Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 at 1:19 pm
Workers Compensation Attorney Joe Miller explains the advantages of not ignoring significant psychological issues that may be related to your severe, catastrophic work injury. Getting the right psychiatric treatment, and not being ashamed to do so, could mean the difference between getting a small settlement, or substantial settlement in your workers comp case.
Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020 at 9:53 am
Workers have the right to file for workers’ compensation if they are an employee, if they are hurt on the job, and if the injuries they suffer stop them from working. Workers may also be entitled to work injury benefits if they suffer an occupational illness due to their job. There is no requirement to prove the employer was at fault. The claims process is normally easier than in a personal injury case. Still, there are many mistakes employees can make that can hurt their case. Just one key mistake can affect your entire claim or your ability to get all the compensation you deserve.
The insurance companies for the employers will be looking to take advantage of any mistake to deny your claim or reduce your benefits. The best course of action is to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer as quickly as possible. An experienced work injury lawyer will guide you through each stage of the litigation.
Some of the key errors experienced North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyers help their clients avoid are:
Employees should seek help so the injury can be examined, diagnosed, and so a treatment plan can be implemented. Seeking medical help also verifies the injuries. Insurance adjusters may try to argue that the delay means the injuries aren’t that serious. They may also argue that the injuries were due to some other medical condition or some other accident.
Bottom line. Doctors should evaluate your medical condition as soon as possible after an accident.
In addition, if you suffer a workplace injury, your private doctor may not be able to help you. If your injury is severe and a true emergency that requires surgery or other corrective measures, than the surgeon who treats you in the hospital will usually become your treating physician by default.
In other scenarios, employers have their favorite providers, usually some type of franchise medical provider such as Patient First, where they will direct you first.
In Virginia, that is actually not appropriate. Workers’ compensation rules require that employees who are not in emergency situations be provided by the workers compensation insurance company with a list or “panel” of three different health care providers for the employee to choose from. Again, barring a severe, emergency situation, failure to treat with a doctor on the panel in Virginia can affect your rights to workers’ compensation if you later decide to pursue your work injury claim.
Your choice in treating doctors in North Carolina is unfortunately more restrictive than Virginia. Unless the injury is severe enough to require immediate hospitalization, the employer and workers compensation carrier typically exercise complete control over your medical treatment. There is no requirement for a panel of doctors in North Carolina; however, North Carolina does have some other provisions allowing for an independent medical examination with an agreed-upon physician that Virginia does not.
Failing to utilize an authorized doctor can have other negative repercussions. If you attempt to treat for a work accident utilizing your own health insurance, your insurance company may deny coverage on the basis that your employer should be paying for the medical care.
In North Carolina, the Industrial Commission will typically pay no attention to the opinion of any doctor with whom you treat who was not approved or authorized to treat you by either the workers compensation insurance company or the Industrial Commission itself.
In Virginia, non-authorized physician opinions carry less weight than the opinion of your authorized treating doctor, but the Commission will consider those opinions nonetheless.
To make things worse, insurance companies often hire nurse case managers who basically act as spies for the insurance company to check to see if you are indeed following the medical advice of your doctors. I always tell my clients—don’t give them the satisfaction of messing up your case by you not following your doctor’s advice.
Now sometimes, there are exceptions. The doctor may actually be incompetent, or otherwise not providing you with a proper standard of care for your work injuries. In those rare situations, there are remedies and things that can be done to change treating physicians. This would have to be discussed with a competent workers compensation attorney.
Also, understand that unless you were still in active treatment for a previous injury to the same body part at the time of your work accident, it is extremely rare in workers compensation cases that a prior injury or other pre-existing condition will derail a case. The law recognizes that an aggravation of a pre-existing injury is considered a new injury. Your case will likely be fine. That is, unless you try to cover up that pre-existing injury by lying about it. Then you have created a problem in your case where none existed before.
North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. understands the ins and outs of filing a workers’ compensation. For more than 31 years, he has helped thousands of injured workers get just recoveries. To speak with an experienced North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer, call North Carolina and Virginia lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295, or fill out our online contact form.
