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Workers' Compensation Blog

The Importance of Documenting All of Your Injuries

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

All too often when workers are injured the focus is on the most severe parts of the body hurt. Frequently the minor pains and bruises from other parts of the body are ignored. However, in a workers’ compensation claim it is very important to report every hurt, bruised, or swollen body part no matter how minor it may seem at the time. The human body is interconnected and when you fall, for instance, you may land on your knee, but your hands may have eased the impact, which can cause shoulder and arm pain as well. If you injure your back, the nerve pain and/ or damage can cause problems in your legs. You may not feel any symptoms to those other areas until a day or two later, but these are all parts of your body that could get worse over time and require additional medical treatment. It is important in a workers’ compensation claim to document every part of the body that was affected by the accident no matter how small it may seem. It is more difficult to try and convince a Commissioner or insurance company that another body part was also injured in the same accident if there is no documentation of it within a few days of the accident.

What’s In The Injury Report Matters

This rule is important to remember when filling out your accident report at work, your workers’ compensation claim form, and any forms you are given at every medical office you visit after the accident. In our practice, we frequently read emergency room reports where an injured body part is left out or the wrong body part is documented. We all know hospitals are busy places and not everything is always documented with 100% accuracy, but insurance companies will use this to discredit your injury or the cause of your injury. It is important for you to check that how the accident occurred and that all injuries are clearly described and documented. Make sure to tell the medical professional you are dealing with every ache, pain and/or discomfort that you are feeling as a result of the accident.

Contact Us With Questions

If you have any questions about a new pain or problem that developed after your injury it is always best to contact an attorney. Our attorneys have years of experience and know the right questions to ask to ensure that you receive the full coverage, you are entitled to for your injuries.

Workers’ Compensation Claims Process - How long does it take to get a hearing and what is a “consideration date?

Friday, July 14, 2017

One of the most common questions I receive from clients concerns how long it takes to get a hearing before the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission. As with any court or judicial body, the Commission sets its own schedule and the claimants and attorneys appearing before it are subject to that schedule. Generally speaking, however, it is a safe assumption that your hearing will be scheduled within three to four months from the date you file your claim or request a hearing. This can vary based on your hearing venue. For example, hearings are scheduled much quicker in Baltimore or Beltsville (the hearing sites with a higher volume and where hearings are held more frequently), than in La Vale or Cambridge (where hearings are held less frequently based on a lesser volume).

What is the “Consideration Date?”

The claim process begins when you file an “Employee Claim Form” with the Commission. This document asks you basic demographic and injury-specific questions. Once this is submitted, the Commission will send a Notice of Claim to your employer and your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, referred to as the insurer. On the bottom-right of this Notice of Claim, you will find a “Consideration Date,” which is typically about a month from the date your original Employee Claim Form was filed. Your employer and insurer have until this date to either accept or contest your claim. If they contest the claim, they will file Contesting Issues with the Commission and you will have to wait for a hearing to present the evidence of your work-related injury or illness. You cannot request a hearing on your own behalf until after the “consideration date,” has passed. That’s why it is so important to file your claim as soon as possible.

My Employer and Insurer filed Contesting Issues; what next?

When your employer and insurer file Contesting Issues, they are, in effect, opposing the claim until the Commission can hold a hearing to determine the validity of your claim. As stated above, this will typically be scheduled anywhere between three to four months from the date your claim is initially filed. At this first hearing, you will be called upon to testify and present evidence of your work-related injury or illness, including medical records supporting your claim. After the hearing, the Commissioner will decide whether or not your injury or illness is covered by the workers’ compensation laws of Maryland. However, up until that time, you will not be able to recover any workers’ compensation benefits such as temporary total disability. You may or may not receive medical coverage. For this reason, it is all the more urgent that you consult with an attorney to determine your options and to prepare for this hearing.

How can my hearing be scheduled on an emergency basis?

