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Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

Long-term disability (LTD) insurance provides benefits if you are unable to work due to an injury or illness. Generally, LTD benefits are between 50 percent and 80 percent of your normal wages. Group policies can be purchased through an employer and individual policies can be purchased independently. But even the most straightforward LTD plans can be complex, and each one is different. If you are unable to work and considering filing an LTD claim, the following information will help you determine how to move forward.

A skilled Boston LTD lawyer can help you examine your group or individual LTD policy to see what benefits and limitations to expect. For starters, each policy has its own definition of the term “disability,” and your disability may or may not be covered. Further, some disabilities qualify, but with specific limitations. For instance, many insurance companies cap benefits for mental health conditions at 24 months. However, there may be exceptions for chronic and particularly severe conditions, such as schizophrenia.

Own Occupation vs. Any Occupation

Once you’ve determined that your disability is covered by your LTD policy, you must consider whether your policy falls under the category of “own occupation” or “any occupation.” Own occupation refers to an inability to perform the duties of your regular occupation, whereas any occupation refers to an inability to perform the duties of any job. Own occupation is less strict: you will receive benefits if you cannot do your current job, even if you can do another job in its place.

On the other hand, “any occupation” benefits will not be received unless you are unable to perform any job. For instance, if you can no longer deal with the physical strain of a construction job, but you can do a desk job, an any occupation policy would not provide benefits. Many policies switch from own occupation to any occupation after a set time period, typically 24 months.

Waiting Periods and Exclusions

Most policies exclude pre-existing conditions, which means that any medical condition for which you’ve been treated in the past 90 days will not be covered. LTD policies also generally contain something called an “elimination period,” during which you are disabled but no benefits are available. It usually lasts between 90 and 180 days. Short-term disability (STD) benefits are intended to bridge this gap.

As stated above, every LTD policy is different. Some pay benefits until retirement age, others pay for five or 10 years. In almost every circumstance, you will have to file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) before you can receive LTD benefits. SSDI is an income-based program intended to offset your LTD benefits if you qualify.

If your LTD is from a group policy (employer sponsored), you will likely have to pay taxes on any benefits you receive as group policies are usually purchased with pre-tax dollars. If, however, you have an individual plan, you may have purchased it with after-tax dollars, in which case your benefits will be tax free.

What if My Benefits are Denied?

Denials are actually quite common. If your initial application was denied, you can appeal the decision internally, before taking it to federal court. An experienced MA disability attorney can help you appeal a denial so that you may receive the full benefits to which you are entitled. Continue reading

When people think of chlorine, the first thing that comes to mind is usually swimming pools. But chlorine is actually an extremely toxic – potentially deadly – substance. In fact, the gas produced by chlorine is so deadly that it was used during WWI as a chemical weapon. Although most chlorine-related injuries are minor burns or skin irritations, more serious injuries occur every year. Chlorine gas can cause fatal explosions, and even short-term exposure can result in life-threatening respiratory complications.

A fatal chlorine accident occurred in 2015, when an unmarked drum of chlorine gas was crushed. Eight Pacific Steel and Recycling employees were injured at the Spokane, Washington facility. One of those workers died. In 2017, one of the injured employees filed a lawsuit. Felix Shuck suffered a fifty percent reduction in lung capacity, as well as multiple other injuries that prevented him from continuing to work. However, Shuck is suing the company that delivered the chlorine gas, not his employer. Ibex Construction is being sued for negligence for allegedly hiring a subcontractor whose failure to label the drum resulted in the fatal accident.

But Pacific Steel and Recycling didn’t get away unscathed; a government agency fined the company for failure to follow certain procedures. For example, they failed to ensure that the gas drum was empty prior to accepting it, and they stripped the drum of its pressure gauges, which may have contributed to the accident. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in an accident involving toxic substances or fumes.

How to Avoid Injuries Related to Toxic Substances

If you must work around toxic substances, the following practices can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death.

 

  • Substitute an existing substance, process, or equipment with a less hazardous alternative.
  • Isolate the hazard with an appropriate barrier or limiter, such as machine guards, remote-controlled equipment, and acoustical containment.
  • Ventilate the work environment through one of two methods – dilution of the substance by mixing with uncontaminated air, or the capture and removal of the substance at the source.
  • Change operating practices to reduce exposure to chemical hazards. This can be done by adjusting work schedules, limiting access to high-risk areas, and establishing preventive maintenance programs.
  • Use personal protection equipment, such as ventilators, masks, and protective clothing.

 

Who is Liable for Injuries Caused by Workplace Exposure to Toxic Substances?