Posted on Friday, July 17th, 2020 at 4:14 pm
Workers Compensation Lawyer Joe Miller here explains the role of the Nurse Case Manager, particularly in Virginia. According to the law, they are supposed to help facilitate your treatment with your doctors. In reality, at least in Virginia, the Nurse Case Managers tend to act as proxies for the workers compensation insurance companies, and their primary interests are therefore aligned with them–which means–get you back to work even before you are ready, get you to the insurance-friendly doctors that they want you to see. and to the facilities that will skew your case in the insurance company’s favor.
Posted on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 at 8:55 am
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) developed the Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System (OIICS) to characterize occupational injury and illness incidents.” There are been several revisions to the original system. The OICS breaks down workplace injuries and illnesses into the following four categories:
Each of the four categories is broken down into further subcategories. The categories include definition and examples. Some of the relevant sections, that may be used to assess workplace injuries and illnesses are the following. In many cases, an injury or illnesses may be categorized in another part of the OICCS
North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. has helped thousands of workers in North Carolina and in Virginia get just recoveries for a wide variety of workplace injuries. He’s been fighting for employees for more than 31 years. He has the experience and resources to fully document your medical expenses, your lost wages, and any other related work injury costs. He’ll fight to get you a strong recovery. To schedule an appointment with a respected work injury lawyer, is please phone Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or fill out my online contact form
Posted on Monday, June 22nd, 2020 at 8:46 am
The Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System (OIICS) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies surface wounds and bruises according to several categories. Surface wounds are a form of traumatic bruise or injury that occur on the surface of the body and “generally do not involve open wounds.” “Generally, a traumatic injury or disorder is the result of a single incident, event, or exposure over the course of a single shift.”
The OIICS guide is a useful resource for classifying a wide range of workplaces injuries and diseases. Cases that are categorized as traumatic bruises or injuries don’t need to be “consistent with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordkeeping definition of an injury or whether the employer reported the case as an injury or illness on the OSHA log.”
Some surface wounds such as mosquito bites and foreign object in the eye are categorized elsewhere in the OICCS. The subcategories for surface wounds are the following:
Other wound injuries may be categorized as
Many workers in a variety of industries suffer surface wounds and bruises. While surface wounds and bruises may not appear serious on first inspection, they can become serious if not treated properly. Surface wounds and bruises can cause a worker to miss significant time from work.
Surface wounds and bruises are common work injuries. If they result from a workplace accident, an employee has the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits, in North Carolina and in Virginia. These benefits include ER care, follow-up medical care, and generally 2/3 of any income loss because the employee can’t do his/her job. Some workers may need to treat with a plastic surgeon. If the abrasions or wounds become infected or cause other related harm, the worker may need to treat with pain management doctors, infectious disease specialists, nerve and ligament specialists, and other specialists. Workers may also need to treat with psychologists or mental health professionals if the wounds lead to scars or to unsightly physical damage which, in turn, cause emotional harm.
Some of the causes of surface wounds, bruises, abrasions, and related injuries include:
Some of the job categories that have a higher risk for traumatic injuries such as surface wounds or bruises include:
Employees who suffer a wound or bruise may:
Generally, you must notify your employer or manager about any injuries of any kind as soon as possible. Workers with surface wounds and bruises normally begin their medical care by going to the local emergency room or by going to their family doctor. Whether the worker can return to work may depend on the type of job the employee has. Workers who have jobs that require a fair amount of physical labor may not be able to return to work promptly. Workers who have desk jobs often can return to work unless the wound prevents them from using their hands or eyes. A key factor is whether any complications result.
In all workers’ compensation cases, there is no requirement to prove the employer was at fault for the injuries. Fault is not a factor in workers’ compensation cases. As long the accident happened at work, happened to an employee during the course of the employee’s job, and the accident caused the injuries – then they employee has the right to file a state work injury claim.
Scarring or Disfigurement
One thing that is important to note is that workers compensation does not compensate injured workers for pain and suffering. Compensation is generally limited to the effect the work injuries have on the injured worker’s ability to work and the medical bills. There may also be some recovery for permanent impairment in a particular body part.
