Friday, October 15, 2010

Top Four Construction Injury Hazards

According to OSHA, the top four causes of construction fatalities are 1) falls, 2) being struck by objects, 3) being caught in confined spaces or between objects, and 4) electrocutions.

Here are some simple tips to avoid these hazards: 

Preventing Injuries from Falls
  • Employees should wear and use personal fall arrest equipment.
  • Employers should ensure that perimeter protection is installed and maintained.
  • Floor openings should be covered, secured, and labeled.
  • Employee should use ladders and scaffolds safely.
Preventing Injuries from Being Struck by an Object
  • An employee should avoid positioning him or herself between moving and fixed objects.
  • Employees should wear high-visibility clothing near equipment and vehicles.
Preventing Injuries from Being Caught In Confined Spaces or Between Objects
  • Employee should not enter an unprotected trench or excavation five feet or deeper without an adequate protective system.
  • Employers should make sure trenches or excavations are protected either by sloping, shoring, benching or trench shield systems.
Preventing Injuries from Electrocutions
  • Employees and employers should locate and identify utilities before starting work.
  • Employees should look for overhead power lines when operating any equipment.
  • Employees should maintain a safe distance away from power lines and learn the safe distance requirements.
  • Employees should not operate portable electric tools unless they are grounded or double insulated.
  • Ground-fault circuit interrupters should be used for protection.
  • Employees should be alert to electrical hazards when working with ladders, scaffolds or other platforms.
When a construction worker is injured on a job site, it often raises unique issues under the Minnesota workers’ compensation law. For example, there may be a dispute as to whether the worker is an independent contractor or an employee. Independent contractors are not covered by workers’ compensation in Minnesota, but employees are covered. Another rule unique to the construction industry is that if an employee is injured, and the subcontractor-employer is uninsured for workers’ compensation, the general contractor may be liable for workers’ compensation benefits. A third issue that frequently arises when a construction worker sustains injury is determining whether there is a liability claim against a negligent third party, in addition to a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

If you’ve sustained a work-related construction injury, you should speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer to learn how to protect your Minnesota workers’ compensation rights, and to explore any potential rights you have to make a third-party liability claim to compensate you for your injuries. For a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our workers' compensation lawyers, contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Should I Report My Injury? Report Shows Large Number of Work-Related Injuries Go Unreported

We routinely speak with Minnesota workers who are injured on the job who have fears or concerns about reporting that injury to their employer. It is almost always in your best interest to report that injury to protect your Minnesota workers’ compensation rights.

A 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office shows that employers and workers routinely underreport work-related injuries and illnesses.

OSHA requires employers who employ more than 10 employees to record every work-related injury or illness that results in lost work time or medical treatment other than first aid. Shockingly, the GAO report suggests that OSHA data failed to include up to two-thirds of all workplace injuries and illnesses.

The study indicated that employers failed to report illnesses and injuries for fear of increasing their workers’ compensation insurance costs, or undermining their ability to win contracts.

Employees did not report their work-related injuries because they feared being fired or disciplined and worried about losing out on safety incentive bonuses or rewards. Some also failed to report injuries due to employer-required drug testing following work injuries.

The study also involved surveys of occupational health practitioners. More than a third of these practitioners reported that employers or workers had pressured them to provide minimal medical treatment to hide or minimize work-related injuries or illnesses, or to record them as non-work related illnesses or injuries. Two-thirds of these practitioners also reported that they observed workers expressing fear of discipline or retaliation for reporting an injury.

Unfortunately, employers fail to report work-related injuries to their workers’ compensation insurers all too often. This leaves an injured worker in a bad spot when it comes to getting the medical treatment they need, or getting wage loss benefits if they can’t work. Employees also often have concerns about reporting an injury for fear of retaliation or disciplinary action. Employer retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim in Minnesota is prohibited by law.

In Minnesota, your employer is required to fill out and file a First Report of Injury (FROI) if you are hurt at work. If your employer refuses to fill out a FROI and send it to their insurer, we can help you report your injury.

If you have concerns about whether to report your injury or not, if your employer won’t report your injury to their insurance company, or if your employer is pressuring you not to report your injury as work-related, contact us at Meuser & Associates, for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your rights under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act. Call us at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Do I Need an MRI?

The MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) was developed in the 1980’s and has been used since that time to diagnose and treat back pain. The MRI is considered to be the single best imaging technique to determine the cause of back pain and to develop a treatment plan. MRI’s provide a detailed image of the spinal anatomy, including the anatomy of discs, nerve roots, and bony structures.

MRI scans are useful for:
  • Assessing the health of the intervertebral discs
  • Revealing fractures not seen on x-rays or CT scans
  • Diagnosing tumors or infection in the spine
  • Diagnosing disc herniations and nerve impingement
  • Assessing the success of a surgical intervention
An MRI works by rotating a magnet around the patient which causes a reaction in the hydrogen atoms in the body. The hydrogen atoms emit a small amount of radiation that is recorded in the form of an image.

While an MRI can be useful in diagnosing a cause for back pain and developing a treatment plan, results of an MRI should not be read in isolation, but should be viewed as part of the patient’s entire medical situation. For instance, an “abnormality” that is revealed on an MRI does not always pinpoint the problem. Studies have shown that approximately 30% of the general population have an MRI-indicated disc abnormality, but no back pain.

MRI results should be correlated with a patient’s symptoms, including duration, location, and severity of pain, and any neurological deficits on physical examination.

An MRI of the spine is usually indicated in the following situations, although you and your doctor should make all treatment decisions:
  • After 4 to 6 weeks of leg pain, if the pain is severe.
  • After 3 to 6 months of the low back pain, if the pain is severe.
  • If the back pain is accompanied by constitutional symptoms (such as loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, chills, shakes, or severe pain) which may indicate a spinal tumor or infection.
  • For patients who are considering an epidural injection.
  • For patients who do not experience expected improvement following spinal surgery.
If an individual is experiencing bowel or bladder incontinence or progressive weakness in the legs due to nerve damage, usually an MRI should be ordered immediately.

