Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Meuser & Associates, P.A., Wins at the Minnesota Court of Appeals

Meuser & Associates, P.A. has represented a number of Minnesota police officers and firefighters for workers’ compensation claims. We’ve also assisted a number of our clients in procuring Continuation of Healthcare Coverage under Minnesota Statute 299A.465.

Prior to July 2008, an injured firefighter or police officer who had been approved for a duty disability pension could seek continued healthcare coverage under Minnesota Statute 299A.465 by applying to a panel to request a hearing. Unfortunately, the Panel erroneously denied benefits to many claimants.

The Minnesota legislature revised the statute effective July 2008, attempting to streamline the process of securing continued healthcare coverage. Unfortunately, the new legislation is possibly worse than the old legislation. While PERA (Public Employee Retirement Association) members and members of local relief associations, such as MFRA (Minneapolis Firefighters Relief Association), are included in the statute, the legislature apparently forgot about members of MSRS (Minnesota State Retirement Service), which includes members of the State Highway Patrol. Currently, there is a dispute as to whether disabled State Highway Patrol Officers are entitled to continued healthcare continuation. To read more about this dispute, click here.

We’ve succeeded in obtaining continued healthcare coverage under Minnesota Statute 299A.465 for several of our clients, including four cases we won at the Minnesota Court of Appeals. We got the fourth decision from the Court of Appeals today.

In the first case, Meuser & Associates, P.A. successfully argued before the Minnesota Court of Appeals that the Panel erroneously considered factors outside the scope of its statutory authority, thus securing Continued Healthcare Coverage for our client. Click here to read a copy of the Court of Appeals opinion.

In the second case, an injured firefighter petitioned the Panel for a review of his application. After three hearings, the Panel made numerous procedural and legal errors. The City of Richfield and our client ultimately agreed to settle the case, and our Client withdrew his application before the Panel. Despite withdrawing his application, the Panel held that he was ineligible for benefits. On review, the Court of Appeals reversed and agreed that the Panel did not have jurisdiction to deny our client’s benefits. Click here to read a copy of the Court of Appeals opinion.

In the third case, the City of Minneapolis refused to extend Continued Healthcare Coverage for our client. We made a motion for summary judgment in the District Court, which was denied. On appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, the Court agreed with our position that the claimant’s dependant insurance coverage through his wife’s policy was sufficient to qualify him for Continued Healthcare Coverage. The case was remanded to determine whether he met the other qualifications for Continued Healthcare Coverage. Click here to read a copy of the Court of Appeals opinion.

Finally, in the most recent case case, the Panel refused to extent Continued Healthcare Coverage for our client based on the suggestion that his injury may have been caused by something other than his employment. They also speculated that his disability might be temporary rather than permanent in nature. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Panel’s decision was not supported by the evidence, and in fact, the evidence showed that our client was entitled to Continued Healthcare Coverage. The Panel also concluded that the Panel exceeded its statutory authority in making a determination as to whether our client’s disability was temporary or permanent in nature. Click here to read a copy of the Court of Appeals opinion.

If you have questions about your entitlement to Continued Healthcare Coverage under Minnesota Statute 299A.465, give us a call at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Note that our services in conjunction with continued healthcare coverage are billed on an hourly basis rather than on a contingent basis.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Monday, March 30, 2009

Consequential Injuries and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation

In Minnesota, subsequent injuries or disabilities that occur as a direct and natural consequence of a previous compensable injury are also compensable. Unfortunately insurance companies often attempt to deny responsibility for these consequential injuries.

Common types of consequential injuries involve aggravations that are due in part, to an employee’s existing work-related condition. For example, if an employee suffers a permanent back injury, later aggravations of that injury are often consequential injuries, and should be covered by the workers’ compensation insurance company. Even aggravations that occur outside of work, so long as they resulted from normal activity reasonable under the circumstances, are usually considered to be consequential injuries.

Other common types of consequential injuries include:
  • Depression as the result of an employee’s injuries
  • Medical side-effects from or reactions to medications
  • Injuries sustained during physical therapy (you’d be surprised how often people are injured during physical therapy)
  • Injuries or medical conditions caused by orthotics or prosthetics
  • Injuries caused by crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, or canes
  • Overuse injuries to a non-dominant hand or arm, when the original injury to the opposite hand or arm forced the employee to use the other hand more
  • Injuries to the knee or leg, when the original injury to the opposite knee or leg caused the employee to develop an unnatural gait
  • Bedsores from hospitalizations
  • Chemical dependence on prescription pain killers
  • Medical malpractice in the course of treatment for a work injury
  • Arthritis due to an old injury
  • Disc degeneration as the result of an old back injury
  • Disc injuries above or below a fusion
  • Infection following surgery or an injury
Certain other types of injuries may be deemed to be consequential injuries, even though there is no medical connection between the new injury and the old injury. These types of cases involve activities undertaken by the employee, following an injury, which, although they take place outside the time and space limits of the employment, are still considered related to the employment because they would not have been undertaken but for the original injury. The most common example of this type of injury is a car accident sustained while traveling to or from a doctor’s office for treatment of a work injury.

If you have sustained an injury at work, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help make sure you get all the benefits you are entitled to today. Call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free consultation.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wage Loss Benefits and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation

If you suffer wage loss as the result of a work-related injury, you may be entitled to wage loss benefits including:

Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits: TTD Benefits are available to employees who are completely unable to work due to a work-related injury.

TTD Benefits are calculated as 2/3 of the employee’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW) at the time of the injury. For injuries that occurred after October 1, 2008, TTD benefits are available for a maximum of 130 weeks. For injuries that occurred between October 1, 1995 and September 30, 2008, TTD benefits are available for up to 104 weeks. Generally, for injuries that occurred prior to October 1, 1995, there is no specific time limit on the receipt of TTD wage loss benefits.

Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) Benefits: TPD Benefits are available to employees who are suffering from a work-related disability, but are able to work at a reduced earning capacity. TPD Benefits are intended to make up for the difference in earnings.

TPD Benefits are calculated as 2/3 of the difference between the employee’s current earnings and the employee’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW) at the time of the injury. For injuries that occurred between January 1, 1984 and September 30, 1992, there is no specific durational limit on the receipt of TPD wage loss benefits. Between October 1, 1992 and present, receipt of TPD benefits is limited to a maximum 225 weeks.

Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Benefits: PTD Benefits are available to employees who are permanently and totally disabled from working as the result of work-related injuries. In 1992, the legislature further defined “permanent total disability:”
“…‘totally and permanently incapacitated’ means that the employee’s physical disability, in combination with the employee’s age, education, training and experience, causes the employee to be unable to secure anything more than sporadic employment resulting in an insubstantial income.” (Minn.Stat. § 176.101(5)(b).)
As of October 1, 1995, an injured employee must meet certain thresholds in order to prove permanent total disability, including:
  • The employee has at least a 17% permanent partial disability rating of the whole body.
  • The employee has a permanent partial disability rating of the whole body of at least 15% and the employee is at least 50 years old at the time of the injury.
  • The employee has a permanent partial disability rating of the whole body of at least 13% and the employee is at least 55 years old at the time of the injury, and has not completed grade 12 or obtained a GED certificate.
PTD benefits are calculated as 2/3 of the employee’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW) at the time of the injury. PTD benefits are generally available until the age of retirement. PTD benefits may also be offset against other government disability or old age and survivor benefits, including social security disability benefits, social security retirement benefits, PERA benefits, police and firefighter relief association benefits, and state retirement benefits.

If you’ve been injured on the job, and the insurance company has accepted your claim, the question is not “if” they will discontinue your benefits at some point, but “when.” Even if there is not currently a dispute regarding your workers’ compensation benefits, it is a good idea to speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer to make sure you get all the benefits you are entitled to. Often, people we speak with are hesitant to hire a lawyer when there is no dispute with the insurance company. One thing we always point out is that even if you retain us, if there is no dispute over your benefits, no attorney’s fees are withheld from your benefits. Retaining a lawyer before a dispute arises can substantially reduce the time it takes to initiate your claim when a dispute does arise.

If you are permanently and totally disabled as the result of a work-related injury, in combination with any non-work related health conditions that limit your ability to work, you should speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer. Seldom do workers’ compensation insurance companies voluntarily agree that you are Permanently Totally Disabled, which means that they will probably have to pay you wage loss benefits for a much greater length of time than if you are not permanently and totally disabled.

The experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at Meuser & Associates can help make sure you get the wage loss benefits you are entitled to. Contact us today at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Construction Worker Injuries and Minnesota Injury Law

As the weather grows warmer here in Minnesota, demand for construction workers will increase. Unfortunately, as construction increases during the Spring and Summer months, so do construction injuries. Construction workers, including framers, siders, roofers, painters, electricians, plumbers, welders, installers, concrete workers, and steel workers are all at high risk for work-related injuries. Construction workers and skilled laborers and tradesman should be aware of their rights if they are injured while working on a construction job.

On any given day, nearly 6.5 million people work at approximately 252,000 construction sites. Unfortunately, the fatal injury rate in the construction industry is much higher than the national average for all other industries. In 2007, there were 441 work-related construction worker deaths, and there were 39 construction worker fatalities in Minnesota. Construction has about 8% of U.S. workers, but 22% of the fatalities - the largest number of fatalities reported for any of the industry sectors.

Common Hazards for Construction Workers

Some common potential hazards for workers in the construction industry include:
  • Falls from ladders
  • Falls from roofs
  • Falls from scaffolding
  • Scaffolding collapses
  • Trench collapses
  • Electric shocks
  • Arc flashes/arc blasts
  • Repetitive motion injuries
  • Foreign objects in eyes
  • Chemical exposure to the eyes or skin
  • Injuries from falling objects
  • Puncture wounds
  • Hand and foot crush injuries
  • Respiratory exposure to toxic fumes or chemicals
  • Burns
  • Lifting injuries
  • Structural collapses
  • Crane accidents
  • Forklift accidents
  • Backhoe accidents
  • Frontloader accidents
  • Elevator shaft falls
  • Occupational hearing loss
  • Heavy equipment accidents
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Power line accidents
  • Compressed gas explosions
  • Power tool accidents
  • Lead poisoning
  • Derrick accidents
  • Falls through skylights and floor openings
  • Boom collapses
  • Hoist accidents
  • Conveyor accidents
  • Crane tip-overs
  • Saw accidents
  • Sander accidents
  • Over-exertion injuries
  • Polisher accidents
  • Exposure to asphalt fumes
  • Skid steer loader accidents
  • Hoist accidents
  • Falls from telecommunication towers
  • Winch accidents
  • Excavation cave-ins
  • Grater accidents
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Scraper accidents
  • Tractor accidents
  • Silica dust exposure
  • Bobcat accidents
  • Bulldozer accidents
  • Boiler accidents and explosions
  • Gas explosions
  • Foundation collapses
  • Nail gun accidents
  • Air compression accidents
Minnesota construction workers who are injured on the job are often entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanency benefits, and rehabilitation or retraining benefits. If a construction worker is killed as the result of his or her construction work activities, his or her survivors may be entitled to death and dependency workers’ compensation benefits.

“Independent Contractors” or Employees?

Unfortunately, many construction workers incorrectly believe that they are “independent contractors” who are generally not entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits. In many, many cases, a construction worker who has been labeled as an “independent contractor” by his or her employer is actually an employee under Minnesota law. That means they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Effective January 2009, the Minnesota legislature passed a law requiring “independent contractors” to obtain an Independent Contractor Exemption Certificate, among other things. If a so-called “independent contractor” is injured on a construction job in Minnesota after January 2009, and does not have an Exemption Certificate, he or she is considered an employee for purposes of workers’ compensation. Even if a construction worker has obtained an Exemption Certificate, there are several other factors that must also be met in order for an employee to be considered an “independent contractor” for purposes of Minnesota workers’ compensation.
Even prior to 2009, for a construction worker to be considered an “independent contractor,” a series of several factors had to be satisfied. Otherwise, the injured worker was considered an employee for purposes of Minnesota workers’ compensation.

If you are a construction worker who was hurt on the job, and you’re unsure whether or not you’re an “independent contractor,” we are happy to provide a free, no-obligation consultation. Call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email. Unfortunately, if there is any question as to whether you are an employee or an independent contractor, it is almost guaranteed that the workers’ compensation insurance company will deny your claim.

Uninsured Subcontractors

Generally, an employer is liable only for workers’ compensation benefits to its own employees. However, there is one major exception to this rule which is unique to the construction industry. Where a subcontractor fails to obtain workers’ compensation coverage, the general or intermediate contractor is liable for workers’ compensation benefits to an injured employee, if the subcontractor is working on the subject matter of the subcontract. What this means is that if you are an employee of a subcontractor, and your employer failed to carry workers’ compensation, the general contractor on the job may be responsible for workers’ compensation benefits if you are hurt on the job.

If you are hurt on the job, and your employer is a subcontractor that has no workers’ compensation insurance coverage, you may be covered by the general contractor’s workers’ comp. insurance. Unfortunately, it is almost guaranteed that the general contractor’s insurance company is not going to want to pay your claim. You will probably be in for a fight to get the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. We’ve successfully represented many construction workers in situations like this. Call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our workers' compensation lawyers.

