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Workers' Compensation Blog

The Importance of Documenting All of Your Injuries

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

All too often when workers are injured the focus is on the most severe parts of the body hurt. Frequently the minor pains and bruises from other parts of the body are ignored. However, in a workers’ compensation claim it is very important to report every hurt, bruised, or swollen body part no matter how minor it may seem at the time. The human body is interconnected and when you fall, for instance, you may land on your knee, but your hands may have eased the impact, which can cause shoulder and arm pain as well. If you injure your back, the nerve pain and/ or damage can cause problems in your legs. You may not feel any symptoms to those other areas until a day or two later, but these are all parts of your body that could get worse over time and require additional medical treatment. It is important in a workers’ compensation claim to document every part of the body that was affected by the accident no matter how small it may seem. It is more difficult to try and convince a Commissioner or insurance company that another body part was also injured in the same accident if there is no documentation of it within a few days of the accident.

What’s In The Injury Report Matters

This rule is important to remember when filling out your accident report at work, your workers’ compensation claim form, and any forms you are given at every medical office you visit after the accident. In our practice, we frequently read emergency room reports where an injured body part is left out or the wrong body part is documented. We all know hospitals are busy places and not everything is always documented with 100% accuracy, but insurance companies will use this to discredit your injury or the cause of your injury. It is important for you to check that how the accident occurred and that all injuries are clearly described and documented. Make sure to tell the medical professional you are dealing with every ache, pain and/or discomfort that you are feeling as a result of the accident.

Contact Us With Questions

If you have any questions about a new pain or problem that developed after your injury it is always best to contact an attorney. Our attorneys have years of experience and know the right questions to ask to ensure that you receive the full coverage, you are entitled to for your injuries.

Workers’ Compensation Claims Process - How long does it take to get a hearing and what is a “consideration date?

Friday, July 14, 2017

One of the most common questions I receive from clients concerns how long it takes to get a hearing before the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission. As with any court or judicial body, the Commission sets its own schedule and the claimants and attorneys appearing before it are subject to that schedule. Generally speaking, however, it is a safe assumption that your hearing will be scheduled within three to four months from the date you file your claim or request a hearing. This can vary based on your hearing venue. For example, hearings are scheduled much quicker in Baltimore or Beltsville (the hearing sites with a higher volume and where hearings are held more frequently), than in La Vale or Cambridge (where hearings are held less frequently based on a lesser volume).

What is the “Consideration Date?”

The claim process begins when you file an “Employee Claim Form” with the Commission. This document asks you basic demographic and injury-specific questions. Once this is submitted, the Commission will send a Notice of Claim to your employer and your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, referred to as the insurer. On the bottom-right of this Notice of Claim, you will find a “Consideration Date,” which is typically about a month from the date your original Employee Claim Form was filed. Your employer and insurer have until this date to either accept or contest your claim. If they contest the claim, they will file Contesting Issues with the Commission and you will have to wait for a hearing to present the evidence of your work-related injury or illness. You cannot request a hearing on your own behalf until after the “consideration date,” has passed. That’s why it is so important to file your claim as soon as possible.

My Employer and Insurer filed Contesting Issues; what next?

When your employer and insurer file Contesting Issues, they are, in effect, opposing the claim until the Commission can hold a hearing to determine the validity of your claim. As stated above, this will typically be scheduled anywhere between three to four months from the date your claim is initially filed. At this first hearing, you will be called upon to testify and present evidence of your work-related injury or illness, including medical records supporting your claim. After the hearing, the Commissioner will decide whether or not your injury or illness is covered by the workers’ compensation laws of Maryland. However, up until that time, you will not be able to recover any workers’ compensation benefits such as temporary total disability. You may or may not receive medical coverage. For this reason, it is all the more urgent that you consult with an attorney to determine your options and to prepare for this hearing.

How can my hearing be scheduled on an emergency basis?

In some circumstances, you can request the Commission to schedule your hearing sooner based on an “emergency” situation. For example, if you are unable to work on account of your injury or illness and have received collection notices on past-due bills or if you require emergency medical treatment, then the Commission may schedule your hearing sooner, within a matter of weeks rather than months. However, you must submit documents to support the urgency and these requests are not always granted.

If you have any questions or require assistance with your work-related injury or illness, please do not hesitate, contact Matthew Engler, Esq. today at 301-740-3322 or mengler@bsgfdlaw.com.

First Pitch for Frederick Keys by Ken Berman

Monday, July 10, 2017

One of our Founding Partners Ken Berman recently had the honor of throwing out the first pitch for the Frederick Keys baseball team.  We appreciate the opportunity and thank everyone who took a moment to cast their vote for the first pitch on our Facebook Page

Video Re-Play of Ken's Famous First Pitch!

Below is a recap of the historic event in pictures which we encourage you to share!







Workers’ Compensation and FMLA

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

If you find yourself injured on the job, and are required to miss work while you recover, you may be concerned about whether your job will still be waiting for you when you are able to return. Certain employees have federal protections available to them, in addition to their workers’ compensation benefits, which they may not be aware of.

What is FMLA?

Employees who suffer work related accidents may be covered under the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Act. In addition those same employees, who sustain what is known as a “serious health condition”, are entitled to federal protections under the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. The most important safeguards available to injured workers require that employers provide twelve (12) weeks of job-protected unpaid leave and continue to provide group health benefits during that twelve (12) week period. Put another way, FMLA holds your job open for twelve (12) weeks, if you are injured on the job and qualify for FMLA.

