Recent Workers’ Compensation Statistics

Posted on Tuesday, March 5th, 2019 at 5:14 pm    

Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. Any employee who suffers injuries due to a workplace accident is entitled to demand work loss benefits regardless of whether there is any fault on the part of the company. These benefits typically include 2/3rds of the worker’s average weekly wages for the length of time he/she cannot work. It also includes payment of all reasonably necessary medical bills including surgeries, doctor visits, time with therapists, medications, and the cost of medical devices.

Insurance-based statistics

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the workers’ compensation industry had the following interesting statistics for the years 2008-20017.

The industries with the most worker’s compensation claims between 2008-2017 were:

  1. Laborers 64,410 claims
  2. Truck drivers (tractor-trailer and heavy trucks) 47,860 claims
  3. Janitors and cleaners 35,580 claims
  4. Nursing assistants 34,210 workers compensation claims
  5. General maintenance and repair workers 30,580 work injury claims
  6. Retail salespersons 25,200 work injury claims
  7. Registered nurses 24,540 worker claims
  8. Store clerk and order fillers 23,990 workers’ compensation claims
  9. Construction laborers 23, 290 work injury claims
  10. Light truck and delivery service drivers 22, 830 work injury claims

There are some surprises in these numbers for the average work. The first is that construction work is only ninth on the list. Construction workers can be electrocuted, suffer serious burns, can fall from scaffolds and other heights, can be hit by vehicles such as trucks and cranes, can be struck by equipment, and often suffer back and neck injuries due to heavy lifting.

It may seem surprising that the nursing sector is so dangerous. Nurses can easily be infected. They must constantly move and manipulate patients and beds. Some patients may not be able to control their hostility. We represent and have represented numerous nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNA’s) who have been injured when heavy patients suddenly shift their weight and an injury occurs. We have also represented and continue to represent several nurses and other health care workers, particularly in the mental health field, who have been violently attacked by patients and suffered severe injuries.

Leading writers of workers’ compensation insurance policies

The top writers of insurance coverage for workplace injuries were the following companies. Employers are either required to have insurance for worker’s compensation claimants or they are required to self-pay if a workplace accident occurs.

  1. Travelers Companies Inc.
  2. Hartford Financial Services
  3. AmTrust Financial Services
  4. Zurich Insurance Group
  5. Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
  6. Liberty Mutual
  7. Chubb
  8. State Insurance Fund Workers’ Comp (NY)
  9. American International Group
  10. Old Republic International Corp.

Leading Causes of Workplace Fatalities

The U.S. Department of Labor keeps statistics for workplace deaths. In 2015, logging caused the most workplace deaths – 132.7 deaths per 100,000 full-time employees. The next occupations as to highest workplace death rates were:

  • Fishing workers
  • Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
  • Roofers

On average 3.4 of out of every 100,000 workers died due to a workplace accident or illness.

When a worker dies in a workplace accident or due to an occupational illness, the family (typically the spouse and children, i.e. the dependents of the deceased) is entitled to some benefits. These benefits generally are:

  • The reasonable cost of the funeral and burial up to a preset amount.
  • A lump sum payment based on the remainder of the Award pertaining to the deceased worker.

 

The leading causes of work-related deaths for 2015-2016 were as follows:

  1. Transportation deaths including vehicle crashes 2015. 2,054 2016. 2,083
  2. Just vehicle crashes 2015. 1,264 2016. 1,252
  3. Slips and falls 2015. 800 2016. 849
  4. Assaults and acts of violence 2015. 703 2016. 866
  5. Contact with equipment and objects 2015. 722 2016. 761
  6. Exposure to harmful substances and environments 2015. 424 2016. 518
  7. Fires and explosions 2015. 121 2016. 88

In addition, there were 417 homicides in 2015 and 500 homicides in 2016 that were work-related. The source for this set of data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

Employer-based statistics

According to employer.com:

  • Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm the staggering number of workplace accidents. In 2012, for example, there were 3 million nonfatal claims for workers compensation – about 3.5 of every 1,000 full-time workers filed a work injury claim. Statistically, about 19 in 20 of these workers’ compensation claims were for workplace accidents. The other five percent were for occupational illnesses.
  • As might be expected, police work was the most dangerous type of work. The risk of a workplace accident for police officers was, on average, five times more than for other job categories.

Workers’ compensation and fraud

There are two types of fraud. Fraud committed by employees and fraud committed by employers

Employee fraud

The main types of employee fraud were the following:

  • Workers who claimed they were hurt on the job when they were actually hurt away from the job.
  • Building up a minor work injury into one that is far more severe than it is – allowing the worker to collect more wage loss benefits and stay home from work for a longer period of time.
  • Faking injuries altogether. For example, claiming a soft-tissue injury of the neck or back even though the worker isn’t hurt.

