Monthly Archives: February 2014

What is Workers’ Compensation Law in Nebraska?

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

Before workers’ compensation was an option in Nebraska, injured workers could only sue their employers under tort law for damages. While providing complete compensation – i.e., damages such as those for pain and suffering were available – it also required proof of negligence, and claims were often barred by affirmative defenses such as assumption of the risk and contributory negligence. For more than 100 years now, injured workers have had the protection of workers’ compensation laws that provide for no-fault benefits that are received quickly, and employers can avoid more expensive court challenges.

The Nebraska workers’ compensation system includes a dedicated court, and Nebraska is one of the only states to have this avenue for injured workers.

There are several different types of benefits that an injured worker is entitled to:

1.      Benefits to manage or cure the injury: includes hospital, doctor, chiropractic and physical therapy costs. This also includes the costs of diagnostic testing, doctor-prescribed medicine (even if it’s over-the-counter) and items like braces.

2.      Compensation while temporarily disabled: These payments of two-thirds of an injured worker’s average weekly wage may start after an injured worker has been off work for seven days, and usually an injured worker continues to collect payments – either for total or partial disability – while he or she is convalescing until a doctor signs off on a full return to work and/or places an injured worker at maximum medical improvement.

3.      Compensation for permanent injuries: These benefits are two-thirds of an injured workers’ average weekly wage (or wages earned in a 40-hour work week for part-time workers) and are available after an injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement. These benefits may be for permanent impairment to a specific body part or may be to compensate for an injured worker’s loss of earning ability. This distinction depends on the type of injury. Benefits may also be partial or total, depending on the type and degree of injury.

4.      Vocational rehabilitation: These are services provided under Nebraska workers’ compensation law to injured workers when, as a result of a compensable injury, the injured worker is unable to perform suitable work for which he or she has previous training or experience. This may include job placement and retraining. 

5.      Death benefits: If a worker dies as a result of his or her injury, that worker is entitled to medical expenses as well as burial expenses up to $10,000.  The deceased worker’s dependents are also entitled to benefits, which vary depending on the circumstances.

If the system worked the way it was supposed to, employers (or their insurance companies) would pay injured workers, pay the medical bills, and focus on getting the worker either back to work or moving on with the best quality of life possible. The reality is that employers (and their insurance companies) don’t always see eye-to-eye with doctors’ opinions or treatment recommendations, or follow work restrictions. Speaking with an experienced attorney when navigating the workers’ compensation system can reassureinjured workers and their loved ones and make a very stressful time a little less difficult.

Different states have workers’ compensation systems that vary, but all, to some extent, are intended to protect injured workers. If there are questions, please contact the firm and provide the details to an attorney who can advise on the best steps to take for each specific situation.

Sheriff Dart retaliation lawsuit to cost $2.4 million

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.chicagotribune.com

 Sheriff Tom Dart

Sheriff Tom Dart

The Cook County Board next week is expected to approve spending $2.4 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that Sheriff Tom Dart retaliated against deputies who backed his political opponent when he first sought the job eight years ago.

Dart has objected to the settlement, believing he could ultimately win the case, but it was mediated under the auspices of the federal courts, endorsed by the state’s attorney’s office and recommended by the Cook County Litigation Subcommittee, making a rejection by county commissioners highly unlikely.

Lurking behind the machinations of the lawsuit is a complex tale of Chicago politics, alleged jail abuse and public images.

The original case was filed by 21 sheriff’s deputies who alleged that Dart and his subordinates were responsible for the disbanding of their elite Special Operations Response Team at the County Jail. The unit was disbanded weeks after Dart won the November 2006 general election, but before he took office shortly after. During that time, Dart was chief of staff in the sheriff’s office.

The deputies alleged the unit was disbanded to punish them for backing Richard Remus, their former commander, in the three-candidate March 2006 primary election. The deputies contended that the alleged retaliation was a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech and said it resulted in lower wages, lost overtime pay and unrealized future promotions.

In late 2012, a jury awarded nearly…

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Poem That May Resonate for You

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Law Firm.

Connections brought me in touch with a poet from Eastern Washington, Charlie Hopkins.  I found that several of his poems describe work, workers, the aches and pains of growing older and the ties that bind us all together.  The following poem caught my eye:

MORNING PRAYER FOR CAROL

“Everything that touches you.” The Association

May she sleep well at night.
Wake without pain in her shoulder.
May her knee and hip not cry out, bringing her too soon
to this world.
May blue jays speak respectfully at her windows.

Let there be peace in her morning contemplation
a perfect cup of coffee in her hand.
May Carol enjoy everything she sees and hears, everything she touches
and tastes.
May she always delight in the face she sees in her mirror.

Let the first incident of the day that would disturb her peace
not happen.
Let her go at her own pace and never tire of beauty.
May beauty flow in her as mercy and as a joyful song.
May she enjoy her garden as she does her flying dreams.

May there always be harmony between us and trust and may our eyes
be creased with smiling.

You can find more of Mr. Hopkins work on his blog, “The Flood Plain – Poems by Charlie Hopkins” and in a published collection of his work, “I Need To Feel You Every Moment In My Heart”, available on lulu.com.

Sometimes, you meet the right person at the right time, even on the internet.

 

 

Splanchnology and the Death of a Client

According to Max Lucado, the Greek word for compassion is “splanchnizomai” and medical students know that splanchnology is the study of the gut. A few days ago a workers’ compensation client died of a massive heart attack, and when her husband called to tell me of her death I had that gut-wrenching experience of realizing that a client I really liked, who was 47, and who was just getting back on her feet after a major injury, just wasn’t “there” anymore. It was a sad ending for a truly remarkable lady who deserved a lot better.

