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Category: Workers’ Compensation/Work Injury

Obtaining Certain Treatment for Workplace Injuries May Require Pre-Approval

Oct 31, 2016 - Workers' Compensation/Work Injury by

As a general rule, any employee who sustains a workplace injury in Alabama expects to seek immediate treatment under workers’ compensation. However, the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Administrative Code requires pre-certification in certain relatively-common situations. These requirements can leave injured workers facing significant out-of-pocket expenses. Still, the rules can be open to a certain degree of interpretation. It helps to become familiar with the pre-certification process that can occur between medical providers and individuals representing the details of claims. Most importantly, injured employees should seek advice from an experienced Tuscaloosa workplace injury lawyer before assuming that they are responsible for personally paying the expenses. How Pre-Certification Works Meeting pre-certification requirements is the responsibility of medical providers — not injured employees. Once providers determine that emergency conditions do not apply, the Code requires that they apply for certification before rendering certain medical services, such as (but certainly not limited to) the following: Inpatient admission of any type Elective procedures, including ambulatory or outpatient surgery Outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy Chiropractic services Medical management services requested by the employer The list extends to ambulance services and any number of pain management procedures, durable medical equipment other than items such as braces and splints and items that require reimbursements of $500 or more. Even procedures that injury victims assume to be necessary — such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scans that are commonly used diagnostic procedures — can be subject to denial in many cases. Denial […]

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Workplace Injuries from Equipment Often Justify Third-Party Claims

Sep 9, 2016 - Tuscaloosa by

Any injured Alabama employee can certainly appreciate a workers’ compensation system that pays expenses related to on-the-job injury, usually without regard for liability on the part of the employee or the employer. Still, when a third party causes the injury, liability issues can be back on the table. Our Tuscaloosa workers compensation lawyers regularly assist workers who are seriously injured by defective or otherwise-unsafe equipment. In these cases, workers’ compensation still provides the benefits needed for immediate treatment, but injury victims have every right to pursue additional compensation from any third party responsible for the condition of the equipment. Employees Often Blame Themselves for Equipment Injuries All too often, workers assume that their own negligence somehow caused equipment to injure them, such as in the following circumstances: The equipment was so new that they did not fully understand how to operate it safely. Knowing that the equipment was very old, they should have taken extra precautions when using it. They failed to notice a warning label that announced a safety risk. Safety devices had been removed to make machine operation easier. Of course, every situation has unique aspects, but as a general rule, individuals should not suffer injuries when they use equipment at work. Whether a manufacturer built an unsafe device that injured a worker, or even if a repair shop caused injuries due to errors made during routine maintenance, there is a good chance that a third party was ultimately liable. Alabama Law Contains Strong Protections Related to the […]

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Favoring Productivity and Cost Over Safety Leads to Workplace Injuries

Jul 25, 2016 - Tuscaloosa by

In January 2016, a news release from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced its proposal to penalize an Alabama manufacturing company nearly $200,000 for repeated safety violations. This situation illustrated how the government holds companies accountable for safe premises even if they do not face liability issues for worker injuries under the workers’ compensation system. Workers’ Compensation Should Never Protect Employers from Safety Violations Perhaps the most important feature that helps Alabama workers’ compensation to protect employees is the stipulation that injury victims have a clear path to compensation by giving up their right to sue their employers. In other words, regardless of whether worker or employer carelessness contributes to an accident, the system steps in to help ensure that workers obtain appropriate medical attention, without incurring out-of-pocket expenses — and without fear of litigation. Sometimes, injured workers can feel a sense of frustration when they cannot seek greater compensation in cases where their employers’ clear and repeated consistent negligence makes their jobs unsafe. The good news is that a lack of liability in a workers’ compensation claim does not mean that employers cannot be held accountable. OSHA can be relentless in monitoring for responses to violations that they uncover during inspections. Just as important, if they are not aware of violations, OSHA makes it easy for workers to file a safety and health complaint. Productivity Losses and Expenses are No Excuse for Unsafe Working Conditions Any company is responsible for keeping up with the costs of doing […]

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Workplace Injuries are Common Among Hospital Workers

