid, but the employer does not make any deductions for Medicare or unemployment, and doesn’t pay for workers’ compensation insurance. If you have a roofing company and you properly classify your employees, you are at a competitive disadvantage in bidding on jobs. Honest businesses are hurt by misclassification, and taxpayers are hurt because they pick up medical bills and other expenses created when one of these “independent contractors” gets hurt.

Another form of misclassification is when a construction company with 85 employees reports to its workers’ compensation insurance company that 75 of these people are staff workers, which results in a significantly reduced premium. Obviously, a construction worker is at greater risk of injury than an office worker. Again, the honest company who accurately reports the status of its employees is at a competitive disadvantage with the dishonest employer.

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, Michigan, Florida, California, Texas and the vast majority of states across the country have been looking into this issue for several years and they have been aggressively prosecuting dishonest employers who try to game the system. North Carolina has finally joined these states. On August 22, 2012, Governor Beverly Perdue issued Executive Order 125, which created a task force to study this issue and try to get different agencies to communicate with each other and share information to identify employers who are failing to pay employee taxes. Hopefully, this task force will figure out how to enforce existing law. This blog will follow the progress of this task force. Stay tuned.

The 11 Most Life-Threatening Jobs on the Planet

Today’s post comes from guest author Paul J. McAndrew, Jr. from Paul McAndrew Law Firm via our colleagues at insurancequotes.org.

The danger workers face on the job is not always compensated by higher pay. Life-threatening jobs can be mind-numbingly simple, easily performed by unskilled workers or children, or as physically and mentally demanding as one can imagine. Cable television shows like Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers give some sense of the dangers faced by workers in the sea fishing and truck driving industries respectively, while films like Workingman’s Death (2005) document examples of dangerous, and almost pointlessly unproductive manual labor. Below are 11 life-threatening jobs ranging from the banal to the bizarre.

Photo by Nate Robert, licensed through Creative Commons.

  1. Street Sweeper (Rwanda)The most humble of jobs can be the most dangerous. On the streets of Kigali province, in the country of Rwanda, women dressed in blue work from dawn to dusk sweeping the roads and highways. Drivers, going several miles per hour, zoom past, their cars missing the street-sweeping women by just inches. The women wear no reflective clothing, and there are no cautionary signs or pylons alerting drivers of the presence of these women on the road. In a country with 30% unemployment, street sweeping, which pays approximately $3 a day, is a sought-after job.
  2. King Crab Fisherman (Alaska, United States)
    More dramatic than street sweeping, crab fishing in the Bering Sea is one of the world’s most dangerous professions. The fishing takes place night and day in rough waters that constantly and violently rock the boats, sending high waves crashing over the decks. Fishermen can slip on the soaked deck, get hit by flying objects, or fall overboard into freezing water. In the 1990s, the Alaskan fishing industry experienced 400 deaths per 100,000 employees. That number has increased since.
  3. Sulfur Miner (East Java, Indonesia)Java’s sulfur miners gather chunks of yellow sulfur located next to a steaming, acidic volcano crater lake. The men hold their breaths and run into the clouds of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, gases that burn the eyes and throat, and grab as much sulfur as they can carry before returning to relative safety away from the lake. The miners gag, choke, and spit before repeating the process again and again. The sulfur they gather is used to bleach sugar, make matches, and vulcanize rubber. The miners are paid $10 to $15 a day, with some extra income coming from posing for photographs taken by curious tourists well away from the poisonous gas. Gloves and gas masks are unaffordable luxury items.
  4. Police Office (Kabul, Afghanistan)
    As recently as December 2011, police officers and police stations in war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan, have been targeted by the Taliban soldiers and suicide bombers. CBS News reports that every day, five out of 10 Kabul police officers die on the job. Lack of training and high-tech tools, as well as government-level corruption and an economy based on the heroin trade, prevent Kabul’s police force from performing their job with any degree of safety or effectiveness.
  5. E-Waste Recycler (Guiyu, China)
    Old discarded electronics, including laptops, home entertainment systems, and smart phones, are exported to Guiyu’s electronic waste sites to be gathered and broken down, by hand, for scrap metal by thousands of low-paid workers and their children. The electronics release toxic metals and chemicals into the workers and the environment, poisoning families and their environment. The amount of e-waste on the planet is increasing at an alarming rate, mostly in developing countries, with illegal exporting and dumping contributing to the glut of toxic electronics.
  6. Truck Driver (United States)
    Driving a truck is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that truck drivers are “more likely to die in a work-related accident than the average worker,” Continue reading

