Posts Tagged ‘work injuries’
Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012
By Benjamin T. King
– New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
An employee’s ability to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for a disabling work injury often depends on the content of the employee’s medical records. If you neglect to tell your doctor that you were hurt at work, this innocent oversight could prove fatal to your workers’ compensation claim.
Doctors generally prepare detailed records of their visits with their patients. These records describe, among other things, the patient’s symptoms and the circumstances under which the patient states the injury occurred. If the employee states that the injury occurred at work, the doctor should note this in the patient’s records and should complete a New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Medical Form. If the patient neglects to tell the doctor that the injury occurred at work, the medical record will contain no evidence of the work-related nature of the injury, and no New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Medical Form will get completed.
The lack of any reference in the medical records to an employee’s injury having occurred at work can result in the employee being denied workers’ compensation benefits. In a recent New Hampshire Department of Labor decision, a hearing officer determined that an employee had failed to meet his burden to prove by competent medical evidence that his injury was work-related. The hearing officer therefore denied the employee workers’ compensation benefits. In that case, the medical records described the injury, but the records failed to note that the injury occurred at work.
Do not fall into this trap. Just be sure to tell your doctor that your injury happened at work. Ask your doctor to make sure to state that the injury occurred at work in the medical records. If your doctor does not complete a New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Medical Form, remind him or her to do so.
If you need assistance with your New Hampshire workers’ compensation claim, contact an experienced New Hampshire workers’ compensation attorney at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. or fill out our online contact form.
Monday, October 18th, 2010
The goal of personal injury law is to have the person responsible for the accident fully compensate the accident victim for the injuries. Although insurance companies are experienced in valuing personal injury claims, they know that you are unfamiliar with what your claim is really worth. Under New Hampshire law, injured people are entitled to recover full, fair and reasonable compensation for their injuries.
There is no simplistic formula or mathematical calculation to determine the value of a personal injury claim. Instead, the lawyer must make this determination based on years of experience in handling personal injury cases. Generally, the value of your claim is based on two factors: fault of the parties and the type of damages suffered.
Who’s At Fault?
The degree or amount of fault of each person involved in the accident factors into the value of your case. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, we can assess whether the other person was completely at fault, mostly at fault or just a little at fault. Insurance companies will try to reduce your recovery if you were partly at fault for the accident. If fault is clear on the other person, that will prevent the insurance company from using that tactic to lower your recovery.
Types of Recoverable Damages
Looking at the types of damages suffered in an accident can help to understand the value of your claim. Damage awards can include the following:
- Medical Expenses
- Future Medical Expenses (if any)
- Pain and Suffering
- Lost Wages
- Impairment of Earning Capacity
- Emotional Distress
- Loss of Future Enjoyment of Life
Above all, determining what a personal injury claim is worth only comes from years of experience. This is an important reason to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Friday, July 23rd, 2010
Employees who suffer a permanent loss of use of a body part as a result of a work-related injury are also entitled to receive a permanent impairment award. The amount of the permanent impairment award is determined by the following calculation: (the percentage impairment as determined by a doctor) X (the employee’s compensation rate) X (a statutorily determined number of weeks depending on the body part). An employee who lump sum settles his case is not entitled to any further permanent impairment compensation associated with the claim being settled.
An employee whose injury renders him incapable of returning to his occupation may also be entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits. An employee receiving vocational rehabilitation benefits works with a vocational rehabilitation counselor in an effort to find employment. The employee may also receive education or retraining. Once an employee lump sum settles his case, however, the employee’s entitlement to vocational rehabilitation benefits ceases.
The last benefit available to an injured employee is medical benefits. The carrier must pay for reasonable medical services associated with the employee’s work-related injury for so long as the employee requires such services. The carrier’s obligation to pay for such medical services survives the lump sum settlement. In fact, if the employee is represented by legal counsel, the attorney generally must agree to continue to represent the employee in connection with any medical bills that the carrier may dispute in the future.
Why should an employee lump sum settle? If the employee has a game plan for the future and is not dependent on weekly disability checks, it is often to the employee’s financial benefit to enter a lump sum settlement. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, a lump sum settlement may pay an employee a sum equivalent to months or even years of benefits at one time. An employee is never under any obligation to lump sum settle a workers’ compensation claim, however, and in fact the Department of Labor will disapprove any settlement if the Department perceives that the employee is under any pressure to settle the case. Before entering any settlement, employees must carefully consider what they are getting and what they are giving up.
Friday, July 23rd, 2010
Injured employees receiving workers’ compensation benefits often wonder, “Can I settle my case?” The New Hampshire Department of Labor (the State agency that hears workers’ compensation cases and regulates workers’ compensation issues) allows injured employees and workers’ compensation carriers to lump-sum settle claims so long as at least one (1) year has elapsed since the date of injury. The Department of Labor must approve a lump sum settlement.
Whether an employee should settle his case, and whether the settlement will receive Department of Labor approval, depends on several factors.
