Reasons Workers Treat with Orthopedists

Posted on Wednesday, February 17th, 2021 at 11:06 am    

Orthopedists are medical specialists who help to correct bone and muscle deformities such as fractures. They treat the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedists are surgeons who also provide a range of non-surgical medical care. Workers often need the help of orthopedists when they fall, when a body part is crushed (such as in a forklift accident), when something drops on them such as tools from a scaffold, or due to a host of other reasons. In some cases, there is some overlap as between orthopedists and neurosurgeons, most typically in the case of spinal injuries. This is because in addition to bones, the spinal processes that make up the spinal column contain, surround, and protect the spinal cord, which is the main “trunk” or nerve which provides the body with feeling and function. Then again, there are orthopedists who specialize in spinal surgery. 

In any event, some of the common reasons workers need orthopedic care include the following:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. According to the Mayo Clinic, “the carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments on the palm side of your hand. When the median nerve is compressed, the symptoms can include numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and arm.”
  • Dislocated shoulder. A shoulder dislocation is called a subluxation. While rare, shoulder dislocations do occur. Surgery may be required in severe cases.
  • Osteoarthritis and bursitis. Osteoarthritis happens when your cartilage wears down as you age. Bursitis involves the part of your body that cushions your muscles, and other body parts – near your joints. Bursitis is the inflammation of these cushions (called bursae). Despite the fact that these conditions may exist without any trauma, in the context of a workers’ compensation case, it is often a trauma that aggravates these dormant or asymptomatic conditions that are now very painful. 
  • Plantar fasciitis. The Mayo Clinic defines plantar fasciitis as heel pain which “involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes (plantar fascia).”
  • Sprains. Most people sprain some part of their body during their lifetime. Standard treatments include rest, ice, and compression. 
  • Stress fractures. These breaks usually aren’t as painful as traditional bone breaks. They normally occur through wear, tear, and stress instead of due to a single accident. The most common parts of the body that suffers stress fractures are the ankle and feet.
  • Tennis elbow. This injury is normally due to repetitive motions that damage the tendons near the elbow. Unfortunately, unless aggravated by a trauma, other than carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive stress injuries are generally not covered by workers compensation. 
  • Torn ligaments and the meniscus in the knee. These injuries, which are common to athletes, also happen to workers. According to the Mayo Clinic, a torn meniscus can be due to any activity that causes a worker to forcefully rotate or twist a knee. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) may tear requiring surgery an extensive rehabilitation. The meniscus is the cartilage around your knee. A healthy meniscus allows your knee to move freely. If the knee does not respond to less invasive surgeries, depending on your age and the condition of the knee, a total or partial knee replacement may be an option. 
  • Torn rotator cuff. This injury involves the tendons and muscles near the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff keeps “the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder”
  • Ankle Injuries/fractures. During falls from heights, these injuries can be severe and debilitating. One of the worst is known as a pylon fracture, where essentially the leg bone smashes down into the foot bones and almost completely destroys them. Usually, an orthopedic doctor who specializes in foot and ankle surgery will perform an internal fixation surgery with plates and screws. Fortunately, medical technology has improved in recent years to the point that many foot and ankle specialists are now doing ankle replacements. 

Fractures that happen due to workplace accidents

The human body has more than 200 bones. The human hand, alone, has 27 bones. 

Bone fractures, such as leg fractures, are generally categorized in the following ways according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Open (compound) fracture. Here, the broken bone pierces the skin. Surgery is normally required for several reasons including reducing the risk of an infection.
  • Closed (simple) fracture. Here, the broken bone does not penetrate the skin.
  • Incomplete fracture. “This term means that the bone is cracked, but it isn’t separated into two parts.”
  • Complete fracture. Here, the broken bone snaps “into two or more parts.”
  • Displaced fracture. “In this type of fracture, the bone fragments on each side of the break are not aligned. A displaced fracture may require surgery to realign the bones properly.”

Another type of fracture, called a greenstick fracture, is more common in children who are less likely to be employees. With this type of fracture, “the bone cracks but doesn’t break all the way through.”

What are the treatments for fractures?

Doctors will normally conduct an oral and physical examination if they suspect a fracture. They’ll use X-Rays to locate where the break is, the type of break, and the severity of the break. In some cases, an orthopedist may order a CT scan or an MRI.

The treatments vary depending on the type and severity of the break. A common initial step, according to the Mayo Clinic, is to use a splint to immobilize the leg. If a worker has a displaced fracture, the orthopedist may need to “manipulate the pieces back into their proper positions before applying a splint — a process called reduction. Some fractures are splinted for a day to allow swelling to subside before they are casted.”

A splint or cast helps to immobilize the broken bone. Broken bones, such as broken legs, may require six to eight weeks to heal. During this time, the worker may need to work with a physical therapist to learn how to use a cane or crutches. It’s important not to put any weight on the broken bone and to restrict the movement of the bone so the bone can heal properly.

An orthopedist may recommend over-the-counter pain medications, “such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or a combination of the two. If you’re experiencing severe pain, your doctor might prescribe stronger pain medications.”

Depending on the location of the break, the type of break, and the severity of the break; workers will likely need physical therapy after the cast or splint is removed. The full rehab process can take months or longer.

Possible surgery for broken bones

Orthopedists may need to use rods, screws, plates, or other devices to ensure the bones stay in the proper position while the fracture heals. Usually, this type of surgery is known as an “Open Reduction Internal Fixation” (ORIF) surgery. Many of our clients undergo these types of surgeries. The recovery period after these surgeries can be long. These devices, according to the Mayo Clinic, are generally used for:

  • “Multiple fractures
  • An unstable or displaced fracture
  • Loose bone fragments that could enter a joint
  • Damage to the surrounding ligaments
  • Fractures that extend into a joint
  • A fracture that is the result of a crushing accident
  • A fracture in particular areas of your leg, such as your thighbone”

Joe Miller Esq. has been fighting for injured workers for more than a quarter of a century. He works with and reviews detailed medical records experienced orthopedists, physical therapists, and other healthcare provides to properly assess your workplace injuries, the need for surgeries or other medical care, and the time and treatments you’ll need to return to good health. To discuss y our North Carolina or Virginia work injury case, call me at 888-667-8295. or fill out my online contact form to make an appointment. 

Workers can also complete our New Electronic Case Review. It’s a new type of communication method for our clients that we’re offering – to allow workers to reach us remotely.

The Benefits of Physical Therapy After a Workplace Accident

Posted on Monday, February 15th, 2021 at 11:04 am    

Most employees who suffer a workplace accident begin their medical treatment with a visit to their local ER. Workers who suffer a spinal cord injury, a traumatic broken injury, compound fractures, and other serious injuries often need immediate surgery. Workers with chronic pain or acute pain often need to visit with a pain management doctor. In addition to treatment by physicians, these workers and most injured workers also need to treat with physical therapists.

One of the aims of physical therapy is to strengthen some parts of your body to minimize the pain in other parts of your body. Experienced physical therapists can workers select the correct exercises for their injuries and help workers manage their pain and recover from their injuries.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is a rehabilitation process in which therapists evaluate your physical abilities and limitations. Physical therapists generally have some medical training but they are not physicians. Physical therapists respond to your concerns by developing a plan of exercise, massages, and other methods to help you recover from your injuries.

In addition to addressing your pain issues, physical therapists focus on your range of movement and your ability to functionally use various parts of your body. Physical therapists also focus on helping you regain strength and endurance. Once there’s a clear plan (which may be adjusted as you work with the therapist) – you may work with the therapist as his/her location. You will likely also be able to do some exercises and activities at your home.

Many therapists include stretching exercises among other exercises. The therapist may also provide hands-on treatments in addition to continually encouraging you to stay with the treatment plan.

How does Physical therapy help injured workers?

According to Medical News Today, physical therapy is used to treat many different types of conditions (many of which may be due to work) including:

Some of the benefits of physical therapy include:

  • Better mobility. Many workers have difficulty with simple tasks. They find it hard to stand, move, walk, or sit – prerequisites for doing most jobs. Some activities like driving may not be possible if, for example, one of your arms or legs is in a cast. The inability to perform routine tasks also affects your home life too.

Physical therapists help you regain movement and functionality through exercises that generally strengthen your joints and muscles and stretch them so you can move more freely. While you’re exercising and receiving treatments, your physical therapist may also help you with assistive devices. For example, a physical therapist may help you walk using a cane or crutches.

Physical therapy is often used when workers suffer chronic pain or repetitive stress injuries. 

  • Helping you avoid surgery. Many employees who suffer workplace accidents understand that their options for managing their pain generally include medications and physical therapy. If these treatments still cause an unbearable amount of pain, the employee will likely review whether there are any surgical solutions to their pain. Surgeries include risks. Most people prefer to avoid surgery if at all possible. One aim of physical therapy is to help reduce your pain so you can live with the exercise and treatment routine instead of having surgery.

According to Medical News Today, other benefits of physical therapy include:

  • Improving your balance
  • Pain management
  • Preventing falls
  • Age-related disorders

Physical therapists may also help with arthritis.