Our Aging Population Requires More Attention

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

In the past three months, 39.8 million people over age 15 have provided unpaid care to someone over 65 because of a condition related to aging.

As some jurisdictions cut off workers’ compensation benefits based on age, the burden of providing elder care will even increase more significantly in the years ahead.

Click here to read the article: “New Numbers on Elder Care,” Paula Span (NY Times)

Click here to read the report: American Time Use Survey — 2011 Results (US BLS)

How To Select A Good Lawyer For Your Problem

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Selecting and hiring a good lawyer is critical in dealing with a legal problem. Lawyers are increasingly limiting the types of cases handled in an effort to provided better representation. The Internet is a common starting point for consumers to locate and select lawyers who have the right kind of knowledge and experience for their problem. I recommend the following steps for selecting a lawyer.

  1. Check with family, friends, neighbors, or others whom you trust and respect to learn if they know of a lawyer or law firm who they would recommend for the kind of problem you are dealing with. This approach is the traditional way to find a professional and often leads to a good attorney-client relationship with satisfactory results.
  2. Consult a general-practice lawyer you know and ask for recommendations. This approach gives you the advantage of having someone who knows area lawyers help you find the right mixture of knowledge and expertise.
  3. Internet searches will turn up a large variety of lawyers who handle the kind of problem you are experiencing. Read several of the websites with a careful eye for the following: a. Is the firm A-rated by the leading peer-rating organization Martindale and Hubbell? The ratings are very good indicators of how the firm is regarded because they come from judges and other lawyers who work with the firm. b. Do the members of the firm appear to be actively involved in organizations dealing with your kind of problem? Are the lawyers officers or board members of such groups? Have the lawyers been speakers at seminars? This kind of activity shows the lawyers are interested in improving and protecting the law for people with your kind of problem and respected by other lawyers and judges. Here are some examples of law organizations. For employment matters, see the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA). For workers’ compensation organizations, see the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group. For other personal-injury matters, see the American Association for Justice. For general trial-attorney needs, see the American Board of Trial Advocates. c. Do the lawyers from a firm belong to any organizations indicating that they have been honored or selected for membership based on knowledge and experience? d. Do the lawyers appear to belong the bar associations in their area? Have they served on any committees, sections, or governing bodies?
  4. Go to Martindale and Hubbell and use the lawyer search. You can search for lawyers by city, state, and specialty. Lawyers are rated as follows. AV® Preeminent™ is the highest rating, followed by BV® Distinguished™ then Distinguished. We recommend only A-rated lawyers if they are available. One way to get the best of the best is to limit the search by checking the box “Featured Peer Review Rated.” The website is very user friendly.
  5. Contact the lawyer or lawyers you focus on, and talk to the lawyer. Learn how the lawyer interacts with clients. The following are some questions that might be helpful: Do you feel comfortable talking with the lawyer? Are they Internet users? Will you have a specific team of people working with you? How do they charge? Can you have Skype conferences or do they have other face-to-face conferencing options through the Internet? Will retainer documents be required and available for review before an appointment?

These suggestions provide a framework on how to locate and evaluate an attorney to help you. The references we refer to are industry standards, so they not subject to as much manipulation as other online approaches, such as reviews, testimonials, or video recommendations on lawyers’ websites.