Charlie Domer and Tom Domer have both been recognized as 2014 Wisconsin Super Lawyers! Together, the father and son duo team at Domer Law exclusively practices Wisconsin worker’s compensation law, where they continually strive to maximize the benefits for Wisconsin’s injured workers. Charlie & Tom are grateful for this recognition and are always happy to answer any questions about worker’s compensation from other attorneys, injured workers, and the general public.
Today’s post comes from guest author Ryan Benharris, from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices.
It might be mighty cheesy to dispense legal advice by citing a bad, sappy love ballad from 90’s alternative rock; but the Goo Goo Dolls put it perfectly when they said, “Scars are souvenirs you never lose.” In the case of scars, burns or disfigurements that resulted from a work injury, a scar is a souvenir (courtesy of your employer) that you never lose, that you also never wanted.
Very often, clients are confused about the laws governing scarring, disfigurement in the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation system. Here is a brief list of some of the truths and myths about scarring, loss of function and disfigurement.
MYTH: “I can be paid for my scar regardless of where it is on my body.”
TRUTH: The insurer must compensate you for a scar; but only for a scar that appears on your hands, neck or face. Any scar that is visible to your hands neck or face is compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Statute. Section 36 of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Statute is the section that governs compensable scars and disfigurements. Burns and other types of visible disfigurements are also covered under this section. A visible walking-limp is also a type of compensable disfigurement under this section.
MYTH: “In order to receive money for my disfigurement, I needed to have lost significant time at work.”
TRUTH: You do not have to have missed work in order to receive payment for compensable scars. In fact, the vast majority of claimants seeking payments for scarring have not missed any significant time (or any time at all) as a result of their scar. This is particularly true with claimants who work in the food preparation industry. Cuts and burns are the most common injury in those types of jobs. If you cut or burned yourself while working in a kitchen, you do not have to have missed any time at work to receive payments for the lasting disfigurement.
MYTH: “My scar needs to meet a certain minimum length in order to be compensable.”
TRUTH: All scars, regardless of length, are compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Statute. As long as the scar is on your hands, neck or face it will be measured and calculated to determine how much your payment will be. Also, you can be compensated for every scar you receive to a compensable part of your body in one injury. Multiple scars are all collectively compensable.
Check back next week for part two in this series on scarring, disfigurement, and Massachusetts law.
Today’s post comes from guest author Catherine Stanton from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.
In addition to helping our clients receive the benefits they are entitled to through the courts and other adversarial means, we are prooud to work with our elected officials to produce legislation that will benefit working people. A few days ago, a bill we support, the Medicare Secondary Payer and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreement Act, was formally proposed. We encourage you to call and email your representatives and let them know that you support this law.
The press release with additional background follows:
Reps. Reichert and Thompson Introduce Bipartisan Medicare Secondary Payer and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreement Act
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced the Medicare Secondary Payer and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreement Act, H.R. 1982 into the House of Representatives.
The legislation aims to protect injured workers whose workers’ compensation claims overlap with Medicare coverage. Far too often, these claims are subjected to lengthy and cumbersome reviews by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to determine appropriate set-aside amounts to pay for future medical costs in which Medicare may have an interest. The delays associated with this review place unfair burdens upon the injured party.
“This is a common-sense measure to ensure that hard-working Americans are not left in limbo because of inefficient bureaucratic procedures,” said Rep. Reichert. “Injured workers must have the confidence that their heath care claims will be processed in a fair and timely manner. By introducing this bill, Rep. Thompson and I aim to do just that: protect our hard-working citizens by making sure our systems serve them and their families.”
“The last thing injured workers should have to worry about is if needless bureaucracy is going to prevent their medical bills from being paid,” said Thompson. “This bill will make sure hard working families’ medical claims are processed efficiently and quickly, it will reduce bureaucratic headaches for businesses, and it will save taxpayers money. I will continue working with Congressman Reichert to get this bipartisan bill signed into law.”
The Medicare Secondary Payer and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreements Act establishes clear and consistent standards for an administrative process that provides reasonable protections for injured workers and Medicare. It would benefit injured workers, employers and insurers by creating a system of certainty, and allows the settlement process to move forward while eliminating millions of dollars in administrative costs that harm workers, employers and insurers.
The legislation has widespread support from groups such as the American Insurance Association, the American Bar Association, the National Council of Self-Insurers, Property Casualty, Insurers Association of America, UWC-Strategic Services and the Workers Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG).
Many of my back-injured clients use pain relief medication in the opioid family: Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Oxycodone (Oxycontin or Percocet), Fentanyl (Duragesic or Fentora), Methadone, and Codeine. Many variations of opioids exist, each with a different level of potency. The worker’s compensation industry has labeled excessive opioid use “an epidemic, particularly targeting worker’s compensation.” The Center for Disease Control has noted the problem of opioid abuse as a national danger.
