Thursday, December 20, 2012

Workers Comp Myths and facts from our freinds at LexisNexis

10 Myths and Facts About Workers' Compensation Posted by LexisNexis Workers' Comp Law Community Staff The LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation Law Community and the award-winning blog Work Comp Roundup have teamed up to present some common myths and facts about workers’ compensation. Our contributors represent different segments of the workers’ compensation industry. Questions and comments for our contributors are encouraged. Note that myths are listed below in random order and not in order of importance, since the degree of “importance” depends on the reader and his or her stake in the workers’ compensation system. Workers Compensation Myths Rodin's Thinker MYTH #1: Large Discount Networks Are the Key to Success in Workers’ Compensation Managed Care “Crisis” was the single word most often associated with workers’ compensation back in the early 90’s. The unprecedented rise in medical costs sent employers in search of innovative solutions. A few progressive companies looked at the health care model to better control medical costs and began to adapt the concept of networks to Workers’ Compensation. Most employers theorized that the more providers you had in your network the better your penetration rate and this would produce a better savings. However, today’s reality presents a very different picture. We have found, over time, that while penetration and savings rates are good things, the real keys to a sustainable reduced medical cost are controlling utilization and targeting specialties such as pharmacy, physical therapy, high end radiology and other specific services. Instead of an increase in cost per treatment or per unit cost of a service such as a doctor’s visit, it is the amount of services and the types of services being used driving medical inflation. Thus, a broad based discount network, getting you discounts off of the charged amounts, has plateaued in terms of effectiveness in controlling medical cost. The answer to workers’ compensation networks is based on a multi-tiered, multi-layered customized approach that addresses all of the dimensions of the cost equation at a jurisdictional and customer specific level. Only by using objective metrics can you identify the needs and cost drivers to build network solutions that are unique and specific to employers medical cost problems. This approach requires finding the right strategic partners and applying proprietary clinical intervention triggers that maximizes the reduction in total loss costs (claim and medical) to produce the optimal claim outcome. Kenneth F. Martino President and Chief Executive Officer Broadspire Services, Inc. Atlanta, GA MYTH #2: The Employer’s Role Ends Once the Workers’ Comp Claim Is Paid Once an injured employee’s workers comp claim is paid, the employer’s most important role begins. The employer should maintain frequent contact with the employee to monitor their healing progress. By doing so, the employer will be able to gauge when the injured employee will be able to begin the return to work program. According to the 2009 RIMS Benchmark Survey, 86% of companies have a return to work program. However, many small to mid-sized companies lack efficient programs that enable recovering employees to return to work in a limited, but productive role. Most smaller companies feel that setting up a return to work program will require too much effort for the few injuries that occur each year. This is simply not true. Return to work programs reduce the number of lost work days for just about every employee involved. By doing so, it accomplishes two goals. First, it reduces the company’s future increases in workers’ comp or disability insurance since such policies pay out large claims for lost wages. Therefore, by reducing lost wages, claims will drop, which will reduce premiums. Second, return to work programs are directly correlated to productivity benefits. On average, individuals receiving disability benefits are paid between 50% and 70% of their normal wage. By bringing employees back to work at 100% pay, the company is only paying 50% to 30% more while benefitting from 40 productive hours each workweek. It is in the best interest of the employer to keep close contact with the injured employee during their recovery phase. Using a return to work program not only makes sense from a financial standpoint, but it’s the right thing to do. It enhances the employee’s recovery both physically and psychologically. Emily Holbrook Editor, Risk Management Blog: Co-Editor, Risk Management Monitor MYTH #3: Workers’ Compensation Claims Improve With Age Too frequently, I see adjusters treat complex claims like fine wine. They put the file in the back of their cellar (filing cabinet) and hope that, over time, it will become more palatable. They expect that the medical treatment will diminish, the demand will become more reasonable, and the situation will somehow improve to make resolution of the case easier. Working for an excess carrier we see nothing but complex claims. I can tell you with great certainty that these cases do not improve over time. The longer a person is out of work, the greater the chance they will NEVER return to work. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, if an employee is off work for an occupational illness for more than one year, there is only a 25% chance they will return to work. If they are off work for two years, there is almost no chance of a successful return to work. In addition, medical costs ALWAYS increase over time. Over the last 10 years, medical inflation has been over 48%. Thus, even if the treatment regime stays consistent, your medical costs will go up. Unfortunately, the medical regime usually does not stay consistent. There are always new drugs available to treat a condition, or new treatment options being introduced. These new treatments and drugs usually cost significantly more than the established treatment and drugs they are replacing. Since the situation will continue to worsen, the best time to try and settle the claim or take steps to mitigate the loss is NOW! The additional resources and funds you spend today in resolving complex claims can result in significant