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Workers' Compensation Blog

Jury Got It Right For Montgomery County Correctional Officer

Friday, September 23, 2016

Attorney Charles Schultz of Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, LLP was successful in overturning a decision of the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission which had found that a career correctional officer did not sustain an occupational disease of Hypertension as a result of his employment. The Commission denied the injured worker’s claim for benefits because he suffered from numerous other health conditions which could have been a factor in his development of Hypertension. After a two (2) day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the officer, who had worked for Montgomery County for just two (2) years prior to being diagnosed with Hypertension (he had worked as a correctional officer for 11 years prior to that in a different jurisdiction), finding that his condition was caused by his employment.

Hypertension for Correctional Officers

For many correctional officers in Maryland, it is presumed that Hypertension is caused by the stresses and strains inherent in the job - a law that makes perfect sense to those who understand the daily challenges of a correctional officer. Correctional officers are in the position of having to protect inmates from harming themselves, other inmates, or the officers themselves, and often times when they are greatly outnumbered by the inmates. This stressful environment can contribute to the development of Hypertension - which has been recognized by Maryland’s Legislature by including correctional officers in the heart and lung law.

What This Means for the Officer

The court victory means that the officer will now receive payment for all future medical treatment and any past medical bills resulting from his Hypertension, payment at two thirds of his wages tax free for any time he has missed from work as a result of his condition, and payment for the permanent disability he now has due to his condition.

If you know someone who is a corrections officer and is suffering with job-related hypertension, please have them contact Ken Berman at (301) 670-7030.

Injuries from Prescription Related Side Effects for Firefighters

Friday, September 23, 2016

Over the years, I have represented thousands of you for claims arising out of work related, as well as non-work related, injuries and/or diseases. Unfortunately, not only have you had to worry about the injuries and the diseases themselves, other concerns have arisen besides the dangers of your profession. Recently, many of the treatments for these problems have been declared dangerous and life threatening.

Side Effects From Xarelto and Other Prescription Meds

For instance many individuals have been prescribed Xarelto as a blood thinner. Xarelto, as you may already know, has been the subject of lawsuits because it has been found that Xarelto can lead to uncontrollable internal bleeding and other serious complications, including heart problems and/or strokes. In addition, for those who have work related or even non-work related problems or diseases, manufacturers of medical devices and IVC, have recalled their products. Inferior Vena Cava Filters (known as “IVCs”) are designed to prevent life threatening pulmonary embolisms. Some of these filter failures have resulted in deaths.

Furthermore, a well-known consequence of hypertension is a loss of potency. The FDA alerted consumers and healthcare providers that a small number of men have lost eyesight after taking Viagra, Cialis or Levitra.

How We Can Help You, Or, Someone You Care About

Berman, Sobin Gross, Feldman, and Darby, LLP has been at the forefront in resolving the cases involving unsafe drugs and medical devices and protecting injured workers, and their families. If you believe you have been harmed by any of these products or by such products as Pinnacle DuPey® Hip Replacements, Taxotere®, or Essure®, please contact me at (301) 670-7030. In the meantime, stay safe.

Hard Fought Court Victory for Widow of Deceased Fire Fighter

Friday, September 23, 2016

Attorney Ken Berman has secured death benefits for the widow of a deceased fire fighter in a three (3) day jury trial. The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission had found that the Claimant, a fire fighter who was not diagnosed with multiple myeloma until 23 years after last running a call, did not sustain a compensable occupational disease. The Commission denied the widow’s claim for the death of her husband due to the long gap between the fire fighter’s exposure (1989) and the diagnosis of the disease (2012), as well as the fire fighter’s family history of cancer.

Occupational Diseases for Fire Fighters

After three days of testimony, including Mr. Berman subpoenaing the former assistant chief of the department to testify as to exposures fire fighters encounter and past lack of safety measures, the Jury returned a verdict overturning the Commission and in favor of the Claimant- finding that his occupational disease of multiple myeloma was indeed related to the fire fighter’s exposures in the department.

