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Workers' Compensation Blog

Death Benefits for the Dependents of Public Safety Members Where the Occupational Disease was the Cause of Death in Labor & Employment §9-503 Cases

Wednesday, May 01, 2019
  • I. Determining Dependency

    • a. Who may be dependent and when the determination is made.

      In general, a dependency determination is established through proof of financial support to the individual seeking the determination. The determination is made both on the date of disablement and the date of death2. If an individual is not dependent on the date of disablement, but becomes dependent as of the time of death, the individual is not dependent. The one exception exists where a child who was not yet born at the time of the initial disability but is born thereafter, out of a marriage existing at the beginning of the disability, and is dependent at the time of death.3 Assuming the child meets the other requirements for dependency, discussed in detail below, the child would be eligible for dependency benefits. The surviving spouse is not entitled to dependency benefits if 1) the surviving spouse deserts the covered employee for more than 1 year before the time of the date of disablement; 2) the surviving spouse deserts the covered employee at any time after the time of the occurrence of the date of disablement; or 3) the surviving spouse and the covered employee (i) were married after the time of the occurrence of the disablement and (ii) do not have any dependent children.4

    • b. Total v. Partial Dependency

      Once the determination is made, there must be a finding of total or partial dependency.5 Total dependency exists when the individual relies entirely on the earnings of the deceased. Temporary gratuitous assistance or minor considerations from others do not prevent a determination of full dependency.6 A legal or moral obligation to provide support in the absence of actual support does not create dependency.7 A finding of total dependency does not require destitution; the receipt of financial assistance from other sources which do not substantially affect or modify their status does not disqualify an individual from a finding of total dependency.8 Dependency determinations must be made on the particular facts of each case, including the relative contribution by the individual to the household income and consideration of the dependent's standard of living.9

    1. This article applies to claims where the employer/insurer has not made an election under Labor & Employment §9-683.6.
    2. Labor & Employment §9-679.
    3. Labor & Employment §9-680(c).
    4. Labor & Employment §9-680(b).
    5. Despite no case law being directly on point, the logic from the collective “death benefit statutes” indicates that the type of dependency determined on the date of disablement cannot be improved later in time, i.e., if partial dependency is determined on the date of disablement, even if the individual is totally dependent on the decedent at the time of death, the dependent would only be entitled to partial dependency benefits. See Clifford B. Sobin, Maryland Workers' Compensation (2018-2019 ed.)
    6. Larkin v. Smith, 183 Md. 274 (1944).
    7. Havre De Grace Fireworks Co. v. Howe, 206 Md. 158 (1955).
    8. Superior Builder, Inc. v. Brown, 208 Md. 539 (1956).
    9. Martin v. Beverage Capital Corp., 353 Md. 388 (1999).
  • II. Benefits Paid

    Total dependency benefits are paid to a wholly dependent spouse so long as the individual remains wholly dependent.10 A second determination of total dependency is made once $45,000 has been paid by the employer/insurer. If the spouse becomes wholly self-supporting before $45,000 is paid then the spouse will continue to receive benefits until the $45,000 is paid. If the surviving spouse remarries thereafter, payment stops even if the $45,000 has not been paid unless the surviving spouse does not have dependent children, in which case the spouse is entitled to receive payments for 2 years from the date of remarriage.11 Totally dependent children receive benefits so long as they remain totally dependent. The benefits shall continue to $45,000 even if partially or wholly self-supporting. Totally dependent minor children are eligible for benefits until age 18 unless they remain totally dependent and incapable of self-support due to physical, mental, or other sufficient reason determined by the Workers' Compensation Commission. Benefits shall continue for up to 5 years after age 18 if they attend school full time with an educational or vocational program accredited or approved by the State Department of Education. Benefits for wholly dependent individuals that are not a spouse or a child are capped at $45,000.