savings in the future when those claims are no longer sitting in the filing cabinet. Mark Walls Assistant Vice President – Claims Safety National MYTH #4: Technology Will Cure All of Our Ills There are many exciting technological changes on the horizon, and much discussion about how fast and efficient our world will be. Indeed, the possibilities are tremendous, but only if that technology is integrated and used intelligently. Technology, like any tool, must be used with skill and purpose. Give a running chainsaw to a monkey, and the results will not be pretty. All you’ll gain is utter devastation and a highly agitated monkey. The same rules apply for the implementation of new technology based systems. Too many companies use process based decisions to conduct technology selection, when they should be focusing on end result goals. New gizmos should not be used just because they are new – they should be used because they help an organization meet a need, and drive the company to successful goal attainment. Technology selection should start with two basic questions: 1) What are we trying to accomplish? This, of course, contains a broad set of queries. What are the pain points? Where are our production bottlenecks? What do we need to stay competitive? What costs need reducing? A successful company will involve their “front line” employees in this discussion, and eliminate any disconnects between reality and upper management’s perception of reality. 2) What do we need to solve the issues we just identified? It is a simple idea. Identify the needs, and work with those actually tasked with doing the job to determine what will meet them. It is from this point that a company can begin to define specifically what solutions it should be looking for. A final warning: Technology will likely take your company mobile in the coming years. Having a plan to separate and protect your employee’s personal lives will not only make you an employer of choice, it will keep many agitated monkeys off your back. Robert Wilson President & CEO,, LLC Blog: From Bob’s Cluttered Desk Related Articles: I Saw The Future Of Workers’ Comp Today Workers’ Comp 20/20: Tethered by Wireless – The Future Office Without Walls Become a “Tech Translator”: National Unemployment Rate for Technology Jobs Is 3.3% MYTH #5: Because FECA Is So Different From State Workers’ Compensation Systems, Private Sector Case Management Best Practices Won’t Work There are many differences between the federal and most state workers’ compensation systems. The federal system features include: Federal agency inability to choose a third party administrator. (All federal workers’ compensation claims are managed by the Department of Labor.) There are no settlements – injured federal workers currently have the right to be paid workers’ compensation for life if unable to return to work. (There is legislation pending that would impact this.) 45 days of continuation of regular pay by the employing agency early in traumatic injury claims. (There is legislation pending that would impose a 3-day waiting period for this continuation of pay) No system for routine utilization review. (There are certain requirements currently for Prior-Authorization but not for Second Opinions or IME’s; there is pending legislation that would require regular independent medical evaluations.) Free choice of treating provider Limited clinical resources available to the Department of Labor Claims Examiners, who make all adjudication and ongoing benefits decisions. These differences are frequently cited as reasons that private sector case management best practices won’t work in a federal environment; however, evidence suggests otherwise. Several federal agencies have experienced significant improvement in the performance of their workers’ compensation program when they adopted industry best practices such as: Agency directed telephonic case management Early intervention Focused legacy case management programs Ancillary networks including but not limited to pharmacy benefits management, physical therapy, durable medical equipment and diagnostic radiology Stay-at-Work and Return-to-Work initiatives Internal data and trend analysis including but not limited to chargeback audits and the new federal agency performance metrics, POWER (Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Re-employment). Agencies that have adopted these and other best practices and aggressively monitor and manage ALL open cases have lower costs and disability case rates than agencies that take a more passive approach, relying on Department of Labor and monitoring cases for return to work issues. Marianne Cloeren, MD, MPH, FACOEM Medical Director, Managed Care Advisors, Inc MYTH #6: The Vast Majority of All Medical Reports Using the AMA Guides Are Inaccurate This assertion has been repeatedly made any time a version of the AMA Guides has first been adopted in a state that mandates its use in a state’s workers’ compensation system. California adopted the 5th Edition of the AMA Guides in April 2004. Within a year, a cottage industry of “expert” reviewers developed in which the recurring mantra was that the vast majority of medical reports written by treating or evaluating physicians were not “accurate.” The fact of the matter is that the authors of the AMA Guides were careful in stating that the Guides is intended for reference by physicians as a guideline only, and each physician should use his or her own clinical judgment in determining an accurate permanent impairment rating. On page 1 of the 5th Edition, the authors state: “The purpose of this fifth edition of the Guides is to update the diagnostic criteria and evaluation process used in impairment assessment, incorporating available scientific evidence and prevailing medical opinion. Chapter authors were encouraged to use the latest scientific evidence from their specialty and, where evidence was lacking, develop a consensus view.” First of all, this directive is misleading. The WPI ratings in all versions of the AMA Guides are not based on any scientific research, epidemiological studies, clinical trials or any other objective analysis. They are “consensus derived”, which means that someone voted on adopting WPI ratings based on some undisclosed criteria and without