What This Means for The Family

The court victory means that the widow will now receive death benefits, payment for the funeral expenses, and payment for all past medical bills and other expenses.

Benefits for Burns, Scars & Disfigurements

Friday, September 23, 2016

Maryland Workers’ Compensation law requires the Employer/Insurer of a worker who is burned, scarred or disfigured while performing his/her job to pay to that worker, compensation benefits. This includes, and is especially relevant to, fire fighters.

A fire fighter who is burned, disfigured or scarred while either fighting a fire or performing any other aspect of his job has the right to receive $343.00 per week (the 2016 rate) up to a maximum of 156 weeks for any such disfigurement, burn or scar. As in many other requirements of the Workers’ Compensation law, fault is not a factor, however the employee has 2 years to file such a claim after the disfigurement or scarring occurs.

If you have been burned or incurred any scarring in the last 2 years contact us immediately to process the claim and obtain the benefits that are rightfully yours.

Conclusion

The laws governing workers’ compensation are complex. However, the system is designed to benefit an injured worker. An attorney can only charge if recovery is made. If you have a question regarding anything in the outlines, or any other questions, please feel free to contact us at Berman Sobin Gross, Feldman & Darby. Our telephone number is (301) 670-7030 and our toll free number is (800) 827-COMP.

Injuries During Physical Training: What Is and Is Not Compensable

Friday, September 23, 2016

There has been some confusion recently as to whether injuries sustained while performing “required” physical training are covered under workers’ compensation. The answer almost always is "yes", provided certain conditions are met.

When The Injury Happens Matters

Physical training is considered part of a fire fighter’s job. Therefore injuries sustained during training are compensable provided that the injury is an “ACCIDENTAL INJURY arising out of the course of employment” (Labor & Employ. Art. Md. Ann. Code) “An accidental injury” (and thus a compensable injury) has been interpreted by the courts to mean any injury which occurs at work or is related to work. It includes such things as slips, falls, or burns. This standard of compensability applies not only to injuries sustained at the fire grounds but also traveling to or from a fire, at the fire, being detailed to stations and checking one’s mail at the station, as well as injuries sustained during physical training.

Documenting The Injury

One should always include in the First Report of Injury, Supervisory Report, and in any history given to a doctor any details about the injury. This will prevent problems from arising and decrease the likeliness of the Employer contesting the claim.

Correctional Officers and Hypertension: Protect Your Rights

Thursday, September 22, 2016

By Jason Shultz, Esq.

 

Being a correctional officer is one of the most dangerous and stressful jobs in the world. Think about what these women and men do every day. They walk through prison gates; the doors are locked BEHIND them, and are asked to protect us from the most dangerous criminals in Maryland. They are not carrying firearms and are wearing very little protection. Correctional officers know the risk and despite that, show up every day for work and protect the public. In turn, the State of Maryland does not provide them with as many workers’ compensation protections as they could.

Correctional officers are on the front lines of public safety in Maryland. They stand side by side with police and fire to provide safety to the public. Yet the law does not afford them the same protections as police and fire. In Maryland, and throughout the country, the law recognizes that police officers and firefighters have a higher risk of developing hypertension and heart disease. This is a direct result of the high stress nature of being a police officer and firefighter. The law presumes that if a police officer or firefighter develops hypertension, it’s presumed to have been caused by the stress of their job. This is backed up by research. The presumption itself is vital because the workers’ compensation insurance company has the burden to prove that the hypertension was caused by something other than the stress of the job. In other workers’ compensation cases, the burden is on the injured worker to prove the injuries were caused by the accident or the in the case of an occupation disease, the disease was caused by the nature of the employment.

