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Workers' Compensation Blog

The 4 Levels of Workers’ Compensation Litigation

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Whenever I tell clients about the workers’ compensation litigation process in the District of Columbia, they have a blank look on their face. I receive questions such as, “What do you mean it takes 2 months to get a hearing date?” and, “What do you mean the insurance company can file an appeal?” The sad truth is that the workers’ compensation process in DC workers’ compensation cases can go on for what seems to be forever. This is one of the many reasons why it’s best to talk to an attorney from the onset. You do not want to hire an attorney when you are already in crisis mode and could have benefited from a hearing months prior. Although, we are able to many things, one thing attorneys cannot do is speed up the litigation process, as that process is controlled solely and entirely by the Legislature and the courts.

Stages in the Legal Process

In DC workers’ compensation cases, you start off at the Informal Conference level, which is more or less a mediation with no witnesses, except the injured worker, and nothing is recorded. From there, either party can appeal by requesting a Formal Hearing. The name pretty much says it all. It is a much more formal hearing, where both sides to the case can present witnesses and everything is recorded, bust during the formal hearing, rules of evidence also applies, and there can be formal discovery such as depositions. It takes several months to receive written decisions at both of these levels of litigation, but the process does not stop there. After the Formal Hearing, either party can, yet again, file an appeal if they are not happy with the written decision. This appeal is done by written legal Memoranda only and the attorneys take care of it. They are filed with the Compensation Review Board and if the Board feels that there was an error of law, then the case will be sent back down for another Formal Hearing to get the case re-heard. If not, then the Formal Hearing decision is final. If, however, either party to the case is not happy with the decision of the Compensation Review Board, the case can be appealed for a fourth and final time with the DC Court of Appeals. This time, legal briefs are filed by the attorneys and argued in Judiciary Square before the Chief Judge and several others. The written decision of the Chief Judge is final.

Where To Go When You Need Help

The litigation process can be highly time consuming and tedious. I hope this blog shows you just how important it is to have an attorney representing you and your interests as the process is not just long, but also complex. If you are looking for more details on the litigation process, please do not hesitate to reach me at: LPisano@BSGFDLaw.com or 301-740-3304.

 

Lessons Learned - Don’t Delay in Reporting or Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim

Monday, March 13, 2017

How long does an injured worker have to file a claim under the DC workers’ compensation system? I decided to write a blog about this issue because I had a new client come into my office recently regarding an injury from a year and a half ago, which occurred at her work in the District of Columbia. I asked her why she had not yet filed her workers’ compensation claim.After informing me that she did in fact file a workers’ compensation claim, she proceeded to show me the confirmed claim number from the workers’ compensation insurance company.

The Secret Behind The Delay

What was the problem? The insurance company’s claim number is more like an internal tracking number for them, which works only in their computers, so that they can keep tracking of their cases. It does not mean a claim is on file. The only way an injured worker is truly protected, with lifetime medical rights, is to file an official claim with the DC Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC).The client was completely shocked, as she had never heard of the OWC.I then told her that you have only one (1) year from the date of the work injury to get the official claim filed. This new client’s shock turned to disappointment and then to anger. I told her that the insurance company is not on her side. In fact, they are on the exact opposite side of her case and that she cannot and should not rely on them, or to give her legal advice or to advise her as to rights she has under Title 32 of the DC Code (the workers’ compensation statute).

Lessons Learned

The lessons to be learned? When you are injured at work you must:

1. Notify your employer immediately

2. Seek medical treatment immediately

3. Contact an attorney for a free consultation.

All’s Well That Ends Well

I was able to salvage this claim because there is an exception in the DC workers’ compensation statute that allows injured workers to file their claims with the DC Office of Workers’ Compensation more than one (1) year from the date of injury. That exception exists if the insurance company did not send the injured worker a form called, “First Report of Injury” via Certified Mail, which they rarely do. Luck was on this client’s side. Had she not been so lucky, she would have lost out on a lot of monetary and treatment-related benefits.

Knowing Your Rights Matters

So, the lessons learned from this blog are: Don’t short change yourself. Know your rights and start filling! If you have any questions about a DC workers’ compensation claim, please contact Lauren Pisano for consultation at LPisano@BSGFDLaw.com or 301-740-3304.

Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP Celebrates 25 Years

Monday, March 06, 2017

Our entire staff is extremely proud to celebrate our 25 Year Anniversary and we have truly appreciated the opportunity to help our loyal clients in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. communities.

