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Efforts to further weaken protections for injured workers were thwarted recently in Oklahoma, where the state workers’ compensation commission and the Oklahoma Supreme Court in separate decisions declared the alternative compensation model unconstitutional.gavel1

This could signal a major turning point for a troubling trend that had been gaining steam in states across the country. Workers’ compensation is supposed to provide no-fault benefits to employees injured on-the-job, and in exchange, workers forfeit their right to sue. Most of these programs are state-run and provide medical coverage, rehabilitation services, reimbursement for lost wages and death benefits. It’s known as the “grand bargain.”

But in the last decade, these worker protections have been eroded bit by bit, state by state. One of the most significant changes in a number of states has been giving employers the right to “opt out” of the state-run workers’ compensation system, so long as they offer their own insurance plan. The catch for workers is that employers have enormous control over the doctors who review each case and which workers will receive benefits. Definitions of “disability” and “work injury” are also written by the insurer, resulting in fewer workers having access to benefits.  Continue reading →

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Employees who are injured on-the-job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These include a portion of lost wages, plus coverage of all reasonable and related medical bills.worker3

As a general rule, employees can’t collect damages for pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment or loss of consortium, and they can’t sue their employer on top of receiving workers’ compensation benefits. However, they can pursue third-party litigation against others whose negligence caused or contributed to the severity of their injuries.

In third-party liability claims, workers are entitled to collect these other non-economic damages – and maybe even punitive damages, depending on the circumstances. Continue reading →

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It’s estimated that in 2014, there were nearly 120,000 robberies involving firearms in the U.S. Many of those are perpetrated on businesses. guncloseup

That accounts for a percentage of the violence people experience in the workplace. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports workplace violence accounts for 15 percent of all non-fatal crimes against persons over the age of 16.

A person who endures such an ordeal will be affected not just physically, but emotionally as well. But the question of whether mental and emotional injuries can be compensated through workers’ compensation is a complex one. The answer will likely depend on the extent to which the trauma affects the person’s daily life. Continue reading →

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When it comes to accountability from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for work safety hazards, employers aren’t going to be able to rely heavily on the narrow exception courts have carved for “rogue supervisors.” assortedtools

That was the ruling recently handed down by 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, in which the court affirmed a review by the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission. The earlier ruling held that an employer based in Claxton, GA broke industry safety standards when it allowed employees to work without fall arrest systems. The company was also accused of failing to prevent a worker from unsafely using a stepladder.

In Quinlan v. U.S. Department of Labor, the company argued it wasn’t responsible for paying government fines for these actions because it was a supervisor who was engaging in misconduct – not the company. In making this argument, it relied on the 2013 case of ComTran Group Inc. v. U.S. Department of LaborContinue reading →

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A new study shows that work-related injuries increase the risk of job loss.sad4

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston sifted through six months of data among nursing home industry workers, comparing those who had reported job injuries and those who had not.

What they found was, workers who had been injured were twice as likely to be fired within six months. Of course, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for filing injury benefit claims for on-the-job injuries. Unfortunately, it still does happen. Continue reading →

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DeKalb County officials are investigating the death of a 36-year-old U.S. Postal worker who was killed when a large tree fell onto his truck as he was delivering mail. Authorities say the worker had been driving past a grove of tall pine trees when one suddenly uprooted and fell on top of the worker’s truck, causing immediate death.pinetree

A spokesman for the county, which owned the property where the pine tree had been rooted, called the incident an “unfortunate, tragic accident.” He attributed it to a number of factors all happening at once, including wind and a build-up of ice. Trees owned by the county are checked every six months, but those located in areas near playgrounds or other gathering spots are checked every month, he said.

Although it’s unclear whether this worker had a spouse or children, any dependents he did have would be entitled to worker’s compensation death benefits. As a federal employee, his benefits are handled a bit differently than those who work for private companies in Georgia.  Continue reading →

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There are some work injuries where one knows immediately the effects are serious and lasting. However, there are other situations in which the injury may well be serious, but the worker may not instantly know it’s

That’s why it’s important to report each and every injury and to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney, in the event it becomes necessary to file a claim for medical benefits and wage loss.

In the recent case of Baker v. Bridgestone, an employer sought to cut medical benefits to an injured worker for whom it had covered after a back injury. The problem was, he hadn’t formally filed a workers’ compensation claim, and once the two-year statute of limitations for such claims was up, the employer asserted it would no longer cover the worker’s medical benefits. It had never up to that point covered lost wages when he had to miss work for the injury.  Continue reading →

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At the core of the workers’ compensation system in America is the compromise between the employer and the injured employee: That the employer won’t face civil litigation, for which it would potentially be liable for big payouts for pain and suffering and other damages, while the worker doesn’t have to be fault-free and the process to get benefits is supposed to be faster. ironwork

Based on these principles, there are a number of presumptions that are made that are supposed to tilt the scales slightly in favor of the worker. Among those is that workers’ compensation acts are supposed to be liberally construed to accomplish the purpose of providing injured workers benefits. So doubts are supposed to be resolved in favor of the worker.

This does not mean the worker will necessarily have benefits handed to them or that he or she won’t have to fight for them.  Continue reading →

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A 2015 report by the National Safety Council, “Prescription Pain Medications: A Fatal Cure for Injured Workers,” details the fact that 25 percent of workers’ compensation prescription drug claim costs were for opioid painkillers. Although the percentage of workers using prescription drugs for treatment has increased in recent years, treatment outcomes haven’t improved.pills2

In fact, one study in Washington State revealed that a worker who receives more than a one-week supply of powerful drugs soon after an injury has double the risk of still being disabled a year later. Plus, pain medication of this nature can cause serious harm to workers, including addiction, overdose and even death.

There have been numerous court cases in which a worker died of an opioid-related drug overdose.

In the recent case of King v. CompPartners, out of California, the worker thankfully did not overdose. However, he did suffer numerous seizures when an anesthesiologist abruptly withdrew him from powerful medication after deciding it was no longer medically necessary. Continue reading →

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Recently in Las Vegas, reporters described a scene of great excess: Thinly-clothed acrobats performing from ceiling swings, dancers in lingerie on poles shaking to the techno music, actors dressed as aliens looking for a photo op, a live alligator, rock stars performing, waitresses passing out free chocolate truffles and cocktails, designer handbag giveaways, free Hummer limousine rides and more.vagas

These individuals were attending the National Workers’ Compensation Disability Conference Expo – one of about 150 such conferences held annually by the “middlemen” of workers’ compensation. These companies are hired by employers and insurance companies to conduct “cost containment” in workers’ compensation cases.

Services offered are varied, and include claim management and negotiation of medical bills. These firms promise to cut costs for all involved, but in reality, many say they are in fact increasing costs and worse, raising the burden of those who have been hurt at work.

Workers’ compensation is supposed to be straightforward. Worker gets hurt on-the-job. Worker receives immediate medical and wage benefits through the course of recovery. But these firms work to fight claims tooth-and-nail, reducing the amount workers receive – if they receive anything at all. They have culled networks of high-powered defense lawyers, expert medical opinion providers, medical bill review services, occupational medical clinics, labs that drug test injured workers and outside claims shops.  Continue reading →