Why doesn’t the law provide correctional officers the same protection as police and fire? Think about what correctional officers face every day. The threat of assault is constant; they have to be on high alert from the moment they walk in the prison. Is being surrounded by violent criminals forty hours a week just as stressful as being a police officer and firefighter? And when you think about public safety, people often fail to consider that correctional officers are the last line of defense, and provide just as much safety to the public as police or fire. There have been bills introduced in the last two Legislative sessions to provide Maryland correctional officers the same protections as police and fire and neither has been enacted. Two sessions ago during the testimony before Senate, representatives from the workers’ compensation insurance industry actually testified that correctional officers do not protect the public, and that’s why legislators should vote down the bill!

Some jurisdictions in Maryland do recognized that correctional officers have the same increased risk of hypertension. Both Montgomery and Prince George's counties treat their correctional officers the same as their police and firefighters. If a Montgomery County or Prince George’s County correctional officer develops hypertension, the law presumes it’s caused by the stress of their employment and they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, but if a correctional officer in a State of Maryland facility develops hypertension, they do not have the same protection. How can this be? The worst of the worst are housed in State of Maryland facilities. How can State of Maryland correctional officers not face the same, if not more stress, as a Prince Georges’ or Montgomery County correctional officers?

Despite this inherent unfairness, correctional officers throughout the state STILL have the right to file hypertension claims. Just because they don’t have the presumption does not mean they cannot fight for their rights. We are currently fighting for the rights of correctional officers who have hypertension despite the lack of a presumption bill, and we will continue to do so. If you do have a hypertension and are a correctional officer, make sure you protect your rights by filing a workers’ compensation claim. Don’t wait for the Legislature to protect your rights for you.

Jason Shultz, Esq.

Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP

Lutherville: 800-248-3352

Gaithersburg: 800-827-2667

Matt Darby Wins Big For Fire Fighters and Government Employees

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Clifford B. Sobin, Esq.

 

Eight years ago, almost to the day, I attended hearings at the Maryland Legislature related to some newly proposed laws that would help people claiming Workers’ Compensation benefits. My firm for more than two decades has worked with Unions throughout Maryland to help people that have been injured on the job; with their claims and with enacting new laws. That day, Matt Darby was there as well. He was a principle partner in a firm that had the same mission as ours. Once the meetings were over he was kind enough to drive me to my car.

We got to talking and realized that both of our firms had similar cultures and similar values. The light bulb went off. Why not merge? Almost three years later we did.

Now, as further proof of the validity of that vision, only two months after my partner, Ken Berman, scored a huge victory in the Court of Appeals for fire fighters, now Matt Darby has done the same in the Court of Special Appeals.

Facts

The case involved one of our clients who suffered from coronary heart disease. Matt succeeded in convincing the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission that our client’s condition was compensable and that he had a 25% percent industrial disability as a result. The Commission awarded him more than $33,000 dollars.

However, there was a problem. Baltimore County argued he was not entitled to the money because he was receiving a retirement benefit that paid more than the Workers’ Compensation award. Therefore, to use a tired legal expression; the award was “set-off” by the retirement benefit. In theory they had a point – but in practice they did not. The County argued that the money our client received in a lump sum five years before the Commission hearing, as part of the DROP program, should be included in the “set-off” calculations.

Matt said no!

Argument

He argued that the law required looking week by week to see what retirement benefits were actually paid for that week and compare it to what was owed under the Commission award for that week; then calculate the “Set-off” separately for each week. Matt won before the Commission. He won before the Circuit Court. And now he has won in front of the Court of Special Appeals.

Not only did the win benefit our client, but it will help all fire fighters, police officers and any other employee of a county, municipality or the state. If you would like to read the case it is located at:

http://www.mdcourts.gov/opinions/cosa/2014/2053s12.pdf.

First Firefighter Case on Hearing Loss Results in Victory

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Recently we had an opportunity to have a hearing on one of twelve of the many hearing loss and tinnitus claims that we have filed before the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission. The Commission ruled in favor of the fire fighters in each of the cases. The Commission relied upon the hearing test as well as a physician whom we referred the Claimant to, in determining that the claim was related to their noise exposures at work. It resulted in an award to each fire fighter of over fifteen thousand dollars.