Let’s take a tour of some of the key moments and events in the history of Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, LLP:

  Feb 16, 1991- Berman Sobin & Gross forms a law firm consisting of 3 equal partners, 2 legal assistants, 1 phone, and a number of cardboard boxes. 
1996-Ken Berman gets highest court in the state to agree that even retired fire fighters, paramedics and other public safety employees are covered under Maryland ‘s “presumption” laws for heart disease, hypertension, lung disease and cancer. 
1997-Al Gross convinces high court of Maryland to cover police officers under workers’ compensation who are injured off duty but in their “take home” vehicles, arguing that the officers having the vehicles provides a benefit to the municipalities. 
2003Matt Darby represents Plaintiff in the first Maryland case under the Federal Employers Liability Act establishing the right of a railroad worker to recover damages as the result of a cumulative trauma injury. 
2004-Ken Berman and others give testimony before the Legislature that allows legislation to be passed making it easier for fire fighters and police officers to file hearing loss claims, lowering the threshold for compensability. 
2008-Cliff Sobin’s 2 Volume seminal treatise on Workers’ Compensation law in the state of Maryland gets published and becomes the leading authority on workers’ compensation law relied upon by judges, lawyers and workers’ compensation commissioners throughout the state. 
2009-Berman, Sobin & Gross merge with Matt Darby’s law firm becoming Berman, Sobin Gross, Feldman, & Darby (the domain name being bermandarby.com)  
2013- After many years of testifying before the Legislature and trying both presumption and non-presumption, the attorneys at BSGF&D, along with the state fire fighter organization, help get legislation which expands the coverage for fire fighters from 5 types of cancer to 13). 
2015Matt Darby is elected to the Board of Managers of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys (ARLA). 

2016- BSGF&D proudly celebrates their 25th anniversary of representing the rights of injured workers, being on the forefront of new cases and trends in the law, and helping to draft, revise and help pass legislation for those who are injured.

 

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Victory for Montgomery County Police Officer

Thursday, February 09, 2017

After a two-day jury trial, Attorney Matthew Engler won a case for a Montgomery County police officer who seriously injured his knee at work and thereafter required a knee replacement. The officer had several prior injuries to the same knee, some work-related and some not; however, Attorney Engler was able to persuade the jury that the latest injury, which was a work-injury, had so aggravated his knee condition and so accelerated the need for a knee replacement that his Employer (the County) was legally responsible for the surgery.The two-day trial involved the exhaustive expert testimony of two orthopedic surgeons as the County argued, unsuccessfully, that the knee replacement was due entirely to the pre-existing knee condition.

In order to be covered by workers’ compensation, medical treatment has to be: (1) reasonable, (2) necessary, and (3) causally-related, at least in part, to the work-injury. The third element, causal relationship, is the most heavily litigated of the three. However, it is the long-established law of Maryland that the presence of a pre-existing condition does not bar workers’ compensation benefits. In fact, “[i]f the accidental injury has accelerated or aggravated an existing disease or infirmity, the claimant is entitled to disability.”Reeves Motor Co. v. Reeves, 204 Md. 576, 582 (1954). Therefore, even if an injured worker would have required a particular treatment in the unspecified future, a work-injury could accelerate the need for that treatment to such an extent that the treatment is causally-related to the work-injury and, therefore, covered by workers’ compensation.

If you have any questions regarding a work-injury or work-related illness, do not hesitate to speak to an attorney and learn your rights. Attorney Matthew Engler stands ready to assist you and offers free consultations for all injured workers. Contact him at 301-740-3322 or mengler@bsgfdlaw.com.

Personal Injuries That Result from Boating Accidents

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Kenneth Berman recently filed a wrongful death claim in a case involving individuals that suffered fatal injuries after the boat they were on capsized in the Atlantic Ocean. During this incident, several individuals set out in a passenger vessel for a recreational fishing trip. Weather was rough and the ocean conditions were unpredictable. A large wave struck the side of the boat and it began filling with water. The boat unexpectedly capsized, trapping 2 individuals in the cabin.Tragically, neither were able to escape and both drowned.

Under the Death on the High Seas Act, 46 U.S.C. § 761, et seq., Kenneth Berman is arguing that the owner and operator failed to maintain proper and safe control of the boat, failed to provide a seaworthy vessel for his passengers, and also failed to ensure his passengers wore the proper safety devices. Maritime law is unlike any other personal injury law and to argue a case successfully requires extensive knowledge and expertise.If you have questions about boating accidents, contact Kenneth Berman of Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, LLP who will continue to fight for the rights of the injured.


Victory for Injured School Bus Driver

Friday, December 02, 2016

In a case of first impression Ken Berman won a case for a bus driver who developed a problem with her tailbone due to many years of bus driving. A school bus driver developed a condition known as Coccydynia- inflammation of the tailbone which causes pain and tenderness. It forced the worker to be off of work for several periods of time and resulted in the driver having to undergo surgery on her tailbone.

Mr. Berman argued that it was caused by the daily bumping up and down in the uncomfortable driver seats on many of the busses. The Employer (municipality) strongly contested the case, arguing that the condition was due to other things, including the Claimant having undergone a bariatric weight loss surgery. Mr. Berman introduced photographs of the bus seats, elicited testimony from other drivers, and presented medical testimony from physicians relating the condition of the Claimant to her job.