How Do I Know if I Qualify for FMLA?

If you work for a private employer who has at least fifty (50) employees, a federal, state ,or local government, or an elementary or secondary school (regardless of the number of employees), you are eligible for FMLA in addition to workers’ compensation benefits as long as you suffer a “serious health condition” in the course of your employment.

If you do work for a covered employer, you must have worked for that employer for at least twelve (12) months in order to qualify for job protection through FMLA, even if that work is seasonal.

A “serious health condition” includes a work injury where (1) you required an overnight stay in a hospital or medical facility; or (2) you were off work for more than three days and required ongoing medical treatment (such as multiple doctors’ appointments and/or follow up care).

What is the Difference Between FMLA and Workers’ Compensation?

Pay: Workers’ Compensation entitles you to payment of temporary total or partial disability benefits while you are off work and the payment of all reasonable treatment for your compensable work related injury. FMLA, however, is unpaid leave, which ensures that, as long as you return to work within the twelve (12) week period, you are entitled to return to the same or equivalent job. So, if you suffer a “serious health condition” on the job you may be entitled to payment through workers’ compensation, while your job is held open by FMLA.

Medical Expenses and Health Insurance: FMLA requires that covered employers continue to pay health insurance as if you were still working. However, this does not include the medical expenses that you incur as a result of your work related accident. This is not usually a concern since Workers’ Compensation gives you the lifetime right to request payment of any medical treatment which is reasonable, necessary, and related to the on the job accident. In other words, if you injure your knee on the job and require a knee replacement surgery as a result of that accident, you have the right to request that the medical expenses and recovery from that surgery be paid for under Workers’ Compensation. If you catch a cold while out of work for that knee replacement surgery during the twelve (12) week FMLA period, you will still be able to see your primary care physician under your employer provided health insurance and the job will be held open for you.

Navigating how Workers’ Compensation interacts with the Family Medical Leave Act can be complicated. In addition, workers may not realize the rights that they have under the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Act and Federal FMLA. If you are injured on the job and require an extended leave of absence to recover from your injury, please contact Natalie Whittingham.

The Impact of Wage Loss on The Life of a Correctional Officer

Thursday, May 04, 2017

I recently had a jury trial in Cumberland where I represented a correctional officer at one of the large State prisons in Western Maryland. I was reminded during the course of the trial of the devastating impact that a work accident can have on someone who lives in Western Maryland.

This was someone who, because of the very serious nature of their work injury, was unable to return to work for the State of Maryland. And when someone loses a good paying union job, that has good benefits and job protections, the results of losing that job are devastating to the worker and their family.

In Maryland, workers’ compensation law does provide vocational services that help injured workers’ find jobs within their physical restrictions. Unfortunately, those jobs are typically non-union, low paying jobs with expensive health care that offer little job protection.

Gone are the days where mining and manufacturing jobs were plentiful and wages were driven up by competition for good reliable workers. Instead, workers’ compensation insurance companies get off cheap and easy compared to the economic and psychological impact suffered by workers who lose their jobs due to work injuries.

While we were able to double the injured worker’s benefits at the trial, it still doesn’t come close to making up for what was lost. That loss is not merely economic, but also the pride and satisfaction that comes with providing for your family. When that’s taken away there is no amount of money that can adequately compensate an injured worker for all that they’ve lost, due to not fault of their own.

Workers' Comp Awarded for Fire Fighter with Medial Epicondylitis

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Medial Epicondylitis. Sounds contagious, right? It is actually a condition more commonly referred to as "golfer's elbow" or "baseball elbow". This condition is characterized by pain from the inside (medial) elbow to the wrist which results from damage to the tendons that bend the wrist towards the palm.

Chronic Injuries from Job Stresses

While this condition is common among golfers, tennis players and baseball players, Ken Berman was recently able to attribute this condition to the long term effects of the duties involved in fire fighting. Specifically, the Claimant was diagnosed with right medial epicondylitis and was forced to miss time from work as a result. Ken made the argument before the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission that this condition arose as a result of the Claimant's twenty one (21) years of service as a fire fighter during which time the Claimant carried heavy equipment on a frequent basis. It was also pointed out that over the many years the fire fighter rolled hoses and carried ladders. The Employer/Insurer contested the claim from the start and argued that the Claimant's condition did not arise out of the course of the fire fighter's employment.

Not only was Ken able convince the Commissioner that the Claimant's condition was related to the repetitive occupational stresses and strains of fire fighting, he was able to get the Claimant reimbursed for time lost from work. In addition, he successfully argued that the Clamant should be compensated for the overtime wages lost while assigned to a light duty position over six (6) month period. Finally, the Commission Ordered that all related medical expenses be paid by the Employer/Insurer for the remainder of the Claimant's life. The fire fighter is currently awaiting a second hearing before the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission to determine permanent partial disability benefits.

The Right Attorney for Fire Fighters

Having a strong knowledge of the law, coupled with extensive understanding of the day to day activities of fire fighters, is what gives Ken Berman’s clients the advantage when it comes to their day in Court. If you believe you have suffered an occupational disease or condition as a result of your employment as a fire fighter, call Ken today for a free consultation.

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.

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