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Workers' Compensation Blog

Maryland's Highest Court Delivers Victory for Fire Fighter's Widow

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

In a case of first impression, Ken Berman was successful in representing a widow of a fire fighter in a landmark decision before the Court of Appeals, the highest court in Maryland.

Two years before the fire fighter's untimely death due to work-related heart disease, he had settled his workers' compensation claims against his Employer. Notably, his widow was not involved in the fire fighter's settlement. After his passing, his widow rightfully filed a death benefits claim to receive the compensation afforded to dependents of covered employees under the Maryland Workers' Compensation Act. The Employer contested the claim on the grounds that the late fire fighter had not only settled his own claims but had also settled any potential for death benefits by the widow or any of his family. The Workers' Compensation Commission incorrectly ruled in favor of the Employer and denied the widow's death benefits claim.

Mr. Berman appealed the Commission's decision and argued that the fire fighter's right to compensation for his work-related occupational disease was separate and distinct from any right to benefits his widow or family had to compensation for his death caused by the occupational disease. In other words, the fire fighter's compensation benefits were in one "bucket", which belonged to him, but his widow and family's compensation benefits were in a totally separate “bucket" that belonged to them. Although the Circuit Court upheld the Commission's ruling, Mr. Berman took the matter up to the appellate courts. The Court of Appeals ultimately agreed with Mr. Berman, reversed the decision of the Commission and circuit court, and ruled that the widow was not bound by the terms of the fire fighter's earlier settlement with his Employer and that she and her family were independently entitled to receive death benefits as compensation for the death of her late husband as the result of heart disease.

This Court of Appeals' decision will have a tremendous benefit to injured workers and their families across Maryland as it confirms that the longstanding legal principle -- that a person who is not a party to a contract is not bound to its terms -- also applies to workers' compensation settlement contracts.

If you are a dependent of a loved one who recently died due to work related injuries, you may be entitled to compensation under the Workers' Compensation Act. Contact our team of attorneys who specialize in fighting for employees injured while on the job and protecting the rights of the employee and their families.

What to do if you are Exposed to the Coronavirus at Work

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

If you contract or become exposed to an individual who tests positive for COVID-19, the following actions should be taken:

  • File a First Report of injury immediately documenting as many details as possible about the specific call/exposure with the infected individual(s). This is very important early on since the likelihood of the virus spreading amongst a shift/station/department/garage is inevitable and Employers will try to argue that the exposure could be due to anything but work.
  • While an Employer cannot be forced to file a First Report of Injury, the exposure or potential exposure should be documented. If possible, fill out an Exposure Report if they are not willing to do a First Report of Injury. In addition, at a minimum, notify your supervisor, in writing, of ANY potential exposure, indicating the date, time and place of such potential exposure.
  • When seeking medical treatment, make sure to document that you were exposed at work and provide information as to the date of the exposure, the location of the call/exposure, etc.
  • If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, it will be important to obtain a work note placing you out of work. If possible, the work note should reference something along the lines of, "Out of work for _____days/weeks due to COVID-19 contracted at work."
  • Under no circumstances, should you speak with/provide a statement to anyone from the workers’ compensation carrier. If the workers’ compensation carrier contacts you, you should advise the adjuster that you will not give a statement until you have consulted legal counsel. These cases will undoubtedly be contested due to the mere fact that there will be a significant number of claims filed.
  • Once you are placed out of work due to the virus, if you are not being paid while you are restricted from working, we can file a claim on your behalf with the intent of getting leave covered/reimbursed under workers’ compensation. It is very unlikely that there will be any additional benefits (i.e.: permanency benefits) available under workers’ compensation. However, in the severest of cases if someone dies because of the condition, a death/dependency claim should be filed.
  • Not every exposure will require a claim filed and not every claim filed will meet the legal standard of a covered case. This is an evolving situation and we will continue to push for answers and do everything we can to ensure that you are protected.

This is an evolving situation and we will continue to push for answers and do everything we can to ensure that you are protected.

The Year In Review At Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

2017 was an exciting year for our firm that included new additions to our staff, well-deserved recognition for a few of our attorneys, and a famous first pitch!

Let’s explore in greater detail some of the key moments from last year at Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, LLP:

  Attorneys Ken Berman, Matt Darby, Michael Feldman, Craig Meyers, and Ari Laric were selected as Super Lawyers and Rising Stars in 2017 and again in 2018 along with the addition of Charles Schultz in 2018. 
One of our Founding Partners Ken Berman was one of the only attorneys recognized by the Washington Post be the Best Attorneys in the areas of workers’ compensation and motor vehicle negligence cases. 


Ari Laric testified in Annapolis, MD in support of injured workers who are part of the State Retirement System. 
 Charles Schultz spoke at the MWCEA Conference and was also a panelist. 

  Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP expanded its staff with the hiring of Kenrick Roberts and Allyson Bloom
And who could forget…our very own Ken Berman throwing out the first pitch at a Frederick Keys baseball game in July. To our loyal Facebook contingent who voted on the outcome of the pitch…it was a strike  

Jury Verdict In Favor Of Montgomery County Bus Driver

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

School bus drivers spend hours transporting children to and from school in order to ensure that they arrive in a safe and timely manner. After years of performing this vital service for the community, the wear and tear on the bodies of bus drivers can have a profound impact on their ability to do their jobs. Natalie Whittingham, Ken Berman, and their team at Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, LLC secured workers’ compensation benefits for a decades long school bus driver who developed chronic pain in her tailbone after years of bouncing up and down in an uncomfortable bus driver’s seat. The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission had found that the Claimant, who required three surgeries as a result of her tailbone pain, suffered an occupational disease arising out of and in the course of her employment for Montgomery County. The Employer, in an attempt to overturn this Order appealed to the Circuit Court. After an in depth three day long trial before a jury, which included expert testimony by two doctors, medical records, and the testimony of lay witnesses as to the hazards of the Claimant’s employment, the jury came back in favor of the claimant, upholding the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Ken and Natalie were able to defeat the County’s appeal and preserve the rights of the injured worker.

The Law of Occupational Disease

The most commonly known work related injuries, or “accidental injuries” occur when an employee is injured in an accident on the job at a particular time and on a particular day. Some examples of accidental injuries include slips, falls and car accidents. However, some work related injuries occur only after many years of the worker repeatedly performing their job duties. The onset may be slow in nature and results from the conditions of the employment. These are known as “occupational diseases”. Examples of an occupational disease could include carpal tunnel syndrome, in this case coccydynia (like the Claimant here suffered), lung cancer and hypertension. Injured workers who suffer occupational diseases may be covered, even where there is some other disorder or condition which contributes to the occupational disease. Here, the Claimant developed the occupational disease of coccydynia after many years of bouncing around in uncomfortable bus driver seats around the same time that she experienced rapid weight loss. The jury found that where the occupation of bus driving was even only a partial cause of the disorder, the claim was covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

What To Do If You Think You’ve Suffered An Occupational Disease

The law of occupational diseases is a complex area of the Workers’ Compensation Act and requires an attorney with experience to navigate its intricacies. In order to pursue a claim for disablement caused by an occupational disease, a medical opinion, relating your employment to your disorder is required and a claim must be filed within a certain amount of time of receiving that medical opinion. If you believe that you’ve suffered an occupational disease from repeated exposure to the physical or chemical hazards of your employment, it is imperative that you contact an attorney right away. If you are injured at work, contact Ken Berman, Esq. at (301) 740-3300 or Natalie E. Whittingham, Esq. at (301) 670-6546.

Defending A Firefighter Who Was On Duty For 24 Hours And Injured

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fire Fighters work had to protect our communities.They are required to work long hours, sometimes – and in this Claimant’s case – 24-hour shifts, where they are on duty at all times, ready to respond to any emergency call that may come in.  Ken Berman, Nicole Lambdin, and Berman Sobin Gross Feldman and Darby protected the rights of a Fire Fighter who, while on a 24-hour shift injured his knee while stepping away from the fire station to pick up his dinner at the restaurant across the street.  At the time of the injury, the Claimant was on duty and required to stay close to the fire station so he could respond to an emergency call should one come in.  After the Claimant’s injury was found compensable at the Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Employer attempted to reverse the Order by appealing the decision., claiming that since he was going to get dinner, he was no longer “in the course of his employment”.  Ken and Nicole defeated the appeal and preserved the rights of the injured worker.

Protected Under The 'Coming and Going Rule'

While the Employer asserted that the Claimant’s injury was barred by the “coming and going rule,” a general principle that disallows compensation for injuries that happen when an employee is going to or from his/her place of business (although there are many, many exceptions to the “going and coming “rule and one should always check with an attorney to see if their injury is covered), the Circuit Court agreed that this injury did not fall into that category.  Instead, the Court agreed with the Claimant that his injury arose out of and in the course of his employment because the fire fighter, at the time of the injury was on duty, getting paid, and was required to respond to any emergency call that came in.  In fact, the Claimant’s supervisors allowed the fire fighters to leave the fire station to pick up food as long as they remained within a certain perimeter to the station – ensuring they could timely return in case of an emergency.  By demonstrating that the Claimant remained ready and capable to respond to an emergency and that his employers acquiesced to employees leaving the station but remaining with the perimeter, Ken and Nicole established that the Claimant was within his employment at the time of his injury.

Every Case Deserves Special Focus

This case is evidence of how complicated Workers’ Compensation claims can be.  While at first glance this claim could appear to not be compensable because the fire fighter was on a “dinner break”, a more detailed analysis proved that his injury is covered by the Act, and that the Claimant is entitled to both medical and financial benefits.  The attorneys at Berman Sobin Gross Feldman and Darby can help you obtain the benefits and medical coverage that you are entitled to.  If you are injured at work, contact Ken Berman, Esq. at (301) 740-3300 or Nicole Lambdin, Esq. at (410) 769-5400.

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.

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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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.

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.

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