Work-related injuries are generally covered by workers’ compensation, but individuals may recover additional damages if negligence contributed to the accident, as in the case above. Chlorine gas is one type of toxic substance, but there are many others, including asbestos. Asbestos is one of the deadliest toxic substances in the history of workplace toxic substances. According to the World Heath Organization more than 100,000 people die annually due to asbestos-related lung cancer, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. In many cases, multiple parties may be liable for injuries caused by workplace exposure to toxic substances, including contractors (as in the case above), the original manufacturer, and the employer. A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured on the job due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

Work injuries rise during summer months for various reasons; long hours outside in the elements, dehydration, and a spike in “riskier” jobs such as road construction, to name a few. The good news is, the majority of these injuries are easily preventable. Read on for more information about the most common summer work injuries and how to avoid them.

Hyperthermia

Most of us have heard of hypothermia, but what about hyperthermia? This condition occurs when the body heats up too quickly and is unable to cool down as efficiently. Left untreated, hyperthermia can lead to heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Although spending hours in the hot sun increases your chances of heat stroke, even short periods in direct sunlight can have serious health implications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 7,000 people died of heat-related illnesses in the U.S. between 1999 and 2010. That’s an average of more than 600 deaths annually.

Heat Stroke

If you work in direct sunlight or high temperatures for any period of time, you increase your chances of suffering from heat stroke. Listen to what your body is telling you; if you develop symptoms of a heat-related illness, take immediate action. Get out of the direct sunlight, drink water, and seek medical attention. Symptoms of heat stroke may include:

 

  • Increased body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramping
  • Seizures
  • Fainting
  • Coma
  • Death

Dehydration

When the body loses significant amounts of water, dehydration can occur. Excessive sweating is a leading cause of dehydration. The body sweats in an attempt to cool itself; if you sweat out more water than you take in, you risk becoming severely dehydrated. The best way to combat this potential work injury is to avoid working in direct sunlight for extended periods, and to consume plenty of liquids when working outside for any length of time. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

Skin Cancer

When most people think of work-related illnesses and injuries, they think of conditions with immediate symptoms. However, some work-related injuries don’t become apparent for weeks, months, or even years. Workers who spend extended periods of time working outside are susceptible to complications from exposure to direct sunlight, including skin cancer. Even severe sun burns can be classified as a work injury. To prevent skin cancer and serious sun burns, wear protective clothing and a hat, work in the shade when possible, use sun block on exposed skin, and try to limit outdoor work hours to before 10 am and after 2 pm.

Construction Accidents

Construction and road work peak during summer months. As such, so do injuries common to these work environments. In summer, motor vehicle accidents involving road workers increase, as do injuries from on-site machinery at construction and road construction sites. A MA work injury lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Of course, slips, trips, and falls can happen in any season, but they tend to occur more frequently during summer months. This is likely due to an increase in work that involves high places during summer, such as construction, roofing, road construction, painting, and tree climbing. Broken bones, head injuries, and traumatic brain injuries can result from work-related slips, trips, and falls. To prevent serious injury or death, always use fall protection when working at high elevations. Continue reading

In 2016, Travelers Insurance released an “Injury Impact Report” identifying the leading causes of work-related injury accidents. The study reviewed more than 1.5 million workers’ comp claims from a diverse selection of industries. The claims, filed between 2010 and 2014, revealed the top five most common claims and their relative costs.

Lost Work Time

The most common injuries by far were strains, sprains and fractures, contusions, cuts and punctures, inflammation, and chronic sickness. The average lost work time for strains and sprains was 57 days, and cuts and punctures followed at 24 days. But the main causes of missed work time were inflammation and fractures, with fractures resulting in 78 days lost and inflammation-related injuries resulting in 91. A Boston workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident

More than four million people suffer a work-related injury or illness in the United States annually. Of those injuries, more than two million are severe enough to result in missed work and the need for ongoing medical treatment. For about 1,000 of these workers, injuries are fatal. The good news is, most of these injuries are preventable. Read on for more information about the most commonly-filed workers’ compensation claims, and how to avoid being injured at work.