    Partial dependency benefits are paid where there are no wholly dependent individuals; or if the partial dependent is a spouse whose status changed from wholly to partially dependent after the death of the decedent.12 Partial dependency benefits are paid as long as the individual is partially dependent, not to exceed $75,000. The $75,000 cap applies to all claims filed after September 1, 2007.

    The weekly rate of compensation for both partial and total dependency is the maximum rate of two-thirds of the average weekly wage of the decedent, not to exceed two-thirds of the state average weekly wage. Where multiple dependents exist, each dependent receives a percentage of the total dollar amount proportionally representative to the decedent's average weekly wage.

  • III. Applying Labor & Employment §9-503(e)(2) to Dependency Benefits.

    The application of the §9-503 offset provision is applied to total dependency benefits just as it would against the workers' compensation benefits received by a living claimant under any §9-503 claim. The combined dollar amount of retirement or pension benefits and workers' compensation benefits cannot exceed the wages earned at the time of retirement. In practice however, the application is more complicated in the partial dependency context. First, regardless of the type of dependency, the practitioner must be cognizant of the election made by the decedent for retirement benefits. Given that the offset provision is temporally sensitive, if the decedent elected not to provide any retirement benefits to his/her spouse after death, then no offset would apply to the dependency benefits because no funds are being received by the dependent to activate the offset. However, if a surviving spouse received 50% of decedent's pension, that amount must be annualized and subtracted from the decedent's average weekly wage to determine the dollar amount of the weekly benefit to be paid.

    For partial dependency benefits, the author takes the position that where an offset is present, and is not a total offset, the maximum benefit of $75,000 must still be paid in full so long as the individual remains partially dependent for the time period required to receive the total amount. The offset of benefits would simply prolong the time it will take for the dependent to receive the total amount as the weekly rate of compensation would be reduced by the offset. For example, if the weekly dependency rate is $1,000 without an offset, thereby taking 75 weeks for the entire partial dependency award to be paid out, once a $500 pension offset is applied per §9-503, the weekly reduction would cause the award to take 150 weeks to pay out entirely, however, the $75,000 would still be paid.

  1. Labor & Employment §9-681.
  2. Labor & Employment §9-681(f).
  3. Labor & Employment §9-682.

Advice for the Apprehensive Injured Worker

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

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

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 it is important to understand what rights you may be giving up if you let your concerns influence you to not file a workers’ compensation claim. You may be giving up more by deciding not to file a claim than you would even in the worst case scenario for employer retaliation: termination. (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).

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. For municipal workers, this benefit can often be paid at 100% of your wages. 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. This benefit becomes especially important if you are separated from your employment. Whether you are separated from employment or not, you are still entitled to compensation if you cannot do your job and your doctor agrees that you must be out of work.

Perhaps most importantly, Maryland law requires the Employer/Insurer to pay for all of medical treatment necessitated by your work injury. Maryland is unique in that you have the right 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 timely filed and accepted, however, there are no guarantees your employer or their insurer will authorize the treatment you wish to have – a good reason to consult with a legal professional). If you fail to timely file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission, often times the insurance adjuster will take longer to authorize treatment or refuse to authorize your care altogether as there is no real motivation to do so. By successfully filing a claim, you’re guaranteeing at least the right to fight for your employer to pay for your lifetime medical care.

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. Some other important benefits to filing a claim are medical mileage reimbursement, vocational rehabilitation and temporary partial disability – to name a few.

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 wages, or worse yet be forced to suffer from a life altering disability without receiving any assistance 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.

Call attorney Charles Schultz, Esq. today at 410-769-5400.

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

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

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

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

 

Why should I file a Workers’ Compensation Claim if my Employer’s insurance is already covering my medical bills?

Friday, September 23, 2016

There is a BIG difference between filing a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission and filing a claim with your employer’s insurance policy. As Attorney Al Gross discussed in his recent blog post, submitting a “First Report of Injury” or other worksheet to your employer or employer’s insurance is NOT the same thing as filing a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. The difference between the two is huge and your employer’s insurance company has no obligation to tell you what they are.