Employer fraud

Employers also do things that are fraudulent or dishonest to falsely deny a valid worker’s compensation claim. Common examples include:

  • Claiming that a worker actually worked in a less hazardous job in order to pay the worker lower wage loss benefits.
  • Trying to claim that a worker was an independent contractor and not an employee. Employees are generally entitled to file a worker’s compensation claim for wage loss and medical expenses. Independent contractors are not entitled to file workers’ compensation claims. That being said, the employer does not have the final say as to a worker’s status. Whether a worker qualifies as an employee or an independent contractor depends on a variety of factors such as who has the right to control how the worker does his/her job and when the job is done. Unfortunately, we see this “misclassification” defense frequently. It is clearly fraudulent and done by employers for many reasons. One is they obviously do not want to pay for workers compensation insurance, but in addition, by classifying workers as independent contractors, they can avoid payroll taxes and paying for health insurance as well.

 

Additional workers’ compensation findings

According to the Social Security Administration, in 2013 the total amount of worker’s comp benefits nationwide was $63.6 billion. This total was based on the following:

  • Payments for medical benefits – $31.5 billion
  • Payments for wage loss compensation – $32.0 billion. This sum includes payments to workers who are disabled and to the survivors of deceased workers.

The amount employers pay for workers’ compensation varies depending on the following factors, among others,

  • The risk of injury
  • The industrial classification
  • The experience rating

At the North Carolina and Virginia Law office of workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq., we fight to get injured workers all the compensation they deserve. We are strong advocates for injured employees. Our office has helped thousands of injured and ill workers get the compensation they deserve. To speak with an experienced attorney, call 1-(888) 667-8295 or complete my contact form to schedule an appointment.

How Does the Medicare Set Aside (MSA) Work?

Posted on Tuesday, March 5th, 2019 at 5:11 pm    

Some claimants, mostly older workers, are entitled to Medicare in addition to workers’ compensation. We all know that once you qualify for social security retirement, at age 65, you also qualify for Medicare. In addition, if you become entitled to Social Security Disability Benefits or SSDI, you will automatically become Medicare Eligible at 24 months from the date that Medicare deemed you to be completely disabled from all work. Since both Medicare and workers’ compensation can pay for medical expenses, a question arises – who should pay for your medical bills related to your work injuries? The workers comp insurance company or the U.S. Government? If both paid, the healthcare providers would either be paid twice, or you might get a windfall by pocketing the money for future treatment – so there needs to be some procedure to prioritize and allocate the medical bills. Generally, the employer’s workers’ compensation is the primary carrier and Medicare is the secondary payer.

The problem arises mostly when the worker and the employer are thinking about a long-term settlement (commonly called a full and final settlement or Clincher) and the worker is either already Medicare Qualified or is on SSDI currently, or otherwise expects to apply within the next 30 months.  The method used to protect Medicare from overpaying is called a Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) account.

How does the Medicare Set Aside (MSA) work?

The easiest way to think about a Medicare Set Aside is that it is a way of protecting the Medicare program from paying for something that private insurance has agreed to pay. In other words, it prevents “double dipping” by the injured worker receiving a sum of money for future medical care from the workers comp insurance company, and then turning around and using Medicare to pay for that very same medical care. (and pocketing the insurance money). That would not be fair to the Medicare system and would cost the taxpayers undue funds. So, what we are required to do is protect and consider Medicare’s interests by “setting aside” the money that is designated in any settlement to pay for future medical care related to the injured employee’s work injuries.

The Medicare Secondary Payer Act, 42 U.S.C. §1395y provides that other insurers, such as workers’ compensation, will pay for an injured person’s medical expenses in an accepted claim.  The compromise and release provides that a specific sum will be used for the employee’s medical bills. The Act then provides that when this specific set aside amount is used up, then Medicare will start paying for the reasonably necessary medical treatments. The Medicare-Set Aside estimate that is usually in the form of a detailed report and if the worker is currently Medicare eligible, the report must be submitted to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) prior to final settlement so they can review the patient’s needs and the amount of the set-aside.

The workers’ compensation medical set aside, according to Atlas Settlement Group, Inc. should be submitted to CMS as follows:

  • If the injured claimant is currently on Medicare and the amount of the settlement is more than $25,000 or
  • The injured claimant reasonably expects to file for Medicare within 30 months of the compromise and release settlement – and the amount expected to be paid for future medical expenses and lost wages during the lifetime of the settlement is expected to be $250,000 or more.

There is a reasonable expectation of enrollment if any of the following applies:

    • The claimant has applied for Social Security disability
    • The claimant is 62.5-years-of-age
    • Other conditions that may apply

How is the MSA handled?

Generally, the funds for the medical set aside agreement are placed in an interest-bearing account.

Sometimes the amount of the account is paid to the injured worker by the insurance company in one lump sum and is administered by the injured worker. Other times, particularly when there is a large amount to distribute, the payment occurs with seed money for the first year, and then annual distributions over time from the insurance company or from an annuity purchased by the workers comp insurance company. Payments should be made from the account only for reasonable medical expenses that Medicare would otherwise cover that are related to the work injuries.  These medical expenses include hospital stays, doctor visits, treatments with different types of therapists, psychiatric help, medical devices, and medications. The person administering the MSA, if the account is self-administered, is required to provide CMS with a yearly accounting of distributions to the health providers. This is done on a simple form that Medicare provides once the MSA is approved. Again, this formal accounting is only required if the injured worker is a current Medicare recipient or is otherwise qualified to receive Medicare at the time of settlement. A final audit is prepared if and when all the available funds have been spent.