Leading Work-Related Injuries

Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance intended to protect workers, both financially and medically, if they are injured on the job. The on-the-job injuries that result in the most workers’ comp claims include:

  • Slips, trips and falls: Wet floors, icy walkways, and uneven flooring can all cause slips, trips and falls in the workplace. Sometimes falls are just embarrassing…sometimes they are deadly. Falls account for 15 percent of all accidental fatalities, and they are second only to car accidents as a cause of death.
  • Overexertion: Lifting, pulling, or pushing a heavy object can lead to overexertion. If a worker extends a joint beyond its normal range of motion, it can result in immediate pain and a long recovery period. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.
  • Struck by an object: These injuries are especially common in occupations that involve mass storage of inventory or supplies. If an employee attempts to reach an item on a high shelf and it falls, the employee may be struck by the item. Such injuries range widely in severity, from minor to fatal.
  • Roadway accidents: Most common among truck drivers, roadway accidents can occur for various reasons, including inclement weather, driver fatigue or distraction, OUI, and other road hazards. On or off the clock, roadway accidents are a leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
  • Repetitive Motion: Construction sites and factories may be inherently dangerous places to work, but even a corporate office can cause debilitating injuries. In fact, repetitive motion injuries from typing and using the computer are among the most common workers’ compensation claims. Injuries such as carpal tunnel and tendonitis can make performing even the most routine office tasks extremely painful.
  • Falls to a lower level: When a worker falls off a roof, ladder, or down a flight of stairs, life-threatening injuries can occur. These injuries are most common in the construction industry, but any person in any occupation can suffer from fall-related injuries. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured on the job.
  • Electrocution: These accidents account for about 1,000 deaths in the United States annually. Faulty wiring, power lines, and malfunctioning appliances are the most common causes of work-related electrocutions. Electricians, construction workers, and utility employees have the highest risk for electrocution accidents.

Report Your Concerns

Work-related injuries and deaths cost about $155.5 billion annually. You can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death by making sure that your work space is clean, safe, and that you have received adequate training. If you feel that your workplace is unsafe, speak with a supervisor. If your supervisor fails to address your concerns, you can always contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The agency assesses work environments to ensure that they follow specific health and safety standards at all times. Continue reading

In short, no. In almost every case, you can only receive benefits from the job where your work-related accident or illness occurred. But that doesn’t mean that a second job is irrelevant. If you are injured on the job, and you have multiple jobs, it is essential that you report the other job to your employer, and to your MA workers’ compensation attorney. Failing to do so can result in serious repercussions.

To receive workers’ comp benefits, you must prove that you suffered an accidental injury or illness, and that the injury or illness arose in the course of employment. However, even when you are able to prove this, employers and insurance companies usually don’t give in without a fight. And when it comes to multiple jobs, the fight can get even more complicated. According to USA Today, about 7.8 million Americans have two or more jobs. What happens to these workers when they are injured at one job, receive workers’ comp benefits from that employer, but cannot work at their other full or part-time job?

Total Disability

Workers’ compensation benefits generally cover up to two-thirds of your average weekly pay. Considering that you can only recover compensation from the job at which you were injured, the 7.8 million workers with multiple jobs may find themselves in a sticky financial situation. But there is some good news. If a work-related injury leaves you totally disabled, the pre-injury wage from which your benefits are calculated will include wages from other jobs. In fact, it will even include overtime and bonuses received. Benefits for total disability can last up to three years.

Partial Disability

If, on the other hand, you are partially disabled, benefits will be based on the difference between your current earnings and your pre-injury wages. As such, multiple jobs will still be factored into the calculations. For example, if you make $500 per week at job A and are injured at job A, and you make $250 per week at job B, what happens if you can’t work at either job? In this scenario, the 60 percent will be based on the difference between pre-injury and post-injury wages. Since this is $750 vs. $0, the difference is $750, and the benefits will be based on that amount.

Can a Second Employer Terminate Me for Missing Work?

We’ve discussed workers’ comp pay when multiple jobs are involved, but what about job security? Well, it depends on the type of employer. If you are injured at job A and your injury prevents you from working at job B, your position at job B is safe if job B is required to pay workers’ comp benefits. Some employers are not held to these laws. A Boston worker’s comp attorney can help you determine if second and subsequent employers are required to hold your job while you recover.  Continue reading

The Massachusetts Workers Compensation Act states that workers’ compensation is provided for “emotional disabilities only where the predominant contributing cause of such disability is an event or series of events occurring within any employment.” Basically, this means that an employee may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits for emotional injuries, but only if a work-related event was the primary cause of that injury.

If a work-related event or events results in stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or depression, an employee may be entitled to workers compensation. But certain requirements must be met. Simply claiming that your job is stressful isn’t going to work; you have to show that a specific event, such as sexual assault or harassment, directly caused your stress. If you can answer yes to the following questions, your condition will likely be covered.

  • Have you developed a permanent impairment due to the stressful event or events?
  • Can you prove that a work event directly caused your stress?
  • Was the stressful event outside the norm for this particular job?