When a claim is filed with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission, many rights and benefits are secured under Maryland law, including but not limited to:

  1. Lifetime medical benefits for all treatment that is reasonable, necessary and causally-related to your work-injury;
  2. Awards that compensate you financially for any permanent disability you may have as a result of your work-injury;
  3. Vocational rehabilitation benefits if, because of your injury, you are no longer able to perform your prior job duties because you are under permanent work restrictions;
  4. Reopening your case for additional monetary benefits if your condition worsens Depending on your case, there are other benefits which may apply to you. In order to better understand the Workers’ Compensation law of Maryland and your status, contact Attorney Matthew Engler for a free consultation.

Depending on your case, there are other benefits which may apply to you. In order to better understand the Workers’ Compensation law of Maryland and your status, contact Attorney Matthew Engler for a free consultation.

I injured myself at work – why did my employer’s insurance deny my claim?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Simply getting injured at work doesn’t guarantee you any benefits or rights under the law, unless you file an accepted claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Many injured workers only file paperwork with their employer or employer’s insurance company without ever realizing that this is NOT the same thing as a workers’ compensation claim. When you proceed in this manner, it is a private transaction between you and your employer’s insurance. Unfortunately, in countless instances, the insurance company will deny medical coverage and disability payments leaving the injured worker on their own without any help and without any options.

Secure Your Rights and Benefits

However, when you file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission, not only do you secure all the rights and benefits guaranteed under the law , but you also secure the right to present your case to a Commissioner who has the authority to order your employer’s insurance to pay for treatment and disability payments, even when they initially denied it. The Workers’ Compensation Commission was established specifically to litigate injured worker claims and to ensure compliance with the workers’ compensation laws of Maryland. Nevertheless, you MUST first file a claim with the Commission in order to secure jurisdiction for your work-injury.

Get Help...Contact Matt

If you have any questions regarding your status under the law, please contact Attorney Matthew Engler for a free consultation.

Police Officers and Duty Belts – How Back Injuries Can Be Prevented

Friday, September 23, 2016

Think of all the dangers police officers face. They are punched, shot at, struck by cars during traffic stops, injured while restraining combative suspects, and in collisions while in a vehicle pursuit. These are just a few of the perils they encounter. Often though, the injuries which occur while police officers are in the daily grind of the job are the most common.

One of the main culprits of low back and hip injuries is the duty belt. Low back and hip injuries/conditions caused by wearing a duty belt are some of the most underreported types of injuries suffered by police officers. Police are required to carry the following items on their duty belt: radio, gun with a gun light, two extra magazines, two pairs of handcuffs, pepper spray, baton, small flashlight, large light, glove case, tourniquet kit and a Taser. All told, a police officer could be carrying anywhere between 20 and 24 pounds on their duty belt. All that weight pushing right down on their low back and hips during an entire work shift causes long term affects.

Imagine this for a minute. You get up in the morning and put your clothes on for work. Maybe you wear a suit, maybe you have a uniform, but you probably do not have 22 pounds hanging from your belt. So instead of your normal leather belt, it is instead filled with 22 pounds of weight. Or maybe you hang a bag of potatoes from your belt? Or 2 large bowling balls? Or maybe 5 reams of paper? And imagine if that was part of your daily ‘uniform’. You wear it driving to work, walking to get your morning coffee and sitting at your desk. Common sense tells us that our back would be sore at the end of the day. We have all had sore backs from carrying mulch, shoveling snow, carrying our kids or grandkids for long stretches, and moving friends and families.

Police officers have to wear 22 pounds or more around their waist during every hour of every shift. They wear them sitting in the patrol car, pursuing suspects, on foot patrol, during roll call, filling out reports, sitting in court for hours at a time waiting for a case to be called and eating lunch/dinner/breakfast. All day, every day, 22 pounds or more of downward pressure on your hips and lumbar spine. Not to mention the discomfort of sitting in a patrol car with a seat belt and the bolsters on both sides of the seats producing pressure on the belt pushing it up into the back.

