Paula Robinson's Blog for Workers Compensation & Disability

Preventing Injuries in a Warehouse

Warehouse Injury

Warehouses have multiple activities going on at any given point of time, with a regular stream of incoming goods, order picking, shipping, and replenishment. The risk of worker injuries is significantly higher in warehouses than retail centers and many other workplaces. 

Employers can take several steps to prevent workplace injuries in warehouses and reduce their risk of workers’ comp claims. Employers should also review the Guide on Warehouse Safety published by OSHA, which provides recommendations on safe warehouse practices and policies.

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What is a Modification of Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Workers' Compensation

Understanding a Modification of Workers’ Comp Benefits

A Modification of Workers’ Compensation Benefits is when the Workers’ Compensation Carrier will modify or adjust your wage loss benefits based on your ability to return to work based on an offer of return to work, usually in a light or sedentary capacity, as a result of an IME report or your own Dr. indicating your ability to work.

When you are receiving workers’ compensation wage loss benefits as you are totally out of work, the workers’ compensation carrier will eventually send you to an Independent Medical Examiner, a doctor they pay to examine you. This doctor will give an opinion as to whether you are still disabled, fully recovered, or capable of some type of work. For example, if this doctor indicates in his report that you are capable of light duty work, the workers’ compensation carrier will reach out to your employer to see if any light duty work is available for you to return to so that the carrier can limit the amount of compensation you are receiving.

Usually when you return to light work, you may be earning less than your previous position. This  is when the workers’ compensation carrier will adjust or modify your wage loss benefits according to your new pay. This is referred to as Temporary Partial Disability benefits (TPD). Again, for example, if you worked 40 hours per week prior to your work injury, and now you are working 20 hours per week on light duty, you would receive a paycheck from your employer, and workers’ compensation would make up the difference…ie. partial compensation.

Keep in mind that if your employer cannot accommodate the restrictions, the workers’ compensation carrier can then hire a vocational expert to interview you and find work generally available that may pay a lesser rate than your pre-injury job, hire a lawyer to file a Petition to Modify your benefits, and try to convince a workers’ compensation judge to modify your benefits.

This can get complicated and is also a good time to contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney if you have not already done so to ensure you are receiving the proper pay and to defend any Modification Petition filed against you .

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about workers’ compensation through our Workers’ Comp Wednesdays with Kara Curry on 99.9 The Hawk.  If you or a loved one has a question regarding your work injury or claim I invite you to contact me via phone (215) 530-7166, email or the form to the right.  As a certified workers’ compensation attorney, I am happy to offer free consultations.  – Paula Robinson, Esq.


Can An Employee Be Laid Off While Receiving Workers’ Comp?

Laid Off

A layoff can be legal even while you are receiving workers’ compensation. But despite being laid off, you may be legally entitled to continue receiving your benefits until you are medically fit (released) to work. However, when this happens, your former employer will not rehire you as you were already laid off.

Assess Your Employer’s Actions

In this peculiar situation, it is important to closely assess your employer’s action. Your employer has a right to lay you off even when you have an active workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania. But the condition is that the layoff must not be related in any way to your claim.

If a number of workers have been laid off together, a work facility or an entire department has been closed (where you worked), your employer is not legally obligated to protect your job merely because you are receiving workers’ compensation.

But if you are the only worker who has lost the job, it is a matter that requires closer scrutiny. If the employer intended to protect themselves from liability and terminated your employment in the guise of a “layoff,” you may have a strong claim for wrongful termination, retaliation, or discrimination. It is best to seek legal advice from a proven and capable workers’ comp attorney in PA.

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What is a Vocational Interview?

vocational interview for workers comp claim

WHAT IS A VOCATIONAL INTERVIEW?
HOW CAN IT AFFECT YOUR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS?

Did you know… If you have an open workers’ compensation claim, and are receiving wage loss benefits, your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier can and will try to reduce or stop your benefits at some point in time.

They will first send you for an Independent Medical Evaluation (IME) with a doctor of their choice, which you must attend or face suspension of your benefits.  Once their doctor issues a report as to your condition and ability to return to some type of work, be it heavy, medium, light, or sedentary (desk work), the carrier will then approach your employer to see if there is work available within those restrictions.  If your employer does not have work for you to return to, then the workers’ compensation carrier will hire a vocational expert to interview you to review your past employment, transferable skills, and educational background. You should always be represented by an experienced workers’ compensation attorney during this interview process.

