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Workers' Compensation Blog

Hearings on the Horizon!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Covid-19 has changed the way we communicate as a community and a culture. This is also true for businesses and governments; these entities have had to quickly adapt into the age of virtual communications. When the pandemic hit, the Workers’ Compensation Commission was in the process of dramatically upgrading their online portal, and in just a short few weeks, the Commission had to pivot from that undertaking and all regular functions to create a system for virtual hearings, and revamp safety procedures for when they return to live hearings, which may happen as early as June 8, 2020.

New Protocols To Be Aware Of For Live Hearings coming in June:

Preparation: Exhibits are submitted electronically, to the Commission, 3 days prior to the scheduled hearing date. Therefore, attorneys may ask clients to electronically sign necessary documents in advance to comply with social distancing requirements. In addition, to comply with the physical distancing protocols at the hearing site, it is best that all hearing preparation be done over the telephone or via video calls prior to the hearing date.

  • Schedule: Hearings will be staggered in twenty-minute slots to accommodate social distancing and only the participants of the scheduled hearing will be permitted in the courtroom at that time.

  • Who: Only parties, injured workers, witnesses and attorneys will be permitted into the hearing sites, therefore if someone is accompanying you to the hearing they will probably have to wait outside or in your vehicle.

  • Where: All hearing sites will be open for live hearings. Any person entering the hearing site will be required to wear a mask and practice social distancing protocols, including between attorneys and their clients.

What If I am Not Comfortable Attending A Hearing In-Person?

The Commission has adopted a liberal policy for granting continuances due to illness or other hardships. The Commission will also offer the possibility of virtual hearings. While it is wonderful that the opportunity exists to participate in a virtual hearing, the process is not appropriate for every case, and can only happen if all parties give consent. It is best to talk to your attorney if you are interested in having a virtual hearing on your case.

What To Consider Before Requesting A Virtual Hearing:

  • Consensus: All parties in the case must agree to perform the hearing virtually. This means that even if the injured worker and their attorney want to have a virtual hearing, it won’t be done virtually unless the Employer and Insurance company representatives also agree.

  • Technology: A good internet connection and a computer with a video camera is required. In some cases, audio can be done through a telephone, but all participants must also have live video. To run the programs successfully all participants must have the latest versions of either Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge and the only platform the Commission is allowing for hearings is Microsoft Teams. It is best to download the Teams App prior to hearing day, rather than accessing it through the web.

  • Process: If your case is approved for a virtual hearing, all participants will receive an email invite from the court reporter, which will include the date and time the hearing is scheduled and an email link to the video hearing.

Whichever platform you choose, it is comforting to know that the Workers’ Compensation Commission is working hard to adapt and provide safe access for those in need. However, in our new normal, remember that it is important to be prepared, be flexible and to check for possible updates and changes.

Attorney Julie Mirman

Written by Julie Mirman, an Associate Attorney with Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, specializing in medical treatment coverage under workers' compensation.
Julie Mirman
jmirman@bsgfdlaw.com

Great News; The Ban On Medical Treatment Has Lifted!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

It has been over six weeks since Governor Hogan banned elective and non-urgent medical procedures in the State of Maryland. However, the question which remained was, "Is it elective to have an epidural shot or surgery if I am in a tremendous amount of pain?" Well, no need to answer this question any longer, with Governor Hogan's recent order effective Thursday May 7, 2020, medical practices are now permitted to accept patients in-person for treatment. While the decision about which procedures are appropriate to perform, and which patients should be seen are left to the independent professional judgment of the provider, the Secretary of Health, Robert Neall, issued a directive regarding practice requirements.

The order requires that any healthcare facility that chooses to open must have the appropriate supply of PPE, social distancing requirements must be strictly maintained in all settings where people must wait, and all healthcare workers, patients and others must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival for shifts or visits. Even with these requirements it seems many providers are already opening their doors and scheduling those appointments that have been pending since the closures began. Hopefully, those in pain can finally get some relief!

Attorney Julie Mirman

Written by Julie Mirman, an Associate Attorney with Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, specializing in medical treatment coverage under workers' compensation.
Julie Mirman
jmirman@bsgfdlaw.com

Do I have a workers’ compensation case if I get injured while working from home due to COVID-19?

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

We at Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman, and Darby are thinking about all our clients during this unprecedented time! A vast majority of the public (including the attorneys and staff at BSGFD) are having to work from home. With so many people trading in their commutes and business attire for teleworking and pajamas, we thought it would be a great time to answer the very important question -- “If I get hurt while working from home, do I have a workers’ compensation case?”

