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Workers' Compensation Blog

Facts About Injuries for Fire Fighters and First Responders

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fire fighters get injured at work more than the general population. If that seems logical to those who perform the job, now there are official numbers to back it up. In 2014 there were 63,350 fire fighter injuries which occurred in the line of duty, a decrease of 3.8% from 2013 when there were nearly 65,880 line of duty fire fighter injuries. While this number, thankfully, is the fewest since 1981, and 2013 represented a 5% drop from the number of injuries to fire fighters in 2012, it is still much higher, proportionately, than for any other occupation. This is especially worrisome when one considers that the number of fires has decreased by 57.1% since 1981.

1 Injury Occurs Every 8 Minutes

Thus, while the number of total injuries for fire fighters has gone down slightly over the last two decades, the number of fires since 1981 has decreased at a much greater rate. The number of injuries remain much higher for first responders than anyone else. It amounts to one fire fighter injury occurring every 8 minutes. In fact, according to the Harvard School of Medicine, putting out a fire has a 100 times higher risk of death than working in a non-emergency situation. Although many people assume that burns and smoke inhalation are the cause of most fire fighter fatalities; heart disease (coronary artery disease) is actually the single most frequent cause of duty-related deaths.

WHERE the Injuries Occur

A look behind the numbers nationwide in 2014 show that forty three percent (43%) of fire fighter injuries occur at or on the fire grounds, while seventeen percent (17%) occur during other on-duty activities. Six percent (6%) arise from responding to or returning from an incident, while eleven percent (11%) happened during training activities. Finally, twenty three percent (23%) occurred at non-fire emergency incidents. The highest rate of injuries (per 100 fire fighters) were, perhaps not surprisingly, among departments that protected populations of one million citizens or more and the fewest were to fire fighters that protected populations of fewer than 25,000.

Exposure To More Than Burns and Scars

In addition to injuries, NFPA estimates that in 2013 (the last calendar year for which reportable numbers exist) there were 7,100 exposures nationwide to infectious disease (such as hepatitis, meningitis, HIV) and 17,400 exposures to hazardous conditions (asbestos, radioactive materials, chemicals, etc.)

Public Safety Workers’ Compensation Claim Rates

The national numbers are mirrored in the State of Maryland. Out of all the workers’ compensation claims filed in the State of Maryland, a disproportionate number have been for public safety employees.

2015 2014 2013
# of Claims 23,711 24,211 23,241
# FF Claims 754 (3.2%) 799 (3.3%) 769 (3.3%)

If you know of fire fighter, first responder, or EMS worker who has been injured on the job have them call me for a confidential consultation.

Increased Deliveries Equals Increased Injuries for Delivery Drivers

Friday, September 23, 2016

Is it just me, or does it seem like there are simply not enough hours in the day anymore? More often than not, I’m trying to accomplish multiple things at a time in order to get through the never-ending ‘to-do’ list that I have created for myself each day. That, coupled with easy access to online shopping from my smartphone makes home delivery a very common and necessary feature in daily life. One study indicated that ‘mobile’ shopping is projected to grow from a mere $3 billion in 2010 to $31 billion by 2017.

Increased Injuries for Courier Workers

Given this, it isn’t surprising that courier workers are experiencing ever increasing demands in their jobs. Increased volume as well as stricter time constraints on delivery schedules have resulted in more injuries to courier workers over the years. And while these injuries occur on a more frequent basis, the typical courier worker continues to work through their injury hoping it will resolve itself. In the best of circumstances, the nagging knee pain or back twinge will eventually go away. However, in worst-case scenarios, those injuries that were initially minor in nature can turn into debilitating, career-ending injuries.

Who to Call...and When...

Time and time again, I receive calls from injured workers who have had long standing injuries that they have reported to the company, only to learn later, and sometimes when it is too late, that these injuries are not covered under workers’ compensation. This should not be happening! Merely reporting your work injury at the job is not enough.

We can help to make sure your rights are protected. Contact Gretchen Rogers today (301-740-3303) to learn what you rights are.

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.

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