Uninsured Employers and Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Unfortunately, especially in this horrible economic climate, many small construction companies don’t carry workers’ compensation insurance, in an effort to cut costs. If you are a construction worker injured on the job and your employer has no insurance, you may still be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanency benefits, and rehabilitation and/or retraining benefits. The Minnesota Special Compensation Fund pays workers’ compensation benefits when an employee is injured on the job, but the employer has no workers’ compensation insurance. The uninsured employer does not get by for free in this situation, however. Employers are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees. If an employee is injured and the Special Compensation Fund has to pay for that employee’s benefits, the uninsured employer has to reimburse the Special Compensation Fund, and it may also be liable for fines and penalties.

Securing workers’ compensation benefits from the Minnesota Special Compensation Fund when the employer had no insurance is a relatively complex process. The Special Comp Fund treats claims just like a insurance company does, which means they may deny your claim just like a regular insurance company. If your employer had no insurance, you are well advised to contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to help you secure work comp. benefits. Call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a workers' comp. lawyer.

Third-Party Liability Claims

In addition to workers’ compensation benefits, injured construction workers frequently have third-party liability claims against third parties. Often, injuries to construction workers and job site accidents are caused by the negligence or carelessness of third parties. In any case where a construction worker’s injuries are caused by a third party, other than the employer or a co-worker, there may be a civil case against the third party. Common examples include motor vehicle accidents, accidents caused by other subcontractors, and accidents caused by the negligence of a property manager or owner. While Minnesota workers’ compensation provides some wage loss benefits, some permanency benefits, and some other monetary benefits, generally, civil claims allow an injured person to claim much greater damages, such as greater wage loss, future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

A lawyer representing a construction worker injured on a construction site should always investigate the facts of a case to determine whether there is a potential civil claim against a third party. Unfortunately, some lawyers practice only workers’ compensation law, or only personal injury law. Lawyers who practice only personal injury law may not be able to effectively handle your workers’ compensation case. Conversely, lawyers who practice only workers’ compensation law may not recognize your civil case, and may not be able to effectively handle it. In that case, you might need two lawyers to deal with your one accident. The lawyers at Meuser & Associates practice both workers’ compensation and personal injury law, so we know how to do both, and we can handle both aspects of your case, eliminating the need to hire two different lawyers. Call us today at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Friday, March 27, 2009

Physical Therapy is an Effective Treatment for Work-Related Low Back Injuries

A new review article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons by the American Physical Therapy notes that physical therapy, in combination with anti-inflammatory medication, is the most effective treatment for low back pain caused by degenerative disc disease. The review concludes that most patients with symptoms due to degenerative disc disease receive relief from their symptoms without the need for surgical intervention.

Degenerative disc disease can be caused by an old acute injury to the spine, or it can be caused by long-term overuse. Symptomatic lumbar degenerative disc disease develops when a disc weakens, is injured, or deteriorates from aging. As a result, the disc causes the vertebrae to become unstable, which in turn can cause back pain. Approximately 75-85 percent of adults will be affected by low back pain at some point in time.

Exercise and manual therapy, including spinal manipulation was shown to benefit many patients. Additionally, patient education on exercises and appropriate body mechanics is helpful for patients with low back pain.

If conservative treatments fail to reduce a patient’s symptoms, surgery may become an option. However, Dr. Luke Madigan of Knoxville Orthopaedic Clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee, concluded that “[s]urgery should be the last option, but too often patients think of surgery as a cure all and are eager to embark on it.”

For many people with chronic or acute low back pain, whether it is caused by degenerative disc disease, or other spinal disorders, physical therapy may help improve pain symptoms, range of motion, vocational capacity, and quality of life.

If you have suffered a work-related back injury, physical therapy may be of benefit to you. Often, however, workers’ compensation insurance companies are hesitant to authorize or pay for physical therapy programs. If you want help with your Minnesota workers’ compensation case, or have questions about obtaining the medical treatment you need, contact Meuser & Associates for a free consultation. Call us at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Minnesota Police Officers and Common Workers’ Compensation Injuries

Minneapolis police officers, St. Paul police officers, and other Minnesota police officers and law enforcement personnel place themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis to protect public safety. When a police officer is injured in the course and scope of his or her duties, those injuries are covered by Minnesota workers’ compensation.

We have successfully represented many MN police officers for workers’ compensation benefits after they sustained work-related injuries, such as:

Motor vehicle accidents: Police officers are at a high risk for sustaining injuries as the result of a car accident, simply by virtue of the amount of time many police officers spend in their squad cars. Regardless of fault, a Minnesota police officer is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured as the result of a motor vehicle collision. In addition to workers’ compensation benefits, police officers may be entitled to personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, through their automobile insurance. If the crash was caused by the negligence of another party, the police officer may also have a personal injury claim against the at-fault party.

Slip and Fall Accidents: Minnesota’s icy winters create dangerous conditions for police officers going up and down stairs or walking on icy driveways or sidewalks. Falls can cause grievous injury, including head injury, traumatic brain injury, back injury, neck injury, or spine injury. Police officers who suffer injury as the result of a fall are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. They may also have a negligence claim against the person or entity responsible for maintaining the premises where the fall occurred.

Lifting injuries: Lifting injuries sustained by police officers are extremely common. Such injuries can range from temporary sprains and strains to serious spinal disc injuries. Lifting injuries sustained by police officers are covered by workers’ compensation.

Heart attacks: Law enforcement is an extremely stressful job. Heart conditions, including heart attacks, due to the stress of a police officers’ job duties, are often covered by Minnesota workers’ compensation. In fact, the Minnesota legislature has created a legal presumption that when a Minnesota police officer suffers certain heart conditions, they are presumed to be caused by the officer’s work activities.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Due in large part to increased awareness about the psychological effects of dealing with traumatic and stressful situations, more and more Minnesota police officers are seeking treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Police officers are often told that this condition is not covered by workers’ compensation. That is not necessarily the case. We have successfully secured substantial settlements on behalf of several police officers suffering from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Injuries From Assaults: Physically dealing with dangerous suspects and criminals frequently results in injuries to police officers, ranging from gunshot or knife wounds, bruises, broken bones, dislocated shoulders, torn ligaments, head injuries, and a wide variety of other types of injuries. These injuries are covered by Minnesota workers’ compensation. In some cases, an injured police officer may also have a cause of action against the person who caused the injury.