One exception to those limits is if there is visible, permanent scarring on disfigurement on a body part that the injured worker hurt in the accident. It must be a body part that the injured worker is not otherwise claiming for impairment. For instance, if there is severe scarring from lumbar (back) surgery, and the injured worker wants to claim a permanent impairment in the lumbar spine in North Carolina (spine impairment is not available in Virginia), he or she would not also be able to claim scarring or disfigurement due to the surgical scars.
What are the amounts that are available to be recovered? According to N.C.G.S. 97-31 (21) For serious facial scarring or disfigurement, an injured worker can recover up to $20,000.00. For serious disfigurement to any other part of the body, up to $10,000.00.
This may not seem like much, but it must be remembered that the workers compensation statutes are primarily concerned with how an injury affects one’s ability to work. So if someone is so severely injured that he or she is unable to return to work, that injured worker would be entitled to up to 500 weeks of benefits at 2/3rds of their average weekly wage, until he or she was able to return to work.
If the injuries are sufficiently severe, and involve certain categories of injuries that prevent return to any gainful employment, depending on the nature of those injuries, the employee may qualify for lifetime weekly benefits. Even if the employee did not suffer injuries in those categories, if the employee can prove that the work injury has caused a total loos of wage-earning capacity, then after 425 weeks of benefits, that employee may apply for extended benefits, which is some cases may result in lifetime compensation.
North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. works with your doctors and independent doctors to help document your injuries. He fights to get full compensation for all medical expenses for all workplace injuries and illnesses. He also fights to get workers the amount they justly deserve for lost income, for vocational rehabilitation costs, and for any incidental expense. For help with any workers’ compensation claim, call North Carolina and Virginia lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or fill out my online contact form to speak with a skilled work injury lawyer.
Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 at 4:46 pm
In addition to injuries caused by forklifts, overexertion, loading dock injuries, being struck by an object, and being pinned – warehouse workers can suffer slips and falls and other serious accidents. Right now, the country is relying on warehouse workers, medical staff, retail staff, and many others for our survival. Many are deemed “essential” workers and are therefore a heavy burden is placed on them as they serve the needs of the rest of our citizens, who may be confined to their homes. Workers in all these industries have the continuing right to file workers compensation claims if they are injured while doing their job. The right to file for work injury benefits applies to employees in North Carolina and Virginia. (Click here for a video explaining whether you have a right to workers compensation if you become ill from COVID-19 exposure at work as of May 2, 2020 )
Warehouse workers can slip (or trip) and fall for many reasons including the following:
Workers who slip for any reason or stumble for any reason can suffer a range of injuries including:
Part and parcel of every warehouse is having trucking companies drop off their cargo and pick up shipments to be delivered. Trucking accidents, especially backing up accidents, can occur in the loading docks and the parking areas. Injuries can happen to the drivers and to any workers in the path of a truck. Many drivers work long hours which can cause them to make carless mistakes because they’re tired.
Warehouse accidents can involve forklifts and trucks. While they often work in tandem – the forklift operator takes the truck loads and begins to move the load into the warehouse – accidents can occur if each operator isn’t looking out for the other driver.
Some warehouses work with toxins and other hazardous materials. Any spill can cause serious injuries which can damage a warehouse worker’s lungs or skin. Lung injuries can cause breathing difficulties. Inhaling dangerous chemicals can also cause cancer and other injuries. If the spill comes into contact with the skin, the warehouse worker can suffer severe burns. Chemical injuries require immediate medical attention. Workers may suffer permanent injuries and disfigurement.
Warehouse worker at big companies like Amazon are often required to treat with in-house clinics such as AmCare. According to one report, “In 2014, a National Association of Worksite Health Center study found that 43 percent of surveyed companies had an onsite or near-site clinic in place.” Amazon began using AmCare clinics in 2009. These clinics are generally staffed by licensed EMTs. Amazon’s website claims that one of AmCare’s purpose is to “participate in the Worker’s Compensation process.”