Sometimes, a medical management company is hired by the workers compensation insurance company to administer and monitor the MSA funds and in those cases that company would be responsible for the annual reporting.

Of course, it is possible that all the funds in the MSA will never be spent, and in that instance, whatever is in the account remains the estate of the injured worker upon his or her passing.

According to NCCI, the time to process CMS reviews is decreasing. In 2015, the CMS took, on average, about 70 days to review the average MSA. Large MSAs take more time to review than MSAs for smaller amounts.

CMS often responds to an MSA request in a settlement by stating that more money than is recited in the proposed report needs to be set aside. CMS needs to balance what the worker needs with what it thinks it should pay. When claims are large, more than $200,000, CMS on average requests that an additional six percent be set aside. When claims are small, under $25,000, CMS on average is requesting a 51% increase in the set aside amount. The main reason for CMS increases, at every amount, are that that more money is needed top pay for future drug costs which are constantly on the rise.

In general, the amount that workers’ compensation medical set asides need to budget for Medicare Part A and part B is fairly stable from year to year. NCCI claims that the amount for Part D prescription drug services is beginning to stabilize too.

Other NCCI findings

When there are large MSA compromises, more than $100,000, there is usually a corresponding severe injury. Severe injuries include brain injuries, back injuries that involve surgeries, burns, and the amputation of a body part. Workers with these injuries often need long-term treatment with pain management doctors for their chronic pain and treatment with emotional health doctors and counselors for their depression. These treatments often include high prescription medication costs.

Nearly 64% of workers’ compensation who need a Medicare set aside are already on Social Security Disability. 29% of claimants are eligible for Medicare because of their age. About 7% of claimants will become eligible for Medicare in the next two and half years.

Claimants generally need to wait until they have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) before they consider a compromise and release – and the accompanying MSA. There’s no point in settling a work injury claim until you fully understand your medical condition and how much medical care you will need. Most MSA submissions take place about four years after the workplace accident happened. It’s not unheard of for an MSA to be prepared 10-15 years after the accident. Submission of MSAs in the same years as the accident are rare, although they do occur.

MSAs in general are about 42% of the compromise and settlement amount. The breakdown is typically in the following range for a compromise and release:

  • 22% for Part D, prescription drug coverage.
  • 20% for Parts A and B – the hospital stays, visits to the doctors, and other related services.
  • 58% for such things as medical costs not covered by Medicare, legal fees, and indemnity coverage.

More than half of the workers who submit MSAs use an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. An experienced lawyer understands the need to work with your doctors to understand and verify your medical records and future needs. The lawyer will be sure to help you understand what you are looking at on the Medicare set aside, and also what future medical needs might not be covered by Medicare, (and hence need to be claimed as a separate future expense) such as long-term home care or attendant care, and how much it could cost. A skilled attorney understands what arguments the employer’s lawyer or insurance company will make to try to say everything should be part of the MSA. He’ll also explain tax consequences and other legal and practical matters.

Understanding CMS review trends helps understand what claims will be approved and which ones will need modification. The sooner a claim is approved, the sooner the payments from the compromise and release can be made. The payments include the wage loss payment and any permanent disability benefits – in addition to the medical expenses.

In cases where the claim is self-administered by the employee, we always recommend that the employee obtain a separate debit card for the account and use that card whenever he or she pays any work-injury-related healthcare costs. That way, at the end of each year, the worker has a bank statement that outlines all of the related costs and makes it very simple to do the annual report to Medicare.

Non-Obligatory MSA’s.  Oftentimes, workers engage in compromise settlements that do not meet the CMS threshold of review as set forth above. That means that the injured worker is not a current Medicare recipient and the settlement is not over $250,000.00. The problem is that the injured worker is not 100% sure about his or her future. The worker may be considering applying for SSDI within the next 30 months. Also, something could happen, such as a car accident or other unforeseen injury that completely incapacitates the injured worker. In those cases, if no attempt is made to consider Medicare’s interests, then the injured worker may run into problems when he or she qualifies for Medicare and attempts to utilize Medicare to pay for work-injury-related treatment. This could be the case, even though at the time of settlement, the worker was not a Medicare Recipient.

So in these “non-obligatory” cases, we often recommend that an “informal” Medicare Set-Aside be made, whereby some amount of funds is recited in the settlement documents to be set aside by the injured worker to protect Medicare’s potential future interests. There is typically no formal MSA report in these circumstances and of course, nothing needs to be submitted to CMS for approval. We merely come up with a very rough estimate of the amount of future funds that may be necessary to pay for the future medical care of the injured worker.  The injured worker is then advised to set up his or her own separate account for these funds and even call it an MSA account. Although there are no yearly accountings necessary in these cases, we also recommend the same thing as in a normal MSA, namely, that the injured worker obtain a separate debit card to make it easier to track expenses and utilize the funds in the MSA for nothing except healthcare for the work-related injuries.