even discussing minority views of physicians. In real medical science, “prevailing medical opinion” can be totally wrong. Second, there is no correlation between a given WPI rating and loss of function or effects of impairment on activities of daily living. Even the definition of “ADLs” has changed between the different versions of the Guides, with different WPI ratings for the same medical conditions between different versions of the Guides. Third, the diagnostic criteria for ratable impairments have changed since the 5th Edition of the AMA Guides was published in 2000. Current diagnostic criteria for hypertension and complex regional pain syndrome are examples where those listed in the 5th Edition are completely obsolete. The point is that even the individual authors, editors, contributors and followers of the AMA Guides, regardless of version, cannot profess to be any more qualified to write an “accurate” report than any other physician. Each version of the Guides states that the determination of whether an injury or illness results in a permanent impairment requires a medical assessment by a physician. See 5th Edition, section 1.2a, page 2. How can any so-called “expert” reviewer say that the vast majority of medical reports that use the AMA Guides are inaccurate when the reviewer has not performed an assessment of the patient? In California, reports written by these “experts” who review and critique medical reports are not admissible at the WCAB, and cause significant consternation among reputable treating and evaluating physicians who have a deep understanding of the AMA Guides and case law that mandates certain interpretations and applications of the language in the Guides. Hopefully, other states like Illinois will develop similar case law. Robert G. Rassp, Esq. Law Office of Robert G. Rassp Blog: The Rassp Report Rassp, The Lawyer’s Guide to the AMA Guides and California Workers’ Compensation (LexisNexis) MYTH #7: CMS’ Approval of an MSA Is Binding CMS offers a written opinion for workers’ compensation settlements meeting its review criteria as to whether an amount set aside for future medical expenses adequately protects Medicare’s interests in the settlement of an insurance claim. The program is voluntary, and the evaluation process fairly generic in that it applies a standard of care rather than meets the individual needs of the claimant, while frequently disregarding the legal issues resulting in the decision to settle the claim. Because of this, an amount deemed adequate by CMS will generally be more than an individualized plan, and that differential is representative of the inherent cost of the approval. However, what is the value of that approval? The WCMSA approval process is not mandated by any law or regulation, state or federal. It is administered at the sole discretion of CMS with no official appeal process. Just as participation is completely voluntary, nothing requires CMS to render an opinion if it elects not to do so. And most disturbing, CMS can apparently change its opinion post-settlement based solely upon a request by the claimant. There are documented occurrences of CMS altering its approval, both higher and lower, based upon claimants presenting new evidence post-settlement, regardless of the fact that these settlements were already funded by the carriers and approved by the state agencies. So if CMS’ opinion is not binding upon itself, it is certainly not binding upon any of the parties to the settlement unless and until the amount approved is mutually accepted by all parties and incorporated into the state approved settlement agreement. If the parties disagree with CMS, they are free to settle on their own terms, documenting in the agreement that while CMS’ opinion was obtained, it was disregarded for valid legal and/or medical reasons. Medicare has no rights in the insurance settlement itself to assert a claim for future inchoate medical expenses that have not, and may not ever, occur. It is undisputed that Medicare is not obligated to make payments for post-settlement related medical care, hence our acceptance of the need for an MSA when future medical care is anticipated. However, unless and until Medicare makes a conditional payment or denies benefits due to its secondary payer exclusion, it has no legal claims against any of the parties to the settlement within its reach under the MSP. And if an MSP situation arises, the parties affected will have access to the Medicare appeal process to dispute the benefit denial or reimbursement demand, which is more than is afforded an adverse MSA determination by CMS at the time of settlement. So long as MSAs are reasonable and defensible, CMS cannot create a greater obligation upon the parties than existed under state law simply because the claimant is a Medicare beneficiary. If you don’t like CMS’ opinion, disregard it and settle upon your own terms with the understanding that you may someday have to overcome the burden of proving why it was disregarded. Better yet, stop asking for the opinion in the first place. Jennifer C. Jordan, Esq., General Counsel MEDVAL, LLP Blog: The Official Medicare Set Aside Blog and Information Resource Jordan, The Complete Guide to Medicare Secondary Payer Compliance (LexisNexis) MYTH #8: Doctors Prescribe Narcotic Pain Medications Because of Concerns They May Be Sued If They Don’t Treat Pain The dramatic rise in the number and amount (morphine equivalents) of narcotic pain medications has been well publicized in 2011. A tipping point materialized where social commentators and observers triggered the start of a national conversation. Even the White House joined the discussion in April 2011. Yet, when pressed, some physicians claim they are legally obligated to prescribe addictive pain medications or they will be civilly liable. This justification is essentially baseless. But, even if true, it does not explain why Americans consume 80% of all opiates and 99% of all the hydrocodone dispensed world-wide. Current narcotics available for doctors to prescribe to patients are up to one hundred times more powerful than morphine. A lucrative business model treating pain erupted across the country. Addiction increased demand, which led to a secondary black market further fueling demand. Physicians’ choice to prescribe high levels of narcotics is not just antidotal; one California study revealed that 1% of California doctors prescribed 42% of morphine equivalence. Some states (Texas and Florida for example) are passing laws regulating pill mills (pain clinics and other facilities that primarily treat pain with drugs). Pharmacies have refused to fill oxycotin prescriptions. One national pharmacy recently informed several Florida doctors it would no longer fill their prescriptions for schedule two narcotics. States are also focusing their efforts on drug repackagers and physician dispensers. States and even some businesses are changing their practices in light of the new business of prescribing narcotics. Fear of litigation does not appear to be a driving force in narcotic drug prescribing patterns. Rather, market forces appear to motivate some physicians to augment their practices with different business models and strings of income. These same market forces may be influencing the creation and market placement of these products by their manufacturers. But that conversation is for another day. Stuart D. Colburn, Esq., Shareholder Downs Stanford, P.C. MYTH #9: Workers’ Compensation Costs Are Out of Control Although we often hear that workers’ compensation is “out of control”, that is not really the case. While it is true that some companies have high workers’ compensation costs, for many it is not a problem at all. The general perception is that workers’ compensation costs are skyrocketing because attorneys receive contingency fees, labor unions refuse to cooperate, and there are unfavorable state laws. In reality, these things generally are not the cost drivers of high workers’ compensation costs. There are many unionized companies in every state – including those states considered the worst – that have high-risk workplaces that are susceptible to a greater than average number of accidents and mishaps, but do not have high workers’ comp costs. The real cause of high workers’ comp costs is “lack of control.” When companies don't "take charge" of the workers’ compensation process in their workplace by implementing policies and procedures to direct what occurs immediately after an injury, then employees – by default – are in control of their own claims and tend to stay out of work longer than necessary. In many of these situations, the claim lasts longer than the injury, and the time out of work is disproportionate to the length of the disability. Companies with a tight post injury procedure dictate what happens from the moment of the injury to when the injured employee returns to work. For example, employees immediately telephone a triage nurse if they are injured, and employers make a first day phone call to the employee, send a get well card, carefully select medical facilities and direct injured employees there (where permitted by state law), offer all injured employees transitional duty assignments temporarily while they are recovering, and conduct weekly meetings to discuss obstacles. The entire process is posted nearby whether employees sit in an office, drive a vehicle, or work in another setting, such as at a restaurant or on a construction site. Companies look elsewhere for the cause of the problem, but they never look in the mirror! Forget about what you "can't do" and start working on what you "can do." Rebecca Shafer, Esq. President, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. MYTH #10: The Exclusive Remedy Defense Is Being Eroded Like initial newspaper stories noting Mark Twain’s death, reports of the demise of the exclusive remedy doctrine or defense have been “greatly exaggerated.” Sure, there’s the occasional “success,” usually with somewhat quirky facts [e.g., Anderson v. A.J. Friedman Supply Co., Inc., 416 N.J. Super. 46, 3 A.3d 545 (2010); $7 million verdict to spouse who, like her husband, was employed by an asbestos-using firm, but who contended she contracted mesothelioma as a result of “bystander exposure” from washing her husband’s asbestos-laden work clothes]. A close look shows the exclusivity defense is, however, alive and well. For example, in spite of the fact that Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, and a handful of other states [see Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 103.04] allow “intentional” tort actions against employers where the employers’ actions are “substantially certain” to cause injury, far fewer than one in ten reported decisions show success for plaintiff/employees. Consider also the following recent unsuccessful actions filed by employees against employers: Welch v. Ameriprise Financial, Inc., 2010 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 852 (Aug. 24, 2010); widow’s tort action against husband’s employer for failure to provide defibrillators. Teasley v. Freeman, 2010 Ga. App. LEXIS 592 (June 28, 2010); widow of slain deputy killed in a Georgia courthouse by escaping convict. Brown v. Cassens Transp. Co., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101660 (S.D. Mich., Sept. 27, 2010) and Jackson v. Sedgwick, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22792 (E.D. Mich., Mar. 11, 2010); general failure to use RICO Act as end-run around exclusivity. Walters v. Flathead Concrete Prods., Inc., 2011 MT 45, 2011 Mont. LEXIS 48 (Mar. 16, 2011); mother’s wrongful death action barred by exclusivity in spite of small ($3,000) death benefits for non-dependent parents. Vacha v. North Ridgeville (City of), 2011 Ohio 2446, 2011 Ohio App. LEXIS 2098 (May 23, 2011); rape by co-worker. Soto v. Nabisco, Inc., 2011 PA Super 249, 2011 Pa. Super. LEXIS 3753 (Nov. 21, 2011); products liability suit against employer fails, even under “dual persona” doctrine. Exclusive remedy provisions within state acts have been a core component of the workers' compensation "bargain" since the initial enactment of state workers' compensation laws in 1911. Injured workers have occasionally experienced buyers' remorse since then, but the essential equilibrium established between employers and employees in those early compensation acts remains an enduring characteristic of our current system. Thomas A. Robinson, J.D. Blog: © Copyright 2011 LexisNexis. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 20, 2012