But there are some techniques police departments and police officers can utilize to lessen the discomfort and delay the onset of injuries. For departments, the number one way to prevent or lessen back injuries from duty belts is to just do away with them all together. Switching to tactical vests or harnesses can do more to prevent back injuries than anything else. Unfortunately, few patrol officers are issued tactical vests. It is common sense that wearing a backpack is a heck of a lot more comfortable than wearing a fanny pack. Also, departments can provide nylon belts instead of leather belts. Nylon belts are lighter and more flexible than leather belts. But these cost money, and in an era of shrinking municipal budgets, they are unfortunately an unlikely fix.

Sadly, it is up to police to protect themselves. When seated in a patrol car, change posture often, take breaks when possible, stand up and walk around, alter the driver’s seat with a lumbar pillow to provide more support. When on foot patrol, take the opportunity to stretch. If, however, a police officer is experiencing back pain, it is unlikely to get better by ignoring the problem. Back and hip injuries caused by wearing duty belts are consistently underreported.

When these back and hip injuries do happen, it’s vital that police report these injuries to supervisors and seek medical attention. The wrong response is to ignore it and hope it gets better. Finally once the injury has been reported and documented by a doctor, police must file a workers’ compensation claim to ensure their medical rights are protected for the rest of their lives.

Our police, who risk their lives every day to protect our communities and our families, should be provided every piece of equipment to make their increasingly difficult and dangerous jobs safer. After all, many of these brave men and women are going home to their own families, and should not have to be living in constant back pain because local governments are not prioritizing the health and safety of our first responders.

Please contact Jason Shultz at 410-769-5400 or jshultz@bsgfdlaw.com to protect your medical rights.

Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby Team Secure Significant Benefits for Local Firefighter

Friday, September 23, 2016

Ken Berman and Berman, Sobin, Gross Feldman & Darby, LLP were able to secure benefits from three different insurance carriers for a single injury to a fire fighter who was involved in a devastating collision between a tractor trailer and a fire engine. While the law is clear that a Claimant cannot receive compensation twice for the same injury, Ken used his many years of experience and knowledge in handling both workers’ compensation claims and negligence claims for fire fighters to maximize the injured fire fighter’s recovery. The team at BSGF&D explored several complicated recovery scenarios to reduce the workers’ compensation lien and increase benefits from motor vehicle and other insurance.

Helping to Protect Injured Fire Fighters

The injury occurred when several Fire Fighters were in the process of returning to the station when they were suddenly struck by a tractor trailer causing the fire truck to overturn. As a result, the fire fighter’s arm was amputated and surgery was required to reattach it.

Medical Treatment, Benefits, and More

Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, LLP ensured that the Claimant’s medical treatment was entirely paid for through workers’ compensation and that the fire fighter continued to receive weekly benefits. Ken successfully argued that the Claimant’s fringe benefits (housing at the fire station, clothing allowance through his full time employer, etc.) were included in determining the Claimant’s average weekly wage thereby increasing his weekly compensation benefits. The Workers’ Compensation Commission agreed and allotted the fire fighter higher weekly payments.

Going The Extra Mile for Injured Fire Fighters

After securing the maximum amount of workers’ compensation benefits, Ken went after the Defendant tractor trailer’s driver policy of insurance. Although there were eight other parties making a claim on the defendant/tractor trailer’s insurance, Mr. Berman was not satisfied to simply accept his client’s pro rata share of that policy. Extensive investigation revealed that the fire truck in the Claimant was riding carried an additional “underinsured motorist” policy which provided additional benefits to the injured Claimant. By structuring the recovery from the Defendant tractor trailer tortfeasor, and coordinating the recovery from the underinsured motorist carrier of the fire truck, Ken was able to maximize the recovery to the injured worker from 3 separate sources.