That way should the injured worker bump up against any issues in the years following settlement whereby he or she should be forced to make use of Medicare, the injured worker will have ample evidence that Medicare’s interests were taken into account.

At the North Carolina and Virginia Law office of Joe Miller Esq., our experienced workers’ compensation lawyers understand when the right time is to consider an overall settlement. We fight to get you the correct sum for your medical needs and lost wages. For help now, call 1-(888) 667-8295 or complete my contact form to schedule a free appointment.

Only the Authorized Treating Physician Can Provide Work Restrictions

Posted on Monday, February 18th, 2019 at 5:43 pm    

Attorney Joe Miller explains why in a Virginia Workers Compensation Case or North Carolina Workers Compensation Case, only the authorized treating physician (ATP) can provide you with work restrictions:

The Settlement Process In A Virginia Workers’ Comp Case

Posted on Monday, February 18th, 2019 at 5:41 pm    

Here Virginia Workers Comp Attorney Joe Miller reviews the Settlement Process in a Virginia Workers Compensation Case. Although he is addressing his clients, if you are looking at settling your case, you can benefit from this “inside baseball” view of settlements as well.

Can you take a Vacation While Receiving Comp Benefits?

Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2019 at 5:43 pm    

Here is another important piece of information, free of charge, this time regarding Going on Vacation During the Pendency of Your Workers Comp Claim. So here is the question:

Can you take a Vacation While Receiving Comp Benefits?

Whether it’s summer vacation, winter break, or you simply had a vacation planned prior to your injury, I am unfortunately here to tell you that you may want to think twice before going on vacation if you are receiving workers comp benefits. In this email we will discuss why going on vacation could have adverse effects on your workers compensation claim.

Medical Treatment

If you are receiving workers compensation benefits and you are required to see a physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon, or any other doctor or specialist, it is very important that you keep your appointments and attend every one. If you go on vacation for a long period of time and miss an appointment or request that the doctor change your appointment, you could risk losing your benefits.

Missing an appointment or rescheduling an existing appointment could be viewed as failure to comply with medical treatment by your nurse case manager. As such, particularly in Virginia, the case manager could have the defense lawyers file an application to have your benefits taken away. Once your benefits are stopped, it could be years until they are restored, if ever.

If you are going on a short trip and you will not be missing or rescheduling any doctor appointments to do so, you may be alright. However, as we will discuss in the next section, there are still other issues you need to be aware of even if your medical treatment is not affected.

They are always watching– Surveillance

Another issue you need to be aware of is that a worker’s compensation carrier will be keeping an eye on you. It costs very little for them to hire an investigator who is stationed far away from you with a high-powered lens to video your activities. They will always be looking for anything that you do that could damage your workers compensation claim. Of particular concern are any activities which might be viewed as inconsistent with your doctor’s restrictions. When you are on vacation it can be very tempting to do things that you should not be doing with your restrictions. For example, you may be tempted to go jet skiing with the rest of the family, even though with your restrictions and medical condition you clearly should not be doing that. Or, there may be yard work that involves lifting or engaging in other activities that fall well outside your doctor’s restrictions. Even if there is no investigator, in today’s age of smartphones, which are everywhere, videos or photos of you jet skiing or dirt biking take only seconds to be sent out to thousands on Facebook or other social media, in which case you can say goodbye to your benefits.

Marketing does not stop while you’re on vacation

Yet another issue that could harm your benefits is job marketing. This is for folks who have been released to light duty by their treating doctors, but their employers refuse to accommodate their physical restrictions by allowing them to work in a light duty capacity. So for instance, if you are not under an open award for your workers compensation claim in Virginia, you must be looking for 5-7 jobs a week. If you go on vacation and you stop looking for a week or you find less than 5 for a week, you will have forfeited the right to claim temporary total disability benefits for that week. Similar requirements exist in North Carolina, although they are not as strict.

The bottom line is your vacation should not be a vacation from your marketing efforts and your documentation of those efforts.

If you will not be missing or rescheduling any medical appointments and if you can continue to search for the required 5-7 jobs per week (when not under an open award) then you may go on vacation. But even then, you should be aware that there may be people watching and possibly recording your every move. Do not participate in activities that you should not be doing with your medical restrictions.

If you have been severely injured at work there are many things you need to be aware of to get the compensation you deserve for your injury. You need an experienced worker’s compensation lawyer on your side. Joe Miller has 30 years of experience in bringing injured workers the Strong Justice SM they deserve. Call today at 888-694-1671 or visit www.TheWorkInjuryCenter.com to learn what Joe Miller and his team can do for you.

Remember, you can still claim your free Case Success Tool Kit by clicking here.

All the best,

Joe Miller

Always Attend Your Physical Therapy Appointments

Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2019 at 5:41 pm    

Here is another important piece of information, this time regarding Physical Therapy. 

We have had some of our clients tell us (after the fact) that they didn’t make their physical therapy or other doctor’s appointment for one reason or another. It might be a sick child. It might be that the client didn’t feel well. Perhaps the person’s ride fell through at the last minute.