My opinion has always been that the best law firms are so because of the people, and for that reason I have always been blessed to be supported by some of the most wonderfuly talented people available. I hire my paralegals with an eye not only towards their ability to do (a lot) of work quickly and accurately, but to be able to work with our clients as people. I work hard to maintain a staff of caring, talented people. In this month of July, our staffing is in a time of transition. Monica Nugent, who has served me so ably for the past year is taking her experience south to Philadelphia where she will continue to work as a paralegal in a large law firm. I wish her the best. I and her many client-fans will miss her, as will the many Commissioners and lawyers who have been impressed by her ability to think on her feet and awed by her mastery of obscure historical literature. On July 30th, we will welcome Taylor Higgins as our new paralegal. Taylor joins us from a Boston firm. She has extensive litigation experience and she is looking forward to getting out to hearings and advocating for a clients as well as running the show back at the office. In the meantime, my first ever employee, Maggie Garczynski has graciously agreed to help me out on a part time basis. Maggie will be handling closings and bankruptcies until Taylor is up to speed and generally filling in as needed. Maggie has 5 years experience as a paralegal with me and can run the office in her sleep. Maggie has just returned from the London School of Economics and is a seasoned veteran. Maggie will be assisted by Sam Molodetz who returns for her second Summer with LOJFA and new comer Dana Feigenbaum who will also be assisting as needed. I appreciate everyone's patience during this transition. We should be back to full speed by Mid August.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Commissioner Thompson Passes

