Monthly Archives: December 2013

Drilling down on the necessity of dental X-rays

Dental x-rays

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.latimes.com

When my son and daughter were youngsters, once a year I’d have a disagreement with their pediatric dentist. He wanted to do routine annual X-rays, and I would protest because neither child ever had any cavities. His response: Dental X-rays are an important diagnostic tool, representing a small speck in the sea of radiation that we receive by inhabiting planet Earth.

It turns out we both were right. Dental X-rays are essential for detecting serious oral and systemic health problems, and generally the amount of radiation is very low. But new thinking on dental X-rays is that the "one size fits all" schedule is outdated.

"The notion of bite-wing X-rays every year and a full set of X-rays every three years for every patient should go in the garbage can," says Stuart White, a dentist and professor emeritus at the UCLA School of Dentistry. Instead, decisions should be made individually.

Emphasizing that "without dental X-rays we would go back 120 years, and disease detection would be primitive and awful," White says dentists must strive to minimize unnecessary exposure.

And this is where the discussion gets complicated because the amount of radiation you receive depends on how the dentist takes pictures of your teeth.

For example, if your dentist uses slow film and round collimation (the piece of equipment placed near your face during X-rays), you’re going to get approximately double the dose that you would from digital imagery and rectangular…

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Every Year There Are Thousands of Holiday-Decorating Injuries

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.theatlantic.com

Shutterstock/Vladyslav Starozhylov
It was the day after Christmas, 1994, and the Garber family had gathered around its table for a post-holiday dinner. The atmosphere: still festive. The turkey: still juicy. The tree: still in full regalia. All was still merry and bright, in other words, as we sat down to our day-after leftovers. 

Until, that is, someone smelled the smoke. At first, we thought, the oven had been left on. Or maybe a neighbor had lit a fire? But then the scent started to take on a sour tinge. Like burning plastic? Or maybe—eek—lighter fluid? And then someone saw the smoke. It was wafting in toward the table. We weren’t smelling something from outside. It all was coming from inside the house

The Christmas of 1994, in other words, was the Christmas the Garber family became a statistic: Our tree had caught fire. We are still not sure how. But it was probably, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission would say, because we had let our tree go under-watered. Or over-lighted. Or, even more possibly, overdone with reflective ornaments. Perhaps, on the other hand, we had simply situated it too close to a heat source.

Regardless: Do not be like the Garbers! Heed the warnings of the CPSC, for your own safety, or at least that of your home! Each year, the Commission publishes, Cassandra-like, a nearly identical list of recommendations meant to help Americans…

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Settling a Workers’ Compensation Claim – Future Medicals and Medicare

Will Medicare cover my future medical expenses for my workers’ compensation injury if I settle my case? Yes, no, maybe…the answer to this question is always a tricky one. In fact, this is one of the most complex questions that will confront an injured worker at the time of settlement.

Most settlements are final. Once you agree, you may have created a binding contract that will have serious financial repercussions for you and your family. It’s best to be prepared ahead of time so you fully understand the potential impact of a settlement. Settlement agreements cannot be set aside except in very rare circumstances. Before settling your case, you should take a full accounting of your future medical expenses and your insurance coverage. In reviewing your medical needs, do not forget to account for over-the-counter medications. These costs add up quickly over time.

If you are already a Medicare beneficiary, it’s quite likely you will need to set aside a portion of your settlement for future medical expenses. Medicare may refuse to pay for medical coverage relating to your injuries unless you’ve allocated some of the settlement funds for future medicals. Determining how much to set-aside is another complicated question and usually an outside company is hired to help assist with this determination.

Furthermore, injured workers must also take into consideration the fact that there are certain medical expenses that Medicare may not cover. For example, when an injured worker needs someone to take care of them. Medicare will not pay for these services so the injured worker would be forced to pay if she failed to negotiate this amount prior to settlement. Also, even when Medicare does help foot the bill, the injured worker will still likely pay the coinsurance amount (typically 20%). In short, be careful and think about future medical expenses.