As any good lawyer would tell you, the answer is “it depends!” Luckily, the Court of Special Appeals released an opinion last year (albeit before COVID-19) in Schwan Food Co. v. Frederick, which provides some guidance. The appellate court laid out a three (3) part test to determine if an employee’s home can qualify as a work-place, thereby making such injuries more likely to be covered under the workers’ compensation act:

  1. The quantity and regularity of work performed at home;
  2. The presence of work equipment at home; and
  3. The special circumstances of the employment rendering it necessary, not merely personally convenient, to work at home.

This test has yet to be applied to employees injured while working from home due to COVID-19 and is intended to be very fact specific. In applying these factors, the Workers' Compensation Commission will also consider circumstances such as when, where, and why the injury occurred, and what you were doing at the time of accident.

Getting such injuries covered under workers' compensation can be difficult and it’s highly likely that the insurance companies will be contesting most, if not all, of these cases. Be sure to consult an attorney if you get hurt while working from home, and remember not to give any recorded statements to the worker' compensation adjusters.

In these times more than ever, please try to stay safe, healthy, and happy!

Attorney Julie Mirman

Written by Allyson Bloom, an Associate Attorney with Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, specializing in medical treatment coverage under workers' compensation.
Allyson Bloom
abloom@bsgfdlaw.com

Workers’ Compensation Hearings Update as of April 17, 2020; Covid-19

Monday, April 20, 2020

True to their mission, the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) is continually trying to balance the interests of the injured worker with that of the health and safety of the community at large. Therefore, in response to the recent extension of court closings by Chief Judge Barbera of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the WCC has also announced a postponement of all in-person Commission hearings until June 8, 2020.

The Commission, however, is now in the final stages of establishing the availability of video hearings utilizing the Microsoft Teams virtual platform. All parties involved must agree to continue with the hearing virtually. If all parties do not agree to meet virtually, the hearing will just resume in the normal course, in-person at a later date.

This is a tremendous endeavor by the Commissioners and staff and will go a long way to help get our injured workers the benefits they need and deserve during this difficult time. We applaud the efforts of the Commission as they roll out this new “virtual” court system. There will be glitches along the way, but this will certainly support clearing some of the backlog that continues to accumulate on the hearing dockets.

Attorney Julie Mirman

Written by Julie Mirman, an Associate Attorney with Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, specializing in medical treatment coverage under workers' compensation.
Julie Mirman
jmirman@bsgfdlaw.com

Workers’ Compensation Hearings and the Maryland Courts Update as of April 15, 2020; Covid-19

Friday, April 17, 2020

Unfortunately, since our last court update, two weeks ago, COVID-19 cases have risen significantly in Maryland. This information reaffirms our states’ decision to social distance and work from home, wherever possible. Our online legal work is bustling between virtual mediations, depositions and motion writing. Thankfully, we have learned to navigate virtually because another extension of court closures were issued for the entire State of Maryland yesterday.

This new order extends court closings until June 8, 2020. The Administrative Judge in Montgomery County issued an order of extension while encouraging parties to seek resolution of cases collaboratively or through mediation. The reality of the situation is that even if the courts open in the beginning of June the courts still will not be fully operational for several months after that.

Therefore, what does this mean for your case? If you are still treating for your condition, many insurance companies are authorizing virtual treatment or office visits, when possible. If you are waiting for a hearing on permanency, some doctor’s have agreed to conduct independent medical exams virtually, but in this new climate it is unclear what weight the Commissioners may give these reports. Now may be a good time to participate in a mediation or agree to a settlement, if appropriate in your case.

Talk to your Attorney regarding your best options and if you or a family member have been afflicted with Covid-19 and feel you were infected with this virus at work please read the previous blog from Ken Berman regarding important steps to follow: http://www.bsgfdlaw.com/workers-compensation-blog/what-to-do-if-you-are-exposed-to-the-coronavirus-at-work.

Attorney Julie Mirman

Written by Julie Mirman, an Associate Attorney with Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, specializing in medical treatment coverage under workers' compensation.
Julie Mirman
jmirman@bsgfdlaw.com

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.

