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A furniture store has been ordered to pay nearly $60,000 in fines by federal regulators after discovery of numerous safety violations following a workplace amputation at a Georgia plant late last year. 

According to a news release by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, the employer was cited for one willful and four serious safety violations after the worker was hospitalized for amputation of a finger.

Workplace amputations are a serious hazard affecting a significant number of workers in Georgia. They are some of the most serious and debilitating work injuries one can endure, and they involve a wide range of equipment and activities. Most often, OSHA reports, they happen when workers are operating an unguarded or inadequately safeguarded power press, power press brakes, conveyors, printing presses, roll-forming and roll-bending machines, food slicers, meat grinders, meat-cutting band saws, drill presses, milling machines, shears, grinders and slitters.

It’s not just normal operation of these machines that can be dangerous, but also prepping, threading, cleaning, setting up, maintaining and clearing jams.   Continue reading

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.

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

Work-related hearing loss is one of the most common occupational injuries in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention report an estimated 22 million workers are routinely exposed to hazardous noise levels on-the-job, and an additional 9 million are exposed to chemicals that might negatively impact hearing.

On average, more than $240 million is spent each year on workers’ compensation claims stemming from loss of hearing.

The question recently before the Louisiana Supreme Court in Arrant v. Graphic Packaging International, Inc. was whether gradual hearing loss sustained at work is an occupational disease or a personal injury tort.
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Even though your benefits may have begun for your Workers’ Compensation claim, this does not mean that they are guaranteed to continue. There are many ways that an injured worker may lose his entitlement to benefits. As an injured worker, it is a good idea to educate yourself about how your benefits could be suspended, or cut off.

One way that an injured worker can lose his entitlement to benefits is by failing to report his or her Workers’ Compensation claim promptly and in a timely manner. Even if you are unsure, you should speak with your supervisor or employer about your injury. In Georgia, if the claim is not reported before the one year anniversary from the date of injury, the right to benefits is lost.If you fail to cooperate with your employer or your authorized treating physician, your benefits may be compromised. What does failure to cooperate mean? It does not mean that you have to do anything and everything that your employer tells you to do. It does not even mean that you have to agree with all your authorized treating physician’s recommendations for medical treatment. For example, in Georgia you have the right to refuse recommended surgery. However, it does not mean that you can disobey the Workers’ Compensation laws at random. It is often very difficult to know whether your choices are going to jeopardize your benefits, even when the issue seems simple enough.
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In Georgia, the State Board of Workers’ Compensation is the governing body that makes the rules and regulations that are applied to Workers’ Compensation claims. One of these rules is Rule 205. This rule states that a doctor or medical provider does not have to get advanced permission to treat the injured worker before rendering services. The treatment does have to be injury related for the rule to apply.In most cases, the doctor or medical facility will request authorization for treatment and testing. The Employer/Insurer has 5 days to respond to the request. Most medical providers send in a form to the insurance company asking for permission to give treatment. They do this so they can be sure to be paid. The rule states that the insurance company or the self-insured employer has to respond to the doctor or medical facility within 5 business days of receiving the form. If the insurance company or self-insured employer does not respond, the treatment by the doctor or medical facility is considered authorized and the doctor or medical facility must be paid by the Employer/Insurer.

Recently, the Georgia Supreme Court addressed Rule 205. One of the issues was the burden of proof. The burden of proof means which side has the obligation to prove a fact in court. The Court of Appeals held that the burden of proof was improperly shifted to the employer and insurer to prove that a claim was compensable or payable in situations regarding medical treatment and testing. In Georgia, proving whether or not a Workers’ Compensation claim is payable is always the burden of the employee. In other words, the worker must prove that his claim is payable in Georgia Workers’ Compensation claims.
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Naturally, being unable to work is going to place you in a financial bind while your injury is healing. Expenses can add up. In Georgia, some of these expenses may be covered by the Employer/Insurer. Others may not be covered, so it is good to know just what expenses might be reimbursed to you.If you drive or ride in a personal vehicle to and from your doctor’s appointments, the mileage will be reimbursed to you at the rate of 56.5 cents per mile. If you take public transportation those expenses may be reimbursed. Expenses for taxis to and from medical appointments may also be reimbursed. In certain situations, meals and lodging may be reimbursed to you. For example, if your medical appointments take you away from home and require you to spend the night in a motel this may be an expense that will be reimbursed. These expenses are covered only if they are deemed necessary and appropriate in order for you to receive quality medical care.

In situations where expenses may be reimbursed, it is important for you to be a good record keeper. Save receipts and keep a log of your odometer readings with the dates that you traveled. Without receipts and good records, you most likely will not be reimbursed by the employer/insurer. It is very important that you submit documentation of your approved expenses within a year’s time of incurring the expenses. Otherwise, your right to reimbursement is lost.
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In Georgia, employees who are injured on the job are entitled to Workers’ Compensation medical benefits. These benefits include medical treatment that is necessary to cure you, provide pain relief, or restore your health so that you can return to suitable employment.One of the issues that every injured worker faces in their Georgia Workers’ Compensation claim revolves around medical treatment. After an authorized treating physician has been assigned to the claim, it is very import for the injured worker to be involved in their treatment and to follow the advice of their medical providers.

Georgia law requires that an injured worker cooperate with their doctors and therapists when at all possible. While recommended surgery may be rejected without fear of compromising the claim, failing to follow the doctor’s advice can have a negative effect on the claim. It is especially important to keep appointments and to follow up with medical providers on the schedule that they recommend. But, what happens when the injured worker is not satisfied with their medical treatment?
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If you have ever had a workers’ compensation claim, it is possible that you have been followed by a private investigator. Surveillance is a tool that insurance companies routinely use to check on the activities of the injured worker. Many times they are just curious and do what is called an activities check. However, there are sometimes that the insurance company is just hoping they catch the injured worker engaging in behavior and activities the worker claims that he or she cannot do.

The basic premise behind surveillance is that injured people who claim they cannot work should not be out doing things that are contradictory to the doctor’s orders. One of the main reasons surveillance is performed is to attack the credibility of the injured worker by proving he or she can do more than what they say they can do. Do not assume that the private investigator cannot watch you while you are outside in your yard, shopping or visiting the doctor. If you are outside of your home, you can be watched and recorded at any time. Be aware that the private investigator may in fact contact your neighbors to determine what they see and know about you.

The best way to avoid surveillance issues from complicating your case is to do exactly what your doctor says to do. If the doctor says do not lift anything more than 5 pounds, then do not lift more than 5 pounds. It is very simple. If you are not permitted to do yard work, then you should not be doing yard work. The last thing you want is the judge who is hearing your case to see a video of you doing something that you have previously said you cannot do. Remember, at all times, someone may be watching.

Our lawyers have been recognized once again as outstanding lawyers. The distinction has been bestowed upon our lawyers for the last three years. There are only 31 workers compensation lawyers named as Super Lawyers and only 19 named as Rising Stars in Georgia. Of the hundreds of workers’ compensation lawyers throughout Georgia, only 50 lawyers were honored with this distinction. Three of those lawyers represented J. Franklin Burns, PC.

J. Franklin Burns has been recognized as a Super Lawyer every year since 2009. In 2011, he was also honored with the recognition of being one of the top 100 lawyers throughout the State of Georgia. Mr. Burns is the only workers’ compensation lawyer in Georgia recognized as a top 100 lawyer.

Robert L. Hendrix, III has been recognized as a Rising Star in workers’ compensation for 2010 and 2011. Shannon Rolen has been recognized as a Rising Star in workers’ compensation for the last three years from 2009 to 2011.