Or, we’ve even heard “Well, I just didn’t feel like they were helping me, so I quit going.”

You must understand that when you are in a worker’s compensation case, especially an accepted claim, it’s a lot like being in a fishbowl.

The workers comp insurance company has a defense team that is watching your every move, and just waiting, like a cat standing over that fishbowl, for the right moment to “pounce” and wipe out your case.

We understand that occasionally, there may be things that come up which interfere with your ability to get to a physical therapy appointment. But habitual absence from scheduled appointments will only give the carrier the ammunition it needs to file a motion and stop your checks.

All the insurance company has to do is file a simple paper called a Form 24 that says that you have not been complying with the medical treatment plan by failing to attend the PT appointments prescribed by your treating physician. And you only have 14 days to respond to that Form 24. You should consider it like a nuclear bomb insofar as your case is concerned.

That’s because if you fail to respond within the 14 days, then the Industrial Commission can enter an Order stating that you have failed to comply with your medical treatment plan, and from that day forward, as long as that is true, your workers compensation weekly checks will stop.

So, please do not let this happen to you. Make every effort to attend all of your appointments. If therapy is not helping, then by all means, tell your treating doctor, but do not decide to stop going on your own.

All the best,

Joe Miller

Don’t Quit Your Job

Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2019 at 5:40 pm    

Here is another important piece of information we want to provide you with respect to North Carolina Workers Compensation Claims.

And that is this: If you get hurt at work, don’t quit your job.

I’ll say it again: If you get hurt at work, don’t quit your job.

And again: Do not quit your job!

I know I sound like a broken record, but if I could shout it from the rooftops, I would. We regularly get calls from people who were badly hurt on the job, who desperately need help paying the mounting medical bills, and actually have a pretty good case on their hands. And it breaks my heart every time I hear that that person quit his or her job before calling us.

I understand why injured workers feel like their only option is to quit their job after an accident. They’re hurting, and their employer won’t listen and refuses to change their duties to match the doctor’s restrictions. Or maybe the doctor they went to won’t listen, and their pain only gets worse every day. It’s frustrating and stressful and eventually everyone has a breaking point. But if you get hurt at work and decide to quit your job, you instantly lessen any hope you had of taking your workers’ comp case to a Hearing and recovering your benefits.

The workers’ comp insurance companies would love for you to quit, because by quitting, you basically make their case for them. Injured employees can be awarded workers’ comp benefits when a workplace injury leaves them unable to work. In North Carolina, if you have an accepted claim, even if you are able to work, but your doctor says you cannot physically return to the work you were doing before the accident, you would still likely be entitled to ongoing weekly benefits.

But if you quit your job, the reason you can’t work isn’t because you were injured and you have to adhere to your doctor’s physical restrictions; it’s mostly because you took yourself out of the labor market by quitting. A Commissioner will take one look at a case where the employee quit, shrug, and may very well say, “tough luck.”

If you have an accepted claim, and your doctor puts you on light-duty, your employer has to either: 1. find a reasonable way to accommodate your restrictions, 2. find you another job within your restrictions, or 3. If they do not want to accommodate your restrictions, then keep paying you benefits for up to 500 weeks, assuming you are looking for other work within your restrictions. In most cases, they will simply keep paying you your weekly benefits.

If your employer does accommodate your restrictions and you come back to work on light duty after an injury, and it still hurts, then you should go back to your doctor, tell the doctor exactly what they are making you do at work that hurts you, and have your doctor write an order demanding the employer follow your restrictions. Sometimes, the doctor may decide that it’s a dangerous environment for you and he or she does not want you working in that environment at all, and then takes you back out of work again, in which case your weekly comp benefits would re-start. If your doctor won’t listen to you, call a workers’ comp attorney who may be able to get you a different doctor who will listen.

But again, if you quit, without the doctor holding you out of work, you have greatly lessened any possibility that any of those things can occur because you have removed yourself from work by quitting. In other words, the reason you are not working is because you quit, not because a doctor says you cannot work.

I cannot tell you how many great cases we have been forced to turn away because the worker quit his job before he called us.

If you have been injured at work or you know someone who was hurt on the job, and are wondering if you should quit, think about all the medical bills you have to pay on your road to recovery from your work injuries. Workers’ comp exists to help you cover your medical expenses so you can heal and maybe one day rejoin the workforce. Don’t make an impulsive decision to quit that ruins your chances of being able to get the help you need.

I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice: If you get hurt at work, don’t quit your job!

Wishing you a speedy recovery,

Joe Miller

Why You Should Hire An Attorney

Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2019 at 5:38 pm    

I want to provide you with an important piece of information, this time regarding whether or not to hire an attorney for your workers comp claim. We have noticed that one of the things that folks often say as to why they have hesitated in hiring an attorney is that “it costs too much,” and “I simply cannot afford it now.” In some cases, we’ve heard folks say that they did not speak to an attorney because “I know lawyers bill by the hour and I don’t want to get stuck with the bill.”