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Warehouse Pickers Can Become Injured in a Demanding E-Commerce Market

Warehouse Pickers

Today’s e-commerce driven market has created many job opportunities for warehouse pickers. Given the nature of this job, there are various workplace injuries that can occur – some more obvious than others. 

For order pickers at large e-commerce warehousing facilities, lifting heavy packages and objects can cause back injuries, which is one of the most common risks. 

However, order pickers at warehouses also face other serious injury risks, such as falling objects, arm, elbow, shoulder, and musculoskeletal strains, repetitive motion injuries, and trips and falls. Some accidents may also involve forklifts, cranes, and other forms of large material handling equipment.

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What is a Suspension of Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Workers' Compensation

Understanding a Suspension of Workers’ Comp Benefits

A Suspension of Workers’ Compensation Benefits is when the Workers’ Compensation Carrier tries to stop your wage loss benefits but not your medical benefits alleging that you are able to return to work in some capacity, whether it be regular, medium, light, or sedentary work according to an Independent Medical Evaluation (IME) report or your own treating Dr’s report.

From the time you begin to receive workers’ compensation wage loss benefits once your claim has been accepted, it is the workers’ compensation adjustor’s job to try and find a way to stop paying you compensation, as it is costing the carrier and your employer premium dollars to have you on workers’ compensation. The workers’ compensation carrier will receive ongoing reports from your treating physicians and if there is an hint that you can return to your job, or the same category of job…ie., desk type work, light, medium, or heavy duty work, that pays the same as your pre-injury work,  the carrier will hire an attorney to file a Suspension Petition to try to stop your workers’ compensation wage loss benefits altogether. 

If your treating physicians do not indicate that you are capable of returning to work so that your benefits can potentially be suspended, the workers’ compensation carrier will send you to a physician who they pay to perform a one time exam of you. This physician is referred to as an Independent Medical Examiner. It is the hope of the carrier and your employer that the IME Dr. will indicate that you are capable to return to work that would pay the same pre-injury rate that you earned.

If you do not go back to work to try a job that is made available to you that fits in the Dr’s restrictions, the workers’ compensation carrier will ask a Workers’ Compensation Judge to suspend your work loss wage benefits. The Workers’ Compensation Carrier will hire an attorney to file a Suspension Petition in support of their case, so be sure to be represented yourself.

If your employer does not have light or sedentary work for you to go back to, the workers’ compensation carrier may hire a vocational specialist to do an interview of you to assess your educational, transferable skills, and work history background.

Earning Power Assessment

The vocational specialist will also do an Earning Power Assessment to determine what you could be making based on what work they find within your restrictions.  For example, if the vocational specialist finds that work as a “Walmart Greeter” is generally available in your area within your restrictions for $10.00 per hour and that is the same or more than you earned at the time of your injury, the workers’ compensation carrier will petition the court to suspend your wage loss benefits. 

This can get complicated and the best time to contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney, if you have not already, is when you are contacted about the IME. Be proactive!

 

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about workers’ compensation through our Workers’ Comp Wednesdays with Kara Curry on 99.9 The Hawk.  If you or a loved one has a question regarding your work injury or claim I invite you to contact me via phone (215) 530-7166, email or the form to the right.  As a certified workers’ compensation attorney, I am happy to offer free consultations.  – Paula Robinson, Esq.


Pre-Existing VS. Aggravation of Injury

Pre-existing Injury

My client injured his lower back while lifting metal piping, working as a welder. 

He properly gave “Notice” of his work injury to his employer who reported the same to their workers’ compensation carrier, who in turn denied the claim, indicating that he had a pre-existing work injury.

As my client could not work due to the current work injury, he had to apply for short-term and long-term disability benefits. As he knew that he truly injured his back at work, he wanted to pursue both wage loss and medical workers’ compensation benefits. 

I filed a Claim Petition that was assigned to a workers’ compensation judge, who recently ruled in my client’s favor after about nine months of hard-fought litigation.