Workers' Compensation Case Experience Matters

After all of the above, Ken and the injured fire fighter then returned to the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission to obtain additional permanency benefits. The Claimant was paid at the highest rate allowable under the law and he will continue to receive benefits for years to come, as well as having full coverage for any future medical needs or treatment.

Experience matters. Ken Berman and Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, LLP’s extensive knowledge of not only workers’ compensation law but also the complicated subrogation and insurance laws applying to workers’ compensation and motor vehicle accidents, made those laws work for the injured worker, thereby insuring the Claimant the maximum recovery, coverage, and protection.

I was told I have lifetime medical coverage, under workers' compensation, but they are denying my claim!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Law. Many injured workers remember that towards the end of their case, when they settled, received a lump sum award, or weekly payments for a set period of time for their workers’ compensation claim, they were told that there right to medical treatment was left open for the duration of their life. However, of course, this comes with a caveat; according to the Workers’ Compensation Law of Maryland, injured workers are entitled to medical treatment with no time limitation, unless stipulated otherwise, for the body part that was injured at the time of the accident as long as the requested medical treatment is reasonable and necessary and is casually related to the original accidental injury.

What does this really mean? For continued medical treatment the injured worker must prove that their current need for medical treatment is still related to the original claim. Thus, the insurance company may not approve any treatment without a doctor’s letter stating that the current need for treatment is still related to the original claim. In my practice, clients often call me after two (2) - five (5) years of feeling fine and now have an onset of the same symptoms they felt several years ago from their accidental injury or disabling occupational disease. Injured workers are often frustrated that their employer’s insurance company will not automatically approve a visit or treatment. This is compounded when the injured worker finds out that before treatment is approved, the employer’s insurance company is allowed to send them to the insurance company’s own “independent” medical evaluation, which often times will state that the current need for treatment is no longer related to the claim. When there has been a large gap in time from the last date of treatment until the present need for treatment usually an injured worker must participate in a hearing to request the Commission to order the treatment or visit. Scheduling of these hearings can take several months.

What should I do? First the insurance company needs evidence through medical reports that the new symptoms are related to the original injury. Then the insurer will need to verify that the requested treatment is reasonable and necessary. Finally they will investigate to ensure there was no intervening event or accident that might have caused the onset of new symptoms. The best way to get your treatment as quickly as possible is to visit your doctor and ask them to write a letter that describes what treatment has been recommended, why the treatment is recommended and whether or not it relates back to the original Workers’ Compensation claim make sure all of your providers have your workers’ compensation insurance claim number and send reports and bills directly to the insurance company to ensure time is not lost in updating the workers’ compensation insurance file. In addition, verify that your attorney also has all of the appropriate recent medical reports, thereby supporting the effective and expeditious advocacy on your behalf. If Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLC was the law firm you used for the original claim we will continue to fight to get the medical treatment you need.

For More Information, Contact Attorney Julie Mirman 301-740-3306

Ken Berman Expands Law as to PTSD for Fire Fighters

Friday, September 23, 2016

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a huge issue among first responders and can quickly develop into a serious and life threatening condition. Studies show that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can lead to dangerous and suicidal thoughts among those who suffer from it. A study published by the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2015 found that “Fire Fighters report an alarmingly high career prevalence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.” More than half of those study participants reported encountering suicidal thoughts at one or more points during their career.

PTSD and Workers’ Compensation Claims

For many years, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not recognized as a compensable workers’ compensation claim. In the 1980s and 1990s Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP persuaded the Workers’ Compensation Commission to begin to recognize Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as compensable. It was normally limited, however, to instances of specific horrific incidents occurring.

Active and Retired Fire Fighters Who Suffer from PTSD

For decades Ken Berman has represented fire fighters and first responders who have suffered from PTSD. In two recent cases, Mr. Berman convinced the Commission that fire fighters and first responders can suffer from PTSD from every day stresses and strains and that coverage for PTSD should not just be limited to problems arising from one specific event. Mr. Berman argued that the day to day stresses and strains, cumulative in nature, were equally, if not more, harmful and devastating and should be covered under the law. The Commission, based upon the above arguments, along with appropriate testimony and medical records, agreed. In both cases the fire department argued that such day to day traumatic events are “just part of the job” of a public safety employee. Mr. Berman turned that defense on its head and argued that this was precisely the point. If it is a part of the job and intertwined with it then it should be covered.