In some circumstances, you can request the Commission to schedule your hearing sooner based on an “emergency” situation. For example, if you are unable to work on account of your injury or illness and have received collection notices on past-due bills or if you require emergency medical treatment, then the Commission may schedule your hearing sooner, within a matter of weeks rather than months. However, you must submit documents to support the urgency and these requests are not always granted.

If you have any questions or require assistance with your work-related injury or illness, please do not hesitate, contact Matthew Engler, Esq. today at 301-740-3322 or mengler@bsgfdlaw.com.

Matt Darby Wins Big For Fire Fighters and Government Employees

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Clifford B. Sobin, Esq.

 

Eight years ago, almost to the day, I attended hearings at the Maryland Legislature related to some newly proposed laws that would help people claiming Workers’ Compensation benefits. My firm for more than two decades has worked with Unions throughout Maryland to help people that have been injured on the job; with their claims and with enacting new laws. That day, Matt Darby was there as well. He was a principle partner in a firm that had the same mission as ours. Once the meetings were over he was kind enough to drive me to my car.

We got to talking and realized that both of our firms had similar cultures and similar values. The light bulb went off. Why not merge? Almost three years later we did.

Now, as further proof of the validity of that vision, only two months after my partner, Ken Berman, scored a huge victory in the Court of Appeals for fire fighters, now Matt Darby has done the same in the Court of Special Appeals.

Facts

The case involved one of our clients who suffered from coronary heart disease. Matt succeeded in convincing the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission that our client’s condition was compensable and that he had a 25% percent industrial disability as a result. The Commission awarded him more than $33,000 dollars.

However, there was a problem. Baltimore County argued he was not entitled to the money because he was receiving a retirement benefit that paid more than the Workers’ Compensation award. Therefore, to use a tired legal expression; the award was “set-off” by the retirement benefit. In theory they had a point – but in practice they did not. The County argued that the money our client received in a lump sum five years before the Commission hearing, as part of the DROP program, should be included in the “set-off” calculations.

Matt said no!

Argument

He argued that the law required looking week by week to see what retirement benefits were actually paid for that week and compare it to what was owed under the Commission award for that week; then calculate the “Set-off” separately for each week. Matt won before the Commission. He won before the Circuit Court. And now he has won in front of the Court of Special Appeals.

Not only did the win benefit our client, but it will help all fire fighters, police officers and any other employee of a county, municipality or the state. If you would like to read the case it is located at:

http://www.mdcourts.gov/opinions/cosa/2014/2053s12.pdf.

The First Week After Your Maryland Workers’ Compensation Injury

Monday, September 19, 2016

By Clifford Sobin, Esq.

 

What you do during the first week after being injured on the job will set the tone for the rest of your claim. It is the most important time. You must:

  • Report the injury to your employer.
  • Get medical treatment as soon as possible. Don't let several days pass.
  • Give an accurate history of the injury to your medical provider.
  • Don't speak to the insurance company unless you are sure you are not going to get an attorney (a decision that almost always is a bad one).
  • If you want an attorney, choose one who will guide you, educate you, and that you trust. If the conversation is only about money, consider choosing another attorney.
  • File a Workers' Compensation claim.
  • Choose a doctor for follow up care and obtain authorization to go.
  • Decide if you are going to speak to a nurse assigned by the insurance company to your case.

If you make the wrong decisions, you might make it difficult to win your case. The insurance company may deny your claim. What you say or do in the first days after you are injured matters once you are in front of a Commissioner. Even if the insurance company pays benefits in the beginning, when the inevitable disagreement with the insurance company occurs, you will not be in a position to obtain a speedy hearing in front of the Workers' Compensation Commission if a claim was not previously filed appropriately.

What You Do Matters

You should report your injury to your employer immediately after it occurs and at worst not later than the next day. Never wait until Monday to report an injury that occurred on Friday. If your injury was not witnessed by anybody else, you risk it will be assumed you hurt yourself over the weekend and are now lying.

