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Workers' Compensation Blog

Injuries from Prescription Related Side Effects for Firefighters

Friday, September 23, 2016

Over the years, I have represented thousands of you for claims arising out of work related, as well as non-work related, injuries and/or diseases. Unfortunately, not only have you had to worry about the injuries and the diseases themselves, other concerns have arisen besides the dangers of your profession. Recently, many of the treatments for these problems have been declared dangerous and life threatening.

Side Effects From Xarelto and Other Prescription Meds

For instance many individuals have been prescribed Xarelto as a blood thinner. Xarelto, as you may already know, has been the subject of lawsuits because it has been found that Xarelto can lead to uncontrollable internal bleeding and other serious complications, including heart problems and/or strokes. In addition, for those who have work related or even non-work related problems or diseases, manufacturers of medical devices and IVC, have recalled their products. Inferior Vena Cava Filters (known as “IVCs”) are designed to prevent life threatening pulmonary embolisms. Some of these filter failures have resulted in deaths.

Furthermore, a well-known consequence of hypertension is a loss of potency. The FDA alerted consumers and healthcare providers that a small number of men have lost eyesight after taking Viagra, Cialis or Levitra.

How We Can Help You, Or, Someone You Care About

Berman, Sobin Gross, Feldman, and Darby, LLP has been at the forefront in resolving the cases involving unsafe drugs and medical devices and protecting injured workers, and their families. If you believe you have been harmed by any of these products or by such products as Pinnacle DuPey® Hip Replacements, Taxotere®, or Essure®, please contact me at (301) 670-7030. In the meantime, stay safe.

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.

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 Worker’s Compensation - Ten Rules For Speaking To Doctors

Friday, September 16, 2016

 

Anybody that has watched TV for more than fifteen minutes can recite the Miranda warnings from all the cop shows; I bet you know them … “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you …” you get the picture. But, what does that have to do with a Workers Compensation (or personal injury) claim? Everything!

Injured folks are constantly talking to doctors and nurses who make notes and then place those notes into your records or on your chart. Sometimes, they even quote what you say. I recently litigated a cancer case where the other side actually brought up that a my client, suffering from leukemia due to a workplace toxic exposure, told a doctor that he was doing “fine” when the doctor asked him how he was!

Everything you say to medical care provider (doctor, nurse, PA, everybody) has the potential of ending up in charts that will be read and scrutinized by lawyers at a later date. Who can forget the antics that Elaine, from the TV show Seinfeld, went through to see her own medical chart and then how she was blackballed by other doctors for looking at it; maybe funny on TV, but very serious in the world of personal injury and workers compensation..

Sometimes, what is just as important as what you say is what you don’t say. If you fall at work and break your leg, but fail to mention that you hit your head, or shoulder when you fell, it gives the other side the chance to argue that you did not actually hurt that body part in the accident.

10 Rules for Speaking With Medical Providers

Here are some rules of thumb for when you speak to all medical providers:

  1. Everything you say might be placed in the medical record so speak carefully
  2. Never lie or exaggerate, but don’t hesitate to tell them that something hurts and the more specific you are the better
  3. Doctors rarely will purposely misdiagnose or change a diagnosis just because they work for one side or the other; however, the employer/insurer’s medical opinion may tilt heavily towards the person paying the bills. Keep this in mind.
  4. Be very friendly to the office staff and doctors. If you are sincere, friendly and honest to everybody they will spend more time with you and listen more carefully to what you are saying.
  5. Some of the tests and questions the doctors send your way are designed to see if you are being truthful. They know a lot more about how things are connected in your body than you and I do, but if you are being completely truthful it is less of a problem.
  6. Not all doctors have good bedside manner or want to engage in small talk, such is life
  7. Write down specific problems, complaints and questions, before you go to the appointment and take them with you. It saves everybody time and you don’t forget to bring up important points
  8. Mention problems with other body parts and let them see if they are related. For example, neck, back and shoulder injuries often result in other body parts having symptoms. These may or may not be related, let the doctors decide
  9. Tell them about any medications you take, even if embarrassing. Not telling them could actually hurt or kill you due to a drug interaction
  10. And finally, never, ever, ever tell them you are “fine” … unless you really are … if you were fine you wouldn’t be talking to a doctor, now would you?

For more information or assistance with a Worker's Compensation claim or case, call me for a confidential consultation.

 

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

First Firefighter Case On Hearing Loss Results In Victory

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Recently we had an opportunity to have a hearing on one of twelve of the many hearing loss and tinnitus claims that we have filed before the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission. The Commission ruled in favor of the fire fighters in each of the cases. The Commission relied upon the hearing test as well as a physician whom we referred the Claimant to, in determining that the claim was related to their noise exposures at work. It resulted in an award to each fire fighter of over fifteen thousand dollars.

Although we have heard from many fire fighters regarding these problems, there are many more who have not thought to pursue a claim. It costs nothing to pursue such a matter. The only thing that is needed are copies of hearing tests which we can easily obtain. Many fire fighters simply fax us (at 301-670-9492) their hearing tests after each annual physical exam. These are provided to any firefighter who requests it, free of charge.

By Ken Berman

Choosing The Right Attorney Matters…See Why

Monday, February 01, 2016

When your health, career and you and your family’s financial well-being are on the line, it is crucial that you pick the right attorney. Not one who is a “Johnny come lately” or falsely promises you better results. Rather, what are needed are an attorney and a firm who has a proven track record, who will be in it for the long term with you, and who has credibility and the respect of the Workers’ Compensation Commissioners and judges who will hear your case.

