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Workers' Compensation Blog

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.

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.

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).

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.

Fire Fighters in Maryland Have a Great Day in the Court of Appeals

Monday, September 19, 2016

Clifford B. Sobin, Esq.

It is nice to be able to toot the horn of somebody you respect greatly. It is even nicer when that person is your partner. Yesterday, the Court of Appeals unanimously found in favor of a Maryland fire fighter injured in a car accident while on the way to his station to check the mail.

Ken Berman briefed and argued the case in front of seven Judges. I will get to the facts in a minute, but first I want to highlight Ken’s dogged determination. The injury occurred on October 28, 2010. Then:

1) The Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled against the fire fighter in 2011

2) A Circuit Court Judge ruled against the fire fighter in 2012

3) A Court of Specials Appeals panel ruled 2-1 against the fire fighter in 2013

But, Ken remained resolved. I remember well our discussions at that point. He felt strongly that his client had been wrongly denied. So, once again, with pen to paper (or in this case keyboard to screen) he wrote what is called a petition for certiorari. That is a request to the Court of Appeals to consider a further appeal. They do not have to do it. They only accept a limited number of cases every year. But, in this instance they agreed to hear Mr. Roberts’ appeal. Ken wrote convincingly that the issue was one of importance to fire fighters and employees in general in the State of Maryland.

Today, the Court of Appeals found in Ken’s client’s favor.

What Happened

Mr. Roberts was, and still is, a fire fighter in Montgomery County, but the circumstances of this case are applicable to any fire fighter working in any jurisdiction in Maryland. For that matter, the Court opinion benefits any employee in Maryland. Now, let’s run through the facts:

Mr. Roberts had an accident on the job that caused injuries that restricted him from regular duty. Therefore the County required him to work temporarily at a location where he could do light duty (headquarters in his case)

As a fire fighter, he is required to maintain a certain standard of physical fitness. Therefore, he normally started his day, with the encouragement of his employer, working out at an exercise facility around 7:00 a.m.

The County paid Mr. Roberts for a work day beginning at 7:00 a.m. despite the fact that he often did not arrive at the light duty facility until 9:00 a.m. after working out.

Mr. Roberts decided, on the day he suffered his new injury that was the subject of his appeal, to first stop at his regular duty station to pick up County internal mail that was routed to him at the fire station.

Mr. Roberts was in a motorcycle accident while on the way from the exercise facility to his regular duty station to pick up the mail.

The County refused to accept the new injury as part of his old Workers’ Compensation case or as part of a new one. They argued he was not working when he suffered the injury. The legal term they used was that he was excluded because of the “going and coming” rule. That is legal jargon for saying Mr. Roberts was commuting to work.

Ken argued that the proper legal concept was to use the “but for Positional test.” In other words, but for Mr. Roberts’ employment, he would not have been where he was when the motorcycle accident occurred. Since he was traveling from one employment location to another, and along the way stopping for employer mail that he needed to see to benefit the employer/employee relationship, Mr. Roberts had the right to file a new Workers’ Compensation claim for his injury.

The Court of Appeals found Ken’s argument so persuasive that all of the judges signed onto the Opinion.

Why is the Roberts victory important? Because it locks in an evolving concept of law that looks at the reason an employee is where they are when they are injured. It is especially important to employees injured, and on light duty. Frequently, they have to work their light duty assignments in locations different from their normal reporting station, but they have to keep up with what is happening on the regular duty job as well. If they do not, they may run afoul of new rules, not become aware of new procedures, and in general lose contact with what they used to do making transition back from light duty all the more difficult.

When I asked ken how he felt about the victory and to what he attributed it to, he answered:

It was a group effort of the entire firm – from writing the brief, developing the strategy, and preparing me to argue by peppering me with difficult questions – they all made me better. It is a testament to our team approach. As for Mr. Roberts, I felt strongly he had been wronged. I can’t stand when one of my clients gets less than he or she deserves. It is deeply satisfying to me when I can change a wrong.”

Mr. Roberts when he first heard the news, responded, “I appreciate it. You’ve been there every day for me since day one.”

Today’s result reflects a great job by Ken, and a great day for fire fighters. You can read the opinion at http://www.mdcourts.gov/opinions/coa/2014/39a13.pdf.

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