Jul 18, 2016 - Tuscaloosa by

According to the most recent fact sheet published by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), hospitals are among the most dangerous places to work. In fact, the rate of injuries and illnesses that cause hospital workers to lose time from work exceeds even those experienced within the construction industry. Naturally, hospital workers in Tuscaloosa and throughout the state rely on workers’ compensation coverage to help pay the short- and long-term expenses related to their workplace injuries and illnesses. However, challenges to their claims are not uncommon — and their medical complaints often pertain to third-party liability. It is important to know when to seek support from experienced Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation lawyers. Hospital Workers Face a Broad Range of Daily Risk Factors Virtually any type of hospital worker is at greater risk because of factors such as the following: Overexertion: Nearly half of all injuries involve musculoskeletal disorders. Lifting and moving patients and heavy equipment is a major contributor to these injuries. Slips, trips and falls: Hospital environments are volatile. Puddles can appear unexpectedly, and it is difficult to predict what equipment (potentially with dangling cords) will be in a hallway at any given moment. Contact with objects: This can involve anything from heavy equipment to sharp objects, with the resulting injuries often becoming severe. Violence: Patients in a state of confusion and pain can strike out at the people who are trying to help them. Emergency room nurses are particularly susceptible to violent attacks by anyone who walks in […]

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Values of Alabama Workplace Injury Claims Can Be Surprising

Mar 25, 2016 - Tuscaloosa by

Shortly after a National Public Radio (NPR) report exposed the disparity among workers’ compensation benefits for the same types of injuries in different states, Alabama lawmakers introduced a bill to increase benefits for workers within this state. In spite of the fact that Alabama workers’ compensation benefits for certain injuries are reportedly the lowest in the nation, this bill never seemed to take off. However, each Tuscaloosa workplace injury lawyer at our firm reminds employees that third-party claims can potentially provide injured workers with the compensation they need. A State Border Can Make a Dramatic Difference in the Value of a Claim The NPR story looked at the claims of two workers who lived within 75 miles of each other, with surprisingly similar claim details: Their ages were similar: 27 and 25. They both lost part of a left arm in a machinery accident. Their family situations were similar — married, with two children of similar ages. Both victims even had tattoos of their children’s names. Perhaps the main difference was the location of their accidents since they lived on different sides of the Alabama/Georgia border. While the Georgia victim received lifetime benefits expected to exceed $740,000, the Alabama victim received a total of $45,000 in workers’ compensation benefits. Since the overall cost of living fluctuates in different areas of the country or even within a state, it is somewhat logical to expect differences in claim valuations based on location. Still, it is less logical to understand why a border […]

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Five Common Misconceptions About Alabama Workers’ Compensation

Jan 8, 2016 - Tuscaloosa by

Alabama workers’ compensation provides essential benefits for injured workers, but depending on the nature of a given claim, it may not always work exactly as expected. Every situation is unique, so employees cannot always assume that they know the rules. Five Rules That Are Not as Simple as They Seem The Alabama Department of Commerce created the Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation Manual in an attempt to simplify the state’s employment-related laws. However, the actual rules contain legal language that includes many details and exceptions. The following five misconceptions are among the ones that commonly affect claims: Part-time and contract workers do not qualify for coverage. Not true for part-time workers, but probably true for contractors. With some exceptions, the Alabama workers’ compensation system considers full and part-time workers to be employees, and businesses that have five or more employees must carry coverage. Contract employees should be covered under their own employers’ workers’ compensation policies when working for a business under a lease agreement, and independent contractors may not have any coverage. Any contractor who is uncertain about coverage should seek guidance from our experienced Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation lawyers who can advise them on their legal options for getting coverage. The right to privacy in workers’ compensation claims is the same as for any other health care situation. Not generally true. To determine benefits and the validity of claims, employers and their insurance companies generally need access to private information about a claimant’s injuries and past medical history. Still, requests for […]

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Statistics Show Vehicle Accidents Cause Majority of Alabama Workplace Fatalities