Exposure to Hazardous Substances: Police officers are frequently exposed to hazardous substances, including chemicals, drugs, smoke, fumes, and even blood-borne pathogens. If a police officer suffers any health effects as a result of exposure to toxins or hazardous substances, those conditions are covered by workers’ compensation

Other common police officer injuries include:
In addition to workers’ compensation benefits, and civil liability claims against negligent third parties, injured police officers may also be entitled to additional benefits, including PERA or MSRS duty-disability benefits and healthcare continuation benefits. Meuser & Associates has successfully represented many Minnesota police officers for a variety of injuries for workers’ compensation benefits, no-fault benefits, auto liability claims, duty-disability applications and appeals, and healthcare continuation applications and appeals. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our lawyers, call us at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Common Workers Compensation and Personal Injury Abbreviations and Terminology

Minnesota workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers often use abbreviations and terminology that can be confusing to our clients. Here are some common workers’ compensation and personal injury abbreviations and what they mean:

TTD: Temporary Total Disability. Workers’ compensation wage loss benefits available to injured workers who are off work completely due to their injuries.

TPD: Temporary Partial Disability. Workers’ compensation wage loss benefits available to injured workers who are working at a wage loss due to their injuries.

PTD: Permanent Total Disability. Workers’ compensation wage loss benefits available to injured workers who are completely and totally disabled from returning to substantial gainful employment as the result of their work injuries.

PPD: Permanent Partial Disability. Workers’ compensation monetary benefits available to workers who have suffered a permanent injury.

MMI: Maximum Medical Improvement. The date after which no further significant recovery from or significant lasting improvement to a personal injury can reasonably be anticipated, based upon reasonable medical probability, irrespective and regardless of subjective complaints of pain

QRC: Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant. A QRC provides rehabilitation services to workers who are unable to return to their pre-injury employment.

NOID: Notice of Intention to Discontinue Benefits. A specific form filed by an insurer or employer when they intend to discontinue an injured workers’ benefits.

NOPLD: Notice of Primary Liability Determination. A specific form filed by an insurer or employer indicating its initial decision regarding its liability for an injured workers’ claim.

FROI: First Report of Injury. A specific form that an employer must fill out following an injury.

RCD: Request for Certification of Dispute. A specific form filed by an employee or their attorney to certify a dispute regarding medical or rehabilitation services.

SOAF: Statement of Attorney Fees. A petition filed by an employee’s attorney for approval of attorney’s fees in some cases.

NOA: Notice of Appearance of Attorney. Notice filed with the Department of Labor and Industry notifying the Department that an attorney is involved with a workers’ compensation case.

NOBP: Notice of Benefit Payment. A form filed by the workers’ compensation insurance company indicating payment of benefits.

WC: Workers’ Compensation.

WCCA: Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals.

WID: Worker ID Number. A number assigned to workers in lieu of using the worker’s Social Security Number for purposes of identification.

AWW: Average Weekly Wage. Used to calculate the amount of wage loss benefits an injured worker is entitled to.

SAWW: Statewide Average Weekly Wage. Used to calculate the maximum compensation rate.

EE: Employee.

EER or ER: Employer.

IR: Insurer.

TPA: Third-Party Administrator. Work comp. insurers frequently use TPA’s to administer their workers’ compensation programs.

FCE: Functional Capacity Evaluation or Examination. An evaluation to determine an injured workers’ capacity for physical activities.

IVE: Independent Vocational Evaluation or Examination. An evaluation to determine an injured workers’ vocational abilities.

RTW: Return to work.

OTC: Over-the-counter, as in OTC medications.

PT: Physical Therapy.

ROM: Range of Motion.

TBD: To be determined.

STV: Subject to verification.

DOI: Date of injury.

DOL: Date of loss.

OAH: Office of Administrative Hearings.

DOLI: Department of Labor and Industry.

DEED: Department of Employment and Economic Development.

BCBS: Blue Cross Blue Shield.

SSDI: Social Security Disability Insurance.

IME: “Independent” Medical Examination. An examination conducted by a doctor hired by the employer or workers’ compensation insurance company.

ADR: Alternative Dispute Resolution, including mediation or arbitration.

PI: Personal Injury.

BI: Bodily Injury.

NF: No-Fault.

PIP: Personal Injury Protection. PIP benefits, including medical expense benefits and wage loss benefits, are provided by your No-Fault insurance company if you are injured as the result of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle.

UM: Uninsured motorist. If you are injured as the result of the negligence of an uninsured motorist, you may be entitled to coverage through your own uninsured motorist coverage.

UIM: Underinsured motorist. If you are injured as the result of an insured driver, but the policy limits are insufficient to compensate your losses, you may be entitled to additional coverage through your own underinsured motorist coverage.

Trying to figure out what you need to do if you are hurt on the job or in a car accident can be extremely confusing. An experienced workers’ compensation or personal injury can help take some of the confusion, frustration, and stress out of the process. Call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Penalties for Failure to file a Notice of Intention to Discontinue Benefits (NOID) Under Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Law

In some cases, an insurance company’s misconduct, lateness in payments, or failure to follow specific Minnesota workers’ compensation rules can result in a penalty. There are two types of penalties – those payable to the State, and those payable to the employee.

Our firm recently went to trial on a gentleman’s workers’ compensation case. We will have the Judge's decision within about 60 days. The employer and insurer initially admitted the gentleman’s claim, but incorrectly calculated his Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits. As a result of a back injury, our client had lifting restrictions prohibiting him from lifting more than 40 pounds. At first, the employer accommodated his restrictions, and provided him with light duty work. They then sent him to an “Independent” Medical Examination (IME), and the doctor concluded that our client needed no restrictions. The employer then insisted that he return to work at full capacity, without restrictions. Given his ongoing back problems, and his treating physician’s restrictions, our client couldn’t go back to work. The insurance company then stopped paying him wage loss benefits. One thing the insurance company didn’t do, however, was file a Notice of Intent to Discontinue Benefits (NOID).

The Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act provides very specific rules regarding the discontinuance of wage loss benefits. Pursuant to Minn.Stat. §176.238(1), the employer and insurer may not discontinue payment of compensation benefits to the employee until written notice is provided. A copy of the notice must also be filed with the Workers’ Compensation Division. The usual method for providing notice to the employee regarding the discontinuance of benefits is through the use of a specific form called a Notice of Intention to Discontinue Benefits (NOID).

Failure to follow these specific rules can result in penalties assessed against the insurance company. Some types of penalties are payable to the state, and some types of penalties are payable to the employee. In our case, because the insurance company failed to file a NOID before terminating our client’s benefits, we made a claim for penalties to be paid to the employee.

