Monthly Archives: June 2013

Changes to Medical Motions in NC: North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Bill (SB 174)

North Carolina State Legislative Office Building

This week Senate Bill 174 passed the House Committee with some changes that preserve the rights of injured workers to have telephone hearings to get their benefits restarted and medical treatment expedited. For at least the past five years, injured workers have had the right to have emergency medical and urgent medical issues (i.e. surgery approval or treatment approval) heard quickly before the Industrial Commission. Usually a telephone hearing was scheduled within five days of the original motion and a final order was filed within two weeks of the original motion!

This was a great benefit to injured workers and helped restore them to their pre-injury condition. Physical therapy orders and medical records were considered by the Deputy Commissioners and a ruling was rendered. Thus, not only was this procedure good for injured workers, it was good for business too because it helped workers get the needed medical treatment as soon as possible and back to work.

Senate Bill 174 initially sought to curtail these medical motions significantly. However, after full discussion from both sides of the table, a compromise was reached. Although the expedited medical motion process has changed, we are very glad that this process is still available to injured workers. The final bill will be voted on by the House and Senate in the near future.

Thanks to everyone who contacted their North Carolina House representatives to discuss this bill.

My Friend Got SSD Right Away. Why Is My Case Taking So Long?

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

Many people currently applying for Social Security disability benefits know someone who has been through the process before and is currently receiving benefits.  In fact, many of our current clients were referred to us by former clients who were pleased with how we handled their case.  This means we often hear the question “Why is my case taking so long?  My friend was awarded disability right away and didn’t have to wait.”

The short answer to this question is that every case is different.  Each case is assigned to someone at the Social Security Administration to handle, and some people work faster than others, or have less cases to work on.  If the person handling your case at SSA get sick or goes on vacation, you may wait longer for a decision.  If you are treated by several doctors, it may take SSA longer to get your records, and the more records there are to review, the longer the case can take.  Make sure you tell your doctors that you have filed your application so that their office staff will be aware that SSA’s request for records will be forthcoming.  The faster your doctors respond to SSA’s requests, the sooner a decision can be made.

The SSA does the best they can, given the increase in claims and decrease in staff members, to make decisions in a timely manner.  The best way to get a quick decision is to make sure that you give SSA all the information they need to process your claim and get your records.  If SSA is not told about a doctor that you see until they have already started the process, it may take them longer to get those records, delaying your decision.  You should also make sure that you respond to letters and phone calls from SSA as soon as possible.  Make sure that you promptly report any changes in your medical condition or care, such as a new doctor, a new medication, or a hospital visit. 

If you want assistance with your Social Security disability claim, please contact our office and speak with a member of our staff.  We’ll be happy to set up a free consultation so that we can discuss your case, either in one of our offices or over the phone.

Intoxication, Work, And Workers' Compensation Don’t Mix

Today’s post comes from guest author Paul J. McAndrew, Jr. from Paul McAndrew Law Firm.

Most of us know that, for both professional reasons and in the interest of safety, remaining sober while on the job is essential. However, it is important to also recognize that workers who are intoxicated at the time that they sustain a work injury stand a far lower chance of ever collecting workers’ compensation.

If the blood test shows the presence of alcohol or drugs, odds that the employee will be able to collect workers’ compensation are much lower.

This is because of the intoxication defense: if an employer can prove that intoxication was the cause of the workers’ injury, then they employer is not required to provide workers’ comp for that injury.

Now, there are some notable Continue reading

Careful What You Wish For: Denying Worker’s Compensation for Undocumented Workers

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer from The Domer Law Firm.

Immigration reform is a continual and vexing issue in Washington. While politicians, lobbyists, and service organizations grapple with potential resolutions, there is no disputing the existence of illegal immigrants working for employers in our country. And when there are employees working, work injuries happen.  This may be especially true with the undocumented population who may be more susceptible to significant injuries because many perform more dangerous or hazardous jobs that other may not accept. For further information, see Do Immigrants Work in Riskier Jobs? and the CDC’s report on work-related injury deaths among Hispanics.