Well, if that sounds familiar to you, let me put your mind at ease because the good news is that

YOU WILL NOT HAVE TO STROKE A CHECK TO HIRE THE TEAM AT JOE MILLER LAW/THE WORK INJURY CENTER FOR YOUR CASE!!!!

If you have been severely injured, you may be out of work due to your injuries. How can you possibly afford an attorney now? You don’t even know how you are going to pay the bills that you have, much less afford an attorney! After all, your friend had to shell out a fortune to hire a divorce attorney. And your cousin had to stroke a BIG check to a criminal defense attorney after that cousin got his second DUI.

Well, here is the great news. You will not have to stroke a check or shell out cash, money order, or anything else to hire the team at Joe Miller Law/The Work Injury Center, to represent you, whether you’ve been hurt on the job, been in a car accident, or both.

How is that possible? What is the catch?

The fact is that almost the entirety of our fees are received on what is known as a contingency basis. This means that if you don’t get paid, then we don’t get paid.

 

How does that work?

 

On North Carolina Worker’s Compensation claims, we are typically awarded no more than 25% of any settlement of your case as an attorney’s fee. The reason we say “typically” is because at the end of the day, the North Carolina Industrial Commission decides what our fee will be. The percentages I just mentioned are the maximum standard amounts that are almost always awarded to the attorney in a settlement of your claim.

 

But hey, wait a minute, Miller! Why do you say “almost the entirety of our fees?” What is the small print here?

 

The reason we say “almost” is that sometimes, for instance if we need to go to a Hearing or other significant Motion before the Industrial Commission to get your benefits underway, the Industrial Commission may Award us every fourth check (i.e.,25%) of your weekly comp checks as ongoing compensation, if we elect to apply for that fee. In many cases, for instance, if we believe the case is ripe for settlement, we will forego that fee and wait until settlement to ask for our 25% fee out of settlement.

But again, notice that regardless of whether it is at the end of the case or while you are being paid benefits, you will still not have to stroke a check. If you get no weekly compensation check and/or Award, for instance if your claim is denied, then we are entitled to nothing from ongoing benefits, because there are no ongoing benefits. So those are all still contingency fees.

In personal injury cases, such as car accidents, where the injured person was not on the job at the time of the injury, our fee is 33.3% of the recovery, which may increase to 40% of the recovery, in the event that a lawsuit has to be filed. In the vast majority of cases, we are able to settle your claim without having to file a lawsuit.

So that sounds too easy to be true. What do I have to do to hire Joe Miller Law and the Work Injury Center and put your team to work for me?

If we decide to accept your claim, all you have to do is sign a fee contract that gives us permission to represent your interests in your case. Also, the contract contains the applicable language setting out what has just been explained to you above as to our contingency fees.

In addition, there are HIPPA forms to sign so that we can obtain all of your relevant medical records. You will not have to worry about getting those records as we do all the work. Finally, there are some easy fact forms to fill out so that we have all of the relevant information with regard to your claim. Just give us a call at 1-888-694-1671 or email us at info@joemillerinjurylaw.com or fill out the online form to get started!!!!

If you are still not ready to get an attorney involved in your case, we still understand, but please remember that we have a free information kit ready and waiting for you! All you have to do is CLICK HERE to order!

 

All the best,

Joe Miller

More on Cold Weather Risks for Workers and How to Prevent or Treat Them

Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2019 at 11:33 am    

Another danger for workers who work outside is trench foot. Trench foot is also known as immersion. Trench foot is due to lengthy exposure to cold temperatures and wet elements. Workers can develop trench foot even if temperatures are as much as 60 degrees F. The injury happens “because wet feet lose heat 25-times faster than dry feet.” According to OSHA’s stress guide, the danger is that the body, to prevent heat loss, will “constrict the blood vessels to shut down the circulation in the feet.” When the circulation is cut, skin tissue can die because the tissue doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs. There can also be a buildup of toxins.

Trench foot symptoms include swelling, numbness, blisters, and redness of the skin. If a worker develops trench foot, contact 911 immediately or get medical help immediately. The wet footwear and socks should be removed, and the feet should be dried.

OSHA recommendations for preventing cold stress

While OSHA does not have specific standards for how employers should handle cold weather, it does have recommendations. These recommendations include training workers on how to prevent cold stress injuries and illnesses. This includes what protective clothing and equipment should be worn outdoors. It includes creating policies for reducing risk such as monitoring temperatures and wet conditions and understanding when workers should come in from the cold. Proper “engineering controls” should be considered. This can include radiant heaters, and temporary facilities where workers can warm up. Equipment and devices can be purchased or crafted to reduce exposure to winds and drafts.

Some safe work practice policies that employers should consider when the weather gets cold include:

  • Preventing workers from becoming dehydrated. Fluids should be readily available. Workers should be encouraged to drink them. Warm sweet liquids generally help workers drink more liquids. Alcoholic beverages, however, should be avoided.
  • Heavy work should be scheduled for the sunnier warmer parts of the day.
  • Employees should use a buddy system (where employees work in pairs) so that each employee can monitor and help the other work.
  • If workers aren’t feeling well, they should be allowed to stop working and get hydrated or rest.
  • Employees should be allowed to take rest breaks, even when feeling well, on a more regular basis than in other weather conditions.
  • Workers who have been out of work due to a workplace injury or illness should be given plenty of time to acclimate themselves to work, in general, so they can build up their tolerance – before being given outdoor assignments.

