It’s Not That Hard

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from daviddepaolo.blogspot.com

A lot of employers try to lower their workers’ compensation costs by fudging the numbers on their payroll reports, or paying workers "under the table," or misclassifying their jobs.

Some employees take advantage of the no-fault design of the system to make claims that didn’t occur, or inflate the severity of the claim.

And there are some people on the claims side that try to "meet the numbers" by denying, delaying and otherwise obfuscating claim realities and legal obligations.

But the penalties meted are different depending upon your place in the system and don’t necessarily reflect the crime.

For instance, WorkCompCentral did an analysis of California Department of Insurance fraud statistics.

Between Jan. 1, 2013, and July 10, 150 individuals were convicted of defrauding workers’ compensation carriers out of $8 million; $6.7 million, or 83.75%, came from 30 of the 77 convictions for premium fraud, such as misreporting payroll, classifying workers as independent contractors or operating without mandatory workers’ compensation insurance.

The CDI data does not have an estimated loss for the remaining 47 of those convictions, but if extrapolated against the "known" losses, then the total for that time period is $17.5 million of losses attributable to employers.

$1.3 million out of that "known" $8 million is attributed to false claims filed by 67 of 73 individuals. Losses for the remaining six of those false claim cases were not included in…

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2014 Oregon Workers’ Compensation Premium Rate Ranking: Reflection of the Past or Prediction for the Future?

Today’s post was shared by WC CompNewsNetwork and comes from www.workerscompensation.com

The biennial study on workers’ compensation premium rates issued by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) was released last week, and, as always, it is worthy of a review by those of us entrenched within the industry. The study ranks all 50 states and Washington, D.C., based on rates that were in effect Jan. 1, 2014. This year’s results are indicative that major reforms don’t always gain the results that were intended or marketed to the industry; and while it may not accurately reflect legislative action of the past, it may be a better predictor of major reforms to come.

The study shows that despite its extensive reforms designed to lower costs, California now has the most expensive rates in the nation, followed by Connecticut. North Dakota had the least expensive rates. Oregon researchers also compared each state’s rates to the national median (midpoint) rate of $1.85 per $100 of payroll.

According to Mike Manley, one of the co-authors of the survey, “We continue to see a trend in the distribution of state index rates in our study clustering in the middle of the distribution. A record 21 states are within plus or minus 10 percent of the 2014 study median. This makes the rank values more volatile from one study to the next. I would recommend that states look also to their ‘Percent of study median’ figure for comparisons over time.”

Because states have various mixes of industries, the study calculates…

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Ladies of Charity

Kim Bobo

Mary Domer heads the local chapter of the Ladies of Charity and just chaired the national conference held in Milwaukee.  She recruited Kim Bobo, Director of Interfaith Workers Justice and author of Wage Theft in America to speak to the assembly. Kim’s presentation reminded us of the disparities of wealth in America and how that wage gap is increasing, in some measure because of wage theft.  Among the gems garnered from Kim’s presentation

  • If your employer tells you you are an independent contractor, you’re probably not.
  • Methods of “contingency employment” are on the increase including ever increasing temporary workers, seasonal workers and permanent “part time” workers.
  • Three-quarters of low wage workers don’t get overtime.  These include folks who can’t do all the work needed in 40 hours, but who would be fired if they didn’t perform all the work needed, daycare workers who have to stay off the clock and wait for parents to arrive, and “off the clock” work done in set up and clean up.  The most egregious examples were McDonalds workers told by their managers to clock out and sit and wait in the car until they were needed when more customers arrived.

Kim noted that many “tip” workers do not receive any of the tips, reminding us to either ask the question about whether the worker would receive a tip paid for by credit card or alternatively to simply pay in cash.  She noted an average of $2,600 lost average per year for low wage workers including janitors, drivers, landscapers, care workers.

Despite these negative trends, Kim suggested five ways in which we can all support low wage workers.

  1. Support campaigns to increase the minimum wage.
  2. Help with legislation and ordinances on paid sick days (40 million low wage workers have no paid sick days).
  3. Push Wal-Mart, McDonalds and other employers to increase their wages.  (She noted Wal-Mart does pay well in Europe so they have the capability when they are forced to do so.  Astoundingly, she noted six members of the Walton family possess a significant portion of the wealth in America.)
  4. Support legislation to provide a clear paystub to all employees.  (Many are being paid by debit cards where they have to actually pay money to their employers to get paid.)
  5. Honor employers who pay well through “a living wage certification program” in each of our communities.