The CDC latest statistics show close to 40,000 drug overdose deaths each year in the United States, more than half of which involve prescription drugs. Deaths in which opioids are used now exceed deaths involving heroin and cocaine combined. The drug overdose deaths are more numerous that motor vehicle crash deaths and the numbers have gone up every year since the turn of the century. One contributing factor is that many work-related injuries are back injuries, for which doctors increasingly prescribe opioids for both short and long term to address pain. CDC medical epidemiologist Dr. Leonard Paulozzi recently noted worker’s compensation medical providers may be exceeding guidelines from the American College of Occupational Environmental Medicine regarding the use of opioids and how long they should be used. Dr. Paulozzi noted 42% of workers with back injuries had opioid prescriptions in the first year after the injury, most of them after their first medical visit, but 16% of those workers were still receiving opioids a year after the injury. He noted while opioids might be good for use as acute medication, for example within six weeks after the injury, continuation of opioids is not indicated beyond that short term use.
Prescription medication has become a bigger portion of medical expense in all States, especially if the worker becomes dependent or addicted to the opioid medication to control pain. Opioids are generally prescribed for several reasons in worker’s compensation claims, including catastrophic injury with chronic pain and injury involving surgical treatment necessitating pain control and general pain control.
Immigration reform is a continual and vexing issue in Washington. While politicians, lobbyists, and service organizations grapple with potential resolutions, there is no disputing the existence of illegal immigrants working for employers in our country. And when there are employees working, work injuries happen. This may be especially true with the undocumented population who may be more susceptible to significant injuries because many perform more dangerous or hazardous jobs that other may not accept. For further information, see Do Immigrants Work in Riskier Jobs? and the CDC’s report on work-related injury deaths among Hispanics.
…excluding illegal immigrants from worker’s compensation coverage could create a financial incentive for employers to keep hiring illegal immigrants.
When injured, are these undocumented workers eligible for worker’s compensation? Some harshly argue that these workers should receive no benefits, as they are not working legally in the country. However, one of the underlying pillars of worker’s compensation is that the expense of workplace injuries (covered by insurance) should be placed on the employers who profit from the workers’ labors. Additionally, excluding illegal immigrants from worker’s compensation coverage could create a financial incentive for employers to keep hiring illegal immigrants—a practice that is against federal law.
The worker’s compensation laws in our country do not have a definitive answer to this question—though the trend is toward coverage of undocumented workers. Many states do Continue reading
Today’s post comes from guest author Nathan Reckman from Paul McAndrew Law Firm.
Most injured workers seeking an attorney’s help on their workers’ compensation claim have never hired an attorney before. This post gives a brief overview of how you can prepare for your first meeting with your attorney after you have been hurt at work.
The most important part of that first meeting takes place before you ever set foot in the attorney’s office. For your attorney, the goal of the first meeting is to gain an accurate understanding of the facts surrounding your injury. This is so the attorney can assess how the law will be applied to your case. In order for the attorney to make an accurate assessment, you have to be prepared to Continue reading
A new study calls into question the notion that workplace wellness programs save an employer money. In a study tracking hospital employees for two years, although hospitalization for employees and family members dropped by over 40% for six major health conditions, increased outpatient costs erased those savings. The study found in the journal Health Affairs and its results help to address a debate taking place in companies around the country about how much incentive and pressure an employer can put on workers to increase healthy lifestyles by quitting smoking, losing weight, and exercising.
The flip side of the argument is that this intrusion into personal health becomes a meddlesome slippery slope and perhaps health discrimination. Many companies have wellness programs and even include gym memberships and on-premise exercise, attempting to changing employees’ bad habits. Some employers link these programs to insurance discounts or penalties.
In Wisconsin worker’s comp, an injury that takes place because of participation in a wellness program is only compensated if the program is mandatory or compensated. The additional concern for employees is that unhealthy lifestyle choices could result in potential employer’s defense to an occupational injury or exposure (obesity, smoking, diabetes) as pre-existing conditions used to deny worker’s compensation claims.
A new study by AON Hewitt indicates more employers will be using penalties to prompt participation in an employee wellness program. Many employers use incentives for participation in wellness and health management programs such as Health Risk Questionnaires, biometric screenings, and smoking cessation programs. Those incentives include health insurance premium increases and other penalties, and potential reward such as premium discounts, gift or cash cards. All these penalties and rewards are aimed at an effort to prompt employees to participate in wellness initiatives.
The connection to worker’s compensation for these wellness programs is interesting. For example, biometric screenings could be used against employees who may later file worker’s compensation claims for occupational exposures. Additionally, such pre-existing conditions that are revealed in the screening programs may prove an additional barrier to employees receiving worker’s compensation benefits for a later claimed injury or occupational disease.