Workers’ compensation insurance companies very commonly refuse to approve an MRI that’s been ordered for an injured worker, whether it is to diagnose a suspected herniation, or to assess a patient’s improvement after a course of conservative care, or in anticipation of surgery. Don’t ignore disputes with the workers’ compensation insurance company!

If you’re having difficulty getting the medical treatment you need for your work injury, or to learn more about your Minnesota workers’ compensation rights, contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

MN Workers’ Compensation Benefits: Types of Benefits Available for Injured Workers in Minnesota

There are four main types of workers’ compensation benefits available to injured workers under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act.

Medical Expense Benefits

If you’ve sustained a work-related injury in Minnesota, the employer and insurer are responsible for payment of “reasonable and necessary” medical care and treatment to cure and/or relieve the effects of the work injury. Covered treatments include, but are not limited to: hospitalization, prescriptions, medical mileage reimbursement, nursing services, chiropractic care, physical therapy, assistive devices, MRI’s, CT scans, EMG’s, counseling, injections, chronic pain management, psychological care, and occupational therapy.

Wage Loss Benefits

Temporary total disability benefits (TTD): Temporary total disability benefits are wage loss benefits available to injured workers who are completely unable to work, or who are released to return to work with restrictions, but are unable to find work within those restrictions. TTD is calculated at 2/3 of an injured worker’s average weekly wage (AWW) at the time of the injury. This benefit is current capped at a maximum of $850 per week, for a maximum of up to 130 weeks. An injured workers’ entitlement to temporary total disability (TTD) also ends 90 days after reaching maximum medical improvement (MMI), if the employee fails to conduct a diligent job search, if the employee is released to work without restrictions, or if the employee is terminated for misconduct.

Temporary partial disability benefits (TPD): Temporary partial disability benefits are wage loss benefits available to an injured worker who is back at work but is earning less than they were at the date of injury due to his or her work restrictions. TPD benefits are calculated by subtracting a worker’s post-injury earnings from their average weekly wage (AWW) at the time of the injury. The difference is then multiplied by 2/3 to determine the amount of temporary partial disability benefits. This benefit is limited to 225 weeks and is not payable more than 450 weeks after the date of the injury.

Permanent total disability benefits (PTD): Permanent total disability benefits are available for injured workers who are permanently prevented from performing any substantial gainful employment. This wage loss benefits is payable as 2/3 of the worker’s average weekly wage (AWW) through age 67. As of October 1, 1995, in order to qualify for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits, an injured worker must meet certain thresholds in addition to showing he or she is physically incapable of substantial gainful employment.

Permanent Partial Disability Benefits

Permanent partial disability (PPD) or permanency benefits is a payment for the loss of use of a body function. PPD benefits are paid in accordance with the permanent partial disability schedules set forth by the Department of Labor and Industry. These benefits are payable weekly or as a lump sum.

Rehabilitation Benefits

Rehabilitation benefits are available to injured workers that are having difficulty returning to their former job due to their work injury. Vocational rehabilitation services are provided by a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC). You have the right to choose your own QRC. A QRC will provide you with an initial consultation to determine whether you're entitled to rehabilitation services. Rehabilitation services can include medical management, return to work services, job search and placement services, or formal retraining.

For a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your Minnesota workers’ compensation rights, contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What is a Microdiscectomy: MN Workers’ Compensation

A microdiscectomy or microdecompression spine surgery involves the removal of a small piece of bone and/or disc material that is impinging on a spinal nerve root. A microdiscectomy is typically performed for a herniated lumbar disc to relive leg pain or radiculopathy.

Impingement on a nerve root can cause significant leg pain, discomfort, tingling, and/or numbness. After a microdiscectomy, it can take weeks or months for a nerve root to fully heal, most patient feel relief from leg pain almost immediately following a microdiscectomy spine surgery.

According to Spine-Health.com, a microdiscectomy is performed through a small (1 inch to 1 1/2 inch) incision in the midline of the low back.
  • First, the back muscles (erector spinae) are lifted off the bony arch (lamina) of the spine. Since these back muscles run vertically, they can be moved out of the way rather than cut.
  • The surgeon is then able to enter the spine by removing a membrane over the nerve roots (ligamentum flavum), and uses either operating glasses (loupes) or an operating microscope to visualize the nerve root.
  • Often, a small portion of the inside facet joint is removed both to facilitate access to the nerve root and to relieve pressure over the nerve.
  • The nerve root is then gently moved to the side and the disc material is removed from under the nerve root.
A miscrodiscectomy spine surgery may be an appropriate treatment option for individuals suffering from leg pain due to a disc herniation for a period of at least six weeks, and that individual has not found sufficient pain relief with conservative therapies, such as oral steroids, NSAID’s, and physical therapy.

To watch a video from Spine-Health.com to learn how a microdiscectomy can help relieve pain caused by a herniated disc, click here.

Back injuries, including lumbar disc herniations, are one of the most common work-related injuries we see in our Minnesota workers’ compensation practice. Back injuries can also be very contentious cases within the Minnesota workers’ compensation system. You may be entitled to a variety of Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits if you sustained a work-related back injury, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanency benefits, and/or rehabilitation benefits.

For a free, no-obligation case consultation to learn about your rights under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email to schedule a time to speak with one of our workers’ compensation attorneys.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

12 Traffic Deaths in MN in First Days of October Leads to Safety Belt Enforcement Campaign

On Friday, a campaign of increased seat belt enforcement began across the state following a streak of deadly car crashes in the first few days of October. This increased enforcement will run through October 28th according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

During the first six days of October, there were at least 12 traffic fatalities. Those deaths included at least 5 vehicle occupants who were not buckled up. On Tuesday night, there was a rollover crash in Fridley in which four unbelted occupants were ejected from the vehicle, resulting in one death and two critical injuries.