The EMTs at the company site generally have broad discretion in deciding whether a worker should be sent to see a physician or if they should be treated in-house for 21 days, after which Amazon does require that AmCare refer the employee to an outside physician. AmCare is generally designed for quick relief. Some workers, according to the report, say that – while AmCare has broad discretion in referring workers to doctors, the company doesn’t have physicians on site – which is just part of the difficulty warehouse workers face. They claim Amazon has high production pace requirements which affect worker health.
All that being said, please understand that under Virginia law, unless and until an injured worker has established an ongoing pattern of care with a particular physician, he or she would be entitled to choose from a three-doctor panel of physicians. An employer who simply shuffles an employee off to a “company-designated” physician is not following the law. If you have only seen such a physician or other healthcare provider once after a work injury, and for whatever reason, you are not satisfied, you need to file a claim form and thereafter also claim your right with the Commission to your three-doctor panel immediately. Do not let time go by wherein you continue to treat with the “company doctor,” otherwise, that doctor will be deemed your authorized treating physician. On the other hand, you must not unjustifiably refuse to see a physician being offered you. When asked why you are not seeing the “company doctor” you must tell the adjuster you are exercising your right to a three-doctor panel and you would like to choose your doctor from that panel.
Warehouse workers will seek treatment with many different doctors and therapists depending on the types of injuries they suffer. Some of these health care providers might include:
Workers who suffer emotional injuries along with their physical injuries may also need to treat with psychologists and psychiatrists.
Any North Carolina or Virginia warehouse worker who is injured on the job:
Virginia and North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. understands how dangerous warehouse jobs are. He’s helped thousands of injured workers get just work injury companies. He explains that there is no need to prove fault. Employees who are injured while working for their employer should generally be compensated for their lost income (up to the amounts allowed by law) and for all their necessary medical expenses.
To speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer call Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-694-1671 or fill out my online contact form to schedule an appointment. Cases are handled on a contingency fee basis.
Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 at 4:39 pm
As of December 2019, more than 1.1 million people worked in the warehousing industry, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Warehouse jobs include industrial truck operators; people who move and handle freight stock, and materials, clerks in shipping and receiving; stock clerks; people who complete orders; and storage and distribution managers.
As the COVID-19 pandemic is altering the lives of everyone; more and more people are depending on efficient warehouse operations for their Amazon delivers, groceries, and a range of essential products. In addition to thanking these workers for essentially helping to save our lives, we also appreciate that all the work (often including extra hours now) can result in serious injuries in the workplace.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recent reports confirm that for every 100 warehouse workers, 5.1 workers were injured during the work year. Which is generally higher than the average workplace injury rate for all work sectors. (click here for a video on whether you can obtain comp benefits if you get sick from COVID-19 on the job).
Any employee who is injured while working at a warehouse has the right to file a workers’ compensation claim for 2/3rds of their average weekly wages and for all reasonable medical bills related to the injury. Some workers may also receive vocational rehabilitation benefits.
Some of the more common ways that injuries occur while working in a warehouse include the following.
These devices are small trucks used to move, store, raise, lower, and move inventory, pallets, boxes, and other items. Generally, forklift operators drive these trucks throughout the warehouse. These trucks can result in injuries or death for many reasons. Some workers aren’t properly trained in how to use forklifts. Many injuries occur when workers take incorrect turns, their loads drops, the forklifts run into or pin other workers, or for other reasons.
According to Safety and Health Magazine:
According to Safety and Health Magazine, overexertion is another leading cause of injuries and deaths for warehouse workers. These injuries are due to using too much force or stress in doing tasks such as lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling objects. Workers who suffer overexertion injuries often need to time off from work to treat injuries to their neck, shoulders and backs. Other injuries due to overexertion include harm to the wrists, arms, and knees. Overexertion injuries can lead to acute pain. They can also lead to chronic pain which can require weeks, months, or even a lifetime of continual treatment.
Overexertion injuries include strains and sprains, torn ligaments, joint damage, tissue injuries, and nerve injuries. Overexertion can also cause heart attacks and heart disease.