Insurance companies and physical therapy

Most employers understand that workers do need physical therapy to help them recover – so workers can do their job again. Unfortunately, most insurance companies for employers often fail to appreciate just how many sessions an employee needs with a physical therapist to see improvement. Many insurance companies, after a specific number of visits (such as 10 visits) or a specific period of time (such as 3 months) will request that the worker undergo a defense independent medical examination (IME). Usually, the doctor who conducts the IME is a company doctor who will quickly say that your injuries have healed well enough that you should be able to return to work.

Experienced workers’ compensation lawyers help injured workers who need continual physical therapy when employers try to terminate their medical care and force them back to work – in two ways.

  • First, we advise workers on what to expect at the IME. For example, we review which questions are likely to be asked and what physical tests the physician is likely to conduct
  • Second, we work with your authorized treating physician. Normally, a doctor recommends that you receive physical therapy. We show your physician the report from the doctor who conducts the IME. Often, your doctor can point out the flaws in the medical report. Often, your doctor will be able to explain why you still need to treat with your physical therapist. In any event, both the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission and the North Carolina Industrial Commission typically favor the reports of your treating doctor over the defense IME doctor. 

In some cases, your physician may allow you to return to work – but with restrictions. These restrictions can include such things as not being required to lift items that weigh more than 20 pounds. The restrictions may also be conditioned on your right to continue your physical therapy visits.

One of the things that can ruin a workers’ comp case is where an injured worker treat his or her  prescribed physical therapy in a casual way, by missing physical therapy appointments and failing to re-schedule. This is a huge mistake and could lead to an Application to Terminate Benefits in Virginia or a Form 24 in North Carolina from the defense due to your failure to follow your doctor’s medical treatment plan and that could mean the end of your case.  Accordingly, please make sure you attend all of your PT appointments to the best of your ability. 

North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller has been fighting for injured workers for 31 years. He’s helped thousands of employees obtain full recoveries including payment of the medical bills they need to recover. In many of these cases, the workers need to treat with a physical therapist. To discuss your work injury claim with a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer, call lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or fill out my online contact form to schedule an appointment. 

Employees in North Carolina and Virginia can also now fill out our New Electronic Case Review. The link is a new way of communicating with clients that we’re offering – to allow workers to contact us remotely during the pandemic.

What is Maximum Medical Improvement?

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2020 at 9:52 am    

When you’ve been hurt at work, there comes a time when continuing to treat with your doctors doesn’t improve your medical condition. When additional medical treatments won’t improve your medical condition and the healing process is stopped – you’ve reached the point of Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). 

This does not mean that you no longer require medical treatment such as pain management. It just means that according to the opinions of your doctors, you are unlikely to improve your permanent outlook with additional treatment. 

Workers have the right to get medical treatment for any injuries they suffer due to a workplace accident. Most workers start with a visit to an emergency room doctor or they see a physician designated by the workers compensation insurance company, or in some cases, their personal physician. Depending on the type of injury and the severity of the injury, injured workers may need surgery. They often need to see a specialist; maybe several specialists to address their work injuries.  Injured employees often treat with physical therapists, occupational therapists, and/or rehabilitation therapists. Some workers also need to see a psychologist and/or psychiatrist.

Employees who are injured at work who suffer a compensable claim have every right to try to maximize their health and minimize the consequences of their injury at work. During the time they are working to improve their health, they are entitled to have the insurance company for the employer pay their medical bills and generally, 2/3rds of their average weekly wages for the time their authorized physician holds them out of work or for a maximum of up to 500 weeks.  Some injuries completely heal with time – such as many minor fractures. Other injuries never completely heal and may require the insertion of hardware or other drastic methods of repair. 

Maximum medical improvement is an important milestone in an injured worker’s case for a number of reasons: 

  1. It enables your doctor to refer you for a Functional Capacity Examination to determine whether you have any permanent, physical restrictions due to your injuries; 
  2. It enables your doctor to refer you for a Functional Capacity Examination to determine whether you have any permanent partial impairment in any specific body parts you may have injured in your accident;
  3. It is generally a signal to all parties that a potential settlement may be on the horizon; 
  4. It is generally a signal to the defense that they may want to engage you in a program of vocational rehabilitation after the results of your FCE come in. 

MMI evaluations

When workers reach MMI, several evaluations need to take place.

  • The first evaluation is whether you have reached the point of MMI. Often employers will argue that you’ve reached MMI in order to force an early settlement or try and force you back to work or to try to cut off your right to your 2/3rds share of your average weekly wages. You have the right to challenge any claim you’ve reached MMI if you still think medical treatment can improve your health. Normally, the doctor who is treating you makes the initial determination of when you’ve reached MMI. 
  • The treating doctor, in some cases, may be a “company doctor” meaning  he/she does have some bias towards getting you back to work per the insurance company’s wishes. 
  • In North Carolina, if you disagree with a determination that you’ve reached MMI, you have the right (with the help of an experienced North Carolina compensation lawyer) request an independent medical examination (IME). The IME is a medical review done by another physician of your choice. Unfortunately, there are no such provisions in Virginia; however, if you can afford to see a different physician, you can pay for the examination yourself. 
  • After the MMI determination by your physician, the second step is usually for that physician to order a Function Capacity Examination (FCE) by a licensed physical therapist’s office equipped for such exams. This evaluation is to determine if you can return to work with workplace restrictions. A typical workplace restriction is that you can work but you can’t lift or move any objects that weigh more than 20 pounds. 
  • After the FCE occurs, some employers may decide to adjust or accommodate your work routine so you can work with these restrictions. This way, you can earn your salary; however, this accommodation does not come without risks. Note that If the employer reduces your pay because of the workplace restrictions, you should be able to continue to receive pay loss benefits – but the benefits are adjusted to reflect 2/3rds of the difference in pay between your pre-injury wages and your new wages. 
  • If the employer doesn’t have a job for you that you can do based on your work restrictions, then you can continue to receive your 2/3rds per week disability payments. In Virginia, if you are not under an Award for benefits, or if your claim in in North Carolina, if your employer cannot accommodate your restrictions, you must look for a job you can do with those restrictions. If you are under an Award in Virginia, then you are under no obligation to look for other work. The burden shifts to the employer in cases of an Award to find you work and if they choose to do so, this is done via vocational rehabilitation. 
  • Oftentimes, the FCE also includes a portion of the exam which is designed to decide whether you are eligible for permanent partial disability or permanent partial impairment (PPI) benefits. When you’ve reached MMI, the treating doctor, after reviewing this portion of the FCE report, will normally also assign an injured worker a Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) or Impairment rating (PPI). Here, the physical therapist is performing tests on your injured body part to determine if you there exists a permanent disability in the injured body part. Based on that evaluation, the physical therapist— and later your doctor– will assign a percentage rating to that disability (called an impairment rating). 

 

An example of a permanent partial disability/impairment is the loss of function of a hand. An impairment rating is an assignment of the severity of that loss of hand such as 90%. This means you’ve lost 90% of the function of your hand. If you are entitled to permanent disability benefits, the amount of the benefits (a specific number of weeks such as the maximum of 200 weeks for the hand– what North Carolina law permits) is multiplied by the impairment rating. So, if you would normally be entitled to 200 weeks for a permanent disability and you have a 90% impairment rating, you will be entitled to 90% of 200 – or 180 weeks. Note that this is NOT in addition to any weeks you remain out of work. 

  • After you have reached MMI and these evaluations occur is typically a good time to determine whether you want to consider a lump sum settlement. If you are unable to return to your former job and so far you are unable to find alternate employment or the insurance company has not been able to find any for you, then you have the potential for a maximum of 500 weeks of payments ahead of you. These potential future weeks, along with the value of the medical side of your claim can then form the basis of a lump-sum settlement demand by your attorney. 

If, on the other hand, you have returned to work at a job at or higher than your pre-injury wages, and you have been determined to have a permanent partial disability and an impairment rating, then the number of weeks as determined by that percentage, plus your future potential medical treatment would be the basis of your attorney considering and possibly negotiating a lump-sum settlement (called a clincher agreement in North Carolina). In a lump-sum settlement, you’re a negotiated portion of what potentially is due to you in the future (the 2/3rds’ wages and medical bills) in one payment to you, so you control the money. The risk, of course, is that there is no do-over if your medical bills are more than you anticipated. On the other side, the risk to the insurance company is that you will, in fact, get better, require little further treatment,  and find a good job on your own, in which case would not have ended up paying you what they paid out in settlement. 

 

An experienced work injury lawyer will advise you about the pros and cons of a lump-sum settlement in your particular circumstance. 

It’s important to understand that you are still entitled to seek medical help – after you reach MMI – and to have the employer pay for that medical care. The key requirement is that the medical care must be needed to help ensure your medical condition doesn’t worsen. Many patients, for example, who have chronic back pain due to their workplace injury need pain management or orthopedic maintenance so their back pain doesn’t get worse.

You should also understand that if you are in an accepted claim or under an Award, the burden to switch from temporary total disability benefits to permanent partial disability benefits, or from temporary total disability benefits to a termination of benefits, is on the employer.