According to Lieutenant Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol, “This crash is the perfect example of why 400-plus people are killed in Minnesota roads annually—aggressive driving, possible alcohol use, and of course, no seat belts.” He further noted that “Despite all the mistakes that led to this crash, seat belts could have made a difference. The aim of this enforcement effort is to encourage belt use to prevent these tragedies.”

Each year, unbelted motorists account for more than one-half of all vehicle occupants killed. In Minnesota, between 2007 and 2009, more than 1,000 motorists were killed in crashes and only 43 percent were belted.

The Department of Public Safety notes that during a rollover crash, unbelted motorists are usually ejected from the vehicle, often crashing through a window and then being crushed by the vehicle. Unbelted motorists will also slam into and injure others in the vehicle during a crash, and in less severe crashes, unbelted motorists may break teeth or noses on the steering wheel. The odds of injury are six times greater for people not wearing seatbelts than for people who are wearing seat belts during a crash.

If you were injured in a motor vehicle collision due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, your permanent injuries, and your pain and suffering. Contact 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 personal injury attorneys.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Work-Related Fatalities Decreased in 2009 In the United States

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, preliminary data from 2009 indicates a total of 4,340 fatal work injuries in the United States. This is down from a final count of 5,214 work-related fatalities in 2008. In fact, the number of fatalities in 2009 is the lowest since recording of fatal work injuries began in 1992.

Economic factors appear to have played a role in the decrease in fatal work injuries in 2009. The total number of hours worked fell by 6% in 2009, and industries that traditionally have a high rate of fatalities, such as construction, saw an even greater drop in hours worked.

The preliminary findings of the 2009 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries revealed some interesting information:
  • Workplace homicides declined by 1 percent in 2009, in contrast with an overall 17% decline for all fatal work injuries.
  • Workplace suicides were down 10 percent in 2009 from a high of 263 in 2008.
  • Fatal work injuries were down by 20 percent among wage and salary workers, but fatal work injuries among self-employed workers were down by 3 percent.
  • The wholesale trade industry reported higher numbers of fatal work injuries in 2009.
  • Fatal injuries in the private construction sector fell by 16 percent in 2009, following a decline of 19 percent in 2008.
  • Fatalities among black and African-American workers fell by 24 percent.
  • The number of fatal workplace injuries in building and grounds cleaning maintenance occupations rose by 6 percent.
  • Transportation incidents, which accounted for 2/5ths of all fatal work injuries in 2009, fell 21 percent from the 2,130 fatal work injuries in 2008.
Preliminary data from Minnesota indicates 60 work-related fatalities in 2009, down from 65 in 2008. In Minnesota in 2009, there were 22 transportation-related deaths, 10 deaths due to assaults and violent acts, 14 deaths due to contact with objects and equipment, 9 fall-related deaths, and 4 deaths due to exposure to harmful substances or environments, and 1 death from other causes.

In Minnesota, if your loved one suffers a fatal work-related injury, you may be entitled to death and/or dependency benefits.


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, 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.

Friday, October 8, 2010

MN Workers’ Compensation Wage Loss Maximum and Minimum Rates

Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits are available to injured workers who are completely off work due to a work-related injury in Minnesota. The amount of this benefit is calculated at 2/3 of the employee’s average weekly wage (AWW) at the time of the injury, but is subject to certain maximum and minimum amounts.

For injuries on or before September 30, 1992, the maximum amount of temporary total disability benefits was based on 100% of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage (SAWW).

10-01-86 .............$360.00
10-01-87 .............$376.00
10-01-88 .............$391.00
10-01-89 .............$413.00
10-01-90 .............$428.00
10-01-91 .............$443.00

The minimum amount of temporary total disability benefits for injuries before September 30, 1992 was 50% of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage (SAWW) or gross wage, whichever was less, but no less than 20% of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage (SAWW).

10-01-86 ....$180.00....$ 72.00
10-01-87 ....$188.00....$ 75.20
10-01-88 ....$195.50....$ 78.20
10-01-89 ....$206.50....$ 82.60
10-01-90 ....$214.00…$ 85.60
10-01-91 ....$221.50…$ 88.60

For injuries between October 1, 1992, and September 30, 1995, the maximum amount of temporary total disability benefits was based on 105% of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage (SAWW).

10-01-92 ........... $481.95
10-01-93 ........... $508.20
10-01-94 ........... $516.60

The minimum amount of temporary total disability benefits for injuries between October 1, 1992, and September 30, 1995 was based on 20% of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage or the employee’s actual weekly wage, whichever is less.

10-01-92 ........... $91.80
10-01-93 ........... $96.80
10-01-94 ........... $98.40

For injuries on or after October 1, 1995, the maximum and minimum compensation rates are set by statute:

Maximum:

10-01-95 ............ $615.00
10-01-00 .............$750.00
10-01-08 .............$850.00

Minimum (the amount set by statute, or the employee’s actual weekly wage, whichever is less):

10-01-95 ........... $104.00
10-01-00 ........... $130.00

If you have an injury on or before October 1, 2008, it’s easy to make a mistake as to the correct amount of your compensation rate.

Make sure you receive all the Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. For a free, no-obligation case consultation, contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule an appointment with one of our Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Top Ten OSHA Safety Violations – MN Workers’ Compensation

According to Risk & Insurance Online, during 2008, the number of top ten OSHA safety violations increased nearly 30 percent.