Employers can help reduce overexertion injuries by:
Loading dock injuries can occur for different reasons. Often, the injuries or deaths involve forklifts and trailers that fall off the docks. Workers can also be knocked off the docks or suffer serious slip and fall injuries if they are knocked down by a forklift or trailer. Warehouse workers who work near these vehicles for long stretches of time may suffer carbon monoxide poisoning. Other common injuries occur when there is an uneven surface between a truck and loading dock such that a dolly may get stuck or fall into a space and thereby cause injury to whomever is pushing the dolly.
There’s a lot of moving activity at a warehouse. Forklifts are in constant motion, Workers are pushing and pulling carts and other devices to move the loads around too. Many workers can easily be struck be loads from the forklifts or from the shelves if the inventory is not properly loaded and secured. Warehouse workers can be injured if the company requires that items be stacked very high.
Workers who are struck by objects, especially heavy ones, can suffer traumatic brain injuries, head and neck injuries. back injuries, broken bones, and a range of other serious injuries that require time off from work to properly treat.
Many warehouse injuries are due to a worker being pinned between a forklift and a wall and between different pieces of equipment. Sometimes the injures affect the whole body. Often, a warehouse worker’s hand or fingers are pinned. Workers who are caught between objects can suffer:
North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. understands how much every-day hard workers are now putting their lives on the line to serve others, particularly now, when many warehouse workers are deemed “essential” in Virginia to keep goods and services rolling to quarantined consumers. It’s only just and proper that if warehouse employees are injured while working, that they should receive all of the worker’s compensation that the law allows. Joe Miller has been helping workers get the recoveries they deserve for workplace injuries for over 30 years. To discuss your workers’ compensation claim, call us at 888-694-1671, or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2020 at 11:10 am
Clearly many folks are concerned right now about the effect on their weekly compensation checks of any potential layoff of themselves and their fellow employees at work or company closures due to the severe economic downturn and mandatory closures related to the Coronavirus.
This is a very important question right now and also this particular question regarding layoffs happens to be an evolving and very active area of VA Workers Comp law.
The short answer is if you are currently under an ongoing, finalized Award for benefits, meaning an Award for weekly checks for either Temporary Total or Temporary Partial Disability, then NO, you will not lose your benefits; however, if you are NOT under an Award yet and your position is permanently eliminated or the layoffs are clearly permanent with no chance of re-hiring, then you will likely have a very difficult time of trying to obtain comp check benefits from the date of such layoff forward. You may only be able to claim benefits up until the date of the layoff. It’s not impossible to prove ongoing benefits in a permanent layoff situation, but you will be required to rise to a very high level of proof to show that your inability to obtain a job is due to your disability and not just to your job being eliminated permanently.
That being said, if the layoff is only temporary—as many will likely be in our current situation—then if you are not under an Award and on light duty, you would still be able to claim benefits; however, you would need to engage in active marketing of your residual capacity to work in order to prove your inability to find a job. And of course, you will likely end up at a Workers Comp Commission Hearing to prove you engaged in adequate marketing.
Of course, those held out of work 100% by their doctors due to their work injuries and have the physician’s work notes to prove it would not need to prove marketing.
If this all seems confusing, I encourage you to first see my video on the importance of being under an Open or Ongoing Award for benefits in Virginia. It’s important to understand what an Award accomplishes for you in Virginia.
So why is someone under an ongoing or Open Award in a better position compared to someone who is not in a layoff situation?
It’s because when you’re under an ongoing Award, that Award is a proclamation or Order by the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission that you are entitled to the weekly benefits stated in that Order on an ongoing basis, until proven otherwise by the defense. In other words, you have met your burden and you have won your case. Many times, the Award occurs due to an Award agreement, but the result is the same—once that Award has been entered by the Commission and the 30 day appeal period has passed, the Order is Final and you have won.
When you have an ongoing or Open Award for weekly benefits, it becomes the defense’s burden to prove you’ve been returned to full duty and that you are capable of performing your pre-injury work if they want to get out of paying you those weekly benefits. There are a few other ways for them to stop the Award, such as failure to comply with medical treatment or vocational rehabilitation, but they’re not relevant to our discussion right now.