Hon. Clifton Thompson who was actively serving the citizens of the State of Connecticut as a Worker's Compensation Commissioner passed away on Friday, May 18th, 2004. At the time of his death, Commissioner Thompson was hearing cases in the Second and Sixth Districts. Commissioner Thompson will be remembered by me as a true gentleman. Although a recent appointee and newcomer to worker's compensation law, Commissioner Thompson dove right in and effectively handled cases in a fair and compassionate manner. I will truly miss him. Our firm's sympathies go out to his wife and family.

Friday, May 4, 2012

SSA Bans Judges from Stalking Facebook

I read today that apparently the Social Security Administration has banned its' Administrative Law Judges from using Facebook in particular and the internet in general to root out Claimant fraud. I have often suspected ALJ's dig around in he online world to discover whether or not the Claimants that appear before them can be found dancing or running or in general having some sort of life when they are not in the hearing room. All in all, I believe the SSA's new policy is the only fair way to handle things. There is all sorts of ways online sites and web pages can be manipulated so that things are not as they appear. Let's keep decisions based on testable evidence duly admitted in the hearing room and not based on someone's Facebook or Twitter page.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Worker's Comp Commission/Labor Department merger shelved for this year- Middletown District Office to Close

We have received some good news from about the Governor’s proposal to consolidate the Worker’s Compensation Commission into the Department of Labor. In the latest version of the proposed state budget, funding for the WCC has been restored. The WCC will remain independent. There is some bad news, but it is not unexpected: the Middletown office will close as of July 1 and 2 vacant positions will be eliminated

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bulletin 49 now available

The Workers’ Compensation Commission’s Bulletin 49 is available to the public free of charge, and contains the entire Workers’ Compensation Act, additional related statutes, and Workers’ Compensation Administrative Regulations. Also included are illustrations of Connecticut’s workers’ compensation forms.

To receive a copy of the Bulletin 49, please contact either your nearest Workers’ Compensation Commission District Office or the Commission’s Education Services [(860) 493-1500].

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The 11 Most Life Threatening Jobs on the Planet

The danger workers face on the job is not always compensated by higher pay. Life-threatening jobs can be mind-numbingly simple, easily performed by unskilled workers or children, or as physically and mentally demanding as one can imagine. Cable television shows like Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers give some sense of the dangers faced by workers in the sea fishing and truck driving industries respectively, while films like Workingman's Death (2005) document examples of dangerous, and almost pointlessly unproductive manual labor. Below are 11 life-threatening jobs ranging from the banal to the bizarre.