Talk with a seasoned North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer today

North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. understands that many employers try to push workers to return to work before they’re healthy. He works with your doctors and independent doctors to help assess your medical difficulties and concerns. When you reach maximum medical improvement, he also works to assist your doctors in determining whether you have a permanent partial or full disability as you look to your future.  To discuss your worker’s compensation case, call attorney Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment. You can also fill out our New Electronic Case Review. It’s a new way we’re offering so workers can contact us remotely.

More Information on Clincher Agreements

Posted on Thursday, August 1st, 2019 at 3:23 pm    

Why employees consider a clincher agreement?

For many workers, once it becomes clear that they have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) (that no further treatments will improve their health), it makes sense to start thinking about their long-term position. Some of the reasons workers consider lump-sum payments are:

  • Plain and simple – the worker gets to control the money.
  • The worker can’t rely on the 2/3rds of your wage weekly checks, which only come once per week. It is more advantageous to have a lump sum, so the funds can be invested, or used for a business, so that the family can be taken care of, and for other reasons personal to the worker.
  • If the injured worker dies at any point, his or her checks will stop and so will all future, potential medical treatment. A settlement usually converts a significant future portion of the future checks and medical treatment the employee would receive to a lump sum of cash, which cash can be saved, invested, and passed on to one’s heirs. 

The disadvantages of a clincher agreement

  • If your condition gets worse than you expected, you can’t go back and ask for additional medical benefits. This is why it is critical that you and your attorney work with your doctors to fully understand your medical prognosis.
  • If you are out of work and unable to obtain an alternate job within your restrictions, you may run out of the clincher money. 

The amount you receive will be discounted to reflect the idea that the lump sum can earn interest over the time you normally would have waited to get your payments.

If, as we’ve pointed out before, you are receiving any unemployment compensation pay, you will lose the right to claim those benefits.

How is the amount of the lump sum payment determined?

The answer depends on your type of injuries. The basic types of injury categories in North Carolina are:

  • Permanent and Total Disability. This type of settlement is reserved for workers where it is clear you will never be able to return to work due to:

 

    • Your injuries from a workplace accident
    • An occupational disease
    • Your combination of skills, ages, and injuries means you can never expect to work again even if you are retrained
    • You have one of the categories of injuries that North Carolina considers to be permanently disabling, brain damage, paraplegia, or quadriplegia.

 

If all these criteria are met, you will be entitled to checks of 2/3rds of your average weekly wage for the remainder of your life.  

    •  Extended Compensation Application for extended compensation at 425 weeks.  This is a separate category of injury where your injuries are so severe that you have lost your entire residual capacity to work. This can come from any type of injury, but you must prove that you cannot work and you cannot file for extended compensation until you reach 425 weeks of compensation. If granted, the Industrial Commission may grant you benefits beyond the typical limit of 500 weeks for your weekly checks. That being said, even if granted, the defendants may, from time to time, challenge your ongoing rights to receive benefits beyond the 500 weeks, by forcing you to again prove that you remain disabled.
    •  Temporary Total Disability. For most employees, workers who are placed in this category are entitled to up to 2/3rds of the average weekly wage for up to 500 weeks. This type of settlement commonly entered by workers who have the ability to engage in some kind of work, but are unable to return to their pre-injury job.  Workers must prove that they are unable to find suitable work with these restrictions may seek a clincher agreement.

 

  • Permanent Partial Disability Settlements, or ‘ratings only’ settlements. This category is for employees who can return to work but not the same job or same pay as before the accident or occupational illness. The amount of your weekly benefits is based on an impairment rating and your type of injury.

 

 

  • Partial Incapacity Settlements. Some workers who achieve maximum medical improvement can return to work but at a lower pay. They are generally entitled to the 2/3rds of the difference between the lower current pay and higher pre-accident or pre-occupational disease pay. Most workers, except those with very old claims, are entitled to this sum for up to 500 weeks.

 

  • Death Benefits to Survivors. If a worker dies, the spouse and/or other relatives may be entitled to long-term benefits which can be paid in a lump sum. An experienced work injury lawyer can explain what benefits are allowed including the costs of the funeral and who is entitled to the benefits.

How are future medical bills addressed in a clincher agreement?

 

It is typically not advisable for a worker to settle his or her workers’ compensation claim if the worker has not reached maximum medical improvement. Additional surgeries, treatments, and therapies may improve your condition. They can be quite expensive. You shouldn’t forfeit the right to get as healthy as you can by having the employer and insurance company pay for that treatment. Then again, each and every case is different. 

You may feel, for instance, that your skill set will enable you to obtain an alternate job where you can find health insurance which will likely cover future costs, in which case, it may make sense for you to examine settlement. 

Once workers have achieved their maximum health, some may not need additional medical care – for example, if they broke a bone and the bone has healed. Many workers, however, will need continuing health care to prevent their condition from getting worse. This is especially critical for workers with occupational diseases which often worsen with time. Workers with chronic injuries or other physical injuries may need constant help. If a worker needs a prosthetic, the prosthetic may wear out with time. The cost of medications must be part of the overall clincher settlement agreement.

There is always some risk in settling your case if you need more medical care. An experienced workers comp attorney can help you make an estimate as to what your future medical bills will be.

In any event, once it is determined that a full and final settlement of your case may be advantageous, your attorney will help calculate your future medical costs related to your injury by first estimating our life expectancy. This can be done by relying on certain statutes in North Carolina that actually provide the average life expectancies for both males and females each year across the State. 

Are there other issues to consider in a worker’s compensation clincher agreement?

One complicated problem is how your Medicare benefits and Social Security benefits are figured since many workers may be eligible for both Medicare and workers’ compensation benefits if they have a lifetime disability or were older when they first applied for work injury benefits. This is typically handled through something called a Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement or MSA. Basically, if you are a current Medicare recipient or if you are on Social Security Disability, you cannot settle your workers compensation claim without taking into account Medicare’s interests. 

Also, if you’re going through a divorce, you’ll need to review your marital rights with a family lawyer.

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney Joe Miller Esq. has been fighting for injured workers in North Carolina and Virginia for more than 30 years. He is highly respected by his legal peers and former clients. He’ll fight to get you every dollar you deserve. He’ll contest any effort by the employer to terminate or reduce your benefits. Call attorney Joe Miller today at 888-694-1671. or use my contact form to schedule an appointment. 

 

New Workplace Safety Applications for Wearable Technology

Posted on Friday, April 26th, 2019 at 1:28 pm    

In a previous article, we discussed some of the overall pros and cons of wearing workplace technology. In this article, we address some of the specifics.

According to Lanier Upshaw, a company that focuses on business risk, many businesses are exploring how wearable workplace technology can help employers and employees reduce the number of workplace accidents and the severity of workplace injuries. In addition to wearable technology, mobile applications, and sensors are becoming part and parcel of future workplace safety strategies.

Wearable technology is being used in many different professions and industry sectors including healthcare, police, firefighting, construction, and manufacturing.

Some of the benefits that makers of these wearable technologies say can help workers include:

  • Warnings. The technology can warn employees that noise levels are excessive which can harm an employee’s hearing, the temperature is too hot or too cold which can directly affect a person’s health, and the existence of chemical toxins. Toxins that are ingested can cause breathing and respiratory problems. Toxins that come in touch with the skin can cause itching, burns, and infections.
  • Body movement. Wearables can help identify when a worker isn’t lifting an item properly which can place excess strain on the back and spine. Back and spine injuries can lead to a lifetime of chronic pain.
  • Collecting data. Wearable technology devices use sensors to collect lots of data about work performance. The data can be analyzed to focus on increasing productivity while at the same time helping the worker avoid or reduce the risk of injury. The data can be used, for example, to help design ergonomic equipment and workplace environments that place fewer stresses on the body.

Various types of wearable technology

Some wearable technology is already helping workers in the following ways:

  • Warehouses are using wearable technology, which is worn on the wrist or arm, that gives workers an interface to managers and supervisors to discuss any issues that arise
  • Wearable technology can include barcode scanners to let workers minimize the time and stress of handwriting product and delivery information
  • In the manufacturing sector, workers wear headsets that let them communicate while keeping their hands-free to hold on to work with tools and equipment. Wristbands with software can also enable hands-free communication
  • Backpacks with sensors can include cameras that can scan and capture any environment. These devices can be useful in the construction arena where the landscape continually changes as the work is completed
  • Some workers are wearing smart glasses that have microprocessor and optics to get a 3-dimenisional view of an area
  • Sunglasses and smart-glasses can be used for mobile computing, video and photo recording, data collection, and “waveguide optics.”
  • Helmet clips with sensors can help workers and supervisors increase their knowledge of whether there are dangerous gases, the worker’s locations, and what the vital signs of the worker are
  • Footbeds with sophisticated technology are being used to collect biomechanical and physical data which can reduce the risk of “musculoskeletal injuries”
  • Smart wearable technology can help determine whether a worker is getting tired and needs a rest break or should even stop working until they get enough sleep. This can be especially useful for truck drivers who can easily get fatigued if they push their limits – by driving too many hours without getting proper rest. In one example, wearers have a “smart cap,” which alerts a remote operator to the fatigue. The remote operator then sends an alarm to the wearer. These devices detect brain signals through tiny EEG sensors.
  • Some companies have their workers wear “smart compression suits” to track the worker’s body movements. In some industries where the worker works in dangerous conditions, this technology can be valuable
  • There are holographic devices which give the user a better field of vision by including high-definition holograms to increase their understanding of the view around them.
  • There are devices which expand the viewing perspective so that workers can see things at a 75-degree angle. These devices even include earbuds for a broader audio experience.
  • Some devices can be used to examine the wearer’s perspiration level – specifically, the amount of alcohol in the perspiration
  • Workers who work in mine are using “wearable devices for geolocating personnel and equipment”
  • Shirts can help keep surgeons, pilots, firefighters and others cool through the use of “portable CO2 tanks.” These devices can help reduce the risk of death and heat stroke when the weather gets too hot.
  • Watches can transmit safety alerts
  • Glasses are being combined with Bluetooth technology to transmit emails and other notifications.
  • Bracelets with GPS systems can send data about a worker’s location to a supervisor
  • Some devices have point-of-view devices attached to helmets, headgear, and collars. This technology can help law enforcement be more aware of dangerous situations

There are concerns about all this wearable technology. There are privacy and security issues. Employees should have the right to raise questions about their effectiveness. Are they really helping the worker be safer or are they just being used to help a business make a profit or worse yet, spy on their employees?