Many factors contribute to workers feeling as warm as they need to be in cold weather. Proper dress for work factors include:

  • The fabric in the clothing. Cotton doesn’t have much insulation value if it becomes wet. Silk, wool, and many synthetics are better fabrics for protecting cold weather workers.
    • Workers should have at least three layers of clothing. The layers should be loose fitting. This combination helps to better insulate the worker. Tight fighting clothing is actually not as effective as many workers would think it should be. The three layers should consist of the following:
    • “An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to keep moisture away from the body.
    • A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet.
    • An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.”
  • Workers should wear a hat or wear a coat with a hood. Head coverings are essential to reducing the amount of body heat that can escape.
  • Knit masks can protect the face. Some knit masks can even protect the mouth and lips.
  • Gloves should be insulated. Better gloves are also resistant to water.
  • Workers should wear boots that are insulated and waterproof boots. An extra pair of socks may help.

Additional safety tips for employees

Other steps that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends employers take include:

  • Constant monitoring of workers’ physical conditions in outdoor weather
  • Staying as dry as possible. It’s the combination of cold and wetness that can often be the most harmful – causing hypothermia, frostbite, and trench mouth. Wetness doesn’t just include external liquids. Excess sweating can be dangerous too. The sweat quickly turns cold in bad weather.
  • Workers should have extra clothing such as sweaters and warm underwear ready.

Other cold weather problems besides the cold and wet

Icy and Snowy Walkways and Parking Lots. Ice is an especially dangerous concern in several respects. Icy surfaces can make it much more likely that workers will slip and fall. We unfortunately have represented many injured workers in all kinds of occupations who are injured—typically when exiting or entering their place of employment.  Even a telecommuter may be entitled to make a claim if he or she slipped on snow or ice at home—provided he or she has begun engaging in employment-related activities for the day and was so engaged at the time of the fall.

Snow and ice make it easy for people to lose their footing. Workers who slip and fall can suffer broken bones, muscle and ligament damage, and other types of injuries that can prevent them from working for a long time, or in some cases, unable to return to work at all. We have seen numerous surgeries made necessary due to a slip and fall on ice.

A typical office environment—where ladies wear high heels and men wear dress shoes—combined with ice, is an absolute prescription for disaster. These types of footwear provide no traction whatsoever on icy surfaces and are likely to slide out and cause serious injury. If possible, particularly if there is a long trek from the parking lot to the entry of your place of employment—alternate, weather appropriate footwear should be worn, such as warm boots, like the Sorel brand, and you should carry your office shoes with you in a backpack or by other means. This will also prevent the shoes from being ruined by the harsh salt and other chemicals which are often used in an attempt to melt icy walkways.

Steps should be taken by the employer/landlord to remove ice and clean up snow and ice on company sidewalks and parking lots – as soon as possible after the weather has ceased precipitation.  

Icy Road Conditions. Many North Carolina and Virginia drivers have difficulty driving in the snow. It is not something we are used to. Icy road conditions make driving especially dangerous. Icy conditions can also make it hard for drivers to see. Windshield wipers may stop working completely if the ice builds up too much.

Employers should prepare for bad weather and should educate their workers and have a plan in place about what to do in the event the roads are deemed hazardous. Follow your local news and school and employer closings. If most of the larger employers are opting out of requiring their employees to come to work, that might be a good indication that the employer should advise your employees not to come in as well.

Workers who are injured while driving on the job can suffer a broad range of serious injuries or may even be killed. Moreover, workers should be aware of the “going and coming rule”. That is, you typically cannot claim any injury that you suffered while on the way to or from work as a workers comp injury.  

North Carolina and Virginia worker’s compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. has been helping injured workers get justice for more than 30 years.  He’s helped thousands of injured employees get compensation for their medical bills and lost wages. He helps all types of workers from construction and heavy industry workers to healthcare workers and officer workers. For help now, please phone me at 1-(888) 667-8295 or fill out my contact form.

Worker’s Compensation and Winter Safety

Posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2019 at 4:45 pm    

Rear view of man holding shovel over his shoulder and preparing for shoveling snow.

North Carolina already had one significant snowfall during December of 2018 and early in 2018, southeast Virginia was struck by a crippling blizzard. Ice, snow, and cold weather can make it extremely difficult to work – especially for construction workers and anyone who works outside. Anyone who walks outside may slip and fall on the ice. Well-known dangers, although rare in our neck of the woods,  include hypothermia and frostbite.