 Through these methods and many more, we can all be men and Ladies of Charity.

 

Domer Law Named Best Lawyers’ 2014-15 Milwaukee Workers’ Compensation Law Claimants “Lawyer of the Year”

Domer Law is proud to have been selected by its peers for inclusion in the 21st Edition of The Best Lawyers in America in the practice area of Workers’ Compensation Law – Claimaints. The firm was named the Best Lawyers’ 2014-15 Milwaukee Workers’ Compensation Law – Claimants “Lawyer of the Year.” Only a single lawyer in each practice area, in each community is being honored as a “Lawyer of the Year.”

Inclusion in Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer-review. Their methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. Best Lawyers employs a sophisticated, conscientious, rational, and transparent survey process designed to elicit meaningful and substantive evaluations of the quality of legal services.

Both Tom Domer and Charlie Domer are listed in Best Lawyers for their continual advocacy for injured workers. At Domer Law, we are honored by this recognition, and we will continue to fight daily for the rights of Wisconsin’s injured workers.

Rutgers report: devastating impact of long term joblessness

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.northjersey.com

By HUGH R. MORLEY

STAFF WRITER

The Record

Print

* Research finds that many who have been unemployed describe "devastated" lives

A Rutgers University study released today provides a grim, detailed picture of the severe impact that long-term unemployment continues to have on the lives of millions of Americans more than five years after the end of the Great Recession.

About one-third of the long-term unemployed workers — six months or more — in the study, based on surveys of unemployed and employed Americans across the nation, said they had been "devastated" and suffered a permanent change in their lifestyle by their jobless experience. The study, titled "Left behind: The long-term unemployed struggle in an improving economy," found that one in five workers laid off in the last five years are still unemployed. And it showed how far long-term jobless workers slip compared with employed workers.

Fifty-one percent of long-term jobless workers said they had a lot less income and savings than they did five years ago, while only 23 percent of employed workers said they had suffered similar economic damage, the study found.

Sixty-one percent of the long-term unemployed said they did not expect their finances to improve in the next five years, the study found. That was about 11 percentage points higher than the assessment by employed workers of their finances over the next five years.

"While the worst effects of the Great Recession are over for…

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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: Legal difficulties in Wisconsin

Complex regional pain syndrome (formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy) can be a catastrophic disability for an injured worker.  Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a pain condition that can affect specific body parts after an injury, with some nasty symptoms: burning/throbbing pain, swelling, severe sensitivity to touch or temperature, color changes, or strange hair growth or nail growth.

A classic example is a worker with a “simple” ankle injury that heals slowly with a later developing CRPS condition affecting the entire leg and potentially the back.  Many instances of CRPS occur from lack of appropriate or timely medical care for an injury.   What should have been a resolved ankle injury and medical fix can morph into a debilitating chronic condition–causing severe pain and continuing off-work status.

In Wisconsin, there is an arbitrary distinction between two basic categories of injuries: scheduled injuries (limbs, eyes, ears) and non-scheduled injuries (torso, head, systemic and mental). The distinction between the two categories is important because scheduled injuries are compensated very differently from non-scheduled injuries. The difference is especially important because for scheduled injuries no additional compensation is allowed for a resulting loss of earning capacity (LOEC). Only certain employees with permanent disability resulting from a non-scheduled injury may be entitled to additional permanent disability benefits in the form of compensation for a resulting loss of earning capacity.

When evaluating CRPS, the Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission generally makes the scheduled vs. unscheduled injury distinction based on the location of pain and symptoms.  See Michael S. Murawski v. Contract Transport Services, WC Claim No. 2000-041229 (LIRC Nov. 26, 2003).  For example, if the evidence shows pain symptoms and disability in the back, the Commission has found an unscheduled component, with resulting loss of earning capacity award.  The following cases are helpful:

  •  Vanremmen v. Central Processing Corp. 2013 WL 660185, WC Claim No. 2006-022071 (LIRC Jan. 22, 2013) (Left foot injury with resulting CRPS diagnosis, abnormal gait, and need for spinal cord stimulator. Evidence supported pain symptoms and complaints in spine, and Commission found ascertainable portion of disability due to unscheduled back component and awarded permanent total disability benefits.);
  • Tomasovich v. County Transit Corp., 2003 WL 21634016, WC Claim No. 1995-055411 (LIRC June 6, 2003) (Commission awarded permanent total disability based on an arm injury and resulting complex regional pain syndrome.  Applicant credibly testified that pain radiated from arm into upper back, and treating physician credibly demonstrated that CRPS caused cervical spine nerves to become over sensitized and respond excessively to every day stimuli);
  • McNaughton v. Wal-Mart Associates Inc., 2012 WL 3288877, WC Claim No. 2005-014491 (LIRC July 23, 2012) (Foot trauma with alleged CRPS restricted to a scheduled injury as the Commission found no medical evidence of a disability involving the spine).