Penalties may be assessed which are payable to the state against an insurance company for violating the rules regarding discontinuation of benefits in the following circumstances:
  • A penalty can be assessed if benefits were discontinued without a timely notice to the employee as required by Minn.Stat. § 176.238.
  • Penalties can be assessed if benefits were discontinued “despite an administrative determination denying a request to discontinue.”
  • A penalty can be assessed if the discontinuance occurred despite a decision of a court requiring the payment of ongoing benefits.
  • A penalty can be assessed where benefits are discontinued “prior to the date that the Notice of Intention to Discontinue Benefits is served and filed.”
If the insurer is found to be in violation of these rules, they may be assessed a penalty of up to $1,000.00 or more, to be paid to the state.

Improper discontinuances may also result in penalties assessed against the insurance company that are payable to the employee. The purpose of the rule that provides payment of penalties to an employee is punitive rather than compensatory in nature. The intent of the rules is to deter employers and insurers from inexcusably delaying payments due to employees. The Minnesota Workers’ Compensation rules set forth specific procedures a workers’ compensation insurance company must follow when it wishes to discontinue wage loss benefits to an employee. The rules set up a process whereby discontinuance disputes are resolved relatively quickly, i.e., in a matter of a few weeks or months at most. That way, an injured employee is not forced to go without wage loss benefits for an extended period of time. It also prevents an insurance company or employer from “starving out” an employee by simply refusing to pay benefits, and forcing the employee to file a Claim Petition demanding the disputed benefits, which typically takes much longer to reach resolution.

Minnesota Statute Section 176.255(1)(f) provides penalties payable to the employee for an insurance company’s failure to properly follow the discontinuance procedures. Failure to serve a Notice of Intention to Discontinue Compensation before discontinuing compensation can result in a penalty. Webeck v. Mochinski General Conractor, 41 W.C.D. 1063 (1989).

If it is found that penalties are warranted, the amount of the penalty owed to the employee is based on the amount of the benefit that was improperly discontinued, and how late the insurance company is in paying that benefit. Depending on how late the payment is, the percentage of the penalty ranges between 6% all the way up to 30%. In our case, all of our client’s wage loss benefits were over 60 days overdue, exposing the insurance company to a potential 30% penalty.

While not every delay in payment by the insurance company is grounds for a claim for penalties, there are some cases in which the employer’s or insurer’s actions are in serious violation of the rules, and those cases warrant a claim for penalties. Unfortunately, we frequently see insurance companies that either intentionally violate the rules and time frames for payment, or that simply don’t know the rules well enough to follow them. If you have questions about your workers’ compensation claim, or questions about whether you may be entitled to penalties from the insurance company, call us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free consultation.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dislocated Worker Grants to Help 540 Laid-off Workers in Minnesota

During these trying economic times, laid off workers in Minnesota need all the help they can get. Finding a job after being laid off is incredibly hard these days. For 540 dislocated workers, however, hopefully the transition period won’t be quite so bad, thanks to five grants from the state’s dislocated worker program.

Recently, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced five grants to help retrain workers and help them return to work. Specifically, the grants include $190,000 for 50 people laid off by Gerdau Ameristeel in St. Paul, $210,000 for 60 former commercial screen-printing workers at Ad Graphics in Hugo, $490,000 for 140 laid off Twin Cities-area health care workers, $504,000 for 140 semi-conductor employees laid off after the closing of the Entegris Chaska facility, and $570,000 for 150 former employees of Cummins Power Generation in Fridley.

In addition to the dislocated worker benefits and unemployment benefits available to these individuals, they may also be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. As we’ve previously written about, economic layoffs do not eliminate an injured workers’ entitlement to workers’ compensation wage loss benefits. If a laid-off employee has any kind of work restrictions due to a work injury, he or she may be entitled to workers’ compensation wage loss benefits, including Temporary Total Disability (TTD) while he or she is unemployed, and Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits if the worker goes back to work, but earns less money.

If you’ve been laid off, but have restrictions due to a workers compensation injury, you may be entitled to wage loss benefits. Call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free consultation.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Death and Dependency Benefits and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation

Sadly, on-the-job injuries can occasionally result in the death of the employee. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 5,488 reported work-related fatalities in the United States in 2007. In Minnesota, there were 72 work-related fatalities in 2007.

Dependents of deceased workers who died as the result of a work-related injury or illness may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Generally, dependents include 1) spouses, 2) children under the age of 18, 3) children under the age of 25 who are full-time students, and 4) children over the age of 18 who are deemed to be physically or mentally incapacitated from earning. Other family members, including the deceased worker’s mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, sister, brother, mother-in-law, or father-in-law, may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if the family member was wholly or partially supported by the deceased worker.

Dependents of workers who die as the result of a work-related illness injury may be entitled to burial expense benefits of up to $15,000.00.

Dependents may also be entitled to dependency compensation based on the deceased workers’ average weekly wage at the time of the injury which resulted in the employee’s death.

In addition to dependency benefits, a deceased workers’ survivors may also be entitled to any workers’ compensation benefits that would have been available to the injured worker, such as wage loss benefits, including temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits, or permanent total disability (PTD) benefits, or permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits.

If your loved one died as the result of a work-related injury or illness, you should strongly consider contacting a workers’ compensation attorney to make sure you and your family receive the workers’ compensation death and dependency benefits you are entitled to. The law in this area of Minnesota workers’ compensation has changed frequently over the years, and it is very complex. You’d be well advised to have an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer on your side to make sure you get all the benefits you are entitled to. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Duration of Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Wage Loss Benefits In Minnesota

Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits are wage loss benefits paid to injured workers in Minnesota if they are unable to work at all as the result of a work-related injury.

Unfortunately, an injured workers’ entitlement to TTD benefits is not indefinite. Notably, for the first time in over a decade, the Minnesota legislature increased the number of weeks of TTD benefits available to an injured employee. For injuries that occurred on or after October 1, 2008, TTD benefits are available for a maximum of 130 weeks.

For injuries that occurred between October 1, 1995 and September 20, 2008, the maximum duration of TTD benefits is 104 weeks. For injuries prior to October 1, 1995, there is no specific limit on the duration of Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits.

There are, of course, a number of conditions associated with an injured employee’s entitlement to TTD wage loss benefits. Even if an injured employee meets all of these conditions, workers’ compensation insurance companies still frequently attempt to deny or cut off the worker’s entitlement to wage loss benefits.

If the workers’ compensation insurance company is attempting to discontinue your Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits, you should speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. To schedule a free consultation with a workers’ compensation lawyer, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Friday, March 20, 2009

Work Injuries and Uninsured Employers: What If You are Hurt on the Job and Your Employer Has No Workers' Compensation Insurance?

In Minnesota, employers are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance coverage or to obtain approval from the Minnesota Department of Commerce to self-insure for workers’ compensation. Employers are also required to post a poster in the workplace with the name and telephone number of the workers’ compensation insurance company. Not all employers comply with this requirement, however. Employers even occasionally refuse to tell employees who their insurance company is.