Nov 13, 2015 - Tuscaloosa by

Without a doubt, construction work is among the most dangerous professions in the U.S. Working from great heights, sometimes from faulty support structures, while using power tools and heavy equipment certainly seems extremely hazardous. However, when it comes to work-related fatalities in Alabama, even our Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation lawyers were initially surprised that there seems to be a higher risk involved in transportation. According to 2013 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) about the 78 fatal workplace injuries for that year, the majority were caused by the following events: • Transportation incidents (42) • Falls, slips, trips (11) • Violence and other injuries by persons or animals (11) Why Transportation Causes a Higher Rate of Workplace Fatalities Since many workers drive on company business, common roadway accidents play a contributing role in the number of work-related transportation fatalities, with a lack of seat belt use, speeding and alcohol cited as factors. However, earlier analyses of these accidents cite the three primary causes of vehicle accidents at work zones to be the following: • Runovers / Backovers represent nearly half of worker fatalities, and about half of those fatalities were caused by workers struck by construction vehicles. • Vehicle Collisions are the second most common cause, typically involving vehicles or mobile equipment. • Caught In Between or Struck by Object Accidents are the third most common cause. As the name implies, they involve workers who become caught between or struck by construction equipment and objects. Injuries or fatalities that […]

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A Recent Workplace Accident Could Qualify for a Third Party Lawsuit

Jul 24, 2015 - Tuscaloosa by

A primary underlying principle behind the Alabama workers’ compensation system is the elimination of liability issues. With a few exceptions, workers can obtain benefits regardless of whether the worker or employer negligence causes an accidental injury. Of course, this means workers cannot sue employers for negligence, but they can sue negligent third parties. To protect the rights of workers and their families, an experienced Tuscaloosa workplace injury lawyer looks beyond workers’ compensation claims to determine if an outside party needs to be held accountable. A deadly January 2015 construction site accident shows how this might work. Guilt and Negligence Are Not the Same Things According to WVTM-TV, a truck driver hit and struck a young construction worker from behind while he directed traffic in a Birmingham construction zone. The driver admitted that the accident happened because she ran off the road while reaching for her coffee. Perhaps surprisingly, the police decided not to file charges against the driver. In spite of the police decision, the following are reasons why the construction worker’s family may have a good case if they decide to file a wrongful death suit against the driver — and probably her trucking company, as well: • As long as the trucker is not directly connected with the construction company, workers’ compensation liability limitations do not apply. • Police reports would substantiate that distracted driving caused the driver to run off the road. • Distracted driving amounts to negligence, which is a primary requirement for prevailing in a […]

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Workers’ Comp Retaliation Can Become a Federal Case

Jul 10, 2015 - Tuscaloosa by

After a recovery from serious injury on the job, most employees want to put the experience behind them when they return to work. This can seem impossible if an employer starts retaliating in often-subtle ways — just because a worker claimed much-needed benefits that are granted by law. Perhaps more disturbing, some employers use veiled threats to convince workers not to file a workers’ compensation claim, leaving them to find other ways to pay for medical care after a workplace accident. Our Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation lawyers want to clarify that retaliation is illegal at both the state and federal level. It is important for workers to recognize the signs so they can seek the legal help they need to ensure their claims receive fair treatment. Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim is a Right of Employment With very few exceptions, individuals injured as a result of their employment have the right to file workers’ compensation claims. While most employers handle these claims fairly, some see a claim as a black mark on their record that increases the premiums they pay. Perhaps this kind of thinking was a factor when a supervisor from the New York- and Connecticut-based Metro North railroad took advantage of the time spent driving an injured employee to the hospital to make threats of damaging write-ups on the employee’s record. The injured employee was recording that conversation, according to the New Haven Register. That recording provided evidence of a direct violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. In […]

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Repetitive Stress is a Common Source of Workplace Injuries

Apr 24, 2015 - Workers' Compensation/Work Injury by

Variety may be the spice of life, but just about every job involves some degree of repetition. Whether individuals perform one part of a manufacturing process or write key reports, proposals or correspondence on a computer for eight hours every day, their activities can put stress on the same part of their bodies. The resulting injuries can be serious — and they typically qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) do not typically occur as the result of accidents; however, they are conditions that often directly relate to on-the-job activities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports them as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which accounted for an alarming 33 percent of all injury and illness cases in 2013. All too often, injured workers need help from our Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation attorneys due to the challenges of substantiating their claims. Common Types of RSIs Anyone who has hammered one too many nails has probably experienced soreness to the wrists and hands. This type of pain generally goes away within a few days; however, injuries like these can become permanent and debilitating for individuals who hammer nails every day. The following parts of the body commonly sustain RSIs that qualify for workers’ compensation claims: Hands and wrists: A number of years ago, Harvard Gazette dispelled the common believe that excessive use of computers can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, which is no longer classified as repetitive stress. Nonetheless, this disorder is common to assembly line workers, and computer use can cause RSIs, particularly […]

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