If the defense cannot prove you are capable of a return to full duty, then you are going to remain under your ongoing Award and they still have to pay you your ongoing, weekly benefits even during the layoff and even if the layoff is permanent.
Now what about folks who are not under an Award yet, but are trying to prove one?
The case law is clear that for folks who are not yet under an Award, the difficulty of proving you are entitled to benefits really depends on whether the layoff is temporary or permanent.
This is because an injured worker who is not yet under an Award has no Order from the Commission regarding anything. Nothing has yet been proven, so the burden of proof remains on the injured worker to show he or she is entitled to benefits.
In a temporary layoff situation, if you are on light duty, assuming your employer does not accept you back at light duty status, so long as you are able to prove sufficient marketing of your residual capacity to work (i.e. looking for work elsewhere within your physical restrictions) during the temporary layoff, you should be able to prove you’re entitled to benefits. Of course, you will likely have to go to Hearing to prove that.
Again, if you are in a temporary layoff, and your authorized treating physician has you out 100% due to your injuries, then since you currently have no residual capacity to work per your doctor, you do not have to market or look for work. You would only need to prove your total incapacity with your doctor’s work notes and office notes.
Unfortunately, for those of you whose positions are eliminated and are fully and permanently laid off along with your coworkers, if you are on light duty and not yet under an Award, you will unfortunately find it much more difficult to be able to claim ongoing weekly workers comp benefits. The case law in such circumstance requires a higher level of proof to show that your economic loss is due to your injury and not the elimination of your job.
The Commissioners and Judges have reasoned in the case law that since you don’t yet have an Award, and your job has been eliminated, the burden is on you to prove economic loss due to your work injuries. And since the burden is on you for proof and since the reason you don’t have a job is because your job was permanently eliminated, then you need to prove your economic loss is actually related to your work injuries and not just the fact that your job does not exist any longer. In such cases, just doing the marketing/looking for light duty work as usual is probably not enough. There needs to be proof that not only can you not find a job, but the reason you cannot find a job is because of your work restrictions as set forth by your treating doctor. If you don’t have such proof, then the Commission will find that the loss is not related to your work injury. They will find that it is related to the fact that your job no longer exists.
Such proof may be through the hiring of an expert such as a vocational rehabilitation expert, and/or through some kind of testimony or other evidence from one or more of the potential employers where you applied that you could not be hired because your work restrictions could not be accommodated.
We think that the decision by the Court of Appeals back in 2016 which raised the standard of proof for permanently laid off employees was wrong and a harsh result, and in fact there were strong dissents by Judges on the case, but unfortunately those Judges were outvoted and that is the law in Virginia.
The only good news is that in many of the Full Commission decisions that have followed this 2016 Court of Appeals Case, the Commission has gone to great lengths to say it does not apply to the situation at hand. Clearly, the Full Commission also feels the Court of Appeals went too far and takes every opportunity to try to limit the harsh effects of that decision.
Also, just to be 100% clear, it is very important to distinguish between an Open or Ongoing Award and a Closed Award. A Closed Award is for some past period of weekly payments that has now ended because you have returned to work. Although such an Award contains a lifetime medical benefit and is also evidence that your claim is compensable (meaning there is no longer a defense that you did not have a legitimate, on-the-job injury) in terms of attempting to get your checks started again because you have been laid off, it’s almost like have no Award at all. In other words, if you’re on light duty, you would have to prove it’s a temporary layoff and you would have to prove marketing just like the folks with no Award at all. And just like those folks, you would not be able to prove any entitlement to ongoing checks if your layoff became permanent.
We hope this article has been helpful.
From all of us here at Joe Miller Law/The Work Injury Center, please stay safe, please follow the CDC COVID-19 Guidelines for prevention, and God Willing we will all get through this safely together.