You can verify if your employer has workers’ compensation insurance coverage, and find out the name and contact information for the insurance company using the Department of Labor and Industry’s insurance look-up tool. If you can’t find your employer’s insurance company using the search tool, contact the Department of Labor and Industry’s Claims Services and Investigations unit to request insurance coverage verification about any employer in the state at (651) 284-5170.

What if you are hurt on the job and your employer doesn’t have insurance?

If you suffer an injury on the job, and your employer has no insurance and is not self-insured, you may request that the Minnesota Special Compensation Fund pay you the appropriate benefits. First, a compensation judge will have to determine whether the employer is liable for your injury, and then, if appropriate, order the Special Compensation Fund to pay you the appropriate benefits. The judge will also order the uninsured employer to reimburse the Special Compensation Fund along with a penalty in the amount of 65 percent of the benefits paid by the Fund. Alternatively, you may elect to sue the employer for the injury in a civil action. Generally, you would be entitled to a greater amount of compensation in a civil action against the employer than in a workers’ compensation action. If you opt to pursue a civil case against your employer, the employer may not defend the lawsuit by claiming the usual common law defenses, such as assumption of risk, unless the employer can prove that you were willfully negligent.

In addition, an uninsured employer may also be fined by the Department of Labor and Industry for failing to insure employees, regardless of whether an injury has occurred.

If you suspect your employer or another business is operating without workers’ compensation insurance in violation of Minnesota law, you can report the violation here or by calling (651) 284-5109, and your report will be investigated by the Claims Services and Investigations' Investigative Services Section of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

If your employer does not have insurance or won’t give you their workers’ compensation insurance information, you should probably consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. We can help verify insurance coverage, and if there is no insurance company, we can assist you in obtaining benefits from the Special Compensation Fund or by making a civil claim against your employer. Meuser & Associates has successfully handled many cases where the employer failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a workers' compensation lawyer, call us at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Visit Minnesota Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Law Firm, Meuser & Associates, P.A., at MeuserLaw.com

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Common Mistakes Injured People Make After an Accident

Here are three of the most common mistakes that people make after they are injured in an automobile accident. These mistakes can substantially reduce the value of your personal injury case.

1. Not seeking medical treatment for your injuries after the accident. After an accident, people often decline emergency treatment or ambulance services, thinking that their injuries are not serious enough to warrant emergency care. Within a few days, however, the person’s symptoms are severe. If you are injured at all in an auto accident, seek the medical treatment you need. Don’t wait until your symptoms become unbearable to get medical care. From the perspective of the insurance company, if you wait an extended length of time to receive medical treatment, you probably weren’t hurt very badly in the accident.

2. Telling the insurance company that you are not seriously injured. After being involved in a car crash, many people do not immediately experience any pain, due in part to adrenaline and other factors. It is very common for neck and back symptoms to appear 24 hours or more after an accident. Some serious symptoms may not appear for several days or longer following a crash. Insurance company representatives often try to get a statement from you immediately after the crash. It is a mistake to tell the adjuster that you’re not injured until you know the full extent of your injuries. It can sometimes take weeks or months to determine the full extent of your injuries. There is nothing wrong with telling the insurance company representative that you don’t know the full extent of your injuries yet.

Your insurance company or the insurance company for the other driver may ask you to give a recorded statement at some point after your accident. If you do not already have a personal injury attorney at this point in time, you should seriously consider scheduling a consultation.

3. Withholding information from your lawyer. People who are injured in a car accident sometimes fail to disclose important information to their lawyer. This is always a bad idea. No matter what the facts may be, they can be dealt with. It is our job as lawyers to deal with the facts. Don’t worry about whether certain facts help or hurt your case. Our job is to take all of the facts and objectively assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Whatever your situation, we’ve seen it before and know how to deal with it. Simply be honest with us. Nothing is worse for your case than to withhold information from us, only to have the other side find out the information before we know about it. Honesty is always the best policy.

If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident and you want to speak with a personal injury lawyer, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free consultation.

Visit our website at MeuserLaw.com!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Restaurant Workers and Workers’ Compensation Injuries

The service industry, including fine dining, casual and fast food restaurants, employs thousands of people in Minnesota. Almost everyone I know has worked in a restaurant at one point in time or another. I personally worked in restaurants off and on when I was in high school and college. Restaurants, particularly in the kitchen, can be very dangerous. During my various stints in the restaurant industry before becoming a lawyer, I sustained a few minor injuries here and there, although none of them were serious enough to require medical attention. I burned myself more times than I can count, including a fairly bad grease burn on my hand, I slipped and fell on wet or greasy floors, and I cut myself chopping vegetables on numerous occasions.

Chefs, cooks, dishwashers, waiters, bussers, servers, and other restaurant employees encounter many types of dangers in a busy restaurant. In a kitchen, cooks, dishwashers, and other employees are particularly at risk for sustaining burn injuries from hot food, pans, or water from steam tables, or grease burns from pans or fryers. In a busy restaurant, wet or greasy floors are particularly hazardous. Employees in a hurry can easily slip and fall on a wet or greasy floor. The danger of falling in a busy restaurant kitchen is magnified by the risk that a falling employee may strike kitchen equipment on their way down, or they may be carrying tools or equipment that may further cause injury during the fall. Knives and other cutting equipment in a kitchen also pose dangers to kitchen employees. Cooks routinely sustain cuts to the fingers and hands when cutting food. Knives that are carelessly placed on counters also pose a hazard if they are accidentally knocked down. Employees in a busy, crowded kitchen also risk accidentally being cut by a co-worker who is carelessly handling a knife. Many kitchens also use mechanical slicers, which can cause grievous injury, including cuts, amputations, or worse. Slicers should be used with extreme care. Industrial mixers can also cause severe injury, particularly crush injuries to the hands. Never put your hand into a mixer while it is moving. Ovens, grills, burners, and flattop grills pose obvious fire and burn hazards. Fryers pose dangers of fires and grease burns. Trash compactors and box balers can also cause severe or even catastrophic injuries. Kitchen employees also regularly use extremely caustic chemicals to clean, and respiratory exposure, skin contact, or eye contact with these chemicals can cause severe injury. A busy kitchen can also be a very stressful place. Cooks and other kitchen employees may even run the risk of being struck by objects thrown by frustrated co-workers.