Is the focus on protecting the worker or on gather data? There needs to be a balance between helping the employee and helping the company, but in all cases, the safety and security of the worker should always be the #1 priority. The wearable technology may improve worker morale but it may also inhibit worker morale because the devices can be cumbersome. Workers may also tend to over-rely on the sensors instead of their own instincts.

At the Virginia Law office and North Carolina office of attorney Joe Miller Esq., we understand that the workplace environment is constantly changing. While we appreciate devices that can help improve worker safety, when injuries happen (for any reason), we demand that employers and their insurance company take care of their workers. This includes making timely payments for medical expenses and wage benefits. We’ve helped thousands of employees get their full workers’ compensation benefits.  For help with your Virginia or North Carolina workers’ compensation case, call us today. Initial appointments are free. You can reach attorney Joe Miller at 1-(888) 694-1671 or by completing my contact form.

Wearable Technology and Workplace Safety

Posted on Friday, April 19th, 2019 at 3:10 pm    

New technology is helping workers avoid work-related injuries in many ways. Companies should always be on the lookout for ways to improve worker safety. They should understand and follow the latest guidelines and regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They should keep current with latest safety standards.

Businesses should know that providing workers with the best tools possible, the best equipment possible, and the best education possible can help reduce how often work injuries occur. The best way to avoid a work injury claim is to avoid the accident in the first place. When accidents at work do happen, workers should speak with experienced workers’ compensation lawyers to get the best advice possible.

The positives

Most new technology has some computer component and some data component. The wearable technology gathers the data by reading relevant responses from the worker who wears the technology. This new type of technology is often good at measuring things such as fatigue, work-related stress, ergonomic issues, proximity to danger, and other factors.

The overall goal of the technology is two-fold. The first is to improve the safety for the individual worker. The second is to improve the safety of the whole workplace organization.

According to Businessinsurance.com, these are some example of the desired benefits of wearable technology:

  • “Caterpillar Inc. demonstrated a solution it created to reduce accidents involving collisions between heavy machinery and construction personnel. Using a small beacon that fits inside a hardhat and a receiver mounted in the cab of a vehicle or machine, the solution can detect when a worker is dangerously close to the equipment and alert the driver with an alarm.”
  • Two analysts explained how new technology could be used in construction sites, one of the leading industry sectors for workplace accident claims. The new technology would give supervisors the ability to warn workers, through visual and audible alarms to the device they’re wearing – to stay away from certain unsafe areas. The technology was “a worker positioning system using wireless beacons placed around the room and safety vests outfitted with transmitters that allowed software to track their movements throughout the aisles and among audience members in real time.”
  • The analysts touted other wearable devices that could alert supervisors to accidents. Quicker response times could prevent harm to other workers and help the injured worker get more timely help. Workers could be notified when an evacuation of a dangerous site was necessary.

Wearable technology benefits typically, according to the BusinessInsruance.com article, the following three goals:

  • Collect data about the worker on certain activities such as bending and then comparing it to a benchmark or threshold. The hard part is determining the benchmarks and thresholds.
  • Change the worker’s individual behavior. Much of the analysis of this type of benefit has shown that it doesn’t help workers that much. In fact, in one study at the University of Pittsburgh, PA, an experiment was done to determine if wearable devices that monitored diet and physical activity helped or hurt with weight loss. The study actually found that the people who didn’t wear the devices lost more weight than those with the devices. The analysts in the article concluded that behavior is affected more by “organizational culture and systems that try to reinforce desired behaviors and discourage deviations.
  • Make changes to organizational behavior, “such as changing workflows or processes to make work safer or more efficient.”

The negatives

There are concerns with wearable technology. Most wearable technology focuses on collecting data about a worker’s performance. Some of the concerns raised by those who oppose these technologies include:

  • A lack of privacy. The collection of large amounts of data can affect the psyche and well-being of the workers. The information gathered may be used against the worker in various ways such as in the evaluation of the worker’s job performance. The worker’s privacy is impacted.
  • An improper focus. Focusing on the data often means missing many other parts of job performance. Doing a job well depends on experience, ambition, creativity, imagination, an ability to be a team player, and many other factors. Focusing on just physical and emotional responses can miss some of these crucial factors. Often, there are much better, more efficient, and more creative ways to improve worker safety and worker job performance.
  • Digital breaches. Some transfer of information might violate various laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which regulates access to medical health records.
  • A waste of time. All of the data collection isn’t worth the time to collect it if there’s no ability in the technology to assess and evaluate the data.

Wearable technologies should focus on things that can’t normally be evaluated by the human eye or human experience. How much bending a worker is doing can usually be assessed by just looking at the worker. Technology can be useful, for example, in determining (through a glove with sensors) how much “force a worker uses” while gripping.

General guidelines

Education matters. Workers should be told more than just how to use the technology. They should understand how the technology is being used to make for a safer and better work environment.

Employers tend to like wearable devices because the devices may help reduce their premiums while also helping to avoid workplace accidents. Employees may like them if they really help keep them safer.

At the Virginia Law office and North Carolina office of lawyer Joe Miller Esq., we’ve helped thousands of injured workers get justice. We fight to get employees all the benefits they deserve including payment of all their medical bills and their lost wages. We understand that holding employers accountable for workplace injuries is one way to force employers to focus more on workplace safety. For help with your Virginia or North Carolina workers’ compensation claim, call attorney Joe Miller at 1-(888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form to schedule a free appointment. Initial consultations are free.

Why Broadside Accidents and Head-On Crashes are So Dangerous

Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2018 at 4:07 pm    

Not every accident is equal. At one extreme are rear-end collisions which rarely kill someone. In most cases, the car accident victims suffer whiplash and soft tissue issue injuries. At the other extreme, are head-on collisions and broadside collisions. These latter types of injuries often kill a car occupant or cause the driver or passengers to suffer very serious injuries.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, for the year 2016:

  • 1,441 people wee killed in car accidents
  • 130,137 people were injured
  • There were over a quarter-million vehicle crashes – nearly 700 a day
  • Nearly ¾ of all crashed occurred between 7am and 7pm
  • Nearly 1/3 of all accidents were due to speeding

Experienced North Carolina car accident lawyers guide families of the deceased and guide the survivors through each phase of the trial process.

Broadside collisions

In this type of a crash two vehicles collide front to side. This means the front of one car, usually the car at fault, drives into the side of another car. Broadside crashes are also called T-bone crashes because the position of the cars on impact looks like the letter “T.” Because the cars strike at right angles to each other, there’s a strong likelihood that one or both cars will spin out of control which can cause a multi-vehicle accident.

The occupants of the car whose side is struck often suffer the most harm because the side of a car offers virtually no protection – unlike the hood of the other car. Side airbags are also less likely to deploy than front air bags. The occupants of both cars are likely to be thrown about the car, if the airbags don’t deploy. The occupants in the car whose front strikes the other car are also likely to be thrown into the windshield or the dashboard. Occupants of both cars are likely to be thrown into each other.

How broadside car crashes happen

Generally, the car whose front strikes the side of the other car is the car at fault. The driver and the owners of this front car should be held accountable for any injuries or deaths they cause. Some of the reasons for broadside accidents are:

  • Reckless driving
  • Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
  • Failing to merge properly
  • Running through a red light or a stop sign at an intersection
  • Not yielding the right of way
  • Driving while distracted. Drivers who are distracted can easily veer into the wrong lane or run through an intersection. Distracted driving includes texting while driving, talking on a smart-phone, or eating or drinking while drinking
  • Not being prepared for bad weather including icy roads, oil slicks due to rain, glare due to the sun, snow, and sleet
  • Defective car parts
  • Cars that haven’t been inspected

Types of injuries drivers and passengers suffer from T-bone accidents

The worst-case scenario is that a driver or passenger will be killed. When someone dies, experienced North Carolina and Virginia car accident lawyers file wrongful death actions on behalf of the estate of the decedent and the surviving family members.