CRPS does not automatically equal an unscheduled injury (with resulting possibility for a loss of earning capacity).  The injured worker, physician, and attorney must document a disability, symptoms, or condition affecting an unscheduled component–like the neck or back.  If disability in an unscheduled body part is found, the worker can present a loss of earning capacity opinion.

A Special Warning About Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey, from Causey Law Firm.

The dangers of prescription pain meds get a fair amount of regular attention in the media.  A recent Consumer Reports (CR) article described a 300% rise in prescriptions of opiods – particularly those with hydrocodone –over the past decade, and provided a scary statistic:  17,000 people – 46 per day – die from overdose of these drugs.

What is less well known, and gets relatively scant attention, is that over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers containing acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) take 80,000 people yearly to the emergency room from overdose.  Acetaminophen, widely regarded as a “safe” drug is now the most common cause of liver failure.

The CR article points out the primary problem:  the directions for usage of these OTC drugs are ridiculously confusing and misleading.  Many of these only provide the caveat “take only as directed.”  What exactly does that mean?  Wildly different things according the cautions provided by differing drug manufacturers.  Some labels advise taking no more than 1000 milligrams of acetaminophen daily while others set the limits four times that high.  In some bizarre bureaucratic misstep, the FDA has lowered the maximum per-pill dose of the drug in prescription medications but has not done the same thing for OTCs. 

CR warns that overdosing on acetaminophen is easy as it is the most common drug in the U.S., found in more than 600 OTC and prescription medications.  There is little margin for error in exceeding the maximum recommended dose as only as small excess amount of the drug can be toxic to the liver.  A scary little graphic in the article shows how easy it is to do this.  A person might take six 500 milligram Extra Strength Tylenol (states maximum daily dose of 3000 milligrams) starting in the morning and through the day; then be on NyQuil for a cold and take eight 325 milligram pills (states maximum daily dose 2600 milligrams); and then do Walgreens Pain Reliever PM as a sleep aid (two 500 milligram pills at bedtime for a daily dose of 1000 milligrams).  At the end of a 24-hour period, that person would have ingested 6,600 milligrams of acetaminophen!!  Repeated doses of more than 4000 milligrams of the drug have been linked to liver, brain and kidney damage.  Chronically large doses have been correlated with the need for a liver transplant, or death, more than from one large overdose.

In 2011, the FDA limited the amount of acetaminophen in prescription pills to 325 milligrams per pill, but there has been no similar limitation imposed for OTCs, even though that market accounts for 80% of that drug taken yearly in the U.S.  For those regular users of acetaminophen, signs of potential liver damage to watch for are:  dark urine, pale stool, upper right abdominal pain, and a yellowish tint to the whites of the eyes.

 

Photo credit: Be.Futureproof / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Worker’s Compensation Benefits Increase; Employers Costs Historically Low

A new study released by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) indicates worker’s compensation benefits rose by 1.3% to $61.9 billion in 2012 while employer costs rose by 6.9% to $83.2 billion. Even though total benefits and costs increased in 2012, worker’s compensation benefits and costs per $100 of covered payroll have been lower from 2007 to 2012 than at any time over the last 30 years. In 2012 benefits were 98 cents per $100 of covered payroll while employer costs were $1.32 per $100 of covered payroll. 

Over the last 30 years medical benefits have accounted for an increasing share of total benefits from 33% in 1984 to nearly 50% in 2012. Medical benefits accounted for almost 50% of the $61 billion in total benefits paid. In Wisconsin medical benefits exceed cash benefits, indicating that medical cost containment is a significant issue.

The Academy’s report Worker’s Compensation: Benefits Coverage and Costs 2012 is the 17th in an annual survey. The report provides the nation’s only comprehensive data on worker’s compensation benefits coverage and employer costs.