Street Sweeper (Rwanda)

The most humble of jobs can be the most dangerous. On the streets of Kigali province, in the country of Rwanda, women dressed in blue work from dawn to dusk sweeping the roads and highways. Drivers, going several miles per hour, zoom past, their cars missing the street-sweeping women by just inches. The women wear no reflective clothing, and there are no cautionary signs or pylons alerting drivers of the presence of these women on the road. In a country with 30% unemployment, street sweeping, which pays approximately $3 a day, is a sought-after job.
King Crab Fisherman (Alaska, United States)

More dramatic than street sweeping, crab fishing in the Bering Sea is one of the world's most dangerous professions. The fishing takes place night and day in rough waters that constantly and violently rock the boats, sending high waves crashing over the decks. Fishermen can slip on the soaked deck, get hit by flying objects, or fall overboard into freezing water. In the 1990s, the Alaskan fishing industry experienced 400 deaths per 100,000 employees. That number has increased since.
Sulfur Miner (East Java, Indonesia)

Java's sulfur miners gather chunks of yellow sulfur located next to a steaming, acidic volcano crater lake. The men hold their breaths and run into the clouds of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, gases that burn the eyes and throat, and grab as much sulfur as they can carry before returning to relative safety away from the lake. The miners gag, choke, and spit before repeating the process again and again. The sulfur they gather is used to bleach sugar, make matches, and vulcanize rubber. The miners are paid $10 to $15 a day, with some extra income coming from posing for photographs taken by curious tourists well away from the poisonous gas. Gloves and gas masks are unaffordable luxury items.
Police Office (Kabul, Afghanistan)

As recently as December 2011, police officers and police stations in war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan, have been targeted by the Taliban soldiers and suicide bombers. CBS News reports that every day, five out of 10 Kabul police officers die on the job. Lack of training and high-tech tools, as well as government-level corruption and an economy based on the heroin trade, prevent Kabul's police force from performing their job with any degree of safety or effectiveness.
E-Waste Recycler (Guiyu, China)

Old discarded electronics, including laptops, home entertainment systems, and smart phones, are exported to Guiyu's electronic waste sites to be gathered and broken down, by hand, for scrap metal by thousands of low-paid workers and their children. The electronics release toxic metals and chemicals into the workers and the environment, poisoning families and their environment. The amount of e-waste on the planet is increasing at an alarming rate, mostly in developing countries, with illegal exporting and dumping contributing to the glut of toxic electronics.
Truck Driver (United States)

Driving a truck is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that truck drivers are "more likely to die in a work-related accident than the average worker," with highway accidents accounting for the majority of those deaths. Most accidents occur because of unsafe actions by drivers of passenger vehicles who, being unfamiliar with large vehicles, ignore the cautionary signage displayed on trucks.

Crocodile Wrestler (Nakhon Pathom Province, Thailand)

The Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo has been a popular tourist destination since 1985, featuring choreographed performances by elephants, a garden of orchids, and a huge collection of specially bred crocodiles. At the zoo, tourists can enjoy watching crocodile wrestlers happily stick their heads inside the jaws of large crocodiles after first beating them with sticks and dragging them around by their tails. Tourists can also elect to say "no" to this display of animal cruelty and take their business to Thailand's much more humanely run Elephant Nature Park.
Construction Laborer (United States)

How dangerous is construction work? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction boasts a work-related death rate of 18 people per 100,000. Construction companies, when they're not taking advantage of undocumented workers or non-unionized workers, generally pay well. But the jobs often require workers to navigate dangerous environments, including underground, great heights, and busy highways. Hazardous materials, including heavy machinery, power tools, and explosives increase the hazardous risks of the job.
Sanitation Workers (United States)