Survivors of broadside collisions can suffer traumatic brain injury, paralysis, broken bones, acute and chronic bone, damage to ligaments and muscles, damage to the spinal cord, internal bleeding, and any many other injuries. Some injuries may resolve with months or years of medical care. Other injuries can completely alter a person’s life. Flying glass, striking other car parts, knocking into passengers, and even being stuck on the steering column are common broadside injuries.

In addition to killing or injuring passengers, T-bone crashes often destroy the vehicles involved or require extensive repairs. Generally, if the cost to fix the car is more than the value of the car, the damage is considered a total loss. In total loss cases, owners are entitled to demand payment from the responsible drivers/owners and applicable insurance companies for the value of the car.

Head-On Collisions – Causes and Dangers

Head-on car crashes are often deadly. Survivors often suffer catastrophic injuries which require a lifetime of care. Many victims often need the jaws of life tool just to be extricated from the vehicles. In most cases, one driver is clearly in the wrong because he/she was in the wrong lane of traffic. But this is not always the case. Sometimes a vehicle may be knocked into the oncoming lane by a vehicle headed in the same direction, in which case the fault would originate with the vehicle who slammed into the car that was thrust into the oncoming lane. Some reasons why a driver might go the wrong way down a one-way street, drive on the wrong side in a two-lane road, or go the wrong way on a road ramp are:

  • Intoxication. Drivers who are drunk lose any sense of where they are
  • Driving while under the influence of drugs. Drugs affect a driver’s ability to reason
  • Driver distraction. Drivers who talk or text on cellphones, or who aren’t watching the roadway, can find themselves going in the wrong direction into a stream of traffic
  • Speeding. Cars that go too fast may miss signs indicating which lanes of travel they should take
  • Bad weather, slick roads, pouring rain, heavy fog, and even glare from the sun can make it difficult for drivers to see where they are and where they should go;
  • As mentioned above, another driver traveling in the same direction who loses control and  knocks the head on driver into the oncoming lane.

In head-on collision cases, the personal representative for the estate of someone who was killed can hold the driver who was going the wrong way and/or other at-fault drivers accountable for wrongful death damages. In North Carolina, the Estate of the deceased should sue the irresponsible driver for all their damages such as physical pain of the deceased, loss of service and society, as well as the emotional suffering of the beneficiaries, lost wages, and medical bills. Medical bills include surgeries, hospital stays necessary to attempt to save the life of the decedent.

In addition to standard damages, experienced North Carolina trial lawyers will often seek to punish the driver’s bad behavior through an award of punitive damages. Punitive damages can be awarded in North Carolina, if a defendant acted recklessly, wantonly, or maliciously. A case can be made that a drunk driver, a distracted driver, or a speeding driver was acting recklessly and without any regard for the safety of passengers and the occupants of other vehicles.

Of course, if the deceased or injured driver was acting in the course of employment, an additional claim must be made for workers compensation benefits. If there is a death, then there are additional workers compensation death benefits available to the dependents of the deceased worker under the Workers Compensation Act. It is very important, particularly in Virginia, that the injury case against the other driver NOT be settled, as long as there is a pending workers compensation case. If this occurs, it could wipe out any workers compensation benefits available to the dependents of the deceased or the ongoing workers compensation case of the injured worker.

Make the call to a respected North Carolina and Virginia accident lawyer today

At the North Carolina and Virginia Law office of Joe Miller Esq., we have the experience and resources to hold irresponsible and reckless drivers accountable for the physical pain and emotional harm they cause. Attorney Joe Miller has been fighting for injury victims for more than 30 years. To schedule a free consultation, please call (888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form.

What are the Stages of a Car Accident Case?

Posted on Friday, June 15th, 2018 at 10:13 am    

Car accident cases aren’t simply a matter of “here’s what happened, pay me a large sum of money.” Experienced Virginia car accident lawyers are skilled at each phase of the trial from the initial client consultation through a trial before a jury. Once your medical diagnosis is clear, the lawyer will work to try to settle your case. To get the best results, the lawyer prepares your case as if it is going to go to trial.

Since car accident lawyers usually take your case on a contingency fee basis, the client does not need to rush to make a quick settlement. Contingency fee means the car accident lawyer only gets paid if your case settles or if you obtain a jury verdict. So you will not have to stroke a check to hire the attorney.

There are several steps a car accident victim should take before speaking with an attorney. For more detailed information on what to do and what not to do if you’ve been in a car accident, please download my book 23 Simple Rules to Follow if You’ve Been in a Car Accident, or call our office for a hard-bound copy. Also, remember that if you were on the job at the time of your accident, there will be a Workers’ Compensation element to your claim as well which we can handle for you.

  • The first step is to get an immediate medical evaluation. Even if accident victims feel well immediately after the accident, they should still go to the emergency room or see their family doctor. Some injuries like traumatic brain injury, concussions, or whiplash take a day or more to show symptoms. The sooner you see a doctor, even when pain is not immediate, the better care you should get. Early diagnosis and early treatment helps you get better faster and with stronger results. Additionally, if you wait to see your physician, the insurance companies may argue that you weren’t really hurt.
  • The second step is to contact the police if anyone was hurt or if there was property damage. The police will get everyone’s contact and insurance information. The officers will write a report which details the accident site including lanes of travel, traffic signals and signs, and other information. The police will work to secure the area so that nobody else is hurt. They’ll physical also arrange for any ambulance or EMT services. They will also charge anyone they feel violated any laws, such as failure to yield, running a red light, etc. This helps to determine who was at fault for the accident, and if that person pre-pays the fine, then they have admitted guilt in your case.
  • The next step is to make sure you take or get someone to take numerous photos of any damage to the vehicle you were occupying at the time of the accident, before the vehicle is repaired. This can easily be done with most smartphones today. In addition, if you have any bruises  lacerations, or seatbelt burn, etc. from the accident, you should get someone to photograph them extensively and as clearly as possible before they heal.
  • The third step is to contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. The attorney will advise you how to document your pain and suffering. He’ll explain how the litigation process works. An experienced car crash lawyer will explain that you shouldn’t think about a settlement until you fully understand your injuries and what your long-term prognosis is. He’ll speak with the insurance adjusters for you have signed documents to allow him to represent you.
  • Vehicle owners are required to notify their own insurance carrier about the accident. You should never admit fault even to your own company.  You should give the facts about what happened. Normally, the insurance company will want to inspect the car to see what repairs may be necessary or to determine if the car was totaled.
  • Vehicle accident victims are not required to speak with the insurance adjuster for the people who were at fault, i.e. the defendant. If an insurance company, other than yours, wants to speak with you, you have every right to say that you want them to speak with your lawyer. If your lawyer thinks it prudent, he will set up a recorded statement and prepare you for it, and do a three-way telephone interview so that he is on the phone during the statement. He will also prepare you before the statement as to how to conduct yourself.

 

Victims should also understand that both Virginia and North Carolina have a strict contributory negligence laws. This means if a jury finds that the other driver was 90% at fault and you were just 10% at fault, then you get nothing. You don’t get 90%. You don’t get 50%. You get zero. So, admitting or implying fault in any way can cause you to lose your case.

Now if you were on the job at the time of your accident, generally, fault does not affect workers comp entitlement, unless you were grossly negligent, or failed to follow a company safety rule. For instance, if company safety rules require that you wear a seatbelt, and you were not wearing one and this increased your injuries, you would not be entitled to workers comp coverage.

The stages of your case once you a hire a lawyer

  • Consultation. The attorney will begin by reviewing what happened and your medical complaints. The more he understands what happened, the better he can analyze who was responsible and why.
  • Investigation. In the old days, the attorney would routinely send investigators to the accident site to take pictures and/or video of the site, but today, for most locations, you can view just about every angle of the scene using Google Earth and save the shots you want.  If skid marks or sight distance are important, then an investigator with appropriate training will be sent to take measurements. This can prove critical in close cases. The investigators may also examine your vehicle. The damage to all the vehicles (what parts of the car and how severe) is another piece of evidence to help determine fault.
  • Determination and Estimation of Coverage. Your own insurance policy should have a portion called Underinsured Motorist Coverage.  (UIM). It is very important to find the declaration page of your policy. This will display what your coverage is. It is usually expressed as policy limits, with two numbers and a slash line. For instance it may say $100,000/$300,000.00. The first number is the per person limit and the second number is the total coverage in the event that more than one person was hurt. The reason the amounts are important is because the minimum coverage required in Virginia is $25,000.00, and in North Carolina, $30,000.00. So no matter how bad your injuries are, if both you and the defendant have the minimum coverage, that is all you will be entitled to. Unfortunately, we are not entitled to know the amount of the defendant’s coverage without filing a lawsuit. Most of the time, you can get an idea based on the year, make and model of the defendant’s car. So if they are driving a 1980 Honda that is barely holding together, you can bet their coverage is very different from someone driving a brand new Mercedes.
  • Photos of the damage to the vehicle and any severe injuries.  As noted above, it is very important to get photos of the vehicle damage. Particularly in a nasty wreck, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you have to go to trial, nothing conveys what you have been through better than a mangled mass of twisted metal.
  • Medical care and gathering of records and bills. The attorney will review your medical injuries and the treatment you’ve received so far. The lawyer may suggest that your see other doctors, psychologists, therapists, and other health care providers. During your case, the lawyer will obtain medical reports which explain your medical condition, your prognosis, the loss of any long-term function, the pain and suffering that usually accompanies the type of injury you have, and any problems that are unique to your situation.
  • When to negotiate. Insurance companies for the people who hit your car want to settle your case as quickly as possible for as little as possible. Experienced Virginia car accident lawyers understand that delay is not your friend. Many doctors will defer payment until your case is resolved, but they are not required to do so. Therefore, your own health insurance company should pay for your medical care until the case settles or there is a verdict.

