Employer's Obligations To Injured Workers Can Change With The Times

                                

A recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision has blazed a trail that may aid injured worker’s in their recovery by giving them access to workers’ compensation benefits (i.e. medical services and/or treatment) not available on the date of the accident.

In the matter of Ward v. Pre-Engineer Systems, John Ward suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling nearly 40 feet while working on a construction site in 1973.  The accident left Ward with ongoing cognitive impairment.

From 1999 to 2009, Ward was provided with rehabilitation services by his employer, Pre-Engineer Systems, but those services were then suspended by the employer.  Thereafter, Ward filed a request to reinstate the rehabilitation services.  In his request, Ward sought nurse case management assistance.

At issue before the appellate court was whether or not Ward was entitled to a benefit (here, nurse case management services) that was not an available benefit at the time of his work injury.  The court opined that it was not sensible to suspend the employer’s obligations in that moment in time when the injury occurred, when the need for medical care goes on.  Thus, when the evidence demonstrates that an injured worker has a need for assistance that was previously unavailable, an award of such service may be issued.

Georgia Firefighter's Workers' Compensation Case Smothered by Georgia Court of Appeals

A firefighter who injured her knee while standing up at her desk suffered an "idiopathic" injury that was not compensable, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in a split decision.

Pamela Chambers worked as a firefighter/EMT for Monroe County. On the day she was injured, she was sitting at a desk when her supervisor asked if she could get up so that he could use the desk.  When she stood from the chair, she felt and heard a “pop” in her left knee.  She was later transported to the hospital emergency room.  She has had knee surgery and will likely need to have a knee replacement.

When the matter went before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation (SBWC), the ALJ found the injury compensable because Chambers was required to be in the location where she was injured and was following supervisor’s orders.  However, upon appeal by the employer, the Appellate Division of the SBWC vacated the ALJ’s award.

The Appellate Division failed to find any “evidence that the Employee slipped, tripped, or fell or came in contact with any object or hazard that increased her risk of injury.”  In summary, Chambers could not show a causal connection between the injury and her employment.  The Appellate Division’s findings were later affirmed by the superior court before falling upon the steps of the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Given how recently the Court of Appeals decision was rendered, it will be interesting to see whether this matter moves on to the highest court in the state, the Supreme Court of Georgia.

  Read the whole decision here

Truck Drivers Protest Independent Contractor Status

Bader Law Firm | Noah Bader

On Tuesday, July 8, 2014, nearly 40 truck drivers staged a protest at the Port of Savannah to voice their concerns being classified as independent contractors. Such status, they say, deprives them of benefits including workers’ compensation. 

The drivers are asking GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz to meet with them in an effort to resolve their issues. In response, Foltz has urged the drivers to confront their employers directly.

Truck drivers who work at the port stated that they are in solidarity with drivers in California who are striking for better pay and benefits.

Trucking and labor across the country are engaged in a discussion over what defines independent contractor status, as lawmakers and courts debate whether owner-operators should be classified as employees.

In recent years, unions increasingly have supported lawsuits and legislation to force owner-operators to be classified as employees.

Additionally, environmental and labor groups have encouraged banning owner-operators at ports. They argue employee status is necessary for truckers to afford upgrades that meet stricter emissions standards that now exist in many ports. 

 

80 Plus Employees Potentially Exposed to Anthrax at CDC

Bader Law Firm | By Noah Bader

Up to 86 Atlanta-based employees for the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may have been exposed to anthrax, according to the agency.  The problem was discovered June 13, 2014 when live anthrax colonies were found on bacterial plates, the CDC said. The possible exposure to the bacteria was the result of improperly inactivating anthrax bacteria samples before moving it to a lab with inferior biosafety standards.

The workers, unaware that the samples were still active, did not wear adequate safety gear while handling them creating the potential for exposure.  Exposure to anthrax can produce toxins in the body that cause severe illness or death.  Agency officials said the staff members are being monitored or given antibiotics as a precaution against exposure to the disease-causing bacteria. Fortunately, there is no risk of exposure for other CDC staff, family members or the general public, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Should any of the employees exposed to the bacteria become ill, Worker’s Compensation claims are likely to follow.  Worker’s Compensation Claims exist when an employee is injured on the job regardless of fault.  In this case, it was clearly the fault of the CDC, who acknowledged that it did not even follow its own protocols thereby causing this potentially catastrophic case.

Regardless of whether any workers exposed become ill as a result, all employees involved will be eligible to recover lost wages because of missed work as a result of the event, along with the cost of any medication or treatment received.  Certainly though, for any employee who does become sick, they will have an even more broad Worker’s Compensation Claim against the CDC.

 

Doctor Says I Am Able To Return To Work - Now What ?

 Employers often choose very conservative doctors for their panels. These doctors are likely to prematurely release an injured worker back to full-duty work, and they may also release a worker before performing all of the diagnostic tests necessary to obtain a full diagnosis and/or before exploring all of the possible treatment options.

When a doctor has had an injured worker on a no-work status and then releases him to return to work with restrictions, it is the employer’s burden to show that they have appropriate light-duty work available. The employer should provide a written job description to the doctor for his or her approval, and then the employer and insurance company should send the injured worker a Form WC-240/Notice to Employee of Offer of Suitable Employment with a copy of the approved job description. This Form WC-240 should also give the injured worker ten (10) days notice before the worker is required to report for work.