Aside from the more obvious dangers in a kitchen, most restaurant employees are required to be on their feet for extended periods of time. This can lead to leg strains and sprains, knee problems, and back problems. Many kitchen employees are also required to frequently lift very heavy objects, particularly when stocking food and supplies. Bags of potatoes, large cuts of meat, boxes of frozen French fries, and kegs of soda or beer are very heavy, and carrying them up and down stairs can result in low back sprains and strains or other lifting injuries. Restaurant employees that are required to perform repetitive tasks, such as cutting vegetables, slicing meat, or preparing seafood, also run the risk of developing repetitive motion injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Employees retrieving stock from storage may also sustain injuries from falling objects when attempting to reach heavy items from high places.

If you’ve worked in a restaurant, more than likely, you’ve sustained an injury at some point in time, whether it is a minor burn or cut, or a more serious injury. These types of injuries are covered by Minnesota workers’ compensation. If you’ve sustained an injury that requires medical attention, you should immediately report it to your employer. If your injury is serious and requires medical attention, or if you miss time from work due to your injury, you should consider speaking with a workers’ compensation lawyer. Meuser & Associates has successfully represented many restaurant workers in claims for workers’ compensation benefits. To schedule a free consultation to learn about your rights, call us at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Visit our website at MeuserLaw.com!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cortisone Injections, Epidural Steroid Injections, and Other Therapeutic Injections for Work Injuries

If you’ve sustained a work injury, your doctor may prescribe a cortisone injection, epidural steroid injection, or other therapeutic injection procedure. 

Often, cortisone injections, epidural injections, and other therapeutic injections, are considered an “intermediate” treatment, falling somewhere in between conservative therapies and more drastic procedures, such as surgery.

These therapeutic injections are covered by Minnesota workers’ compensation if they are reasonable and necessary to cure or relieve the effects of your work related injury.

Cortisone Injection

Cortisone injections are injections of a synthetic corticosteroid (cortisol) medication into an affected area of the body. Injections of cortisone are used to suppress immune response which in turn can decrease inflammation and pain. A numbing medication, such as novacaine, is typically mixed with the cortisone to provide some immediate relief and to help the cortisone spread throughout the affected area.

Cortisone injections are typically used to treat inflammatory problems that can cause pain and loss of function, including arthritis, epicondylitis (“tennis elbow”), trigger finger, de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, trochanteric bursitis of the hip, subacromial bursitis of the shoulder or shoulder impingement syndrome.

The relief provided by cortisone injections varies from person to person. Typically, cortisone starts to take effect within about a week, but may take up to two weeks to reach maximum effectiveness. Sometimes, cortisone injections don’t work for some people. In that case, it may be that your problem is not primarily an inflammatory condition, or your condition is too far along in its course for cortisone to provide relief.

Epidural Steroid Injection

Epidural steroid injections are very similar to cortisone injections, except that they are done on the spine. Epidural steroid injections are injections of corticosteroid medication and local anesthesia (numbing medication) into the lumbar, thoracic, or cervical spine, using a needle and syringe. This type of injection is aimed at providing relief from neck or back pain.

When nerve roots are irritated by a bulging or herniated disc, or by degenerative conditions such as spinal stenosis, it can cause pain and numbness, which may extend from the neck into the shoulders and arms, or from the back into the buttocks and legs.

The medication is injected into the epidural space around the nerve roots at the affected level of your spine. Epidural steroid injections work by reducing inflammation of the nerve roots, which is swelling and irritation, thereby providing pain relief. Some people receive immediate relief from epidural steroid injections, although it may take up to two weeks for the treatment to reach maximum effectiveness. Some people experience permanent relief of their neck or back pain following an epidural steroid injection, but for most people, the relief lasts for up to a few months.

Facet Joint Injection

Facet joints are small pairs of joints where vertebrae meet on the back side of the spine. These joints provide stability to spine by interlocking two vertebrae. Facet joints also allow the spine to bend forward (flexion), bend backward (extension), and twist. Inflammation of the areas surrounding the facet joints can cause pain and discomfort.

Facet joint injections are very similar to epidural steroid injections, but they are aimed at relieving inflammation in the facet joints rather than the nerve roots.

Sacroiliac Joint Injection

The sacroiliac (SI) joint connects the sacrum (the triangular bone at the bottom of the spine) with the pelvis (iliac crest). This joint transmits all the forces of the upper body to the pelvis and legs and acts as a shock-absorbing structure. This “joint” does not have much motion. The sacroiliac (SI) joint can become inflamed from an acute injury or from chronic postural abnormalities. Pain from a sacroiliac joint problem occurs in the low back, buttock/hip, abdomen, groin, or legs.

The sacroiliac joint can become inflamed from an acute injury or from chronic postural abnormalities. Undue stress on the joint following low back fusion surgery can also cause inflammation and pain here. Pain from sacroiliac joint abnormalities occurs in the low back, buttock/hip, abdomen, groin, or legs.

A sacroiliac joint injection can serve two purposes. First, the injection can be used as a diagnostic tool to confirm whether or not the pain is coming from that joint. Second, the local anesthetic and cortisone medication can provide symptom relief which can help facilitate a program of rehabilitation.

Neurotomy

Facet joints are pairs of small joints that separate the vertebra on the back side of the spine in the lumbar (low back), thoracic (mid-back), and cervical (neck) regions. These joints can become inflamed and painful from either injuries or arthritic conditions. When facet injections of local anesthetic and/or cortisone provide temporary pain relief, you may be a candidate for a facet neurotomy.

A facet neurotomy involves destroying the nerves that relay pain messages from the facet joints. This is accomplished by using a technology called Radio Frequency Thermal Coagulation (RFTC). Under x-ray guidance, your physician places a fine probe, not much larger than the needle used in facet injections, down to the nerves that supply the facet joint(s). A controlled heat lesion is then made using RTFC. Each facet joint has at least two nerve branches therefore several lesions may need to be done at the time of the procedure.

Neurotomies are more intensive procedures than epidural steroid injections or facet joint injections. Expect moderate pain for several days following the procedure, and it may take several weeks to experience the maximum effect of the treatment. A neurotomy can provide up to six months or more of relief.

There are several other types of minimally-invasive injection-based therapies available for people suffering from work injuries to the hips, knees, elbows, shoulders, neck or back. The workers’ compensation lawyers at Meuser & Associate can help you get the medical treatment you need to treat your work injuries. Call us at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Visit our website at MeuserLaw.com!


Monday, March 16, 2009

Gillette-Type Repetitive Motion Injuries in Minnesota

When people think of on-the-job injuries, they often think of sudden, unexpected accidents, such as falling off a ladder, being involved in a car accident, slipping and falling, or injuries due to lifting heavy objects. These types of work injuries are known as “specific injuries” under Minnesota workers’ compensation law. These types of injuries are caused by an ascertainable event, at a specific time.