Although we have heard from many fire fighters regarding these problems, there are many more who have not thought to pursue a claim. It costs nothing to pursue such a matter. The only thing that is needed are copies of hearing tests which we can easily obtain. Many fire fighters simply fax us (at 301-670-9492) their hearing tests after each annual physical exam. These are provided to any firefighter who requests it, free of charge.

Choosing the Right Attorney Matters…See Why

Thursday, September 22, 2016

When your health, career and you and your family’s financial well-being are on the line, it is crucial that you pick the right attorney. Not one who is a “Johnny come lately” or falsely promises you better results. Rather, what are needed are an attorney and a firm who has a proven track record, who will be in it for the long term with you, and who has credibility and the respect of the Workers’ Compensation Commissioners and judges who will hear your case.

If you, or someone that you know and care about, is in the situation of having to find and select the right attorney for their worker’s compensation or personal injury case, have them remember the phrase “S.W.I.P.E.” Below is an explanation from our founding partner Ken Berman as to how this phrase has helped victims to find the right attorney for their situation.

(S) Stability- Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman and Darby LLP (“Berman and Darby”) have been practicing workers’ compensation and personal injury law for over thirty five years with a combined experience of over a hundred years. Each of our partners has received the highest rankings from our peers and has a partnership and staff that has remained consistent and engaged for three decades. Rare in the world of law firms, each attorney not only respects and admires the other attorneys, but has grown up in the culture of service to the client. Each client receives a team of attorneys and staff that oversees his/her case, ensuring the possible maximum outcome.

(W) Wisdom – 35 years and thousands of cases has given us the wisdom into both the law and the unique situations that arise for fire fighters – such as how to protect them for the unusual injuries, light duty in the department, work hardening, heart disease, stress, hypertension, lung diseases, hearing loss, and PTSD as well as the many other issues that fire fighters face. In addition, having tried thousands of cases before the Commission, a certain wisdom has developed as to how to present the case in the best possible light that ensures the largest result for the fire fighter.

(I) Integrity - When choosing an attorney, it is important to research their background. Determine if an attorney you are considering for representation has ever been sanctioned or received any disciplinary action (these are a matter of public record and can be accessed through the Attorney Grievance Commission and Office of Bar Counsel’s website http://www.courts.state.md.us/attygrievance/). All of the attorneys at Berman , Sobin, Gross , Feldman and Darby LLP not only have the highest rankings by professional organizations but none of them have ever faced even a hint of disciplinary action and are respected by not only their peers but by the Commissioners and judges across the state of Maryland. If the attorney or law firm you are considering for representation possesses questionable marks on their background, be wary.

(P) Professionalism - Each of the attorneys at BSGF&D carries themselves with the utmost professionalism and does not cut corners or take ethical shortcuts. We are proud of who we represent and how we represent them. This has garnered us the respect in the community by not only the people who decide the cases but also by the adjusters and attorneys representing the other parties. It is important that you, when injured and seeking recovery and future protections, be proud of your attorney and the representation that you receive. We guarantee you that you will be when you choose Ken Berman and Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman and Darby LLP.

(E) Experience - In addition to the thousands of hearings at the Commission level, we have handled more jury trials on behalf of fire fighters in the circuit court than any other firm in the state of Maryland. We have also tried more appeals and made more law for fire fighters and other public safety employees in the high courts than any other firm in the state of Maryland. Be sure to find out if the attorney who handles your hearing before the Commission will also be the attorney who handles the appeal if either side appeal. It is, in most firms, normally not the same person and they will not know your case from the beginning. An important question to ask your attorney is “How many jury trials does each attorney in your firm have?” This will help you to evaluate the strength and depth of the firm and will also reveal the experience level of the attorney you interact with and whom will be representing you at your workers’ compensation hearing. At Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman and Darby LLP it is a policy that we handle all aspects of the case from start to finish because the livelihoods of our clients and on-the-line along with the reputation of our firm.

