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Workers' Compensation Blog

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.

Injuries During Physical Training: What Is and Is Not Compensable

Friday, September 23, 2016

There has been some confusion recently as to whether injuries sustained while performing “required” physical training are covered under workers’ compensation. The answer almost always is "yes", provided certain conditions are met.

When The Injury Happens Matters

Physical training is considered part of a fire fighter’s job. Therefore injuries sustained during training are compensable provided that the injury is an “ACCIDENTAL INJURY arising out of the course of employment” (Labor & Employ. Art. Md. Ann. Code) “An accidental injury” (and thus a compensable injury) has been interpreted by the courts to mean any injury which occurs at work or is related to work. It includes such things as slips, falls, or burns. This standard of compensability applies not only to injuries sustained at the fire grounds but also traveling to or from a fire, at the fire, being detailed to stations and checking one’s mail at the station, as well as injuries sustained during physical training.

Documenting The Injury

One should always include in the First Report of Injury, Supervisory Report, and in any history given to a doctor any details about the injury. This will prevent problems from arising and decrease the likeliness of the Employer contesting the claim.

Facts About Injuries For Fire Fighters And First Responders

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fire fighters get injured at work more than the general population. If that seems logical to those who perform the job, now there are official numbers to back it up. In 2014 there were 63,350 fire fighter injuries which occurred in the line of duty, a decrease of 3.8% from 2013 when there were nearly 65,880 line of duty fire fighter injuries. While this number, thankfully, is the fewest since 1981, and 2013 represented a 5% drop from the number of injuries to fire fighters in 2012, it is still much higher, proportionately, than for any other occupation. This is especially worrisome when one considers that the number of fires has decreased by 57.1% since 1981.

1 Injury Occurs Every 8 Minutes

Thus, while the number of total injuries for fire fighters has gone down slightly over the last two decades, the number of fires since 1981 has decreased at a much greater rate. The number of injuries remain much higher for first responders than anyone else. It amounts to one fire fighter injury occurring every 8 minutes. In fact, according to the Harvard School of Medicine, putting out a fire has a 100 times higher risk of death than working in a non-emergency situation. Although many people assume that burns and smoke inhalation are the cause of most fire fighter fatalities heart disease (coronary artery disease) is actually the single most frequent cause of duty-related deaths.

Where The Injuries Occur

A look behind the numbers nationwide in 2014 show that forty three percent (43%) of fire fighter injuries occur at or on the fire grounds, while seventeen percent (17%) occur during other on-duty activities. Six percent (6%) arise from responding to or returning from an incident, while eleven percent (11%) happened during training activities. Finally, twenty three percent (23%) occurred at non-fire emergency incidents. The highest rate of injuries (per 100 fire fighters) were, perhaps not surprisingly, among departments that protected populations of one million citizens or more and the fewest were to fire fighters that protected populations of fewer than 25,000.

Exposure To More Than Burns And Scars

In addition to injuries, NFPA estimates that in 2013 (the last calendar year for which reportable numbers exist) there were 7,100 exposures nationwide to infectious disease (such as hepatitis, meningitis, HIV) and 17,400 exposures to hazardous conditions (asbestos, radioactive materials, chemicals, etc.)

Public Safety Workers’ Compensation Claim Rates

The national numbers are mirrored in the State of Maryland. Out of all the workers’ compensation claims filed in the State of Maryland, a disproportionate number have been for public safety employees.

  2015 2014 2013
# of Claims 23,711 24,211 23,241
# FF Claims 754 (3.2%) 799 (3.3%) 769 (3.3%)

If you know of fire fighter, first responder, or EMS worker who has been injured on the job have them call me for a confidential consultation.

By Ken Berman

Injuries During Physical Training: What Is And Is Not Compensable

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

There has been some confusion recently as to whether injuries sustained while performing “required” physical training are covered under workers’ compensation. The answer almost always is “yes”, provided certain conditions are met.

When The Injury Happens Matters

Physical training is considered part of a fire fighter’s job. Therefore injuries sustained during training are compensable provided that the injury is an “ACCIDENTAL INJURY arising out of the course of employment” (Labor & Employ. Art. Md. Ann. Code) “An accidental injury” (and thus a compensable injury) has been interpreted by the courts to mean any injury which occurs at work or is related to work. It includes such things as slips, falls, or burns. This standard of compensability applies not only to injuries sustained at the fire grounds but also traveling to or from a fire, at the fire, being detailed to stations and checking one’s mail at the station, as well as injuries sustained during physical training.

Documenting The Injury

One should always include in the First Report of Injury, Supervisory Report, and in any history given to a doctor any details about the injury. This will prevent problems from arising and decrease the likeliness of the Employer contesting the claim.

By Ken Berman

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