If you, or someone that you know and care about, is in the situation of having to find and select the right attorney for their worker’s compensation or personal injury case, have them remember the phrase “S.W.I.P.E.” Below is an explanation from our founding partner Ken Berman as to how this phrase has helped victims to find the right attorney for their situation.

(S) Stability

(S) Stability Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman and Darby LLP (“Berman and Darby”) have been practicing workers’ compensation and personal injury law for over thirty five years with a combined experience of over a hundred years. Each of our partners has received the highest rankings from our peers and has a partnership and staff that has remained consistent and engaged for three decades. Rare in the world of law firms, each attorney not only respects and admires the other attorneys, but has grown up in the culture of service to the client. Each client receives a team of attorneys and staff that oversees his/her case, ensuring the possible maximum outcome.

(W) Wisdom

(W) Wisdom – 35 years and thousands of cases has given us the wisdom into both the law and the unique situations that arise for fire fighters – such as how to protect them for the unusual injuries, light duty in the department, work hardening, heart disease, stress, hypertension, lung diseases, hearing loss, and PTSD as well as the many other issues that fire fighters face. In addition, having tried thousands of cases before the Commission, a certain wisdom has developed as to how to present the case in the best possible light that ensures the largest result for the fire fighter.

(I) Integrity

(I) Integrity – When choosing an attorney, it is important to research their background. Determine if an attorney you are considering for representation has ever been sanctioned or received any disciplinary action (these are a matter of public record and can be accessed through the Attorney Grievance Commission and Office of Bar Counsel’s website http://www.courts.state.md.us/attygrievance/). All of the attorneys at Berman, Sobin, Gross , Feldman and Darby LLP not only have the highest rankings by professional organizations but none of them have ever faced even a hint of disciplinary action and are respected by not only their peers but by the Commissioners and judges across the state of Maryland.  If the attorney or law firm you are considering for representation possesses questionable marks on their background, be wary.

(P) Profressionalism

(P) Professionalism – Each of the attorneys at BSGF&D carries themselves with the utmost professionalism and does not cut corners or take ethical shortcuts. We are proud of who we represent and how we represent them. This has garnered us the respect in the community by not only the people who decide the cases but also by the adjusters and attorneys representing the other parties.  It is important that you, when injured and seeking recovery and future protections, be proud of your attorney and the representation that you receive. We guarantee you that you will be when you choose Ken Berman and Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman and Darby LLP.

(E) Experience

(E) Experience – In addition to the thousands of hearings at the Commission level, we have handled more jury trials on behalf of fire fighters in the circuit court than any other firm in the state of Maryland. We have also tried more appeals and made more law for fire fighters and other public safety employees in the high courts than any other firm in the state of Maryland. Be sure to find out if the attorney who handles your hearing before the Commission will also be the attorney who handles the appeal if either side appeal. It is, in most firms, normally not the same person and they will not know your case from the beginning. An important question to ask your attorney is “How many jury trials does each attorney in your firm have?” This will help you to evaluate the strength and depth of the firm and will also reveal the experience level of the attorney you interact with and whom will be representing you at your workers’ compensation hearing. At Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman and Darby LLP it is a policy that we handle all aspects of the case from start to finish because the livelihoods of our clients and on-the-line along with the reputation of our firm.

By Ken Berman

Fire Fighters In Maryland Have A Great Day In The Court Of Appeals

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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.

By Clifford B. Sobin, Esq.

10 Things You Need To Know About IMEs (Independent Medical Evaluations)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The insurance company has the right to send you to a doctor of their choice for a medical opinion. This doctor is not going to provide you with any treatment or become your doctor, but rather only give an opinion. Here are 10 things you need to know:

  1. The IME is for the benefit of the insurance company, not you.
  2. The doctor is not required to keep anything you say in confidence; everything you tell him/her, or fail to tell him, will be contained in his report.
  3. Contrary to the letter you receive from the insurance company, you are not required to bring any test results or medical records with you. It is the insurance company’s responsibility to provide their doctor with the reports they want him to review.
  4. The IME doctor and his staff will watch how you walk, move, whether you bend down to tie your shoes or pick up a piece of paper you might have dropped, or how you remove a piece of clothing, and they will compare it to the complaints you tell them about during the exam and what is contained in your medical records, so be consistent. And never lie or exaggerate, but rather be specific about what pain you feel or limitations you experience.
  5. You should tell the doctor about any other accidents you were involved in, whether they happened before or after the work-related injury. Failing to inform the doctor of a prior accident hurts your credibility and makes it look like you are hiding information.
  6. Do not miss your appointment or arrive late. This could result in the insurance company terminating benefits, such as your lost wages, and the Workers’ Compensation Commission could order you to pay for the missed appointment.
  7. The doctor does not have the right to perform any invasive tests on you, such as xrays, injections or EMG/nerve conduction studies.
  8. A female should never be alone in the examination room with a male doctor, so typically the doctor will have a member of his staff in the room during the examination for your safety.
  9. The examination will likely be very short (a few minutes), so it’s important that you be as comprehensive as possible about the complaints you have.
  10. The day of the IME is typically when insurance companies hire a private investigator to video tape you in hopes of “catching you” doing something that is inconsistent with what you tell the doctor or which reveals that you are capable to working. You should be consistent at all times and with all doctors.

By Ken Berman

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