Advice for the Apprehensive Injured Worker

Thursday, September 22, 2016

By Charles Schultz, Esq.

A few times a week I get a call from an injured worker who is considering filing a workers’ compensation claim with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission but is concerned about the repercussions that may take place after filing their claim.

While it is understandable, and in certain circumstances a very real concern that an employer may retaliate against an injured worker after a claim is filed, if you are injured on the job you must understand what rights you may be giving up if you don’t file a workers’ compensation claim. Often times you may be giving up more by deciding not to file a claim than you would be even in the worst case scenario for employer retaliation – termination. (It should be noted that Maryland is an “at-will” employment state, meaning an employer can fire an employee for any non-illegal reason. However it is against Maryland law to fire an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim). Those who have been lucky enough to avoid the workers’ compensation process understandably may have little to no knowledge of what benefits may be available to them through Maryland’s workers’ compensation laws. The following paragraphs will detail the rights potentially available to injured workers in Maryland who are successful in filing their workers’ compensation claim. (As a quick aside, it is of utmost importance to understand that filling out a report of injury for your employer is NOT filing a claim with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission. If a claim is not properly filed you may be forfeiting your rights. It is important to consult legal counsel to ensure proper filing).

By failing to file a claim you may be giving up compensation at 2/3s of your pre-taxed wages for the period of time you are unable to work while you recover from your work injury. Often times this means exhausting your hard earned personal, vacation and/or sick leave when your employer or its insurer is the legally responsible for paying your wages for each day missed – and doing so without tapping into your personally accrued leave time. This benefit becomes especially important if you are separated from your employment. This is because the payment of workers’ compensation leave benefits that you are entitled to while you are unable to work as a result of your work injury has no correlation to your employment itself. Whether you are still employed or have been separated from employment, you are still entitled to compensation if you cannot do your job and your doctor agrees that you must be out of work.

Compensation for time out of work is important – everyone has bills to pay – and the money received for lost time from work can help to make sure you don’t fall behind while you work to get back on the job. However, the best benefit in Maryland’s workers’ compensation law is the payment of medical treatment necessitated by your work injury. Maryland is unique in that you have the right, as an injured worker, to seek treatment with a doctor of your choice. And most important of all, there is no time limitation on your ability to seek treatment as a result of a work injury. (The right to fight for treatment never expires once a claim has been accepted, however, there are no guarantees your employer or their insurer will authorize the treatment you wish to have – yet another good reason to consult with a legal professional). If you fail to file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission, often times the insurance adjuster will take longer to authorize treatment as there is no real motivation to do so. Further, if the insurance company decides to deny your treatment you will have no means to force them to pay for the treatment your doctor is recommending. This leaves you with the responsibility of convincing your own insurance company to pay for your treatment, or worse yet, paying for your treatment out of pocket. By successfully filing a claim, you’re guaranteeing at least the right to fight for your employer to pay for the treatment you need to get you better and back to work.

Compensation for permanent disability is the last main benefit available to those who are successful in filing a workers’ compensation claim. Often times the money received for an individual’s permanent disability does not truly compensate him/her for the affect their injury has had on their life - especially with more serious injuries. However, some compensation is certainly better than receiving no compensation at all. By failing to file a claim, you forgo this right altogether.

You work hard at your job every day, giving up precious time with your family to help further your companies’ goals. If you get hurt while on the job you owe it to yourself to protect both you and your family by filing a claim. You should not have to pay out of your own pocket for medical treatment, struggle to make your bills because you are incapable of earning an income, or worse yet be forced to suffer from a life altering disability without receiving any assistance from your employer and their insurer to get you back on your feet.

So if you get hurt on the job – protect yourself and your family by filing your claim. And if you’re concerned about the potential repercussions of doing so, consult with legal counsel to make sure you understand not just what problems may arise if you do file your claim, but what problems may arise if you don’t.

Charles Schultz, Esq.
1301 York Road, Suite 600
Lutherville, MD 21093
(410) 769-5400
www.bermandarby.com

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