Attorney Joe Miller has been representing injured workers in Virginia and North Carolina for over 32 years. If you have any questions about a worker’s compensation injury incurred by you or a loved one, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at 888-694-1671 or fill out our online contact form
Please do not wait to contact us, as there are time deadlines for filing your claim. If you fail to meet those deadlines, your right to benefits will be forever lost.
Posted on Saturday, March 21st, 2020 at 2:18 pm
The JLARC’s review of Virginia’s workers’ compensation laws focused on a variety of issues including the relationship between firefighting and 10 different types of cancer to determine what presumptions should apply. They study was performed by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.
We discussed some of these issues in a previous article. The general findings of the study were as follows:
83 studies on cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, and PTSD among firefighters and police officers were analyzed and evaluated for quality and bias.
The epidemiologists made the following findings regarding the validity of Virginia’s current and proposed cancer presumptions:
Johns Hopkins University epidemiologists determined that the best available evidence provides some support for most of Virginia’s current and proposed cancer presumptions.
The study found that the firefighters had an increased risk of the following types of cancer:
The Johns Hopkins study did not have enough evidence on the following cancer types:
No research was done on ovarian cancer. This is interesting, since pancreatic cancer and breast cancer are specifically listed in VA Code 65.2-402 ( C ) among those cancers to be presumed to be an occupational disease. As mentioned in a previous article on this subject, the mention of pancreatic cancer is inherently contradictory since it is really impossible to know what caused any pancreatic cancer based on our current state of scientific knowledge.
The JLARC report, based on the John Hopkins study, recommended that worker’s compensation laws in Virginia create presumptions for the following cancer types:
The reports added that colon cancer could be added to the list though the evidence for adding it wasn’t as strong as the other two cancer types.
Current cancer presumptions which should be maintained or could be subject to a sunset provision depended on the following:
Enactment of Virginia House bill 1804 (which adds several cancer presumptions) for firefighter should result in just about six new compensable workers’ compensation claims yearly – though the five year total is expected to be high.
“Some additional liability would be created for firefighters no longer working with an employer and still within statute of limitations.”
The JLARC also found that the “requirements to establish cancer presumptions for firefighters are unreasonably burdensome and appear counter to the purpose of the presumption.” This is the same comment I had made in my previous article on this subject.
Most disputed claims by firefighters for Virginia workers’ compensation benefits – between 2019 to 2018 – found that the firefighter would not be entitled to benefits – in large part because of the failure to prove exposure to the right substance.
Of the 20 firefighter/cancer cases heard during that timeframe:
The “presumption covers firefighters who have had “contact with toxic substance encountered in line of duty.” A big part of the reason for these denials was that firefighters were required to “prove exposure to specific carcinogen suspected to cause their particular type of cancer.” “Of 16 cases heard by VWC in which firefighters did not meet all requirements, the firefighter did not meet the toxic exposure requirement in seven.”
The Johns Hopkins scientists found that:
The study found that it would be sufficient if firefighters were required to show exposure to hazardous conditions that, in turn, exposed them to carcinogens.
Another finding by the JLARC study was that Virginia’s requirement for 12 years of continuous service was not supported by scientific evidence (studies have shown that less service time could cause cancer) and was the highest in the country (the next highest was 20 years). In fact, there is case law that says that assuming there is sufficient proof that a firefighter has a type of cancer caused by exposure to known cancer-causing toxins that match up to that cancer, he or she need only prove ONE SINGLE EXPOSURE to a fire to prove there was sufficient exposure. In that context, the 12 continuous years of service makes little sense.
Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. has been fighting aggressively for injured workers and workers who suffer occupational illnesses – for more than 31 years. He understands how dangerous firefighting, policing work, and other types of first response work are. For help with any illness claim based on your work, please phone Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-694-1671 or use my online contact form to speak with a strong advocate.
Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2020 at 2:24 pm
Virginia and North Carolina Workers Compensation Attorney Joe Miller here explains why with some possible exceptions, it is unlikely that you would be able to pursue a compensable claim based on your contraction of the COVID-19 or Coronavirus at work. The possible exception might be someone whose sole job is to treat patients who are known to be infected with the virus, or test people for infection with the Coronavirus. Even then, it would be challenging.