If an injured worker returns to work, but is forced to stop working within the first 15 days due to his injury, then the insurance company should reinstate the injured worker's weekly income benefits. Due to a recent change in the law, however, the injured worker must try the job for at least eight hours; otherwise, the insurance company is not required to automatically reinstate the weekly benefits.

If you are concerned about your doctor prematurely releasing you back to work or if you have any other questions or concerns about your workers' compensation case, please feel free contact us the Bader Law Firm for a free consultation - 404.917.9174.

OSHA Fines Macon Based Company

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited California Cereal Products, Inc. for nine serious safety and health violations following an inspection in December 2013 at the company’s production facility in Macon. Penalties for the violations total $40,600.

 

Violations include employer’s failure to provide workers who are permanent and temporary with training to protect themselves from moving machine parts during servicing and exposing workers to fall hazards. California Cereal Products also failed to institute a training program for noise exposure. These unsafe noise levels could lead to permanent hearing loss for workers. 

 

According to OSHA, there were 4,628 workers killed on the job in 2012. The leading cause of worker deaths in 2012 were falls at construction sites. This is why implementing job training is crucial to workers in the state of Georgia. The safety of the workers should be priority number one for all companies in the state

 

 

Bader Law Firm Welcomes Noah Bader as Associate Attorney

Bader Law Firm is pleased to welcome our newest team member, Noah Bader,as our new Associate Attorney. 

Noah earned his J.D. from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 2007. He received his B.A. in Political Science from Muhlenberg College, graduating cum laude. During law school, Noah served as a law clerk for the Honorable R.A. Ferguson Jr., 10th Judicial Circuit, Jefferson County, Alabama.

Before joining the Bader Law Firm, Noah was a staff attorney at Jeff Field and Associates, a prominent bankruptcy law firm with offices throughout the state of Georgia.  During his time at Jeff Field and Associates, Noah represented hundreds of individuals and spouses in consumer bankruptcy matters.  

Noah is a member of the State Bar of Georgia. He is also a member of the United States District Court for the Northern District and Middle District of Georgia.

Please join us in welcoming this valued asset to our team!

 

Severe Back and Neck Injury Settlements in Georgia

What is my case worth ? Am I going to receive a good compensation for my workers comp injury?

This question get asked a lot by clients and prospective clients. What I tell them is, "Every case is different ! "

The value of a case is directly related to how much it will cost the insurance company to continue paying for medical treatment and income benefits. If you injured your neck or back, haven’t missed more than 7 days of work, and have been released to “full-duty" by your insurance doctor, the case is not going to be very valuable.

The cost of future medical care is the biggest variable in evaluating the 'value' of a case for settlement. A case where a major surgery has been ordered is very different from a case where the doctor has dismissed the patient from care. But the amount of a workers' weekly checks will also have a significant impact on what a company is willing to offer.

Often by the time a case is in settlement negotiations, many of the small but important decisions that will affect a case's settlement value have already been made. That is why an attorney can often do more to help increase the settlement value of a case if he or she is involved earlier rather than later. If you need maximizing your workers compensation case, give us a call at 404.917.9174

Georgia Truck Driver Charged in Accident Involving Tracy Morgan

Keven Roper, a thirty-five year old truck driver from Jonesboro, Georgia, faces four counts of assault by auto for his role in the accident that has hospitalized actor and comedian Tracy Morgan, according to prosecutors in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

The accident, which occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 7th, on the New Jersey Turnpike, involved six vehicles, and resulted in the death of at least one person. Morgan, the former "Saturday Night Live" cast member and star of the television show "30 Rock" was a passenger in a Mercedes limo bus and was returning home from a standup show in Delaware when the accident occurred. On Saturday night Morgan was in the intensive care unit of Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Initial reports indicate that the accident occurred after a tractor-trailer driver failed to slow in time for stalled traffic and hit the back of the limo in which Morgan was a passenger. This caused a chain-reaction crash involving a second tractor-trailer, an SUV, and two cars. The National Transportation Safety Board is working with the New Jersey state police to investigate the cause of the accident.

Walmart has released a statement confirming that one of its trucks was involved in the accident. It is unclear at this time if Roper was driving the Walmart truck.

How Much Does a Workers' Compensation Lawyer Cost?

How much will an attorney cost me to represent me in my Workers' Compensation Case? $100 per hour? $200 per hour?

According to Workers' Compensation Board Rule 108, workers' compensation attorneys in Georgia can charge a maximum contingent fee of twenty-five percent (25%) of the total award. Also, there is No up front costs .

What does that mean, you may ask?   

  • First, that your attorney gets paid only if you get paid; and,
  • Second, that your attorney gets paid 25% of your any cash recovery attributable to his or her services

Out-of-pocket expenses are usually separate from the contingent fee,  and these normally include postage, photocopies, costs for obtaining medical records,   court reporter fees,   and expert witness fees. Although these expenses are usually separate from the contingent fee, they are still subject to approval by the State Board of Workers' Compensation.

If you have a potential workers' compensation case and would like a no obligation, free evaluation,  please contact a Georgia Workers' Compensation Attorney at 404.917.9174.

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