While some injuries such as a broken arm are treated and then heal in a few months, there are often exceptions. When your arm heals, you may lose some range of motion. There still may be a persistent pain. If you settle too early, you can’t come back and ask for more money. That’s why it’s good to wait until your medical condition has stabilized.

  • Demand Letter-Once all the bills and records regarding your related treatment are received, and you have reached maximum medical improvement,  your attorney will prepare a demand letter, which will set forth the facts of the claim, and recite, in detail, the entirety of your medical treatment related to the accident. If you had any prior injuries to the same body parts, this would also need to be discussed and dealt with. You attorney will also attach all the relevant medical records and bills and tally them up to compute an appropriate amount to ask for settlement from the insurance company. The amount asked for is typically not the amount your attorney expects the case to settle for, but is merely a place to begin negotiations. The attorney will also attach any relevant photos of the vehicle damage, photos of your visible bodily injuries, and a copy of the accident report.
  • How to negotiate. An experienced car accident lawyer understands how much your case is worth. He understands the strengths and weakness of your case and the defendant’s case. He understands the art of negotiation – how much to ask to start in order to get the settlement you deserve. The lawyer also understands when a settlement offer just isn’t fair and that you should proceed to a jury trial. Often times, the best settlement offer comes right before the jury trial date.
  • Watch out if you have a worker’s comp case. One thing many folks ignore is the situation where they may have a worker’s compensation case as well because you were on the job at the time of your accident. Generally, the law does not allow a double recovery. This first means that you cannot settle your case against the other driver without the permission of the workers comp adjuster. If you do, that is the automatic end of your comp case. Also, the money paid out by workers comp will create a lien against your injury case. That being said, these amounts are usually reduced and worked out at the time of settlement. The main take-away is NEVER settle your injury case before your workers comp case or you will be in for a rough ride.
  • Figuring how much the case is worth. For more detail on this subject, please download my free book, How Much is My Case Worth?  Your lawyer should understand how to value and how to prove each of the following damage items:
    • Your past and future medical bills. This includes hospital visits, doctor exams, work with physical therapists, and time with other medical professionals and healthcare providers.
    • All medical prescription costs. Often, a car accident victim needs to take medications during the healing process. Some patients may need to take medications for the rest of their lives.
    • The cost of any medical devices. Prosthetics, walkers, canes, and other devices cost money. They may need to be replaced over time. These expenses should be calculated.
    • Lost income. This includes all the money you lost because you couldn’t work up through the date of the trial. It also includes any lost wages or income that you will lose because you have a partial or complete disability or until your injuries heal. Lost income is generally proved, with the preparation of legal counsel, by evaluating your tax returns, statements from your employers, and profit and lost summaries. In some cases, we work with accountants, vocational experts, and other financial professions to detail how much lost income the accident cost you.
    • Property damage. This is typically the cost to fix your car or to replace it if the cost to repair it is nearly as much as the cost to buy a new one. It should be noted that typically your personal injury attorney will not deal with this at all, and it will be handled early on by you, and not by your attorney. This is because there is little leeway in negotiating vehicle damage amounts. You are entitled to recover the blue book value of the car and nothing more. While occasionally, there may be some add-ons for new items on the vehicle or other property damaged in the accident, it is usually fairly set in stone and there is little an attorney can do to change what you are entitled to. So unless the claim was completely denied, property damage is usually not part of your lawsuit.
    • Pain and suffering. Each day, you have to live with physical aches, pain, and discomfort. The pain may get worse when you move or perform simple tasks. Pain can prevent you from sleeping, enjoying family, doing your job, and engaging in simple tasks like eating and walking. Pain can include itching, swelling, vision loss, and a range of agonies.

 

Along with the physical pain is the emotional worry about when and if your injuries will heal. You worry that you’ve become a burden to your family. Physical pain is often accompanied by depression, anxiety, fear, and other emotions.

 

Your doctors can summarize some of your pain and suffering. Family members can testify as to your sadness, your crying, and other symptoms. Often, the best witness for showing pain is you, the victim. An experienced lawyer will usually value the pain and suffering part of your claim based on his experience and knowledge of the jury pool and what other juries have awarded in the past.

  • Scarring and disfigurement. Car accident victims who have scars, especially facial scars, or who lost a limb or body part because of the accident or an amputation – are generally entitled to additional damages.
  • Loss of consortium. In North Carolina, (but not in Virginia) a spouse of an accident victim may be entitled to damages because they have lost the ability to enjoy their spouse’s companionship, guidance, and intimacy. This element only becomes significant in the most severe injury cases.

 

How long will all of this Take?

So, this sounds like an awful lot to do. You may ask how long all of this will take? And this really depends on how long your treatment takes and many other factors that are too numerous to get into here. I suggest you download the book How Long Will My Case Take? where attorney Joe Miller provides the detailed answers to that question.

 

  • Filing of the claim in Court. If your attorney cannot reach an agreeable settlement with the insurance company, then a lawsuit should be filed before the statute of limitations runs. In both Virginia and North Carolina, that is two years after an accident. The complaint will identify who you are. It will also identify the defendants who caused you injuries. The complaint typically sets forth the theories of liability,  typically negligence, and there may be a plea for punitive damages, if warranted. Once the complaint is filed, we can then formally conduct discovery and prepare your case for trial.

 

  • Formal discovery. Discovery is the phase where each of the parties has the right to ask questions about what the other side knows.
    • Defense questions. Defense lawyers will ask victims to state what happened, what their injuries are, and what treatments they’ve received. The defense lawyers will explore anything that might show the victim was partially at fault for the car accident. The defense attorneys will also try to minimize your injuries by exploring if you had any prior accidents or if there were other events that may be the cause of your pain.

 

    • Plaintiff questions. Your lawyer will seek to determine which defendants owned the car. If the driver was different than the owner, we’ll seek to determine if the driver had permission to use the car. We’ll ask the driver where he/she was coming from and where they were going and get into all the details of the accident, particularly if liability or fault is contested. Many questions will vary depending on how the accident happened.
    • Discovery has three basic parts to it:
      • Interrogatories. These are written questions, sometimes 50 or even 100, about the events surrounding the car accident and the injuries
      • Depositions. These are oral questions under oath that one lawyer asks the opposing party. All of your responses are taken down by a court reporter. This also includes depositions of your doctors.
      • Requests for production of documents. These are written request to produce things such as medical bills, medical reports, proof of insurance, traffic citations, and other documents.
  • The trial. Cases that can’t be settled should be tried before a jury. Depending on the amount we are trying to claim, some cases can be tried in lower Court by a judge. For instance, in Virginia, a district court case has a $25,000.00 limit. So if you know for a fact that there is only $25,000.00 in coverage, this may be the way to go. It does save a lot of money on doctor’s fees, deposition costs, etc.
  • But on the higher value cases, plaintiff’s lawyers always ask to have a jury decide the case. The main parts of a jury trial include:
    • Voir dire. The selection of the jury
    • Opening statements. Each side presents its version of what happened
    • The presentation of evidence. Each side calls witnesses to testify. The opposing side can cross-examine those witnesses. The victim’s lawyer will generally call the victim/plaintiff, the family members, and any witnesses to the accident, if liability is contested. The employer and co-workers may be called. Doctors may also be called unless the parties agree that medical reports or video depositions can be used. Depending on the type of claim, economic experts may be called to testify about future wage loss and even vocational experts, if the plaintiff is unable to return to work due to his or her injuries.
    • Closing statements. Each side summarizes the evidence and argues why its side should win.
    • Instruction to the jury. The judge instructs the jury on how to properly review the case.
    • Jury deliberation. The jury reviews the evidence and decides who is responsible. If the defendants are responsible, the jury decides how much damage to award the car accident victim.
    • The verdict. The jury informs the judge what decision it has made. The judge then reads the verdict to the parties.
  • Appeal. The losing side may appeal the verdict to a higher court. Appeals are usually based on some legal or judicial error during the trial phase.

 

Speak with an Experienced Virginia car accident lawyer now

Car accident victims shouldn’t wait to speak with a lawyer. Memories fade. Evidence such as skid marks can disappear. Injuries usually worsen if you don’t see your doctor. As a respected car accident lawyer, Joe Miller will guide you through each phase of your case. He has been fighting for injury victims for over a quarter century. To make an appointment, please call (888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form.