The Claimant will be entitled to reimbursement of medical bills, lost time reimbursement, future medical treatment, and permanent disability for problems that she will have.

If you have a condition that you believe is caused or aggravated by work, contact the attorneys who specialize in forging new theories of the law and expanding the medical principles that apply to law cases. You can reach Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby at 1-800-827- 2667 (COMP) or bemanandarby.com.

 


MSEA Conference Winner

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

We would like to thank everyone who attended the recent MSEA conference, and, those who stopped by our booth to visit and enter our raffle. 

We would like to congratulate our MSEA Fitbit Raffle winner from Middletown High School in Frederick County!!  Way to go!

DECISIVE VICTORY FOR 911 DISPATCHER INJURED IN MOTOR VEHICLE COLLISION OUTSIDE WORK

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

911 dispatchers are our first line of defense in times of emergency.  Sometimes they are called upon to perform special training and can be injured when traveling to and from this training.  Ken Berman, Natalie Whittingham and Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP protected the rights of a long time 911 dispatcher who was injured in a motor vehicle collision near his place of work, while traveling to a mandatory training meeting.  The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission had found that the Claimant, who was “T-boned” by a truck, sustained an accidental injury as a result of and within the scope of his employment, notwithstanding that he had not yet physically checked in to work.  After the Claimant won before the commission, the employer attempted to overturn this Order by filing an appeal and filing a dispositive motion.  Ken and Natalie defeated this motion and preserved the claim of the injured worker.

Exceptions to The “Going and Coming” Rule

Ordinarily, injuries suffered while an employee is going to or coming from work (known as the “going and coming” rule), are not covered under workers’ compensation law.  However, there are many, many exceptions to this rule.  For example, injured workers who are “on duty” at the time of the accident, are in Employer’s vehicle, or on a “special errand or mission” at the request of the employer are covered and not barred by the “going and coming” rule.  Ken and Natalie were able to protect the rights of the Claimant in this case by successfully arguing that the Claimant was traveling to attend a “special errand/mission", a mandatory staff meeting. Therefore, this case fell into an exception to the “going and coming” rule because the public safety employee was on his way to attend a monthly mandatory staff meeting, even though it was before his regular work hours given that it was with the consent of his employer. Therefore, he was on a “special errand”.

What this Means for Injured Workers

This case is the perfect example of why injured workers need an attorney with experience in workers’ compensation law. The “going and coming” rule, and the many exceptions that apply to that rule, is a complicated issue.Injured workers who are involved in accidents while traveling to or from work may still be protected, despite the “going and coming” rule.  Whether a claim falls under one of the exceptions requires a detailed review of the law and the facts of each case.The attorneys at Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman and Darby LLP are equipped with the expertise to navigate this area of law and protect the rights of injured workers, like Ken and Natalie protected the Claimant in this case.If you are injured at work, contact Ken Berman, Esq. at (301) 740-3300 or Natalie E. Whittingham, Esq. at (301) 670-6546.

Why Should I File A Claim With The Workers’ Compensation Commission If My Employer’s Insurance Is Already Paying For My Doctor?

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Attention Injured Workers! There is a huge difference between filing a workers’ compensation claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission and your employer’s insurance company. Many injured workers do not realize this and may miss out on all the other benefits entitled to them under the law if they had only filed their claim with the Commission. The benefits that you may miss out on include:

 
- ONLY by filing a claim with the Commission do you have access to lifetime medical coverage for your injury, with NO copays;
- ONLY by filing a claim with the Commission do you have access to compensation for permanent impairment suffered from your injury, even if you return to work or it is only a scar;
- ONLY by filing a claim with the Commission do you have access to vocational rehabilitation services if your injury prevents you from returning to your prior job;
- ONLY by filing a claim with the Commission can you fight your employer’s insurance company when they deny medical treatment or compensation for lost wages;
- And much more…
 
Additionally, there is no cost or fee associated with filing a claim either. You normally must file within two years of the date of injury, so time is often of the essence. Do not be subject to the whims of your employer’s insurance company: take charge of your recovery and contact Attorney Matthew Engler today for a free consultation.

 

Why Workers Compensation’ For Police Is More Important Than Ever Before

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Police officers are not only covered for accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of their employment, but they are also covered for occupational diseases arising from the unique hazards of their employment such as heart disease, hypertension, and hearing loss. Maryland law presumes that the heart disease or hypertension developed from the officer’s stressful employment. This presumption is based upon medical evidence that police officers, due to their many pressures and responsibilities, have a greater risk of heart disease and hypertension than the general public.

When choosing a workers' compensation attorney, it is important to go with an attorney who, “backs the blue.” Attorney Matthew Engler, a former Maryland State’s Attorney, now practices workers’ compensation with BSGFD and devotes his attention to the needs of Maryland police officers. From his experience as a prosecutor, he knows how difficult policing is today and fully appreciates the sacrifices made every day by our men and women in blue. Contact Attorney Matthew Engler today for a free consultation.

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