The two new decisions are important given that studies show that anywhere between 7% and 37% of fire fighters suffer from PTSD and that the likelihood of suffering from PTSD increases with the number of traumatic situations an individual is exposed to.

Getting Help for PTSD

If you believe you are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or know someone that might be, seek immediate help from a qualified medical professional. If you are worried about a co-worker, talk to them about your concerns. Providing a supportive environment built on mutual experiences can prove to be extremely beneficial to your fellow fire fighters. If you have any questions on any of the above or wish to discuss any matter, in a confidential environment, please feel free to contact Berman, Sobin, Gross and Darby at 1-800-827-COMP(2667).

Key Differences in the Vocational Rehabilitation Process in Maryland and the District of Columbia

Friday, September 23, 2016

VOCATIONAL BENEFITS

The Workers’ Compensation Statutes in both the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia offer a benefit to injured workers called Vocational Rehabilitation, often called “Voc Rehab” for short. Vocational Rehabilitation arises in a workers’ compensation case when the injured worker’s medical treatment is complete, or near complete, and he/she is given restrictions from his/her doctor that prevent him/her from physically performing the work he/she was able to perform before the accidental work injury. During the Voc Rehab process, the injured worker receives assistance from a licensed vocational expert so that they can, together, strive towards getting the injured worker back to full-time work with another employer and within the injured workers’ permanent physical limitations. The injured worker receives pay from the workers’ compensation insurance company while he/she is applying for jobs, taking classes, or going through retraining.

One scenario in which an injured worker would be able to receive Voc Rehab benefits would be, for example, if the injured worker was employed as a security officer at the time of the work injury, and had work requirements of standing for 6 hours a day, and lifting up to 50lbs. Yet, because of his permanent back and right ankle work injuries he is now only able to stand for only 2 hours a day, and lift up to 20lbs. The injured worker in that example would be entitled to receive Voc Rehab benefits in both the District and in Maryland. By contrast, if that same security officer was released to full-duty work, and had no permanent limitations on his ability to lift or stand, then he would not be entitled to Vocational Rehabilitation and would be expected to return back to his pre-injury work, even if it was now physically harder to do that job and his work activities caused him some physical discomfort.

Often times, the permanent work limitations are given by the treating physician at the time the injured worker is being discharged from his doctor’s care. There is a test called a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) that offers a more detailed analysis as to what the injured worker can and cannot do. The FCE usually takes place at a physical therapy facility, although not all physical therapy facilities perform FCE’s. The FCE typically lasts approximately 4 hours. Upon completion of the FCE, the FCE facility will issue a detailed report stating how much the injured worker can lift, push, pull, and carry, and for how long he can sit, stand, walk, and run. If the FCE evaluator feels the injured worker has permanent work restrictions that keep him or her from returning back to the job they had at the time of the work injury, then vocational rehabilitation will begin.

COMPARING MARYLAND AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

There are several key differences in the Voc Rehab process in Maryland and the District of Columbia. For example, in Maryland the Workers’ Compensation Regulations state that the Parties to the Claim may agree on the Vocational Counselor that will be assisting the injured worker with getting back to full-time work within his/her permanent work restrictions. If no agreement is reached, the Commission will pick the Vocational Counselor from a list. In the District of Columbia, however, there is no such provision, and the vocational counselor is typically selected only by the workers’ compensation insurance company, or their attorney. Therefore, from the onset of the Voc Rehab process, injured workers in DC are at a disadvantage. The manner in which the injured worker is scrutinized in Maryland versus the District during the Voc Rehab process is vastly different. In Maryland, Voc Rehab is offered to injured workers typically at three-month increments. If the injured worker in Maryland is “compliant” during those first three months, the Vocational process will be extended for another three months, and another three months, until the Maryland workers’ compensation insurance carrier no longer wishes to offer Voc Rehab to the injured worker, or finds a reason to deem the injured worker as being “non-compliant” with the Voc Rehab process. One example of how noncompliance is alleged is by stating that the injured worker was not applying to enough jobs each week, or was showing up late to their weekly meetings with the Voc Rehab counselor. In the District of Columbia, however, vocational rehabilitation can go on for years without ever having to request or wait for an extension of time from the workers compensation insurance adjuster.

