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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.

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.

Victory for Montgomery County Police Officer

Thursday, February 09, 2017

After a two-day jury trial, Attorney Matthew Engler won a case for a Montgomery County police officer who seriously injured his knee at work and thereafter required a knee replacement. The officer had several prior injuries to the same knee, some work-related and some not; however, Attorney Engler was able to persuade the jury that the latest injury, which was a work-injury, had so aggravated his knee condition and so accelerated the need for a knee replacement that his Employer (the County) was legally responsible for the surgery.The two-day trial involved the exhaustive expert testimony of two orthopedic surgeons as the County argued, unsuccessfully, that the knee replacement was due entirely to the pre-existing knee condition.

In order to be covered by workers’ compensation, medical treatment has to be: (1) reasonable, (2) necessary, and (3) causally-related, at least in part, to the work-injury. The third element, causal relationship, is the most heavily litigated of the three. However, it is the long-established law of Maryland that the presence of a pre-existing condition does not bar workers’ compensation benefits. In fact, “[i]f the accidental injury has accelerated or aggravated an existing disease or infirmity, the claimant is entitled to disability.”Reeves Motor Co. v. Reeves, 204 Md. 576, 582 (1954). Therefore, even if an injured worker would have required a particular treatment in the unspecified future, a work-injury could accelerate the need for that treatment to such an extent that the treatment is causally-related to the work-injury and, therefore, covered by workers’ compensation.

If you have any questions regarding a work-injury or work-related illness, do not hesitate to speak to an attorney and learn your rights. Attorney Matthew Engler stands ready to assist you and offers free consultations for all injured workers. Contact him at 301-740-3322 or mengler@bsgfdlaw.com.

Why Workers Compensation’ For Police Is More Important Than Ever Before

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Police officers are not only covered for accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of their employment, but they are also covered for occupational diseases arising from the unique hazards of their employment such as heart disease, hypertension, and hearing loss. Maryland law presumes that the heart disease or hypertension developed from the officer’s stressful employment. This presumption is based upon medical evidence that police officers, due to their many pressures and responsibilities, have a greater risk of heart disease and hypertension than the general public.

When choosing a workers' compensation attorney, it is important to go with an attorney who, “backs the blue.” Attorney Matthew Engler, a former Maryland State’s Attorney, now practices workers’ compensation with BSGFD and devotes his attention to the needs of Maryland police officers. From his experience as a prosecutor, he knows how difficult policing is today and fully appreciates the sacrifices made every day by our men and women in blue. Contact Attorney Matthew Engler today for a free consultation.

Police Officers and Duty Belts – How Back Injuries Can Be Prevented

Friday, September 23, 2016

Think of all the dangers police officers face. They are punched, shot at, struck by cars during traffic stops, injured while restraining combative suspects, and in collisions while in a vehicle pursuit. These are just a few of the perils they encounter. Often though, the injuries which occur while police officers are in the daily grind of the job are the most common.

One of the main culprits of low back and hip injuries is the duty belt. Low back and hip injuries/conditions caused by wearing a duty belt are some of the most underreported types of injuries suffered by police officers. Police are required to carry the following items on their duty belt: radio, gun with a gun light, two extra magazines, two pairs of handcuffs, pepper spray, baton, small flashlight, large light, glove case, tourniquet kit and a Taser. All told, a police officer could be carrying anywhere between 20 and 24 pounds on their duty belt. All that weight pushing right down on their low back and hips during an entire work shift causes long term affects.

Imagine this for a minute. You get up in the morning and put your clothes on for work. Maybe you wear a suit, maybe you have a uniform, but you probably do not have 22 pounds hanging from your belt. So instead of your normal leather belt, it is instead filled with 22 pounds of weight. Or maybe you hang a bag of potatoes from your belt? Or 2 large bowling balls? Or maybe 5 reams of paper? And imagine if that was part of your daily ‘uniform’. You wear it driving to work, walking to get your morning coffee and sitting at your desk. Common sense tells us that our back would be sore at the end of the day. We have all had sore backs from carrying mulch, shoveling snow, carrying our kids or grandkids for long stretches, and moving friends and families.

Police officers have to wear 22 pounds or more around their waist during every hour of every shift. They wear them sitting in the patrol car, pursuing suspects, on foot patrol, during roll call, filling out reports, sitting in court for hours at a time waiting for a case to be called and eating lunch/dinner/breakfast. All day, every day, 22 pounds or more of downward pressure on your hips and lumbar spine. Not to mention the discomfort of sitting in a patrol car with a seat belt and the bolsters on both sides of the seats producing pressure on the belt pushing it up into the back.

But there are some techniques police departments and police officers can utilize to lessen the discomfort and delay the onset of injuries. For departments, the number one way to prevent or lessen back injuries from duty belts is to just do away with them all together. Switching to tactical vests or harnesses can do more to prevent back injuries than anything else. Unfortunately, few patrol officers are issued tactical vests. It is common sense that wearing a backpack is a heck of a lot more comfortable than wearing a fanny pack. Also, departments can provide nylon belts instead of leather belts. Nylon belts are lighter and more flexible than leather belts. But these cost money, and in an era of shrinking municipal budgets, they are unfortunately an unlikely fix.

Sadly, it is up to police to protect themselves. When seated in a patrol car, change posture often, take breaks when possible, stand up and walk around, alter the driver’s seat with a lumbar pillow to provide more support. When on foot patrol, take the opportunity to stretch. If, however, a police officer is experiencing back pain, it is unlikely to get better by ignoring the problem. Back and hip injuries caused by wearing duty belts are consistently underreported.

When these back and hip injuries do happen, it’s vital that police report these injuries to supervisors and seek medical attention. The wrong response is to ignore it and hope it gets better. Finally once the injury has been reported and documented by a doctor, police must file a workers’ compensation claim to ensure their medical rights are protected for the rest of their lives.

Our police, who risk their lives every day to protect our communities and our families, should be provided every piece of equipment to make their increasingly difficult and dangerous jobs safer. After all, many of these brave men and women are going home to their own families, and should not have to be living in constant back pain because local governments are not prioritizing the health and safety of our first responders.

Please contact Jason Shultz at 410-769-5400 or jshultz@bsgfdlaw.com to protect your medical rights.

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