…excluding illegal immigrants from worker’s compensation coverage could create a financial incentive for employers to keep hiring illegal immigrants.

When injured, are these undocumented workers eligible for worker’s compensation? Some harshly argue that these workers should receive no benefits, as they are not working legally in the country. However, one of the underlying pillars of worker’s compensation is that the expense of workplace injuries (covered by insurance) should be placed on the employers who profit from the workers’ labors. Additionally, excluding illegal immigrants from worker’s compensation coverage could create a financial incentive for employers to keep hiring illegal immigrants—a practice that is against federal law. 

The worker’s compensation laws in our country do not have a definitive answer to this question—though the trend is toward coverage of undocumented workers. Many states do Continue reading

Misclassification – Department of Labor Recovery

United States Department of LaborThe U.S. Department of Labor has recovered more than $1 million in back wages and liquidated damages for 196 employees of Bowlin Group LLC and Bowlin Services LLC out of Ohio and Kentucky. Bowlin Services installed cable for Insight Communications, a cable, telephone and Internet provider in Kentucky. The defendants misclassified 77 employees as independent contractors and violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by denying these workers access to critical benefits, including minimum wage, overtime, family and medical leave, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and failing to maintain accurate payroll records.

Misclassifying employees negatively impacts our economy, generating losses to the U.S. Treasury, Social Security and Medicare funds, state unemployment insurance, and state workers’ compensation funds. It also leads to unfair competition because businesses that play by the rules are at a disadvantage.

This problem has become so acute in Tennessee that last month the legislature passed Senate Bill 833, which has been signed into law and imposes penalties on construction companies for misclassifying workers in an attempt to evade workers’ compensation premiums. A Tennessee study in 2012 revealed losses of up to $91.6 million in workers’ compensation premiums. North Carolina has identified the problem but has yet to take any action. Until states aggressively prosecute misclassification, this fraud will continue.

Truckers are often entitled to benefits from multiple states.

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

Truckers are frequently entitled to benefits from multiple states for an injury. Each state sets rules for applying its workers’ compensation laws. Virtually all states cover accidents that happen in that state. Many states allow benefits if the employer has it primary location in that state. Others cover claims if the employer is doing business it the state. There are different rules in each state and you should talk to experience workers compensation lawyer to learn what laws cover your injury. However, you do not have to make a choice.

Unless the state law says it will not provide coverage if another state does, you have multiple forums and can file in all of them.

The law established by the United State Supreme court in Thomas v. Washington Gas Light Co. is that compensation does not involve a “choice of law” question. The issue is one of coverage. Does the injury come within the coverage of one or more state? If so, each of the states can apply their law and award benefits even if a claim is being pursued elsewhere at the same time. Unless the state law says it will not provide coverage if another state does, you have multiple forums and can Continue reading

All This Tragedy Should Be A Catalyst For Change

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

This has been a tragic week in our country. Monday’s Boston Marathon attack was followed by Wednesday’s massive blast at the West Fertilizer Company in Texas. As I write, the final death toll from the West Fertilizer Co. fire has yet to be determined. It is currently unknown what caused the blast and it is unknown whether the casualties included employees, first responders or citizens. However as we look at this tragedy we should be reminded that this spring marks the 102nd anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. That terrible event which took place on March 26, 1911 was followed by a swift and aggressive response by workers and labor activists. Their response led to the establishment of many of the protective organizations American workers now rely on, including the workers’ compensation system, the American Society of Safety Engineers, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

As with the Triangle fire, this should be a time for action as well as reflection. April 28th is Workers’ Memorial Day, a great opportunity to talk about how to establish better workplace safety so that no tragedies like the Triangle factory or West Fertilizer explosion – if caused by unsafe work conditions – occur again. Whatever the cause, let this tragic week be a wake up call to us to prevent more people from dying needlessly in the future,