In recent years, better training and improved safety equipment, including more visible outer clothing, have helped to make the still-dangerous job of sanitation workers a little bit safer. But many dangers will always be just part of the job. While collecting sanitation, workers can be struck and killed by passing automobiles, injured by improperly disposed-of hazardous waste, or crushed by the truck's machinery. Garbage is often collected late at night or early in the morning. The resulting fatigue can impair a sanitation worker's judgment and reaction time, creating the potential for accidents.
Coal Miner (Ukraine)

Ukrainian coal mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, with a work-related death rate 100 times higher than that of coal miners in the United States. In addition to unsafe, yet-to-be modernized mines, owned by billionaires who sell coal well below market rates and are unconcerned about worker safety, there are illegal pits employing freelance miners to dig for coal in near-empty mine shafts. "Our enthusiasm comes from our will to survive," says one Ukrainian miner. "If you don't work, you'll freeze to death."
Farmer (United States)

The farming industry is not immune to work-related injuries and deaths. Injuries sustained from charging livestock and tractor rollovers are common. There are instances of farmers falling into grain bins and suffocating as they're smothered in the grain. And at contained feeding operations, gases, dust, and other irritants from decomposing manure have a toxic effect on the long-term health of farm workers. The dangers to workers in the farming industry are in the news recently, as the U.S. Labor Department moves to approve new rules for children working in agriculture. Fatalities for teenage farm workers are four times higher than those in non-farm industries, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Worker's Compensation and "Acts of God"

From Lynch Ryan: Worker's Comp Insider

Annals of Compensability: Of Heroes, Acts of God, and (No) Mercy
When the category 5 hurricane hit Joplin, Missouri on May 22 this year, Mark Lindquist was perched on a mattress which covered his clients, three mentally disabled adults. Lindquist, a social worker for Community Support Services, was following the tornado protocol in a town where basements are virtually non-existent. Unfortunately, the protocol proved utterly ineffective in the wake of 200 mile per hour winds. Lindquist was plucked from his perch and hurled a block away. He was impaled on debris, with every rib broken, his shoulder destroyed and most of his teeth knocked out. He was put into a coma for about two months, nearly dying from Zyomycosis, a rare fungal infection that killed 5 other victims. And to top things off, his three clients perished in the storm.
Lindquist's survival is well beyond the expectations of his doctors. His right arm remains in a sling, but he has use of the hand. An eye that was temporarily blinded has full sight. He moves slowly and has short-term memory loss, but is able to speak clearly.
A Hole in the Safety Net?Lindquist assumed that workers comp insurance would cover his medical costs (a whopping $2.5 million), pay for his 12 daily meds and provide indemnity for his lost wages. (As a low wage worker, Linquist could not afford health insurance.) His assumption of coverage has proved naive. He certainly was "in the course and scope of employment." However, under Missouri law, Acts of God are only covered by workers comp if work exposes the individual to unusual risk. If, on the other hand, there was no greater risk for Lindquist than that facing the general public at the time of the tornado, the injury is not compensable. Lindquist was working - heroically - but the work itself did not cause the injuries. His claim has been denied.
End of story? Not quite. Certainly a case can and will be made that by lying on top of a mattress, in that particular location, Lindquist was more exposed to harm than the general public. He will be able to show that had he not been working, he might have been able to drive his van out of harm's way. Given the high profile of his claim, he is likely to prevail at some point in the process.
It's worth noting that of 132 comp claims filed in the tornado's aftermath, only 8 have been denied. It may have been an Act of God, but somewhere along the line there will be an act of mercy to help a courageous worker rebuild his shattered life from the ground up.
Thanks to Mark Walls and his Workers Comp Analysis Group for the heads up on this story.

Tough Month at the CRB

A flurry of recent decisions have just come down from the Connecticut Compensation Review Board on a Myriad of issues, big and small. Not a single win for a Claimant.

This is a tough enviornment in which to represent an injured worker in Connecticut. be sure you have and experienced Connecticut Worker's Compensation Lawyer on your case to help you understand your options and receive the best possible advice.