Workers’ Compensation Commission Hearings & Maryland Courts Update: Covid-19

Monday, March 30, 2020

Maryland is strong in the face of adversity. The videos and messages on social media, the courage and strength of our first responders, health care workers, essential employees, and volunteers and the communities that support them are inspiring and heartwarming during these unprecedented times. New information is released daily in this ever-changing climate of uncertainty and therefore, on Wednesday, Governor Hogan announced an extension of his previous Executive Order, which extends school and non-essential business closure, in an effort to protect the work, sacrifice and progress that has already been accomplished. In addition, to the Governors’ orders, Chief Judge Barbera of the Maryland Court of Appeals also issued an Emergency Administrative Order extension applicable to all Maryland Courts. The courts will remain closed until May 4, 2020.

In concert with these orders the Workers’ Compensation Commission will continue to remain closed to the public. The Commission will continue to hear cases on an emergency basis, only by appointment at the Baltimore or Beltsville hearing sites. The Commission will also continue to rule on settlements and stipulations, submitted in writing. When the Commission resumes public operations on May 4, 2020, they will set cases that were postponed by Executive Order back in on a priority basis and will maintain a morning and afternoon docket. The good news is the insurance companies are up and running, therefore injured workers should continue to receive their medical treatment and medication approvals and temporary total disability payments via check or direct deposit, when eligible. All cases that were scheduled for court dates either in the Circuit Court, if the Workers’ Compensation case is on appeal, or at the Commission will be reset for a date after May 4, 2020. The Workers’ Compensation Commission of Maryland asks for patience and cooperation while they continue to balance the well-being of the community with the needs of injured workers.

Attorney Julie Mirman

Written by Julie Mirman, an Associate Attorney with Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, specializing in medical treatment coverage under workers' compensation.
Julie Mirman
jmirman@bsgfdlaw.com

Best Practices for Injured Workers’ During Covid-19:

Monday, March 23, 2020

It seems the world has stopped spinning as most people keep to their homes and neighborhoods. As the days tick by it is difficult to determine, where it is okay to go. For injured workers’, recovering from an accident, this question becomes even more difficult to answer since they might still be receiving active treatment. Doctor’s offices and rehab facilities are doing their best to stay open and sanitized, but the CDC is recommending staying home and only going out when it is absolutely necessary. We all want to do our part to flatten the curve. As an injured worker it is challenging to balance the need for medical care with keeping oneself and ones family and community safe from transmission of the virus. While it is always best to check with a treating physician on which treatments to continue and which to hold off from, here are a few tips on how to help yourself while at home:

  • Home Exercise - Now would be a great time to work on those exercises that most physical therapists and doctors have prescribed. Transition a space in your home for exercising and set up a schedule to ensure your diligence in maintaining a consistent routine for your physical fitness. There are also many online videos for stretching and strengthening that you can utilize, which do not require any equipment. Check out YouTube for a wide range of free exercise videos.
  • Rest – Use this time as an opportunity to catch up on that rest and recovery that the doctor ordered. Catch up on those television shows that everyone always talks about or dust off the old board games and spend some quality time with the family.
  • Patience – You might be waiting for a decision on medical coverage or permanency payments or at this point your hearing might have been postponed with no new date set. Currently the Workers’ Compensation hearing sites are closed to the public until at least April 6, 2020, outside of specially set emergency hearings. When the courts resume there may be a backlog causing additional delays and we are limited in options to speed up the process. Please be patient, we are all in this together; Now more than ever, it takes a village.
Attorney Julie Mirman

Written by Julie Mirman, an Associate Attorney with Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, specializing in medical treatment coverage under workers' compensation.
Julie Mirman
jmirman@bsgfdlaw.com

The Courts Are Closed Due To COVID-19; What About My Workers’ Compensation Case?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

In Maryland, most of the Judiciary systems have shut down or postponed their dockets, or are operational only for exigent circumstances. The Workers' Compensation Commission, while in solidarity with the mission to slow the spread of Covid-19, is also keenly aware of the need to keep certain Workers' Compensation cases moving along. While all scheduled hearings have been postponed through April 3rd, if an emergency hearing was already filed before the closing was announced, those cases will still be heard on a limited scheduled.

Also, all emergency hearings will either take place in the Baltimore or Beltsville Commission sites only. Hearings can still be requested, however we do not yet know when they will take place. In the meantime, our office has been working remotely and using creative ways to keep cases moving with the use of online conferencing and remote mediations. For now, the Commission is continuing to receive settlements and stipulations for approval, and we are working hard to resolve cases to help our clients. We will frequently update our blogs with the most up to date information and advice on how to handle your workers' compensation needs during COVID-19.

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