Posted on Monday, December 2nd, 2019 at 11:47 am
Workers can suffer the loss of a limb or body part for many reasons. They may be injured in a vehicle accident or a fall. Often, workers lose a limb due to being crushed or pinned by workplace machinery or equipment. Our office has represented a number of clients who are amputees, and obtained settlements for them for their workers compensation cases. We recently posted another article which discussed the workers compensation benefits that an injured worker who suffers an amputation may be entitled to.
Here, we will focus more on the medical aspects of amputations. The recovery process often includes the need for a surgical amputation or re-work of an already-amputated limb. In the best cases, the worker can be fitted for a prosthetic device. Most workers who lose a limb or appendage need to treat with multiple doctors. Some workers are able to return to work. Many workers are disabled due to the workplace accident – and they can never work again.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, an amputation is a condition that results in the loss of a limb – usually due to injury or disease. When amputations are due to trauma, in 70% of the cases, the upper limbs are the body parts that are lost. According to the National Limb Loss Information Center, about 185,000 amputation surgeries are performed each year.
A loss of an arm, leg, foot, hand, or other body part often affects the worker’ self-esteem, his/her ability to provide self-care, the ability to move, and the loss or decrease of other functions. Generally, amputees require extensive rehabilitation. The success and length of the rehab depends on:
Each worker’s and each amputee’s rehabilitation is different. The main goal is to help the worker gain as much function and independence as follows, “while improving the overall quality of life — physically, emotionally, and socially.”
Rehabilitation includes some or all of the following:
Workers who lose the loss of a limb often need to treat with some or all of the following doctors, health providers, and counselors. Some patients require treatment for months or years. Many workers require some type of lifelong assistance. The types of care required depends on how acute the amputation is and the availability of out-patient services.
Other doctors and rehabilitation team staff include the following health providers and professionals:
A determination needs to be made to decide if a worker/patient who has a limb that is at risk from “infection, bone loss, soft-tissue compromise related to trauma, tumor reconstruction, or peripheral vascular disease” requires limb salvage surgery or amputation reconstruction surgery.”
Limb-salvage surgery generally includes bone grafts, tissue transplantation, and implanting internal devices. Limb reattachment may also be a possibility.
According to Pharmacy Times, there are two types of amputation categories:
“Prior to surgery, most patients are measured for their prostheses and receive counseling on living with an artificial limb. Prosthetic choice is individualized, ranging from externally fitted devices to patient-controlled motion robotics. “
Post-operative care for an amputation surgery generally ranges from 5 to 14 days. Most wounds heal in a month or two. Complications, according to Pharmacy Times, can include: “edema, hemorrhage, hematoma, site infections, sepsis, soft-tissue debridement, necrosis of the skin flaps, and pneumonia.”
Many workers whose limb or appendage has been amputated suffer “phantom pain, “– the experience of pain in the limb even though the limb is no longer there.
“Along with phantom pain, 76% of patients experience phantom limb sensations, generally in the form of tingling, burning, or itching. Once thought to be psychological, phantom sensations appear to result from brain nerve-circuitry changes. Over time, phantom pain tends to decrease or disappear altogether, but when phantom pain persists longer than 6 months, prognosis for total pain relief is poor.”
The Workers Compensation Aspects of Amputation Cases
In a recently-posted article, we discussed the Workers Compensation Benefits that may occur in the case of an amputation on the job. The Workers Compensation aspects of an amputation case are generally broken down into three different types of cases.
One-Limb Amputation-Unable to Return to Job. First, there are the cases where there are one or more limbs lost, and the injured worker is unable to return to pre-injury work due to the injuries. In these cases, a settlement is usually achieved based on the remainder of weeks in the Award. If there is an amputation to one limb, the injured worker would be entitled to no more than 500 weeks of compensation, and settlement may be achieved on that basis; however, due to the high cost of prosthetic replacement, which must typically occur every five years, the medical portion of the claim often remains open and unresolved because the settlement value would be more than the workers compensation carrier is willing to pay at once, in a lump sum. Sometimes, when the injured worker is older, assuming the injured worker regularly takes advantage of the medical benefits available through workers compensation, a full settlement of the medical benefits may be examined and the worker and his or her attorney approached for settlement.