The top ten OSHA safety violations in 2008 included:
  1. Scaffolding (9,093 violations): According to OSHA, scaffold injuries occur most often when planking or support gives away, from an employee slipping, or when an employee is struck by a falling object.
  2. Fall protection (6,771 violations): OSHA requires fall safety precautions anytime a worker is at a height of four feet or more in general industry, five feet in maritime work environments, and six feet in construction.
  3. Hazard communication (6,378 violations): Employees working with hazardous or toxic chemicals must be provided with material safety data sheets.
  4. Respiratory protection (3,803 violations): Respirators protect workers from harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gasses, vapors, and sprays, which may cause cancer, lung disorders, or other diseases.
  5. Lockout/tagout (3,321 violations): Lockout/tagout procedures are practices that safeguard employees from an unexpected startup of machines or the release of hazardous energy during maintenance.
  6. Electrical/wiring (3,079 violations): Many employees, including engineers, electricians, and other professionals directly work with electricity, including overhead lines, cable harnesses, and circuit assemblies.
  7. Ladders (3,072 violations): According to the Department of Labor, falls are one of the leading causes of work-related deaths.
  8. Powered industrial trucks (2,993 violations). Workers can be injured when trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks, trucks fall between a dock and a trailer, workers are struck by a truck, or when they fall from trucks.
  9. Electrical (2,556 violations). Almost all employee are indirectly exposed to electricity and may be exposed to electrical hazards.
  10. Machine guarding (2,364 violations). Inadequate machine guarding can lead to catastrophic injury or death.
If you are injured in the course and scope of your employment, you may be entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanency benefits, and rehabilitation benefits.

For a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your rights under Minnesota workers’ compensation law, contact Meuser & Associates at  877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Be Safe On the Road and at Work During the Fall Harvest Season in Minnesota

According to federal and state statistics, farming is one of the most dangerous professions. Last year, 18 of the 60 work-related deaths in Minnesota were in the agricultural industry.

In addition to work-related injuries, roadways during harvest season are also particularly dangerous, as equipment is transported and harvests are hauled in from fields. In Minnesota in 2009, there were 156 car accidents that involved a crash with a tractor or other farm equipment, which resulted in 29 injuries and three deaths.

From the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, here are some tips to avoid accidents during harvest season:

Safety on the Road:

Three deaths and 29 injuries occurred on Minnesota roads in 2009 as a result of motor vehicle crashes involving farm equipment.

For people living or driving in rural areas:
  •  Be on the look out for farm equipment;
  • Slow down when encountering slow moving vehicles;
  • Wait for a safe place to pass; and
  • Avoid using a cell phone while driving.
For farmers and agricultural workers:
  • Make yourself easy to be seen by using lights and flashers;
  • Use slow moving vehicle emblems on vehicles traveling less than 30 miles per hour; and
  • Consider using a follow vehicle when moving large equipment on roadways.
Equipment safety:

Farm equipment is powerful, heavy, and can be very dangerous.
  • Pay attention to all safety information on your equipment;
  • Inspect and repair any hazards before operating;
  • Identify hazardous areas on equipment, and make sure to stay away from moving parts.
  • Be aware of pinch points, shear points, wrap points, pull-in areas, thrown objects, crush points, stored energy hazards, and exposed moving parts;
  • Shut down equipment, turn off the engine, remove the key, and wait for moving parts to stop before dismounting equipment; and
  • Keep bystanders away from equipment operation areas.
Grain handling safety:

Grain handling accidents, often involving grain bin entrapment, can be catastrophic.
  • Lock entrances to grain handling areas to keep bystanders out;
  • Install ladders inside bins;
  • Do not enter grain bins that are being loaded or unloaded;
  • Shut off and lockout power before entering a bin. Use a safety harness and safety line. Have several people available to lift the entrant out in case of an emergency; and
  • Wear proper respirators when working in and around grain handling areas.
Livestock handling safety:

Last year, in Minnesota, there were seven fatalities involving livestock handling.
  • Label livestock handling areas to warn away visitors;
  • Design livestock pens and handling facilities according to manufacturer recommendations;
  • Facilities should be designed to allow workers easy access to and away from animals;
  • Keep bystanders away from livestock handling areas; and
  • Understand the common instincts of animals to avoid predictable dangerous behaviors.
Under Minnesota workers’ compensation law, certain farm laborers are excluded from workers’ compensation coverage. Family farms are excluded from mandatory coverage. A family farm is defined as a 1) farm operation paying less than $8,000.00 per year in cash wages to farm laborers in the previous calendar year; or 2) a farm operation that pays carries $300,000.00 and $5,000.00 under a farm liability and medical payment policy, that paid less than the statewide average annual wage to laborers in the previous calendar year.

If you sustained injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident involving farm equipment, or if you were injured while performing agricultural work, contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email for a free, no-obligation consultation. Speak with one of our lawyers to learn about your Minnesota personal injury or workers’ compensation rights.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Common Causes of Work-Related Back Injuries

Back injuries account for 20 percent of all injuries and illnesses in the workplace, affecting over 1 million workers annually. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that back injuries cost between $20 to $50 billion per year, and one forth of workers’ compensation monetary claims involve back injuries.

Back injuries are the most common type of injury we see in our Minnesota workers’ compensation law practice.

Some of the most common causes of back injuries include:
  • Reaching while lifting
  • Poor posture while sitting or standing
  • Prolonged static positions
  • Lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying things improperly
  • Poor workstation design
  • Lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying things that are too heavy
  • Twisting while lifting
  • Bending while lifting
  • Prolonged awkward postures
  • Fatigue
  • Poor footing, including slippery floors
  • Vibration from machines or equipment
Unfortunately, back injuries can be extremely painful and may even be disabling. If you've sustained a back injury on the job in Minnesota, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanency benefits, and/or rehabilitation benefits

If you’ve sustained a back injury on the job, contact 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 lawyers to learn about your Minnesota workers’ compensation rights.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fallen Firefighters Honored on Sunday, October 3, 2010 with Half-Staff Flags

Yesterday, October 3, 2010, State and U.S. flags flew at half-staff at all public buildings in Minnesota in honor of firefighters who were killed or disabled in the line of duty.