Some clients are liked more than others. They are the ones who respect what you do, listen and heed your advice, and work with you to let the facts and the law sift down together to achieve, hopefully, a favorable outcome. Unless there is a known cancer diagnosis I always assume the client will be around to finish up the case; but never assume anything. Because of her unexpected death, I’m going to try to remember that each client has the potential to die prematurely.

Lawyers may not be related by blood to our clients but some clients do seem like family, and when they die I feel like studying splanchnology, looking for relief.

Football: The Business of Uncompensated Injuries

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

It is hard to image that any other Industry that denies its employees workers’s compensation benefits for known work-connected injuries would be bragging about a mere 13% reduction in head injuries. That is what the NFL is doing this week in advance of it’s annual mayhem ritual called the Super Bowl.

Sports entertainment is just big business. A major distraction to the routine of boring and tedious daily activities the NFL has found an addictive niche market, feed by high TV rating (ESPN) and fueled by gambling. A common denominator of public distraction. 

The pawns in the system are those young “student-athletes” who take a risk as unpaid talent to carry on the dream for riches and fame as cheap (free) talent for the cause of school spirit and the hope of landing an NFL contract. The tragic risks exist even at that level of are more than obvious as I saw a Rutgers player crack his neck on the MetLife Stadium field in the Rutgers v Army game a couple of years ago.

Todays post is shared from the nytime.com/.

 As the professional sports conglomerates spread their political influence from state house to state house demolishing the basic tenants of workers’ compensation.They continue their effort to bar injured players from seeking basic workers’ compensation benefits for known occupational risks,.They are now bragging about a mere 13% reduction. What about the other 87% of the the injured players they can go uncompensated?

The…

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Ten Things I Wish I Knew As a Young Lawyer Representing Plaintiffs

Ten Things I Wish I Knew As a Young Lawyer Representing Plaintiffs:

1. Make a “to-do list” before you start work and prioritize that list into a top ten. At the end of the day, check off what you have accomplished and then start a new list.

2. Be honest in all things, at all times, in all places.

3. Agree to reasonable requests by opposing counsel, especially early in the case, but you don’t have to agree to every request. It’s ok to say no.

4. Call the defendant (if not represented by counsel) as soon as you can to investigate the facts. Don’t let this opportunity pass. You may find out how the defendant perceives the claim, as well as how the plaintiff is perceived. Don’t just sent a letter of representation.

5. Big damages and bad clients make bad cases. If you dislike your client, consider rejecting the case or withdrawing. Small damages and bad clients make nightmares.

6. Be compassionate but don’t get too close to your clients emotionally. They have hired you for an objective legal analysis and help. Don’t lose that objectivity.

7. Don’t hesitate to praise (if genuine) opposing counsel or an adjuster who does the right thing.

8. If a client verbally abuses your staff, call them out on it and let them know you will withdraw if it happens in the future. If it does happen again, withdraw.

9. Seek advice from lawyers with experience. Be a sponge. Being independent and totally prepared is essential, but the practice of law is an art in many ways.

10. Realize that people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Uncertainty Over Whether N.F.L. Settlement’s Money Will Last

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

As intriguing football matchups go, Sunday’s Super Bowl has nothing on one looming down the turnpike in federal court in Philadelphia — with Judge Anita B. Brody the ultimate referee.

Brody, considering the N.F.L.’s recent settlement with 4,500 retirees over work-related brain injuries, has asked both sides to demonstrate that their $765 million bargain will fulfill its promise to compensate every currently retired player who has or will develop a neurological condition such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs and the N.F.L. said independent actuaries and medical experts had endorsed the terms of the settlement. But the lawyers refuse to share any of their data with the public to help substantiate how they arrived at the $765 million figure, and there is growing displeasure among plaintiffs who have not been allowed to see the data, either.

Numbers can speak for themselves, though, and they bring a clear warning: The $765 million could run out faster than either side apparently believes. When one forecasts how many of the roughly 13,500 currently retired players may develop these conditions over the next 65 years, compensating them as the settlement directs could very well require close to $1 billion, and perhaps more.

No one can divine how many players will develop these conditions. But the best data available comes straight from the N.F.L., and it becomes instructive after some basic guidelines.

The settlement essentially…

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Construction Site Falls – Leading Cause of Fatalities in the Construction Industry

On January 23, 2014, a young man, only 30 years old, fell to his death while working on a Raleigh construction site. According to news reports, the deceased was working on scaffolding on an apartment complex and fell approximately five stories. The North Carolina Department of Labor is investigating the accident. It’s unclear exactly what went wrong.

Unfortunately, this was the second construction accident within one week in Raleigh. On January 22, 2014, a platform collapsed at North Carolina State University and three workers were injured. Fortunately, none of the injuries appear to be life-threatening. However, one of the injuries involved a trauma to the head which is always cause for serious concern.

Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. According to OSHA, the four main causes for workplace falls are (1) unprotected sides, wall openings, and floor holes, (2) improper scaffold construction, (3) unguarded protruding steel rebars, and (4) the misuse of portable ladders.

In North Carolina, we follow the “unexplained-fall rule” which holds that “if an employee sustains a fall and there is no evidence that it arose from a cause independent of the employment, compensation [i.e. disability and medical benefits] should be allowed.” North Carolina Workers’ Compensation: Law and Practice, with Forms, 4th Edition, Leonard T. Jernigan, Jr.

While workers’ compensation benefits should be provided in these type of cases, in some situations the injured worker may also have a personal injury claim against one of the building contractors.