Some examples of outdoor work include:

  • Construction work
  • Snow cleanup crews
  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Sanitation workers
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Highway maintenance crews
  • Landscapers
  • HVAC Technicians
  • Utility Workers
  • Refuse and Recyclable Collectors
  • Surveyors

Cold weather can be relative. Some climates are known for their cold weather and people there understand what steps are needed to protect roads, pipes from bursting due to freezing, and most of all people. Other climates including southern climates often don’t understand how to respond to cold weather and the city crews with their meager supplies and equipment are quickly overwhelmed when extreme winter weather takes over. It is not their fault; it is simply such a rarity that it is not worth the expenditure to purchase the extra equipment.

The OSHA Cold Stress Guide

As with all worker’s compensation claims, there is no requirement to prove fault. If an accident at work causes the employee to be injured, the employee has a right to demand wage loss benefits and payment for the medical costs to get healthy again. The employer is generally liable even if it did everything it could to prevent the accident.

Employers and employees should both understand the risks of working in cold weather and to how to minimize those risks. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does have some guidelines on what employers can do to help any worker who works outside in extreme cold or a combination of cold and wet weather.

Still, employers are required to comply with “hazard-specific safety and health standards.” Employers must also “provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Employers should also use standards that are commonplace in their industry.

Risk factors for cold stress

Cold weather includes more than just looking at the temperature. It also requires looking at how wind chill makes it feel colder.

In addition to wind, the following factors can make cold weather more difficult to manage, according to OSHA:

  • Wet and damp weather
  • Employee fatigue
  • Not being properly dressed for winter. Workers should wear layered clothing and have protection for their hands, fingers, feet, toes and face.
  • Workers who are in poor health or who have certain risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and hypothyroidism should stay inside.

Cold weather places stress on the body by shifting blood flow, over time, away from the extremities to the body’s internal organs, the chest, and the abdomen. This shift plus any exposure of the extremities increases the body’s risk for hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot.

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a dangerous condition which happens “when body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced.” Another factor is that the body’s temperature drops to below 95 degrees F instead of its normal temperature of 98.6 degrees F. Hypothermia normally occurs at very cold temperatures. It can, however, happen even at temperatures above 40 degrees F if other elements exist. These elements include exposure to rain, sweating, or being submersed in cold water such as falling into a lake or pond.

Hypothermia symptoms. Mild symptoms include shivering and stomping one’s feet to try to get the blood circulating. More serious conditions include a falling body temperature. The worker will stop shivering and may become confused and disoriented. He/she may show signs of losing coordination. Workers may not be able to stand. Their pupils become dilated. Their pulse and breathing slow. Workers with hypothermia may lose consciousness. In tragic cases, they may if they don’t get immediate help.

Treatment for hypothermia. Any worker, supervisor, or helper should call 911 or seek immediate medical help. Some of the many common steps OSHA recommends include:

  • Moving the worker to a dry, warm location
  • Taking off any wet clothes and putting on dry clothes.
  • Covering the whole body including the head and neck with blankets – and with “a vapor barrier.” The face should not be covered.
  • If medical help is over 30 minutes away, the worker should
    • Be given warm sweet drinks (but no alcoholic drinks) which can help raise the worker’s body temperature. If the person isn’t conscious, then he/she should not be given a drink.
    • Placing “warm bottles or hot packs in the armpits, the sides of the chest, and the groin. Call 911 for additional rewarming instructions.

If the worker isn’t breathing or doesn’t have a pulse, a call to 911 for emergency help should be made immediately. Additionally, OSHA recommends:

  • That the general instructions above, other than being given fluids, should be followed
  • The worker should be checked again for signs of breathing and for a pulse. The check should be for 60 seconds.
  • A 911 operator or emergency medical service worker should start chest compressions – or direct someone at the site on how to perform chest compressions. OSHA’s cold weather guidelines provide that “Chest compressions are recommended only if the patient will not receive medical care within 3 hours.”

 

The dangers of frostbite?

Frostbite occurs when the skin freezes and the tissue beneath the skin is affected. The lower the temperature, the greater the risk of frostbite. The hands and face are normally the parts of the body affected. In severe cases, amputation may be required.

Frostbite symptoms include red skin with gray and white patches. There’s numbness in the body part affected. There can be a feeling of hardness in the hand, foot, or body part. In severe cases, there may be blisters.

Treatment for frostbite. Generally, the treatments for hypothermia should also be used to treat frostbite. Additional treatment considerations include:

  • Do loosely cover the affected body part and try to protect that part.
  • Do give the worker warm sweetened drinks – if they are alert but not if they are unconscious. Don’t give the worker any alcohol.
  • Don’t do the following:
    • Don’t rub the frostbitten party of the body. This can cause more harm.
    • Don’t apply water or snow.
    • Don’t break the blisters
    • Don’t try to rewarm the frostbitten area yourself such as by placing the hand or foot in warm water. This can cause tissue damage. Instead, be sure to get medical help. Medical professionals should understand the right way to warm the affected part.

Attorney Joe Miller Esq. fights for injured workers in North Carolina and Virginia. He’s been helping workers get just recoveries for 30 years. Attorney Miller works with your doctors and independent doctors to fully understand your medical needs. To make an appointment, call 1-(888) 667-8295 or fill out my contact form.

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