Always get prompt medical treatment and tell the doctor what happened. If for some reason you did not report the injury to your employer but told the emergency room you were injured on the job earlier that day that will usually be enough to win your case if the insurance company contests it. Furthermore, by getting the treatment immediately:

  • You get the care you need when you need it.
  • You protect yourself from the insurer arguing you had a new injury between your job related injury and the medical treatment you are now receiving.

You should not speak to the insurance company without having hiring, or at least meeting with, an attorney. Workers' compensation is an extremely complex area of law. The insurance adjuster is experienced in finding reasons not to accept a claim. You are not experienced with dealing with insurance adjusters looking for reasons not to pay you. Your desire to be helpful to the adjuster may be hurtful to you. Instead, you should have an attorney control all communications with the insurer.

You should also have the assistance of an attorney when your Workers' Compensation claim form is filed. It matters what is written on the form. It matters even more if you have not reported all the details of your injury to the employer or if your doctor did not write down the correct history of the injury you provided. The average weekly wage you write in the claim form matters as well. It is up to the insurance company to dispute whatever you claim. If you state too low a number because you are not clear on the law, will the insurance company correct it? You already know the answer to that.

Your choice of medical provider can have a significant impact on the future of your claim. Some doctors are better than others. Some injuries require specific medical specialties. Your attorney can guide you through this unfamiliar territory.

Frequently, insurance companies assign nurses to manage the medical aspects of compensation claims. They will attempt to contact you, your doctor and be present at your medical appointments. They are often beneficial in catastrophic cases. However, the value of having them versus the risk they present is an issue, especially with less severe injuries. The insurance company will obtain information through their involvement that they may otherwise never know. Also, nurses often pressure health care providers to do things that you might not welcome. That is why most attorneys place stringent ground rules on their involvement. Furthermore, experienced attorneys have a much greater sense of which nurses can be trusted and which nurses cannot. You should never speak to one without the assistance of counsel.

The bottom line is that the first week after an injury is the scariest and most dangerous time for you. The injury is scary because of the pain it is causing you and your fears of how it will impact your future. It is also dangerous because your actions, non-actions, statements, and non-statements may haunt you throughout the rest of your claim.

How Long Does It Take For My Maryland Workers’ Compensation Hearing To Be Scheduled?

Monday, September 19, 2016

By Clifford B. Sobin, Esq.

 

The Short answer is – it depends.

Generally, hearings are scheduled within three to four months after they are requested. However, some cases take longer and others less. The following things seem to impact the timing of hearings:

  • Location of the hearing (some locations are inherently busier than others)
  • Number of hearing requests filed within the same time period
  • Last minute cancellation of a full Commission docket due to weather
  • Number of cases that were continued after being scheduled.
  • Priority given to some issues over others
  • Inclusion of the Subsequent Injury Fund or Uninsured Employer’s Fund as a party

As a result, it is impossible to determine with confidence how long it will take for a hearing to be scheduled and the one claimant may wait much longer than another, even if the hearing requests are made on the same day.

There are two exceptions to the three to four month norm for having your hearing scheduled:

  • The first is if the issue only involves vocational rehabilitation. If the appropriate forms are filed, a Workers’ Compensation Commissioner will attempt to mediate the dispute over the phone within 24 hours of the forms being filed. If that is not successful, a hearing will be scheduled within several business days of the failed phone conference. However, the Commission will not any issue other than Vocational Rehabilitation to be heard at the expedited hearing.
  • The second exception is if an emergency hearing is granted. While it is true that an emergency hearing can be requested for any issue, it is equally true that they are infrequently granted. The purpose must be an emergency that far exceeds the fact that the insurance company is refusing to pay. There must be significant demonstrable impact as a result of a delay, beyond what other claimants will normally experience for the same delay, to have a chance of having the request granted. Generally, it is recommended not to ask for an emergency hearing unless there is a high likelihood of it being granted.

 

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