And so, while in Maryland the vocational process is evaluated on a monthly basis by the insurance adjuster, in the District of Columbia, injured workers who are receiving Voc Rehab benefits are often left to their own devices. The Rehab counselors typically do not write detailed monthly reports commenting on everything that was done and not by the injured worker, and so the injured workers’ level of participation during Voc Rehab in DC is not able to be scrutinized or judged as it is in Maryland. However, the same goes for the level of participation of the Voc Rehab counselor. If the counselor is not required to write monthly reports in the District as they are in Maryland, the counselor’s own level of involvement is not recorded. For example, were classes or re-training discussed and offered officially? If so, when? Was the counselor late to meetings as well? These details control the Voc Rehab process in Maryland, and determine the extent to which Voc Rehab will take place, and how much Vocational benefits are offered to the injured worker, whereas in the District of Columbia, those details are often lacking.

In sum, there are benefits and detriments to each jurisdiction’s workers’ compensation laws. There is no perfect system. The best thing for the injured worker to do is to follow the laws and procedures of the jurisdiction in which their injury took place, and to do so with the assistance of an attorney they trust. If additional information is needed as to the Vocational Rehabilitation process, I can be reached at: LPisano@bsgfdlaw.com, or on my direct work line of: 301-740-3304.

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"Craig did a great job representing me! He's the lawyer I have trusted with my legal needs because he's professional, knowledgeable, and keeps me informed about my case."

Jaclyn K.


"I would like to express my gratitude for your efforts and dedication for my disability case. It's has been quite a long and upsetting process but you have handled my case in an extremely competent and responsible manner."

Leo H.


"I have recommended Mr. Feldman to several of my friends and colleagues and have heard nothing but excellent reviews. He is the best lawyer I have ever used."

Martin


"I received the check today. I could not believe it until I saw the check. Thank you so much. You have improved my family's quality of life tenfold."

Mike F.


"These guys go above and beyond! They always have your best interest in mind."

Mike W.


"You have been kind throughout this process and I appreciate your professionalism as well as your gentle concern. Thanks for helping us and all the others who need your legal expertise. We are grateful."

Nancy F.


"Thanks to Mr. Shultz's aggressive and professional work ethic style I was able to receive the medical services and compensation pertaining to my case."

Navdeep C.


"I can honestly say this firm is simply TOP NOTCH! They not only have handled countless cases for my members that require their services, they also have gone well beyond their "scope" to help some of my folks in other areas of need. "

Rick H.


"The attention and professional care the staff has taken toward my needs has always been excellent. I have no complaints nor worries that my issues discussed are not addressed."

Tim T.


"I just got off the phone with Craig and let him know how thankful we are to you, him and Ken for all your efforts – you are all really terrific to work with!"

Val K.


Locations Throughout Maryland, Virginia & Washington DC

Gaithersburg Office

481 N. Frederick Avenue, Suite 300
Gaithersburg, MD 20877
301-670-7030 / 800-248-3352
Fax: 301-670-9492

Lutherville Office

1301 York Road, Suite 600
Lutherville, MD 21093
410-769-5400 / 800-248-3352
Fax: 410-769-9200

Frederick Office

30 W. Patrick Street, Suite 105
Frederick, MD 21701
301-668-2100 / 800-827-2667
Fax: 301-668-2000

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