Two years after the untimely death of 33-year-old construction worker Cory Terry, the makers of Red Bull are up against their first wrongful death suit. According to attorney Ilya Novofastovsky, the drink is "more dangerous than...Red Bull lets on," and should be seriously reevaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The complaint filed against Red Bull by Terry's grandmother goes on to cite nine fatalities that have been linked to the consumption of the fizzy beverage, especially for teenagers and active adults.
Imagine this scenario:
A nursing home employee--let's call her Janice--is injured on the job when she slips and falls on an unmarked wet spot on the floor. She immediately reports the injury to her supervisor and proceeds to file a request for medical benefits, temporary disability benefits, and whatever else she may need in the time that she spends recovering from her injury.
Janice's employers look over her request for temporary disability and medical benefits, and frankly, they don't want to play ball. Still, they know that things could get ugly if Janice was outright denied financial and medical support during her time of need. What if she brought in an attorney and sued for late payments and legal fees?
Well, yes. And here's an example...
On October 26, 2010, Martha Ayers was injured on the job. Immediately after the injury, Ms. Ayers officially reported its occurrence. The next day, her employer, Heritage Healthcare of Toccoa, fired her unceremoniously and denied her request for disability benefits. Undeterred, Ms. Ayers went on to file a request for a hearing, requesting income and medical benefits in addition to late payment penalties, assessed attorney's fees, and litigation expenses.
Meet Michael Reid, an employee of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). In October 1999, Reid was injured on the job. He played by the rules and filed a claim within the designated time period, and for his trouble, was awarded temporary total disability (TTD) payments--32 of them, to be exact. Of those 32 payments, 12 were ruled untimely or late, making MARTA subject to a 15% penalty paid in full to Mr. Reid.
Upon returning to work in June 2002, Reid stopped receiving TTD payments, despite the fact that he was owed statutory penalties on all late payments--a small detail that MARTA happily overlooked. In May 2010, Reid decided that it was time to call in his debts. His attorney sent a polite letter to MARTA, reminding them of their previous oversight, and requesting that they honor the initial agreement.
How many times could a company with a homegrown, wholesome name like Ralph's Grocery Co. turn a blind eye to the medical needs of an injured employee? According to the California Workers' Compensation Appeals board, 11 is the lucky number.
The trouble began in December 2003, when Charles Romano sustained an injury to his left shoulder and cervical spine while stocking the shelves of Ralph's Grocery Co. in Camarillo, California. Two years after the initial injury, Romano finally received the authorization required to proceed with surgery. Romano's shoulder was healed, but he contracted a serious staph infection as a result of the procedure. Once healthy and hardy, Romano suffered both pulmonary and renal failure, followed by partial paralysis.
And what did Ralph's Grocery Co. and its third party claims adjuster do once they realized that Romano had contracted an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, more commonly known as MRSA? As Romano suffered from this debilitating, multi-system illness, Sedgwick CMS delayed eleven requests for authorization and reimbursement.
What do the Occupy movement and workers' compensation have in common? Lt. John Pike.
According to various news reports coming from California, the former UC Davis police officer -who has filed for workers' compensation and been denied benefits, apparently--has filed an appeal, claiming that he suffered psychiatric injury as a result of a 2011 confrontation involving peaceful demonstrators on the University of California Davis campus.
In case you missed it, on November 18th, 2011 college students at
UC Davis arranged a sit-in to protest both proposed tuition hikes and brutality
by campus police against another grou p of demonstrators nine days before. In a move that was widely
disparaged later, University Chancellor Linda Katehi authorized police action that
afternoon. When police in riot gear arrived to take down tents erected on the campus
quad and evict demonstrators from the area, they were met with a group of them
sitting on a main walkway with arms linked and heads down. While the peaceful protesters
refused to move, they also did not actively provoke officers, two of whom
produced canisters of pepper spray and walked calmly down the line, spraying demonstrators
two and three times.
You should do this quickly, while events are still fresh in your mind. Jot down significant details like the time, the surroundings, the names of any witnesses, any details that led to your accident, and how the accident occurred. If company safety or equipment violations are at play, be sure to note those as well. Alternately --and since we live in a tech-friendly world-- you could make a brief video or voice recording of your recollections about the incident (if you choose to do this, however, don't surrender this to anyone; it should only exist as a point of reference for yourself).
Dancers in the adult entertainment industry are almost guaranteed to be classified by their employers as independent contractors for both tax purposes and workers' compensation in Georgia. However, just because your boss tells you your injury does not qualify for workers' comp--because you're an independent contractor--doesn't meant it's true. Sometimes--and I'm sure this is hard for many people to fathom--business owners lie in order to avoid a possible increase in insurance premiums!
With this particular legal issue, the key component to analyze is the degree of control exerted over the supposed employee by the employer. In order to gauge the level of control, several questions should be asked to figure out whether a "strip club" entertainer would qualify for workers' comp if injured at work during a performance. In a case I recently handled, we analyzed the factors laid out in a local (and fairly recent) federal court decision regarding whether nude dancers from the Onyx Club in Atlanta qualified as employees or independent contractors. A few are analyzed below.
