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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.

The Impact of Wage Loss on The Life of a Correctional Officer

Thursday, May 04, 2017

I recently had a jury trial in Cumberland where I represented a correctional officer at one of the large State prisons in Western Maryland. I was reminded during the course of the trial of the devastating impact that a work accident can have on someone who lives in Western Maryland.

This was someone who, because of the very serious nature of their work injury, was unable to return to work for the State of Maryland. And when someone loses a good paying union job, that has good benefits and job protections, the results of losing that job are devastating to the worker and their family.

In Maryland, workers’ compensation law does provide vocational services that help injured workers’ find jobs within their physical restrictions. Unfortunately, those jobs are typically non-union, low paying jobs with expensive health care that offer little job protection.

Gone are the days where mining and manufacturing jobs were plentiful and wages were driven up by competition for good reliable workers. Instead, workers’ compensation insurance companies get off cheap and easy compared to the economic and psychological impact suffered by workers who lose their jobs due to work injuries.

While we were able to double the injured worker’s benefits at the trial, it still doesn’t come close to making up for what was lost. That loss is not merely economic, but also the pride and satisfaction that comes with providing for your family. When that’s taken away there is no amount of money that can adequately compensate an injured worker for all that they’ve lost, due to not fault of their own.

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.

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.

Do You Need An Attorney For Your Maryland Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Monday, September 19, 2016
 

If You have been injured at work and have been dealing with the insurance company’s adjuster without any problems (for now), should you still hire a lawyer?

The short answer is YES.

Insurance company adjusters often formulate their questions in a way that encourages people to reveal more information than is needed or required. They will then use that information against you later on. For example, an adjuster may ask if you’ve ever had any prior injuries, prompting you to tell them about every medical condition or injury you’ve ever sustained, instead of limiting it to the body part that you just injured. They may also take recorded statements and focus on areas that will assist with defending against your claim. In addition:

  • The insurance company adjusters have access to the lawyers at their company, who provide them with the most recent court decisions and advise them about the law. Shouldn’t you also have a lawyer to advise you?
  • Your employer, who pays premiums to the insurance company, also has access to the lawyers at the insurance company who can advise them about the law. If your employer has a lawyer, shouldn’t you?
  • It does not cost you anything up front to have a lawyer for a Maryland Workers’ Compensation case. Your attorney will only be paid out of any compensation you are awarded in your case and only with the permission of the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission. Your lawyer cannot separately bill you or charge you for their time. Your attorney will not receive a fee if you do not receive compensation.

Your lawyer can assist you with all aspects of your case, including obtaining:

  • Your wages
  • Your medical records
  • Medical treatment approvals

Your attorney will also represent you before the Workers’ Compensation Commission, when a hearing is required. Hearings are somewhat informal, but hidden behind the informality are technicalities that often require the assistance of a lawyer; such as presenting evidence in the proper manner, cross examining witnesses where required, making appropriate objections, and ensuring the evidence meets the burden of proof required to present your case.

In addition, without an attorney you could be missing out on benefits that you don’t even know you are entitled too, such as:

  • Temporary Total Disability Benefits paid based on an accurate average weekly wage
  • Permanent Disability Benefits at the correct level
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Mileage reimbursements
  • Medical treatment

Please feel free to contact us at Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby, LLP, should you have any questions.

 

 

Maryland Vocational Rehabilitation - Don’t Put All Your Eggs In The Insurance Company Basket

Friday, September 16, 2016

By Ari Laric, Esq.

Vocational rehabilitation is all about finding “Suitable Gainful Employment.” Employment is a job. Gainful is one that pays money, so the real question is what is Suitable? As an injured worker, when you're receiving vocational rehabilitation benefits you have the opportunity to work with a vocational counselor to try and find a job that you can do. The vocational counselor works with you to develop a plan that takes into consideration your:

  • Age
  • Past work history
  • Past school history
  • Transferable skills
  • Physical limitations from your injury

The vocational counselor does not work for the insurance company, but they do get paid by the insurance company.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in vocational rehabilitation:

(1) No guarantee to a job with the same company.

(2) No guarantee to a job within the same industry.

(3) No guarantee to a job making the same amount of money, and

(4) No guarantee to a job that you like.

In today's economy it's hard enough for people who are not injured to find a job. But for an injured worker, who may now have physical limitations, and may now be looking for a type of employment that they have never done before, it can be very hard.

Vocational rehabilitation is a right under the law and it’s a protection for injured workers. However, don't put all your eggs in the insurance company basket!

Don't rely on the vocational counselor to find you a job!

While in vocational rehabilitation, it's important to do everything that the vocational counselor says, so that your benefits continue. However, it's important for YOU to find yourself a job. If you sit around waiting for the insurance company to help you out, do you really think you're going to get the best job possible?

By doing the work on your own, and finding a job for yourself, you're more likely to find the best situation for you. When you find a job for yourself:

  • It's more likely going to be a job in the industry you want it to be in,
  • It’s more likely going to be a job that pays you the amount of money that you want, or at least a job that is a step in the right direction towards earning the type of money that you want
  • It's more likely going to be a job that you actually like!
Ari Laric's telephone number is 410-769-5400 or 800-248-3352.

 

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