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How Opioids are Affecting Workers’ Comp in PA

Opioids Workers' Compensation

Research has shown that injured workers who are administered higher doses of opioids for pain relief end up spending more time off work following their injury than those who are prescribed low-dose or non-opioid painkillers. 

The National Safety Council has cited a study which revealed that administering opioids for one week soon after a worker’s injury will double the risk of the worker not returning to the workplace even one year after the injury. 

Increased Workers’ Comp Claim Costs

The challenge with opioid use is that the patient can quickly develop a tolerance to it. In other words, an injured worker using opioids is more likely to require incrementally higher doses of the drug to maintain the same effect. As the worker uses more of the opioid, it increases sedation and reduces their ability to work. This can result in delayed return to the workplace, which in turn means higher lost wages for the injured worker. 

According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University published in the Claims Magazine, long-acting opioids were associated with a nine-fold jump in the average workers’ comp claim costs. These additional costs could also include treatment for opioid dependency and addiction.

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The Dangers of Nurses And Sleeplessness

Nurses Sleep

Healthcare facilities often have to provide round-the-clock patient care. As a result, nursing staff are exposed to shift work as well as long working hours, which increases the risk of sleep disturbances and sleeplessness. 

Pressures of the nursing profession take their toll, and as many as one-third of healthcare workers in PA report that they don’t obtain a sufficient amount of sleep.  

Challenges of Inadequate Sleep for Nurses

Researchers have associated getting regular sleep of 7 to 8 hours every night, with a reduced risk of diabetes, obesity, hypertension, myocardial infarction, sleep apnea, and cerebral vascular accidents, apart from a lower risk of workplace injuries. 

Nursing staff in hospitals as well as long-term care facilities often have to sleep at irregular times as well as during periods that are not in sync with circadian rhythms. This misalignment leads to problems with disturbed sleep, falling asleep while working, early awakenings and frequent arousals during sleep. 

This results in poor sleep quality and shortened sleep duration. Competing demands of workplace and home as well as inadequate rest between work shifts increase the worker’s health risks. 

In addition, financial pressures may push a nurse to work longer hours or take on a second job. For these reasons, healthcare ranks in second place among all industrial sectors for the number of workers reporting insufficient sleep duration. 

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What is a Termination of Worker’s Compensation Benefits?

Workers' Compensation

Termination of Worker’s Comp Benefits

The first sign that your workers’ compensation wage loss benefits may be in jeopardy is when you receive in the mail a notice for you to attend an Independent Medical Examination (IME). This is a quick one-time examination by a physician of the workers’ compensation carrier’s choice. Keep in mind that the physician is paid directly by the carrier, and in most instances will find a way to side with the workers’ compensation carrier’s position that there is nothing wrong with you regarding your work injury and that you are fully recovered from your work injury.

After a Workers’ Compensation Carrier receives the Independent Medical Examination (IME) report and if it states a full recovery of your work injury,  the Workers’ Compensation Carrier will hire an attorney to file a Termination Petition against you, the injured worker, in an attempt to stop all of your wage loss and medical workers’ compensation benefits that you are receiving.

So, what does this mean for you, the injured worker?

At this point, you, the injured worker, must hire a workers’ compensation attorney to respond and file an Answer to the Termination Petition to contest the Petition filed against you.  Note-this is time sensitive, so you must act quickly so you don’t miss important deadlines.

As with all other Petitions filed in workers’ compensation court, you need representation. With the Termination Petition, the IME Dr. will testify consistent with his report to support his opinion  of full recovery. You, the injured worker, must have a doctor testify that you are NOT fully recovered from your work injury and you must also testify that you still have symptoms and ongoing difficulties with your daily living activities and that you are NOT fully recovered.

Defending workers’ compensation petitions, especially ones that require physician testimony can be costly to litigate, as the doctors all require payment for their testimonies. Further, you need an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to take and attend the depositions of both physicians, to ask the appropriate questions to make the best case for you before the assigned workers’ compensation judge.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about workers’ compensation through our Workers’ Comp Wednesdays with Kara Curry on 99.9 The Hawk.  If you or a loved one has a question regarding your work injury or claim I invite you to contact me via phone (215) 530-7166, email or the form to the right.  As a certified workers’ compensation attorney, I am happy to offer free consultations.  – Paula Robinson, Esq.