Two-Limb Amputation or impairment—Unable to Return to Job. In those circumstances where there is tragically a loss of more than one limb, or even where one limb is not amputated, but clearly is damaged to the point of having significant permanent impairment in the limb, then the injured worker would not be limited to the 500-weeks of benefits, but would be eligible for lifetime compensation benefits. This is because the “loss” of two limbs is considered a permanent and total disability. This would obviously entail a much higher potential settlement value than a settlement that is limited to 500 weeks. Again, though, due to the high cost of prosthetic replacement, which must typically occur every five years, the medical portion of the claim often remains open and unresolved because the settlement value would be immense—and more than the insurance carrier is willing to pay at this point. That does not mean a medical settlement may never occur. The insurance carrier may want to wait until the injured worker is much older to consider closing out the medical portion of the claim.
Return to Work and One-Limb Amputation. If the injured worker is able to return to work at an equal or greater wage than before the accident, despite the amputation– as is often the case in younger workers– there is still the potential value due the injured worker for the permanent partial impairment rating of the amputated limb. This would not be a final settlement, but would be a number of weeks of compensation paid to the injured worker based on the percentage of impairment assigned by his or her doctor. In some cases, such as an above-the-knee amputation, that would obviously be 100%, but in others, such as a below-the-knee amputations, it may be less.
Virginia and North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney Joe Miller Esq. understands the short-term and long-term needs of workers who lose a limb, whether it be a hand, foot, arm or leg – due to a workplace accident. He works with your doctors to understand what treatments you’ll need and for how long. He’s helped thousands of employees get the workers’ compensation recoveries they deserve. To schedule an appointment, call lawyer Joe Miller at 888-694-1671. or fill out my contact form.
Posted on Friday, December 2nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm
The Virginia worker’s compensation law covers every person who works in the service of another for hire or as an apprentice. This includes aliens and minors. It includes people whether the contract or apprenticeship is in writing or employed and even whether the contact is legal or not. The only exception is for workers who are not employed in the usual course of the trade, business, occupation or profession of the employer. The employer must generally have more than 3 employees regularly employed to run the business. If not, then the employer is not covered under the Act or required to have workers compensation insurance.
Injuries that can be identified by a single occurrence. Workplace injuries are generally covered in Virginia if:
Virginia also covers occupational diseases such as respiratory problems or exposure to toxic chemicals. The disease must be due to work though there is no need to show that specific accident caused the disease. Medical doctors usually are called in to show that the diseases were proximately caused by workplace conditions.
Ordinary diseases generally are not covered unless it can be shown with reasonable medical certainty that the disease resulted from work and not caused outside of work, and that one of the following applies:
Carpal tunnel syndrome is compensable in Virginia while other types of repetitive stress injuries are not. Hearing loss is also compensable.
Common types of occupational illnesses include asthma, mesothelioma, bronchitis, chronic encephalopathy, black lung disease and pneumoconiosis.
Except for carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive stress injuries are not compesable. Aside from diseases that do not qualify as occupational diseases; back pain, neck pain, and spinal pain are not compensable unless they relate to a specific identifiable accident. In other words, if you’ve been working in a difficult job for many years and you develop a bad back due to that, you do not have a case unless you can pin the pain and problems to one, specific injury and that injury meets the other criteria for a workers comp injury.
As with other workplace injuries, if a worker suffers psychiatric or emotional problems due to a specific physical injury, employees may be treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist – and have the bills paid for. Many workers do suffer emotionally if they, for example, suffer an amputation. They are understandably distraught over the loss of the limb, the stigma that they perceive comes with being an amputee, and of course they ponder all the things they may never be able to do again. Depression and anxiety may result, and as long as there is a proper referral by the treating physician, the treatment for such issues is completely compensable. In fact, in some cases, the proper psychiatric treatment can mean the difference between a person’s return to the workforce or complete disability. In addition, sometimes, a good psychiatrist can provide protection against overzealous nurse case managers who try to force injured workers back to work before they are ready.