A 2001 federal law memorializes fallen firefighters, and this day is celebrated on the first Sunday of October each year in Minnesota.

On average, 100 firefighters are killed in the line of duty in the United States each year. Since 1881, 187 Minnesota firefighters have been killed in the line of duty.On Sunday, the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Services was held in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Common firefighter injuries include:

Sprains or strains
Injuries from falling objects
Cuts and lacerations
Thermal burns
Exhaustion or fatigue
Smoke Inhalation
Contusion
Puncture wounds
Heart attacks or cardiac symptoms
Eye Trauma
Abrasions
Fractures
Dehydration
Dizziness or fainting
Electric shock
Crush injuries
Slip and falls and trip and falls
Falls from heights
Traffic accidents

According to the CDC, the most common cause of firefighter fatalities is sudden cardiac death. The report notes that coronary artery disease in fire fighters is due to a combination of personal and workplace factors. The personal factors are well known: age, gender, family history, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, smoking, high blood cholesterol, obesity, and lack of exercise. Not as widely known, however, is that fire fighters have exposures to workplace factors that are associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes such as exposure to fire smoke (notably carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and particulates), heat stress, noise, and shift work.

The Minnesota legislature recognizes the increased risk of heart conditions for firefighters. Minn.Stat. §176.011, Subd. 15(b) provides a statutory presumption of work-relatedness for firefighters who suffer heart attacks. This means that when an active duty firefighter suffers myocarditis, coronary sclerosis, or pneumonia, those diseases are presumed to be occupational diseases, so long as a pre-employment physical did not indicate any presence of those types of diseases.

In addition to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, Minnesota firefighters injured in the line of duty may also be entitled to PERA Duty Disability benefits. Families of firefighters killed in the line of duty may be entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation death and dependency benefits, in addition to other PERA death and dependency benefits.

For a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your Minnesota workers’ compensation rights and your entitlement to PERA duty disability benefits, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What is a Pinched Nerve?

Nerves extent from the brain through the spinal cord into the arms and legs and transmit messages in the form of electrical impulses to and from the brain and throughout the body. Nerves that extent from the spine into the arms or legs are called peripheral nerves.

If the nerve is pinched, the flow of messages is reduced or blocked. If the nerve is pinched or blocked long enough, the nerve may lose its ability to transmit electrical charges, and the muscles controlled by those nerves may not function properly, or the skin linked to that nerve may feel numb.

A nerve may become “pinched” as it leaves the spine by a herniated disc or bone spurs.

The symptoms of a pinched nerve depend on which nerve is being affected. A pinched nerve in the low back often includes radiating pain or numbness down the leg. A pinched nerve in the neck can cause pain or numbness in the arm and hand.

Muscle spasms and strains can also put pressure on a nerve, causing temporary pinched-nerve like symptoms. If your pinched nerve symptoms are caused by muscle spasm or sprain, you may be able to relieve those symptoms by:
  • Alternating between heat and ice on the painful area
  • Taking a hot shower
  • Laying down with a rolled up towel under your neck
  • Using a handheld massager
  • Getting a massage
  • Do range of motion stretches
  • Take a light walk
  • Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory
If you’ve suffered a pinched nerve as the result of a Minnesota work injury, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. For a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your legal rights, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Two Minneapolis Police Officers Hurt in Car Crash on Tuesday

The Star Tribune reports that two Minneapolis police officers were injured Tuesday night in a car accident involving the squad car occupied by the police officers, and two other vehicles in downtown Minneapolis on 10th Street and 3rd Avenue South. The police officers were headed north, on their way to assist other officers who were investigating a report of a person with a gun.

According to the Strib, the exact cause of the crash has yet to be determined.

The police officers were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where one was admitted with a dislocated hip and leg injuries, and the other was treated for a broken ankle.

On-the-job car accidents are one of the most common causes of injuries to Minnesota police officers. Police officers who are injured as a result of a car accident in the course and scope of their employment are entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, rehabilitation benefits, and permanency benefits.

In addition to workers’ compensation benefits, Minnesota police officers who sustain injuries in a car accident while at work may also be able to bring a personal injury claim against the at-fault party or parties.

What additional benefits are available in a civil liability claim?

While Minnesota workers’ compensation provides coverage regardless of who is a fault, there are limits to the types that can be brought. Here are some of the differences between the types of benefits available.

Workers’ Compensation
Civil Liability
Wage Loss
  • Limited to 130 weeks when you are completely off work.
  • Limited to 225 weeks when you are working at a reduced earning capacity.
  • Wage loss benefits may end 90 days after you reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) if you are completely off work.
  • Limited to 2/3 of your average weekly wage.
  • Capped at $850.00 per week.
Wage Loss
  • No time limit on the duration of your wage loss claim, either when you’re completely off work, or when you’re working at a reduced earning capacity. 
  • Can claim 100% of your actual wage loss. 
  •  Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) has no impact on the duration of your entitlement to wage loss.
  • No monetary cap.
No claims for 
  • pain and suffering, 
  • loss of enjoyment of life, 
  • inconvenience, 
  • embarrassment, etc.
Can claim 
  • pain and suffering, 
  • loss of enjoyment of life, 
  • inconvenience, 
  • embarrassment, etc.
No loss of consortium claims for spouses.
Loss of consortium claims for spouses.

There are law firms in Minnesota that practice workers’ compensation law, and there are law firms in Minnesota that practice personal injury law. There are also a few firms that practice both workers’ compensation and personal injury, including Meuser & Associates. When your attorney practices in both areas, there’s no need to hire two separate lawyers to handle both aspects of your case. 