Wal-Mart & McDonald’s: Passing the Buck to Taxpayers

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

Came across this post today: “How McDonald’s and Wal-Mart Became Welfare Queens.”  News like this has become so commonplace that you almost accept it with a shrug.   Yeah, big box stores and fast food chains are paying their workers cruddy wages, forcing them to go on state health insurance and food stamp assistance.  Oh well.  Move along.  Nothing to see here.

But the outrage should exist.  These stories make my blood boil.  Many of these companies are making massive profits.  You’re telling me you can’t pay a living wage?  All of us, as taxpayers, are helping pad the the coffers of these companies.  By not providing sufficient wages or health care, the actual taxpayers serve as the necessary social safety net for these workers.  Is that really how we want our society and country structured?

Admittedly my experience is anectodal, but I see a number of these workers in my practice–from the greeters at Wal-Mart to those flipping burgers at McDonald’s.  Many are making a minimum hourly wage of $7.25.  No matter how hard they work (and, in my experience, some of these fast food and retail workers are the hardest workers out there, in light of their work condition), they cannot get ahead or make enough to avoid the necessity of seeking food stamp assistance or of searching for the local food pantry.  

Corporations simply should not be able to get rich on the public’s back.  As taxpayers, we continue to allow this grossly one-sided equation to continue.

 

NEOC Awards Whistleblower Client Misclassified as Independent Contractor

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

I was happy to have the chance to represent Theron Chapman in his whistleblower claim against his former employer, Midwest Demolition. While the Lincoln Journal Star headline of “Man chased from job by manager with stun gun awarded back pay” is catchy, the real story here is that an employee who was fired for complaining of legitimately being misclassified as an independent contractor won some measure of justice from the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission.

Mr. Chapman had a legitimate grievance about being misclassified as an independent contractor. Nebraska law explicitly prohibits the type of misclassification that he questioned. In 2010, State Sen. Steve Lathrop, who authored the legislation outlawing misclassification in Nebraska, said in his bill’s statement of intent, as quoted in Truckinginfo: the web site of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine, that:

“When a contractor misclassifies an employee, the employee is ineligible for unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits, loses labor-law protections and does not receive employer-provided health insurance. Misclassification creates an unfair advantage to unscrupulous contractors who are able to outbid law-abiding employers who must take into account the payment of taxes and insurance premiums when bidding for jobs. The State’s loss in revenue negatively affects the funding of essential programs such as unemployment benefits.”

The deeper story here is that people on the margins of the workforce can sometimes vindicate their rights in the workplace. My client was hired through a job lottery at the People’s City Mission, a homeless shelter, here in Lincoln. People in his situation are vulnerable to abuse in the workplace. Not every instance of bad behavior by management is legally actionable, but that is true from the executive suite to low-wage workers like my client. But fair-employment laws can protect people who are being abused in the workplace and do sometimes provided protections to the people who need them the most.

Am I Entitled to Attendant Care?

Attendant care can be ordered by the treating physician for an injured worker when s/he needs some type of assistance with daily activities, like bathing, cooking, or help with walking. For example, the treating doctor could order two hours a day for light household assistance or more significant assistance (e.g. dressing and bathing) depending on the patient’s condition. Attendant care professionals are sometimes referred to as home health aides and have varying levels of skilled training. In some cases, an injured worker’s spouse or family member may be authorized to provide these services and receive payment for his or her time. In North Carolina, these services can be paid for by workers’ compensation.

Over the past several years, the case law and statutory law on attendant care has been evolving. The North Carolina legislature in 2011 created a prerequisite that an injured worker obtain an order from the authorized treating physician as well as approval from the insurance company (or the Industrial Commission) before attendant care services will be authorized.

Last week the North Carolina Supreme Court released two opinions addressing the issue of attendant care in workers’ compensation cases (see Mehaffey v. Burger King and Chandler v. Atl. Scrap & Processing). The issue in these cases dealt primarily with when or how an injured worker could request attendant care services before the 2011 legislative change, and whether the injured worker could require the workers’ compensation insurance company to pay retroactively for attendant care services provided by a family member. If you think you may be entitled to attendant care benefits then you should probably discuss this issue with an attorney. Restrictions apply and it has become a complicated area of law.