In some instances, even if there is not a traceable, physical accident, psychiatric damages might be compensable if they were a direct natural consequence of some work experience – such as seeing a shooting or other violent incident. What is key in those cases is the traumatic event must be outside the normal experience one would expect for such an occupation.
Some exceptions do apply. It is best to consult with an experienced Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible.
Not every workplace injury is compensable. Some employee misconduct can negate the right to benefits. Common defenses include:
Injuries that are self-inflicted such as suicide are not compensable. Other workplace injuries that are not paid in Virginia are:
Employers do have to give formal notice of any defense in compliance with the law. Attorney Joe Miller Esq. can explain if employers failed to give a proper deadline.
Employees who knowingly make a false statement may be found guilty of a felony. They may also lose their right to benefits. Claimants who are getting benefits have a duty to notify their employer of any significant changes that might affect his/her right to benefits. Examples include returning to another job, remarriage, being sentenced to jail, or other consequences. Employees who obtained workers’ compensation funds through fraud may be liable for any overpayments.
No. Employees have a direct right to file a work injury claim in Virginia. If a worker is fired or an employer threatens an employee, the worker should immediately meet with a Virginia worker’s compensation attorney to understand his/her rights.
Workers who are not employees cannot generally request workers’ compensation insurance. Whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee is not always clear. A Virginia work injury attorney can explain whether you might qualify as an employee. Even if the employer says you are an independent contractor, you may be legally an employee and have work injury rights.
We see this issue litigated many times as many employers think that they can reduce their business expenses by claiming that all of their employees are in fact independent contractors. They may even attempt to have the employee sign some kind of contract that says the employee agrees that he or she is an independent contractor. These “contracts” are not effective. An employer cannot “contract away” it’s obligations under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. The Virginia Workers Compensation Commission is going to look at the “facts on the ground.” Some of the factors that can persuade a Commissioner that an employee is really an employee are:
Virginia workers’ compensation attorney Joe Miller Esq. can answer all of your work injury questions. He has successfully represented thousands of injured workers during his twenty-five plus years of experience. For a free consultation, please call me at (888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form.
Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2016 at 2:00 pm
Accidents at work happen for many reasons. Employers should be aware of the various causes and take steps to try to avoid these types of workplace accidents or, at least, take preventive steps to try to reduce them. A common misconception is that the employer has to be negligent or “at fault” for the accident at work. This is false. Workers in North Carolina and Virginia do not have to prove that the employer was responsible for a workplace accident in order to have a valid workers compensation case. The worker just needs to prove a workplace accident did occur at some specific moment in time, and the injuries were caused by the workplace accident. Still, the best way employers can help their workers is to take safety precautions to prevent the accident from occurring.
Attorney Joe Miller is an experienced North Carolina and Virginia Workers’ Compensation attorney. When a common or uncommon workplace injury occurs, he has the skills and tenacity to file, negotiate, and litigate your work injury claim. He also understands that often times the type of accident is an indicator of the types of injuries that occur and the typical time frame for how long the worker will likely be out of work.
· Workplace violence. Many injuries are caused when workers get into arguments with other workers or when a worker has mental health issues and that instability leads him/her to lash out at other workers. In Virginia, if the employee was an unwitting victim of horseplay or violence, he or she still has a valid claim. On the other hand, if the worker was a willing participant, this may invalidate the claim, especially if the argument had nothing to do with the work at hand.
· Repetitive Stress or noise exposure. Many workers suffer injures due to repetitive motions such as working with computers or performing the same tasks over and over and over again in an assembly line or using hand tools. These are known as occupational disease injuries. Employees who suffer this type of stress often get injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or hearing loss. Better equipment and better training, and rule enforcement can help reduce these types of injuries. Employees who suffer repetitive motion injuries, hearing loss, or some other injury they believe was caused by conditions at work need to speak to an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer because there are very specific things that need to be proven in order to qualify for a valid occupational disease case.