Check out our previous article about Car Accidents in the Course and Scope of Your Employment for more information. 

We also represent police officers and firefighters in claims for PERA duty disability benefits if they sustain injuries that prevent them from continuing in their positions.

Meuser & Associates has represented dozens of police officers throughout the State of Minnesota for both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims. For a free, no-obligation case evaluation call us at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Most Popular Minnesota Workers' Compensation Articles: September 2010

In case you missed them, here are our Top Ten Most Popular workers' compensation articles from Meuser & Associates during September 2010.


  1. Calculating Permanent Partial Disability (PPD): MN Work Comp 
  2. Cortisone Injections, Epidural Steroid Injections, and Other Therapeutic Injections for Work Injuries 
  3. Spinal Disc Herniation Injuries 
  4. Grain Bin Accidents and Injuries and Minnesota Work Comp 
  5. Calculating Your Average Weekly Wage (AWW) 
  6. Explosion and Fires at Black Dog Plant in Burnsville, MN Injures Three Firefighters 
  7. Nerve Conduction Studies and Workers' Compensation Injuries 
  8. Gillette-Type Repetitive Motion Injuries in Minnesota 
  9. MN Work Comp and Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits 
  10. Home Health Care Workers and Minnesota Workers' Compensation Benefits
For a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Minnesota workers' compensation lawyers, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Minnesota Reaches 300 Traffic Fatalities This Week

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), this week, the number of traffic fatalities in Minnesota reached 303. DPS estimates that there will be approximately 405 traffic deaths in 2010. In 2009, there were 421 traffic deaths in Minnesota, the fewest since 1944.

Traffic safety officials credit the decline in traffic fatalities in Minnesota to seat belt enforcement, aggressive impaired driving enforcement, and educational outreach.

Cheri Marti, DPS Office of Traffic Safety Director noted that “we’ve made progress at limiting road deaths, and we can continue that progress, but it has to start with motorists buckling up, driving focused, traveling at safe speeds and never getting behind the wheel impaired.”

Of the 303 traffic deaths this year, 29 were motorcyclists, 24 were pedestrians, and eight were bicyclists.

If you are injured in a car accident as a result of someone’s negligence, you may be able to bring a civil liability claim against the at-fault party. Make sure you get the compensation you are entitled to. For a free, no-obligation case consultation contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Medical Expense Benefits – MN Workers’ Compensation

One of the benefits available to injured workers under Minnesota workers’ compensation law is coverage for reasonable and necessary medical expenses. Reasonable and necessary medical expenses are fully covered under Minnesota Workers’ Compensation, meaning that you do not pay a premium, you do not have a deductible, and you do not pay co-pays for these benefits.

Minnesota Statute §176.135 provides coverage for a wide variety of medical benefits, including, but not limited to:
  • Medical treatment in an emergency room
  • Appointments with a medical doctor
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Prescription medications
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Podiatric treatment
  • Surgical treatment, hospitalization, and nursing services
  • Home nursing services
  • Crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs
  • Diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, MRI’s, and CT scans
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Preventative rabies treatment
  • Dental treatment
  • ….and pretty much anything else necessary to cure and/or relieve the effects of your injury.
That being said, there are treatment parameters that apply to certain types of medical treatment. For example, chiropractic treatment is generally limited for neck, upper back, low back and upper extremity injuries for a period of up to 12 weeks, plus an additional 12 visits over the next 12 months if certain requirements are met, although there are several exceptions to this rule.

The chiropractic treatment parameters are one of the most contentious issues in Minnesota workers’ compensation medical dispute cases. We regularly represent injured workers who receive substantial benefit from chiropractic treatment, but then, once they’ve reached twelve weeks of treatment, the workers’ compensation insurer stops paying.

We often speak with injured workers who are hesitant to retain an attorney when their case involves a relatively small dispute over medical treatment. Maybe the insurer hasn’t reimbursed them for some prescriptions. Or maybe the insurer won’t pre-approve a follow up MRI. Or maybe the insurer is refusing to pay for additional chiropractic treatment or physical therapy.


Injured workers often wonder whether a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer will take their case if they just have a medical dispute. YES! Under Minnesota workers’ compensation law, if your case is limited to a dispute primarily involving medical issues, your workers’ compensation lawyer can petition the Office of Administrative Hearings to order the workers’ compensation insurer to pay your lawyer fees called Roraff fees, which are normally separate and above and beyond benefits payable directly to you.

We regularly represent injured Minnesota workers for claims involving primarily disputes over medical care. For example:
  • We tried and won a case where a workers’ compensation insurer refused to pay a $90.00 bill for a follow up visit with the employee’s spine surgeon. The employee had previously undergone two back surgeries, and had settled her case, closing out monetary benefits. The insurer refused to pay the bill because the employee was pregnant when she had her appointment, and they argued that it was her pregnancy, not her two prior back surgeries for herniated discs, that was causing her back pain.
  •  We represent an employee who settled his monetary benefits over 15 years ago. He has severe degenerative disc disease in his spine, and when he moved to Michigan, he couldn’t find a doctor who was willing to take on his challenging case. Each year, he returns to Minnesota for a follow up appointment with his surgeon, and each year, the insurer refuses to pay for his mileage and lodging, and each year, we file a claim on his behalf, and ultimately get the insurer to reimburse him.
  • We represented a woman who sustained a severe shoulder injury in the early 1990’s. Over the last several years, she began developing severe low back pain, which we believed was related to the bone graft which was harvested from her pelvis on two separate occasions. We ultimately procured a monetary settlement on her behalf, and recently secured pre-approval from the insurer to return for a consultation for her shoulder injury with the surgeon who performed her sixth and final shoulder surgery almost 15 years ago.
For a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our workers’ compensation lawyers, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Backovers -- Leading Cause of Worker Fatalities in Work Zones

The leading cause of fatalities for workers in work zones is being run over or backed over by vehicles. Motorists on the road create a constant hazard for construction zone workers, but these workers are also at equal risk of being killed by construction vehicles. On average, each month, at least one road construction worker is killed by being backed over by a construction vehicle.