 

Burn Injuries and Worker’s Compensation

Posted on Monday, June 26th, 2017 at 11:34 am    

Many North Carolina and Virginia workers suffer serious burn injuries at work. While employers are required to follow a variety of federal, state, and industry standard guidelines – employees in both states are entitled to workers compensation benefits regardless of employer fault. In serious burn injury cases, the employer’s insurance company or self-insurance is required to pay for all the reasonable surgeries, doctor visits, and medications the employee needs to be able to manage the pain and be able to maximize the chances of recovery. If multiple skin grafts are needed and the burns are deep and extensive, the cost for the medical care can become quite expensive.

There are three basic types of workplace burns:

  • Thermal burns. These can be from a stove, steam, hot liquids, industrial equipment, or other causes
  • Electrical burns. These usually occur from some sort of electrical current or spark
  • Chemical burns. These can be caused by an product the worker uses that has caustic or toxic components such as cleansers.

Whenever a worker suffers any type of burn injury, it is crucial to get medical help as soon as possible. The burn victim should immediately contact the supervisor and then get emergency help.

Thermal burn injuries

If a person’s clothing catches fire, the first priority is to be able to put out the flames. The person should be helped to stop, drop, and roll. All burned clothing should be removed from the worker. The worker should then be given something to wrap their body in such as a jacket or blanket. All burn victims who catch fire will need emotional help as well as physical help.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), any jewelry, belts, and rings should be removed immediately because burned areas often swell.

There are three types of burns – first, second, and third degree

  • First-degree burns. These burns involve the skin’s top layer. Sunburn is a classic example. Signs include redness, sensitivity to touch, and mild swelling. Treatments include wet cool compresses or immersing the skin in fresh, cool water until the pain ebbs. The burn should be covered with a sterile non-adhesive bandage or sterile gauze. Ointments should be avoided because they can cause infection which can lead to serious complications. Some over-the counter medications may be used to help reduce the swelling and ease the pain. Most first-degree burns heal with time though if the first-degree burn covers a large portion of the body or the employee is elderly, emergency treatment should be sought.
  • Second-degree burns. These burns penetrate into the second layer of the skin. Deep skin reddening, blisters, leaking fluid, pain, and possible skin loss are likely symptoms. The skin should be immersed in fresh water for 10-15 minutes. The blisters should not be broken and ointments should be avoided because, again, they can cause infections. Burned arms and legs should be elevated. Steps should be taken to help avoid shock. This includes laying the burn victim flat and elevating the feet and covering the victim with a blanket. If a head, neck, back, or leg injury is suspected – then the shock position should be avoided. The best course of action for second-degree burns is to get immediate emergency medical assistance.
  • Third-degree burns. These burns penetrate the skin completely and can damage underlying tissue also. The skin can appear leathery and dry, charred, or have discolored patches. Breathing issues can be a real problem. Emergency help is mandatory.

Electrical burn victims

Electrical jolts, shocks, or burns often aren’t visible like thermal burns – though the damage is often deep underneath the skin. The electrical burn can cause heart problems and even cardiac arrest. Many electrical burn victims suffer breathing problems and loss of consciousness in addition to heart problems.

The best treatment is to seek immediate medical help. In addition, care should be taken to remove the burn victim from any electrical source by using an object that doesn’t’ conduct electricity. The source of the electricity that caused the burn should be cut off. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may be required.

Chemical burns

Mining and other industries are especially prone to cause serious chemical burns

According to the Mayo Clinic,, strong acids, lyes, paint thinners, and gasoline are among some of the causes of chemical burns. If an employee has a chemical burn:

  • The chemical that is causing the burn should be removed.
  • Dry chemicals can be brushed.
  • Wet chemicals need to be treated more carefully. The person removing the chemical should wear gloves and take other precautionary steps so they don’t get burned as well.
  • Any contaminated clothing or jewelry should be removed.
  • A stream of cool tap water should be run over the burn.
  • Loose fitting bandages or gauze should be applied.
  • Some over-the-counter pain relievers may help.
  • Your doctor may give you a tetanus shot.

If the employee is in shock (is pale, fainted, or has difficulty breathing), the chemical burn is deep (penetrating the first layer of the skin), or the burn involves the eyes, hands, feet, face, buttocks, groins, or a major joint – then emergency medical help should be called for.

Recovery for Scarring and Disfigurement from Burns

Often, there are terrible scars or disfigurement left on the skin as a result of severe burns. Unfortunately, under the laws in North Carolina and Virginia, separate recovery for scarring or disfigurement is extremely limited, unless the scarring is so severe that it interferes with one’s ability to work, such as restriction in the range of motion or limited use of the disfigured area that prevents you from returning to work. In that regard, such cases are treated just like a regular comp case.  

In Virginia, if you are able to return to work, you are only entitled to a maximum of 60 weeks of temporary total disability payments for scarring and disfigurement.

In North Carolina, if the disfigurement is on the head or face, the maximum payment is $20,000.00. Elsewhere on the body, it’s only $10,000.00.

Also, as with all workers compensation cases, there are no payments for pain and suffering. All payments are determined by statute.  

Speak with an experienced North Carolina and Virginia Worker’s Compensation Lawyer Today

Burn injuries can require long-term medical care. Employees may not be able to return to work for months, years, or, in severe cases, never. North Carolina and Virginia attorney Joe Miller Esq. has been helping injured workers get their benefits and legal recoveries for over 26 years. He has helped thousands of employees get their full workers’ compensation benefits. For help now, please phone us at (888) 694-1671 or complete our contact form.

Head Injuries, Concussions, and Workers’ Compensation

Head trauma of all types is a very common workplace injury. An employee can suffer a head injury due to a slip and fall, an automobile or truck accident, a piece of equipment that doesn’t work, or an object that falls from above. Head injuries can happen to:

  • Construction workers
  • Manufacturer employees
  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Truck drivers
  • Anyone who uses a car for their job
  • And any worker anywhere

Common head trauma tests

The brain is made of soft tissue which can be easily damaged. Inside the skull is a cerebrospinal fluid layer that helps protect the brain from the skull. A concussion happens when a blow to the head causes the brain to pass through the fluid and strike the skull.

If a head injury, concussion, or brain trauma is suspected; your physician will conduct several types of tests:

  • The doctor will take an oral history to determine what caused the blow to the head
  • The doctor will conduct a variety of physical tests to determine the loss of any physical or cognitive function
  • The physician will likely order several imaging tests including:

 

      • A CT scan. This test will help determine if you have any hemorrhaging or a skull fracture
      • An MRI (Magnetic Resolution Imaging). This test is use to evaluate the function of the brain.

 

  • An EEG test (Electroencephalography)-electrodes are placed on the head and measure electrical activity in the brain over time.

 

    • Brain PET Scan- (positron emission tomography)-this can give the physician real-time visuals of metabolic processes taking place in the brain.

Head trauma victims will often be seen by several doctors such as a neurosurgeon, a neurologist, and a psychiatrist , psychologist, or a neuropsychologist. Other professional help can include social workers, speech and language pathologists, recreational therapists, and a traumatic brain injury nurse specialist.

Some milder head injuries can heal within days, weeks, or months. In serious cases, the first thing an emergency team will examine is that the employee/patient has an adequate supply of oxygen and blood. They will also work to make sure the patient’s blood pressure is monitored.

Some serious traumatic brain injuries which can last a lifetime. Symptoms can include:

  • Pain
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Loss of memory
  • Poor concentration
  • An inability to make decisions
  • Impulsiveness
  • Inability to communicate or speak
  • Inability to understand what is being said when you are spoken to

According to the Mayo Clinic, medications can include:

  • Diuretics which reduce the amount of fluid in tissues and, if given intravenously, can help reduce pressure inside the brain
  • Anti-seizure medications to he help avoid any additional brain damage
  • In some severe cases, drugs that actually induce a coma may be used to reduce swelling and pressure on the brain case.

Surgeries can include:

  • Removing blood clots (subdural hematomas)
  • Repairing a fracture to the skull
  • Draining cerebral brain fluid
  • Creating a window in the skull

Head trauma victims may need the following types of treatments:

  • Physical therapy. This will address the ability of the patient to perform physical tasks such as walking, feeding oneself, sleeping, personal grooming, bowel and bladder functions, and other daily functions. The physical therapist will also help with any pain issues, strength, posture, and balance.
  • Occupational therapy. This therapy will address the ability of the worker to do his former job. It can include the ability to lift and carry objects, perform repetitive tasks, bend, stretch, and manual dexterity. The occupational therapist will also help with the ability to bank and handle budgets.
  • Psychological therapy. Many head trauma patients need help coping with their physical difficulties, depressions, and anxiety. Their family situations are often put under tremendous strain as they often say they no longer recognize the behavior of the brain injury victim.

What to do after a head injury

Head injury symptoms often don’t show themselves right away. If an employee suffers any blow to the head for any reason, the best course of action is to see a physician right away. The sooner the condition is treated, the better the chances for a recovery will be. Also, delay in treatment can be taken as a sign or proof that the injury happened outside of work. Employers and insurance companies will look for any excuse to say your injuries are not work-related.

Your work status and benefits

You should be paid for all of your medical bills until you reach a state of Maximum Medical Improvement. This means that your hospital, therapy, and other bills will be paid until it is clear than additional medical treatment will not help you get any better.