Outside the Norm

Consider the third question above: Was the stressful event outside the norm? This is important because you cannot recover workers’s comp for a “stressful event” that you should have known is just a normal part of the job. For example, construction workers routinely work at high elevations. Although heights may be stressful for some people, working from high places is a normal part of construction work. As such, a workers’ comp claim for height-induced stress will probably be denied.

A MA workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine if you qualify for benefits following a work-related stress injury. But there are things you can do to expedite the process and improve your chances of success. For starters, keeping a journal of stressful events that are occurring at work can be immensely helpful if you decide to apply for benefits or bring a personal injury lawsuit. And although workers’ comp covers most work-related injuries, if negligence or misconduct played a role in your injuries, you may be entitled to additional compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical expenses.

What if I Have PTSD?

Workers’ compensation claims are complex; this is especially true when the injury is emotional. Stress is a relatively broad term, but PTSD is a form of stress caused by a specific traumatic event or series of traumatic events. For example, soldiers often come back from combat with PTSD, and people may experience PTSD after a serious car accident or an assault. If a serious work event has caused you trauma that negatively impacts your ability to do your job, you may qualify for workers’ compensation. Some symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Violent or self-destructive behavior
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Chronic nightmares
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

All of the symptoms above can make it difficult to hold a job. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you are suffering from work-related stress or PTSD. Continue reading

According to a recent National Safety Council survey, more than 70 percent of employers nationwide report being directly affected by the misuse of prescription drugs in their workplaces. Despite this, only 39 percent of employers surveyed view prescription drug abuse as a safety threat, and even less – 24 percent – consider it to be a measurable problem. And although 71 percent of U.S. employers agree that abuse of prescription drugs is a disease that requires treatment, 65 percent consider it a justifiable reason for employee termination. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you have been terminated due to a substance abuse disorder.

The results above show the significant gap between the actual cost of prescription drug abuse for U.S. workplaces, and employer perception. The reality is that substance abuse costs American taxpayers more than $440 billion each year. Businesses suffer significant losses due to healthcare costs, low productivity, and absenteeism of workers with addictions. However, research has shown that it benefits both employer and employee when the employer helps get the employee into treatment. In fact, doing so can save the employer up to $2,607 per year. But a change in employer perception is crucial to a positive outcome. As long as 65 percent of employers feel that employee termination is the answer to addiction issues, the possibility of employer-initiated treatment programs is slim. But firing and re-hiring may actually cost much more in the long run.

Statistics From the National Safety Council Report

The following statistics about substance abuse in the workplace were revealed during the survey:

  • Employees with substance abuse disorders are absent nearly 50 percent more often than their peers.
  • Workers with substance abuse disorders miss up to six weeks of work each year.
  • The industries that suffer the most from substance abuse disorders include entertainment, construction, and food service businesses; these industries have twice the national average of employees with these disorders.
  • Female-dominated industries have a two-thirds lower rate of these disorders.
  • Untreated substance use disorders cost employers between $2,600 and $13,000 per worker, annually.
  • Workers in recovery are less likely to miss work, and have significantly lower turnover rates.
  • By providing assistance, employers in some industries could save more than $8,400 per worker.
  • The cost of healthcare for a worker with a substance abuse disorder is three times that of the cost for an average worker.

“This is a wakeup call for businesses. When it comes to addiction’s cost in the workplace, the numbers are staggering,” said Gary Mendell, founder and CEO of Shatterproof, one of the companies that contributed to the National Safety Council report. To show employers the importance of having a workplace prescription drug abuse program, Shatterproof and the National Safety Council have developed the Substance Use Cost Calculator, which allows employers to calculate how this crisis is impacting their workplace. A MA injury lawyer can help if you have been fired because of a substance abuse disorder.

“Businesses that do not address the prescription drug crisis are like ostriches sticking their head in the sand,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, the National Safety Council’s president and CEO. “The problem exists and doing nothing will harm your employees and your business. As the tool shows, the cost of inaction is far too great.” Continue reading

Men suffer more workplace injuries than women, but millions of women are joining the workforce in traditionally male-dominated jobs every year. And according to data from the Department of Labor, 57.2 percent of the 128 million working age women in the US have at least a part time job. In the 1950s, the same could be said for only 34 percent of working age women. Although women employed in high-risk industries, such as construction, see the greatest number of workplace injuries, all jobs have the potential to cause injury.