But what about injuries that occur over a long period of time, that weren’t necessarily caused by a specific event, and didn’t occur at one specific time? Under Minnesota work comp law, these types of injuries are known as Gillette-type injuries. They are also commonly referred to as cumulative trauma injuries or repetitive motion injuries.

Repetitive motion injuries or cumulative trauma injuries are referred to as Gillette-type based on the name of the case where the Minnesota Supreme Court recognized the compensability of these types of injuries. In Gillette, the court stated:
It is well established by the authorities that when the inevitable effects of an underlying condition are hastened by an injury that is sudden and violent or the result of unusual strain or exertion, the injury and its disabling consequences are compensable. It should further be conceded, however, that injuries may arise out of and in the course of the employment which do not occur suddenly or violently. In the course of one’s ordinary duties injuries may occur daily which cause minimal damage, the cumulative effect of which in the course of time may be as injurious as a single traumatic occurrence which is completely disabling. We have been presented with no good reason why compensation should be paid in one instance and not in the other.
Gillette v. Harold, Inc., 101 N.W.2d 200, 206 (1960).

People in occupations where their job duties require repetitive motions tend to be at greater risk for Gillette-type work injuries; however, almost any type of work activity can cause a cumulative trauma or repetitive motion injury. Repetitive motion injuries are frequently seen in the following types of occupations:
  • Assemblers
  • Machine operators
  • Textile sewing machine operators
  • Secretaries
  • Cashiers
  • Packaging operators
  • Electronic assemblers
  • Data entry workers
  • Truck drivers
  • Welders
  • Butchers and meat cutters
  • Bookkeepers
  • Auditors
  • Accountants
  • Freight, stock and material handlers
  • Carpenters
  • Hairstylists
  • Mechanics
  • Dental hygienists
  • Construction laborers
There are many factors that affect the development of repetitive motion, cumulative trauma, or Gillette-type injuries:
  • Repetitive motion: when a task is repeated frequently it can cause strains and fatigue in muscles, joints and tendons.
  • Forceful exertion: tasks that require force place a higher load or stress on muscles, tendons and joints.
  • Awkward posture/position: poor posture while performing a task, especially a repetitive task, puts strain on joints and muscles.
  • Duration: tasks that require the use of the same muscles for long periods of time can cause fatigue in those muscles and make them susceptible to injury.
  • Compression: pressing body parts on hard or sharp surfaces causes a decrease in blood flow to the muscles, tendons and nerves in that area. This can cause symptoms of tingling, numbness and change in sensation, and lead to tissue damage in that area.
  • Vibration: activities involving vibration put stress on individual parts or the whole body.
  • Poor physical health: conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Raynaud's, arthritis, smoking, alcoholism, gout, hypertension, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, stress and job dissatisfaction can increase the chance of developing a repetitive motion injury.
Common types of Gillette-type, repetitive motion, cumulative trauma injuries include:
Gillette-type injuries are very frequently contested by employers and their workers’ compensation insurance company. If you have sustained a repetitive motion, cumulative trauma, or Gillette-type injury at work, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free consultation.

Visit our website at MeuserLaw.com!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Calculating Your Average Weekly Wage (AWW)

If you’ve been injured on the job and you’ve made a claim for benefits, you will probably hear the term “AWW” or “Average Weekly Wage.”

Under Minnesota workers’ compensation law, your Average Weekly Wage (AWW) at the time of the work injury is the amount that is used to calculate your entitlement to wage loss benefits.

Minnesota workers’ compensation wage loss benefits include Temporary Total Disability (TTD), Temporary Partial Disability (TPD), and Permanent Total Disability (PTD). The amount of the wage loss benefits you are entitled to is based on your Average Weekly Wage (AWW) at the time of your injury.

For full-time, regularly scheduled workers, Average Weekly Wage (AWW) is normally calculated by adding your total gross earnings for the 26 weeks prior to the date of injury, and dividing that amount by 26 weeks.

If you frequently work overtime hours, your overtime pay should also be included in your Average Weekly Wage (AWW) calculation.

If an employee works more than one job on the date of the injury, wages from all the jobs must be included in calculating the employee’s AWW.

In addition to salary or wages, some other types of monetary benefits should also usually be included in the AWW calculation, such as declared tips or the value of room and board.

For employees who work part time or who work irregular schedules, the AWW calculation is done somewhat differently. First, one adds up the total amount earned by the employee, including vacation and holiday pay, during the 26 weeks prior to the injury. Then one counts the total number of days actually worked during that period, including days of paid vacation and paid holidays. The total amount of gross earnings is then divided by the actual number of days worked to calculate the Average Daily Wage during that time period. The total number of days worked during the 26 weeks prior to the injury is then divided by the number of weeks the employee actually worked during the time period to compute the average number of days worked each week. The average daily wage is then multiplied by the average number of days worked each week to calculate the employee’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW).

Workers’ compensation insurance companies very frequently under-calculate the employee’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW) by excluding wages that should otherwise be included, by failing to include earnings from other jobs, or by employing an incorrect calculation method. Our calculation of an employee’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW) is almost always higher than the insurance company’s calculation. An under-calculation of your AWW reduces the amount the wage loss benefits you are paid, including Temporary Total Disability (TTD), Temporary Partial Disability (TPD), or Permanent Total Disability (PTD). This can amount to a significant underpayment of benefits.

If you think the workers’ compensation insurance company has under-calculated your Average Weekly Wage (AWW), call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email to schedule a free consultation.

Visit our website at MeuserLaw.com!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Warmer Weather in MN Means More Bike Accidents

Nicer weather in Minnesota means more people will be out on bikes for recreation or for commuting in the coming weeks and months. Drivers need to be more watchful for bicyclists, and bicyclists need to watch for inattentive drivers. Unfortunately, crashes between bikes and automobiles will happen. Bikers who are injured through the negligence or carelessness of automobile drivers may be entitled to compensation.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2007:
  • 698 cyclists who were involved in US traffic crashes that year died
  • 44,000 cyclists were injured
  • 72% of cyclist injuries occurred in urban areas
  • 64% occurred at non-intersection locations
  • 26% occurred between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • 22% of cyclist injuries occurred in June and September
  • 4 people were killed in bike crashes in Minnesota in 2007
Unfortunately, crashes between bikes and cars, trucks, or motorcycles often result in serious or even catastrophic injuries, including lower extremity injuries, head injuries, back and neck injuries, traumatic brain injuries, or spinal injuries.

A bicyclist injured as the result of the negligence or carelessness of an automobile driver may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, wage loss, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. Meuser & Associates has successfully represented several bicyclists injured by at-fault drivers. Call us at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers.

Visit our website at MeuserLaw.com!
Related Posts with Thumbnails