At most strip clubs, a "house mom" has a great deal of control over the dancers. For example, she may control what the dancer wears (or doesn't wear), her makeup, her hair, her shoes, her level of coherence (or intoxication), her hours, her song(s) played, her stage (assuming multiple stages), her VIP clientele, etc. The club may also require splitting of tips with the DJ, bartenders, and other "house" expenses. Her stage name may be dictated by the club. Perhaps financial penalties are imposed for not coming to work during slow shift or when otherwise scheduled.
A recent report by the Workers Compensation Research Institute indicates that workers' compensation plans have to pay out more on the whole for treatment than employer-sponsored group or private health plans. The independent think tank is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and looked at sixteen states for this study. In over two-thirds of them, medical payouts on workers' comp procedures were much higher than the exact same procedures for private plan holders. They sometimes climbed to greater than fifty percent -a startling figure, for sure-- more, in fact.
Research was based on data from medical care given in 2008. Richard Victor,
executive director of WCRI, believes these findings will be of interest to
insurance and health care professionals, union leaders, workers, and state
"In every state I know of, they are interested in what they can do to increase job creation," Victor said. "If workers' compensation costs are unusually high, that puts that state at a disadvantage."
Starting Monday, July 1, 2013, workers' compensation medical benefits will be drastically reduced for injured workers in Georgia. GA House Bill 154, passed by the Georgia General Assembly a few months ago, will be effective next week. One of its provisions is that medical benefits for injured workers will stop at 400 weeks (like income benefits do), unless the case is deemed "catastrophic" under O.C.G.A. 34-9-200.1(g).
I have several current clients whom this would have negatively affected were it in place at the time of their injuries. Often, such clients are having to take expensive medications and will need them indefinitely, but they are able to work (and are doing so), so their cases aren't "catastrophic" in nature. Should an injury like theirs occur next month, the injured's medical needs will not be fully met by the party responsible for the injuries.
In honor of those who have given their lives to support and defend the United States Constitution, I'd like to wish everyone a happy Memorial Day and post a paper by Colonel James Moschgat called "10 Things a Janitor Can Teach You About Leadership" referencing Bill Crawford, a WWII Medal of Honor recipient and Air Force Academy janitor:
William "Bill" Crawford certainly was an unimpressive figure, one you could easily overlook during a hectic day at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Mr. Crawford, as most of us referred to him back in the late 1970s, was our squadron janitor.
While we cadets busied ourselves preparing for academic exams, athletic events, Saturday morning parades and room inspections, or never-ending leadership classes, Bill quietly moved about the squadron mopping and buffing floors, emptying trash cans, cleaning toilets, or just tidying up the mess 100 college-age kids can leave in a dormitory.
Sadly, and for many years, few of us gave him much notice, rendering little more than a passing nod or throwing a curt, "G'morning!" in his direction as we hurried off to our daily duties. Why? Perhaps it was because of the way he did his job-he always kept the squadron area spotlessly clean, even the toilets and showers gleamed. Frankly, he did his job so well, none of us had to notice or get involved. After all, cleaning toilets was his job, not ours.
The North Dakota State Legislature is considering a bill that could dramatically alter how pain and its relation to pre-existing medical conditions are interpreted in future worker's compensation decisions.
House Bill 1163 would amend an existing law, adding language that says pain is only a symptom and not a sign that a pre-existing condition is worsening. The way the law reads now states that a claim is compensable if an injury "substantially accelerates [the] progression or substantially worsens [the] severity" of a pre-existing condition. The new language added to the bill would not allow pain to be used as evidence of an acceleration or worsening.
The existence of pain, then, would not be a valid diagnostic tool for doctors to use and present as evidence in a worker's compensation claim. Should the bill pass, only diagnostic imaging such as x-rays and MRIs would be allowed to be submitted as evidence.
Proponents of the bill such as Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI), the fund that is the sole provider of worker's compensation coverage to employers in North Dakota, say it is merely a clarification of the language of the law. The motivation seems to be a North Dakota Supreme Court decision that reversed a previous ruling in which the lower court had denied benefits based on evidence of pain in a work-related aggravation of an equipment operator's arthritic back.
A Cuyahoga County judge has awarded nearly $860 million in restitution to a group of Ohio employers involved in a class-action lawsuit that began in 2007. The suit claimed that the Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation, which provides worker's compensation benefits to about two-thirds of Ohio's workforce, overcharged the more than 270,000 employers for worker's compensation insurance because of inequities in their group coverage program.
Common Pleas Court Judge Richard McMonagle ruled that employers who were excluded from the group program were charged excessive premiums over an eight year period from 2001 to 2009. Many of the employers named in the suit weren't even aware that they were a part of it.
Stuart Garson, one of the attorneys representing the employers, said "Now is the time for the BWC to take responsibility."