The Department of Labor is primarily concerned with ensuring that employees settling their cases understand the rights they are giving up by entering the settlement, as well as the rights they are retaining. To ensure that employees are fully cognizant of the consequences of a lump sum settlement, the Department holds a hearing in connection with each lump sum settlement agreement.
Of the four (4) types of benefits available to injured employees through workers’ compensation, an employee gives up rights to three (3) of these benefits by entering a lump sum settlement.
Injured employees disabled from work because of their work-related injuries receive disability benefits in the form of weekly checks in the amount of 60% of their average weekly wage (a sum known as the “compensation rate”). An employee who lump sum settles his case is no longer entitled to receive disability benefits. The carrier must pay disability benefits through the date that the Department of Labor approves the settlement. Then the weekly payments stop.
Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
Anyone reading the news online should know that video surveillance, whether in the form of security cameras, traffic cameras, or amateur videographers, is becoming ever more common in our society. Because you are more likely than ever to be on camera whenever you leave your house, it is important to be aware of that fact, and aware of how video surveillance can either help you or hurt you if you are involved in an incident with potential legal consequences.
A couple of recent news stories illustrate with clarity what can happen when you forget – or in the case of North Carolina Congressman Bob Etheridge, simply ignore – that you may be on videotape. Congressman Etheridge was captured on amateur video (from two different perspectives) assaulting a student who attempted to ask him questions on a Washington D.C. sidewalk. The video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oqIP9yagkQ. It is not hard to imagine such evidence being compelling in a lawsuit.
Another example of amateur video shows a violent encounter between a resisting suspect and a Seattle Police Officer:
The video captures both the suspect and her friend attempting to resist the police officer’s attempt at taking the suspect into custody, and the officer’s subsequent use of “decisive” force against the friend. Again, it is obvious that this type of video footage would have a powerful impact – probably for both sides of the dispute – in court.
What does this mean for a typical New Hampshire citizen? While surveillance cameras are probably not yet as commonplace in the Granite State as in some of the larger metropolitan areas, they are becoming more common. At least a few cities in New Hampshire have installed traffic cameras, and they are routinely in and around private businesses. In addition, everyday citizens frequently carry video-capable electronic devices such as cell phones. This means your chances of being caught on film at the “moment of truth” are greater than ever, and increasing every day. It is certainly not an exaggeration to say that you should probably assume you are on film, and act accordingly, whenever you are out in public.
It is also important to remember that if you are involved in a personal injury situation, or any situation where litigation is a possibility, that evidence important to your case may be on video. That rule applies whether you are the one making the claim or the one defending against it. It is entirely possible that your car accident was captured on a traffic camera, or on the outdoor surveillance camera of a nearby business. It is just as likely that your slip and fall was captured by a camera within a business or a camera watching the parking lot.
Therefore, if you have the misfortune of being involved in an situation that might give rise to legal claims, try to remember to look around for possible sources of video evidence. When you talk to your lawyer, be sure to fill the lawyer in on any surrounding businesses or witnesses who might have video involving your case. The fact that surveillance camera videos often record over the previous day’s coverage is another reason to seek out an experienced attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney will recognize the value of such evidence at trial or mediation of your claim and will know how to obtain and preserve such evidence so that it can be to use on your behalf. Don’t be surprised when your lawyer asks you what businesses were in the area of your incident. If he or she is doing their job properly, they are looking for important evidence that too many people take for granted, but that an experienced trial attorney will use for your benefit.
Thursday, April 1st, 2010
Did you know that work injuries need not arise from a single traumatic event in order to be compensable under New Hampshire workers’ compensation law?
If you are working as a chef in a restaurant, and you slice your hand while dicing tomatoes, it is clear that you have suffered a work-related injury from a single trauma. But what if the injury occurs as a result of repeated traumas over time, rather than a single trauma? Suppose you dice tomatoes for the restaurant over the course of several years, each day subjecting your shoulder to repetitive movements in order to complete the task, and one day you suffer a sharp pain in your shoulder. You go to a doctor and learn that you have a rotator cuff tear. What caused it?
What caused an injury is a medical question that only a doctor can answer, but a doctor can only render an informed opinion on causation if you–the injured patient–describe for the doctor the activities in which you have engaged that may have affected the injured body part. In the case of the shoulder injury mentioned here, a doctor may very well conclude that the repetitive motions over time dicing the tomatoes ultimately caused the rotator cuff tear. If so, the injury is a compensable work-related injury, just as much as it would be if the shoulder injury occurred as the result of a distinct traumatic event rather than as a result of a series of traumas over time. Under New Hampshire workers’ compensation law, such an injury is called “cumulative trauma.”
While in theory an injury resulting from cumulative trauma is just as compensable in workers’ compensation as an injury resulting from a single traumatic event, in practice employees can face greater challenges obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for a cumulative trauma injury, simply because the cause of the injury is less obvious. If you suspect that you have suffered an injury as a result of repetitive activities that you have performed at work over a period of time, make certain that you describe the activities to your doctor when you seek treatment for the injury. If your doctor determines that the work activities caused or contributed to your injury, make certain that your doctor completes a New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Medical Form so that you can pursue all the workers’ compensation benefits to which you may be entitled.