Between 1995 and 2002, 844 workers were killed while working at a road construction site. During this period, the most common type of incident involved a worker who was struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment (60% of fatal accidents). Other fatal events included collisions between vehicles or mobile equipment (10 %), being struck by an object (5%), and falls (5%). Eighty-two percent of workers killed in highway accidents worked in road and street construction.  

In Minnesota, several road construction workers have been killed in work zones. For example:
  • In 1992, a highway paving crew member was killed after being run over by a rear end dump truck.
  • In 1992, a highway construction flagman was killed after being stuck by a pickup truck.
  • In 1994, a highway construction worker died after being struck by a vehicle while crossing a roadway.
  • In 1995, a construction worker was killed after being run over by a 9-wheel pneumatic roller.
  • In 1996, a conveyor operator died after being run over by a belly dump trailer.
  • In 1997, a worker was killed after being run over by a Caterpillar.
  • In 1998, a worker was killed after being run over by a front-end loader.
  • In 1999, an electrician died after falling from a cherry picker basket.
  • In 2000, a worker was killed after being crushed between a rock spreader and a pneumatic roller.
If you’ve suffered injuries as a result of a Minnesota work zone accident, you may be entitled to MN workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits and rehabilitation benefits. If your loved one was killed in a work zone accident in Minnesota, you and your family may be entitled to MN workers’ compensation death and dependency benefits.

For a free, no-obligation case review, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to speak with one of our workers’ compensation lawyers. Visit us at MeuserLaw.com to learn more about Minnesota workers' compensation.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Most Popular Minnesota Workers' Compensation Articles

Our most recent post was our 100th Minnesota Workers' Compensation blog article!


In case you missed some of our more popular articles from the past, here are the most popular five posts over the last year and a half.
  1. Calculating Permanent Partial Disability (PPD): MN Work Comp
  2. Cortisone Injections, Epidural Steroid Injections, and Other Therapeutic Injections for Work Injuries
  3. Spinal Disc Herniation Injuries
  4. Calculating Your Average Weekly Wage (AWW)
  5. Work-Related Rotator Cuff Tears
Visit us at MeuserLaw.com!

Forklift Accidents and MN Workers’ Comp.

Forklifts are extremely important and useful machines in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, warehousing, production, steelwork, construction, factories, and shipping industries. Unfortunately, forklift accidents are all too common, and often result in serious or catastrophic injuries to workers.

Each year, about 100 workers are killed in the United States, and an additional 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift accidents. Forklift accidents can be caused by:
  • Tipping over. Carrying loads that are too heavy can cause a forklift to overturn. Forklift overturns are the most common cause of fatalities involving forklifts. Forklifts that tip over can crush nearby workers, or crush the worker operating the forklift.
  • Falling objects. Forklift drivers can be seriously injured or killed by objects falling and hitting the driver while operating a forklift. If the forklift is operated in a confined area, the risk of hitting something with the forklift or with the load, which then falls onto the driver is magnified. Falling loads can also seriously injure or kill workers who are near the forklift. 
  • Driver Ejection. Falling from a forklift is one of the most common causes of forklift fatalities for workers. 
  • Being struck by a forklift. Another common cause of forklift-related deaths is when a nearby worker is struck by a forklift. This can happen when a worker fails to notice an oncoming forklift, or if the forklift does not have signal alarms. 
  • Lifting workers. Forklifts are not designed to be used to elevate workers. Should the operator lose control, a worker elevated on a forklift can fall and be seriously injured or killed. 
  • Poor Driving Conditions. Poor visibility, narrow pathways, obstructed intersections, obstacles, and unsafe floor or ground conditions can all cause forklift accidents. 
There are several things that employees can do to minimize the risk of forklift accidents:
  1. No unauthorized operators. Forklift operators must have specific training for the type of forklift they are using, the type of materials they are handling, and the type of environment they are working in. Untrained operators are at much greater risk for causing injury to themselves or others when they operate forklifts. In addition, it is illegal for persons under the age of 18 to operate a forklift.
  2. Careful load handling. Operators and workers should stack and secure the load so that it will not shift during transport. When the forklift is in motion, the load should be carried as low as possible. 
  3. Keep clear of the load. A raised load on a forklift is a hazard to anyone close enough to it to be struck if it falls. Forklift operators and other workers need to make sure to stay out from directly under the load, as well as far enough from the sides and the front of the load if the load rolls or the force of trajectory of a moving load forces throws it forward.
  4. Use the correct forklift. Depending on the conditions, i.e., indoor or outdoor; rough terrain or smooth concrete; the size of the load, the forklift must be the appropriate equipment for the situation.
  5. Be aware of the terrain. The terrain affects the balance and handling of a forklift. Rough patches or potholes can cause tip-overs. Forklift operators need to know how to operate on inclines, around corners, and on the specific type of terrain. Workers operating forklift operators need to know how to operate the forklift in different types of weather conditions, such as rain, snow, or ice. 
  6. Maintain visibility. Markings at the edges of loading docks and other areas where forklifts could roll off should be clearly marked and should include other precautions such as guardrails or chains. Forklift operators coming and going from outside to inside should be aware that the change in lighting from sunlight to indoor light can cause visibility difficulties when they first enter a building. Materials at corners should not be so high that a forklift operator’s visibility of the intersection is obstructed. Mirrors should be used to help operators and pedestrians see around corners.
  7. Keep forklift areas separate from pedestrian areas. One of the most common types of forklift accident involves workers who are on foot who are hit by forklifts or falling loads. Where possible, forklifts should be operated in areas separate from workers who are on foot. 
If you’ve been involved in a forklift accident at work in Minnesota, you may be entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, rehabilitation benefits, and permanent partial disability benefits. If you are hurt at work, make sure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to. For a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your workers’ compensation case, contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What is a Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Functional Capacity Evaluation?