· Getting clothes or body parts entangled in machinery. Clothing, hair, fingers, shoelaces, and other items can get caught in the machinery which can then cause severe injuries including loss of a body part. Employers should make sure workers are educated about the risks of working with some types of equipment and take necessary preventative steps. Examples of safety measures include better equipment and educating the employee about proper work techniques. We often see some of the most severe injuries where employers cut corners by failing to properly maintain equipment, failing to utilize machine safety guards, deliberately disengaging safety devices, or failing to have any written, enforced rules or procedures for hazardous work duties.
· Car and truck accidents. Many workers such as construction workers or delivery drivers use vehicles for their job. Vehicle accidents can be deadly or cause serious injuries. Workers should be advised on the local driving rules and on how to properly operate the vehicles – especially trucks. Employers should have clearly defined and enforced safety rules which require the use of seatbelts at all times.
· Lack of industry standard simple safety measures. Many workers get injured because they are concentrating so hard on immediate physical tasks that they fail to see objects that can hurt them. For example, a worker may not see a door, table, while carrying a heavy load, or not see a person while driving a forklift around a corner. Also Employers should create a work environment that minimizes these types of accidents. For instance, the installation of wide-view mirrors at strategic points in a plant or factory can increase visibility of oncoming vehicles and people. Creating ergonomic environments where employees with restricted vision will have a path clear of obstacles is also helpful.
· Falling Objects. Employers should make sure that shelves aren’t overstocked and that items hanging from the roof or other high places are secure. Workers should be advised to wear helmets in certain work areas. Injuries can include brain damage, head trauma, and pain in the area where the object strikes the worker.
· Slips and Falls. This type of workplace accident is very common. Workers can slip or trip when there are loose objects lying around, the floors are slippery, there are tears in carpets, or for a variety of other reasons. Injuries can include broken bones, soft tissue injuries, bruises, concussions, and lacerations. In severe cases, a worker may suffer death or permanent injury.
· Falls from High Places. Workers who use ladders, work on roofs, or work on stairwells can slip and fall. While protective gear can help, anyone who falls from a high height is likely to suffer a long-term injury. Proper spotting and use of safety harnesses as required by OSHA is essential. We have seen too many workers get injured in this fashion when again, employers are willing to cut corners and not create or enforce strict rules in relation to working at heights.
· Overexertion. Many workplace accidents happen simply because the worker is being pushed too hard, and we often see this occur in the heat. When workers are tired, they are much more likely to trip, fall, fail to see other objects, or fail to use proper techniques, not to mention suffer heat stroke or a heart attack. Fatigue is a major cause of workplace accidents and is one of the most preventable – making sure the employee gets enough rest, and is provided with appropriate opportunities for cool-down and hydration.
The US Department of Labor, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), keeps regular records of why workplace accidents occur. In addition to the causes listed above, some other causes of workplace accidents, according to OSHA, include:
· Poor communication – especially about safety issues
· Failure to provide respiratory protection
· Faulty equipment including up-to-code scaffolding equipment, bad ladders, and machines without safety guards
· Forklift malfunctions and misuse
· Electrical failures such as improper wiring
The list or reasons workplace accidents occur is virtually never-ending. Still, trying to categorize them makes it easier to work to prevent them. Some additional causes, that are human related, include:
· Taking shortcuts. Workers should never place speed over safety. Failing to take proper precautions can cause injury and death. Unfortunately, employers often encourage this behavior in the name of higher profits.
· Failure to clean up. Workplace supervisors should inspect the workplace before work starts each day to make sure the place is free of debris, that equipment functions properly, and that all loose elements such as overheard storage are secure.
· Poor training and preparation. Workers should be trained on how to use each piece of machinery or equipment. They should also be trained on everyday workplace safety issues to avoid injuries and to respond to them quickly when they do happen. There should also be written enforceable rules, and daily safety meetings prior to work beginning to address specific concerns of employee and management.