Common Fatal Workplace Injuries Suffered by Women

In 2014, workplace deaths among women increased by 13 percent from the previous year. Some work-related accidents are disproportionately common among women. In 2014, the most common causes of fatal workplace accidents included:

  • Homicides: Accounting for 19 percent of work-related deaths among women, workplace homicides are a leading cause of work-related death among US women. In 2010, there were 506 homicides reported in US workplaces, which is the lowest recorded total of all time. However, despite the decline in overall workplace homicides, they increased by 13% for women.
  • Motor vehicle accidents: Also one of the leading causes of fatal work injuries for male workers, about 19 percent of work-related deaths among women are due to roadway accidents. To reduce serious injury and death, it is crucial that all workers who drive on the job receive consistent and adequate safety training. A MA injury lawyer can help if you’ve lost a loved one in a work-related accident.
  • Slip and fall accidents: Falls, slips, and trips often occur indoors, where most women tend to work. To dramatically reduce fatal injuries from this type of accident, it is essential to keep work spaces clean and clutter free, immediately wipe up spills, make sure walkways are well lit, and improve workers’ safety behaviors through regular training.
  • Struck by object: When women work in industries such as manufacturing and construction, their risk of fatal accidents can be reduced through proper training, the use of safety equipment, and adherence to safety rules and regulations.

Women are also fatally injured in other jobs, including plant work, where workers may be exposed to toxic chemicals and gasses. These industries also have a higher potential for fires and explosions. A Boston workers’ compensation lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a workplace accident.

Nonfatal injuries that disproportionately affect female workers include:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Infectious diseases
  • Respiratory problems
  • Reproductive problems (sometimes caused by exposure to harmful chemicals)
  • Anxiety and other stress disorders
  • Incidents specific to healthcare jobs, such as needlesticks

Hostile Work Environments and Stress

As women tend to experience more family conflict than men, emotional and stress disorders can  be compounded by home demands. When you consider that approximately 75 percent of single mothers work at least part time, it isn’t difficult to understand how stress can take a toll, both mentally and physically. In addition, women frequently have to deal with hostile work environments. They may be unfairly treated, or even sexually harassed by supervisors and other coworkers. This type of environment can make it difficult for women to feel comfortable reporting safety concerns, which can further add to the stress and anxiety that many female workers experience. Not to mention the distractions that come from hostile work environments. In some occupations, such as construction or plant work, a split-second distraction can be deadly. Continue reading

Dozens of construction workers are injured in crane accidents annually in the United States. Injuries and fatalities occur among the men and women operating the cranes as well as to workers and others on the ground. Crane accidents and collapses are one of the deadliest types of construction accidents, accounting for about 40 deaths every year. Read on for more information about common causes of crane accidents and how to prevent them.

Common Crane Accident Causes

Crane accidents can occur for a variety of reasons, including user error and equipment defects. But the most common causes include:

  • Cranes coming into contact with power lines: Nearly 39 percent of all crane accidents are caused when the crane comes into contact with overhead power lines. If any part of the crane, including the boom or cables, makes contact with a live power line, the crane operator and any nearby workers can be electrocuted.
  • Assembly and disassembly accidents: If assembly and / or disassembly is not performed according to the manufacturer’s specifications, it can result in catastrophic crane accidents. A MA work injury attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you have been injured in a crane accident.
  • Crane boom collapses: When the crane boom is extended too far, the crane’s ability to carry loads can be negatively impacted. This uneven distribution of weight can cause structural problems, which can result in the boom buckling or collapsing. This type of accident accounts for approximately eight percent of all crane accidents, and usually leads to serious injuries or death.
  • Tipping over: When the crane is overloaded beyond its capacity, it can tip over or collapse. Tip overs may also occur if the ground beneath the crane is uneven or unstable.

How to Prevent Crane Accidents

Crane accidents result in serious injuries and fatalities every year. If you are concerned that your employer is not following proper safety guidelines for crane operation and maintenance, you may contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and request a safety inspection. If you have been injured in a crane accident, it is in your best interest to consult with a skilled MA work injury lawyer immediately.

OSHA’s guidelines for preventing crane accidents include:

  • An inspector should check the crane for mechanical problems before each use.
  • Cranes should be inspected regularly to identify cracks, wiring problems, and worn or damaged parts.
  • A qualified person must perform any necessary repairs or modifications.
  • The crane should be placed on stable and flat ground and must be at least 10-feet from electrical cables.
  • The crane must not carry a load that exceeds its capacity.
  • Fences should be installed around the site to keep non-workers from getting too close to the crane.
  • A qualified “signal” person should assist the operator when maneuvering loads.
  • Workers should be equipped with fall protecting equipment.
  • The crane’s foundation and all structural supports should be designed by a professional engineer or the crane’s manufacturer.
  • Always use caution with wind. According to OSHA studies, wind is one of the top causes of crane accidents.

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