The amount of income you receive will depend on the extent of your recover

  • If you are able to return to your normal job, you will receive 2/3rds of your lost wages up to the time that you are able to return to work
  • If you can return to a different type of work that is less strenuous, because you have a permanent partial disability, you will receive
    • 2/3rds of your lost wages until you can return to work
    • An additional allocation to reflect that you cannot earn the same income as before the blow to your head because you need to work at a less strenuous job (Temporary Partial Disability)
  • If you cannot return to work at all, you will receive 2/3rds of the average weekly wages up to the maximum amount of weeks that North Carolina or Virginia law allows, which, in the most severe cases of brain injury, could mean permanent and total disability , or lifetime compensation.

You may also be entitled to vocational rehabilitation. Many serious brain injury victims need occupational therapy or behavioral therapy to be able to return to their original job. In some cases, the worker can be retrained to do another job. For example, a construction worker who suffers a brain injury when a piece of equipment falls on his head from several stories up, may never be able to do physical labor again. A lot will depend on what the testing reveals are the extent of any permanent cognitive impairments you may have as a result of your brain injury.

Contact a trusted Virginia and North Carolina work injury lawyer now

Lawyer Joe Miller Esq. has helped thousands of employees get the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve. In some cases, he helps workers obtain a long-term settlement of your claim. He works with your medical providers to understand each and every treatment, test, and surgery that will be required and each type of therapy that help you improve your life. He cares about your recovery and your ability to pay for your medical bills and getting paid a regular income. For experienced help, please call (888) 694-1671 or fill out the contact form.

Workers Compensation and Construction Injuries

Posted on Friday, January 20th, 2017 at 5:12 pm    

Construction work leads to many types of accidents and work injuries that can cause an employee to be out of work for weeks, months, or even be permanently disabled from construction work. Some workers suffer permanent injuries that prevent them from ever working again. Sadly, some workers also die because of a construction accident.

Construction workers can be injured for many reasons. It does not matter that the construction site or supervisors were negligent or failed to comply with the laws, except that in North Carolina if a clear statutory violation caused your injury, you may be entitled to a 10% increase in comp benefits.

That being said, there is generally no need, on the part of the worker, to prove that a product was defective or that someone was at fault in order to get worker’s compensation. Injured construction site workers may have third party remedies against manufacturers. But to get workers’ compensation in North Carolina or Virginia, the worker just needs to prove that he/she was an employee, that he/she suffered a workplace accident, and that the accident caused injuries which prevent the employee from working temporarily or permanently.

Common types of workplace accidents at construction sites:

Typical workplace accidents for construction workers include:

  • Contact by almost any piece of equipment can cause a fall. Additionally, construction workers are prone to falls while working on roofs or scaffolding, being near a crane, climbing or descending a ladder, tripping over an object on the ground, slipping on a wet surface, or for many other reasons. Falls can cause broken bones, smashed and cracked ribs, severe bruising, nerve damage, lacerations – all of which mean a trip to the emergency room or doctor, surgery, attentive care, and mostly time for the injuries to heal.
  • Falling objects. Even with construction helmets or hard hats, construction workers are at constant risk of an object such as a tool, a building component, or a piece of equipment falling directly onto the worker. Heavy objects have been known to fall from cranes and cause severe injuries and death to workers. Even a dumpster that falls over can cause serious injuries. Falling objects can cause broken bones, injuries to the spine, traumatic brain injuries, and other complications.
  • Equipment Accidents. Any piece of equipment that fails to work properly can injure the operator of the equipment piece and any worker around the apparatus. Common construction site equipment that can fail includes forklifts, electrical equipment, electric saws, nail guns, back hoes, ladders, chains, and scaffolding.
  • Crushing injuries. Construction workers can suffer crushing injuries when equipment forces them to be pinned between the equipment and the ground or the equipment and a wall. Many construction workers get crushed by trucks that constantly run in, out, and through the work site.
  • Slips and trips. Construction workers are usually so focused on their work that they fail to see water or liquids on the ground, holes in the floor, loose boards, or other dangers that could cause them to slip or trip and then fall. A slip or fall can cause a worker to lose significant time from work until the injuries heal – if they heal.
  • Explosions and fires. Many construction sites contain flammable materials and hazardous materials such as fuels or sealants. If there are leaks anywhere, combined with flame, chemicals can cause a fire which can cause severe burns or even death. Electrical wiring and products may be faulty. One spark or one failure can create a deadly or catastrophic explosion.
  • Roof, trench, or structural damage. At most construction sites, the underlying structural work is normally not secure nor safe until the work is finished. If a building or a portion of a building collapses, if a roof doesn’t hold a worker, or if any support system fails – the construction worker can suffer broken bones, nerve damage, spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injury, or other serious consequences including death.
  • Repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Construction workers often do the same motions over and over. Whether it’s laying tiles, working on a roof, hammering and putting in nails, using a jackhammer, or just using a computer – repetitive stress injuries can cause nerve damage, muscle and joint harm, and constant pain. The big question with repetitive stress injuries is whether they can be related to the worker’s longstanding work duties by clear and convincing evidence. If an injury is not accident-related but occurs over time, it would be more classed as an occupational disease and be much more difficult to recover worker’s compensation benefits. A skilled lawyer like Joe Miller Esq. can explain when workers can recover from a repetitive stress.
  • Overexertion injuries such as fatigue, heart attack, and heat stroke. Sometimes workers push too hard. Other time, the supervisor or employer pushes too hard. Workers who are stressed can suffer a fatal incident or serious harm and this can be a compensable accident under the right circumstances. The medical records must reflect that the work conditions were the main cause of the event.
  • Hypothermia and frostbite from working outdoors or falling into cold water can cause a worker to lose his/her toes, fingers, or suffer skin and facial damage.
  • Lung damage and respiratory problems. These injuries can be caused by high levels of exposure to lead, smoke, asbestos, or chemical toxins. Lung and respiratory diseases including pneumonia, asbestosis, coal workers’ black lung, and silicosis. Many of these are specifically set forth in the workers’ comp statutory schemes and easily proven with the right doctor overseeing the worker’s care.

Common medical problems construction workers suffer.

Men and women who do construction work can suffer one or more of the following injuries – each of which can prevent a worker from doing the job and necessitating medical benefits and lost wages while recuperating.

  • Broken bones/fractures
  • Loss of a limb or amputation of a limb
  • First, second, or third-degree burns
  • Cuts and bruises
  • Death
  • Heart attack
  • Nerve damage
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Loss of vision
  • Loss of hearing
  • Strains and sprains

Common issues in relation to Workers Comp Construction Cases

 

  • Lack of Insurance Coverage. Unfortunately, many construction companies are fairly small, “mom and pop” operations and either cannot afford or simply neglect to purchase workers compensation insurance. Do not despair! Especially in Virginia, you may still have options for recovery, even if no one had coverage. A lot depends on how many employees regularly worked for the company you worked for. If it’s more than 3 workers, not including the owner, than that company was obligated to carry workers compensation coverage. In Virginia, that means you could qualify for coverage under the Uninsured Employer’s Fund. (UEF).

Also, while NC does not have a UEF, in both NC and VA, if the contractor who hired your employer has comp insurance, then you may be covered by that insurance.

 

  • Independent Contractors vs. Employees. Many small employers try to get away with calling all of their workers subcontractors. They do this to try and save money on payroll taxes. But it can be illegal if it’s not true. So are you a subcontractor or an employee?

We like to think of it like this. Let’s assume either you or a general contractor hires a painter to paint your house. This painter draws up a contract to be paid a certain amount in advance and a certain amount on completion. He has all his own compressors, ladders, brushes, everything. He may even have a truck with his name on it. He gives you a general idea of when he can start, but he shows up when he wants and quits when he wants. No one has control over when he comes and goes.

That is a subcontractor.

Now we look at a guy who is a painter, let’s call him Bill, who works for Dwayne. Dwayne has a small painting company that employs 4 guys, including Bill. Dwayne employs a supervisor named Rick as well. Dwayne has all his employees sign papers that say they are subcontractors and are each responsible for their own comp insurance. But Dwayne and Rick have the phone numbers of Bill and all is co-workers. Rick routinely calls and yells at them if they are late. Bill and Rick have rules about how they like the work done and they enforce those rules. Everyone must show up at 7 AM and work till when Dwayne or Rick say it’s time to quit—not before. Rick says when it’s time for lunch. Dwayne owns all the compressors and the truck and buys all the supplies for the job. Neither Bill or any of his co-workers engage in paint work for anyone else, except maybe an occasional job on the weekend. Bill and his co-workers are paid every Friday morning at the same time by check.

No matter what the papers are that they signed, Bill and his co-workers are employees and entitled to workers compensation benefits.

Speak with North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation construction worker attorney today

Any worker who is injured while doing construction work needs the help of an experienced and trusted work injury lawyer North Carolina and Virginia work accident lawyer has helped thousands of injured workers get just compensation. He helps workers show they were employees and not independent contractors. He helps employees prove how serious their injuries are. Call now at (888) 694-1671 to speak to a reliable workers’ compensation lawyer

 

Next Page »