· Failure to address mental and emotional issues. Many workers have personal concerns that should be addressed. Workers who are thinking about their family members or other aspects of their personal lives are not focusing on safety. Employers should make some effort to help workers have the time to address personal issues so the worker can be safe and more productive.
If you were hurt in any type of workplace accident, do not delay. Even though the employee does not have to prove the employer was negligent, it does help a great deal to be able to show how the accident occurred. You may be leaving out a critical detail that could mean the difference between your employer covering or denying your case. For our free, quick, elite, 7-step case evaluation, phone Joe Miller Esq. at (888) 694-1671 or fill out his contact form. Attorney Miller represents injured workers in both Virginia and in North Carolina.
Posted on Monday, June 27th, 2016 at 2:00 pm
The Virginia Worker’s’ Compensation website includes an online calculator to help you determine the basic amount of lost income you are due. The best course of action is to have your attorney determine the amount. An injured work lawyer knows what information is needed and how all the calculations are done. Some of the key factors in deterring basic compensation are:
Getting the right result in you work injury case requires an experienced Virginia work injury lawyer. Someone who knows the broad arguments but who also pays attention to the details. Joe Miller Esq. has helped thousands of clients get a just recovery for work injuries and illnesses in Virginia. Call Joe Miller at the Work Injury Center today for a consultation at 888-694-1671. You can also complete his contact form.
Posted on Friday, November 27th, 2015 at 2:00 pm
Does the patient have a disability due to a brain injury? Generally, workers get paid 2/3rds of their average weekly wage for as long as they cannot work, for up to 500 weeks. In addition, workers determined to be a permanently disabled are entitled to lifetime pay. Once MMI is achieved the worker will be evaluated to determine the exact nature of the disability.
The difference between a temporary vs. permanent and total disability can thus be very substantial. It is thus imperative that the right classification be determined. It also essential that workers should not enter into any settlement agreement until they have reached MMI and the right classification is made.
Injured or ill workers need an experienced lawyer who knows the worker’s compensation laws. The proper classification of a work-related injury can mean the difference between getting and not getting large sums of money. Workers who suffered a work-related injury in North Carolina or Virginia need the help of an experienced law. Attorney Joe Miller has the experience to advocate for all your rights. To make an appointment or discuss your case, call Lawyer Joe Miller today at 888-694-1671 and ask for me, Joe Miller, or complete my online form
Posted on Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 at 10:27 am
If the cause of the worker’s death is unrelated to the worker’s injury or occupational illness, then the payout is usually small. On the other hand, if the cause of death is related to the employee’s injury or occupational illness, then the payout is 400 to 500 weeks of 2/3rds of the average weekly wage plus burial benefits. For this reason, if there is reasonable argument that the death is related to the injury or job illness, then it makes sense to try to prove that causation did exist. (more…)
Posted on Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 at 2:16 pm
The employee is entitled to hire an attorney to represent his worker’s compensation cases. Our firm strongly suggests every claimant have qualified Virginia legal Workers Compensation counsel. The Guidelines from the Virginia Worker’s Compensation Commission directly address the role of the employee’s attorney as follows:
Posted on Monday, June 29th, 2015 at 2:14 pm
The Virginia Guidelines for meetings between the employee and the vocational rehabilitation counselor are regulated as follows: (more…)
Posted on Monday, May 12th, 2014 at 9:43 pm
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that falls involving ladders are a leading cause of workplace injuries and deaths in the U.S.
The CDC’s analysis of 2011 national statistics found that 20% of all workplace fall injuries were from ladder falls. The CDC also found that 43% of all fatal falls recorded within the last decade involved ladders.
In 2011 alone, 113 fatalities from workplace ladder falls were reported. Furthermore, over 34,000 non-fatal ladder fall injuries were treated in emergency rooms across the country.
Dealing with the physical, emotional, and financial repercussions brought about by a slip or fall while at work can be very frustrating. If you plan on pursuing workers’ compensation in Virginia or North Carolina, an attorney at Joe Miller Law, Ltd. might be of help. Contact us today at 888-694-1671 to learn more about your legal options.