A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is a course of objective testing to determine your functional limitations following a work related injury. This testing typically involves an interview to determine what types of conditions you have, both work-related and non-work related, what types of treatment you’ve undergone, the type and intensity of symptoms you are experiencing, and how your symptoms impact your activities of daily living. The testing itself usually takes at least several hours, and may be conducted over the course of a couple days. The testing involves having you perform simulated work tasks such as lifting, pushing and pulling, squatting, overhead activities, and other activities relevant to your conditions.

The goal of this testing is to objectively measure your physical work limitations. Often times, this testing is done after you’ve reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), to determine your permanent limitations. An FCE report will often list weight lifting limitations, limitations on bending, twisting, pushing, pulling, kneeling, overhead work, or limitations on sitting or standing for prolonged periods.

During the testing, you are not expected to continue to perform activities that cause you pain. However, the goal of the testing is to determine the maximum abilities you are able to perform. It is important to inform the tester when the activities you are performing cause you pain or discomfort. It is also critical that you don’t try to exaggerate your symptoms during the course of the testing. The testers are experts and will absolutely be able to tell if you are exaggerating. If you exaggerate, this will be put in writing in your FCE report. Almost nothing sinks an otherwise legitimate workers’ compensation case than an FCE report which indicates that the injured worker was exaggerating some of his or symptoms.

Your QRC will often use the results of your FCE to help define what types of work are appropriate for you, and to develop a plan to try to get you back to work within those restrictions.

For a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your Minnesota workers’ compensation case, contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Continuation of Healthcare Coverage Under Minn. Statute. 299A.465 When You're Over Age 55

Minnesota firefighters and police officers who are disabled in the line of duty may be entitled to duty disability pension benefits under PERA. If you have a disability that is expected to prevent you from performing your normal duties as a police officer or firefighter for a period of at least a year, and if your disability “is the direct result of an injury incurred during, or a disease arising out of, the performance of normal duties or the actual performance of less frequent duties, either of which are specific to protecting the property and personal safety of others and that present inherent dangers that are specific to the positions covered by the public employees police and fire plan,” Minn. Stat. §353.01, Subd. 45 (2009), you may be entitled to these benefits.

In addition, under Minn. Stat. §299A.465, if you qualify for duty disability benefits, you also qualify for continued health insurance through your employer. This means that your employer is responsible for continued payment for your insurance coverage. Obviously, this is a huge benefit, the value of which can exceed tens of thousands of dollars over the course of several years.

Unfortunately, if a PERA member becomes disabled after reaching age 55, he or she is not eligible for duty disability benefits. However, firefighters or police officers who meet the definition of duty disability, but don’t qualify for duty disability benefits because they’ve reached age 55 are still eligible for continued healthcare coverage under Minn. Stat. Sec. 299A.465.

If you’re a Minnesota firefighter or police officer who is disqualified from receiving PERA duty disability benefits because you’ve reached age 55, it is worth submitting an application to PERA for a determination as to whether you qualify for continuation of healthcare coverage under Minn. Stat. §299A.465. Continued employer contributions toward your health insurance until age 65 is worth tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.

Meuser & Associates has represented dozens of police officers and firefighters from all over the state of Minnesota for workers’ compensation claims, and we have helped dozens of police officers and firefighters complete applications for PERA duty disability benefits, appeal unfavorable determinations, and apply for continued healthcare coverage under §299A.465. In fact, Meuser & Associates successfully represented four police officers and firefighters at the Minnesota Court of Appeals regarding disputes over continuation of healthcare coverage.

For a FREE, no-obligation consultation regarding your entitlement to PERA duty disability benefits and/or continuation of healthcare insurance under §299A.465, contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to speak with Ron or Jen.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Minnesota Workers' Comp PPD % Rating: How Much Is It Worth?

Under Minnesota Workers’ compensation law, Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits are payable for the permanent functional loss of use of the body based upon a disability schedule. Often, once an injured worker has reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), his or her doctor will assign a permanency rating.

If the search statistics are any indication, folks are curious as to the dollar value associated with their permanency ratings.
In Minnesota, since 1984, Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) has been determined using the PPD schedules. Under the schedules, specific types of impairments to each body part are assigned a percentage rating. These ratings are meant to assign a permanent partial disability to the body as a whole based on the specific type of permanent impairment. This percentage is then multiplied times a dollar amount to determine the amount of the PPD benefits. A higher permanency rating is multiplied by a higher dollar amount. Here’s a look at the schedule that applies to injuries that occurred on or after October 1, 2000:

PPD % Amount 
0-5        $75,000
6-10       $80,000
11-15     $85,000
16-20     $90,000
21-25     $95,000
26-30     $100,000
31-35     $110,000
36-40     $120,000
41-45     $130,000
46-50     $140,000
51-55     $165,000
56-60     $190,000
61-65     $215,000
66-70     $240,000
71-75     $265,000
76-80     $315,000
81-85     $365,000
86-90     $415,000
91-95     $465,000
96-100   $515,000

The compensation schedule at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry website can be somewhat confusing for folks trying to figure this out on their own what the insurance company owes them. For example, I’ve had people inquire as to why the insurance company wasn’t going to pay $80,000.00 for their 10% PPD rating.
Reading the schedule this way makes it seem like PPD ratings between 6-10% result in a benefit of $80,000.00. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Ratings between 6-10% are multiplied by $80,0000.00 to determine the permanency benefit.
Here’s a couple examples of how this math works:
3% PPD (x) $75,000.00 = $2,250.00
5% PPD (x) $75,000.00 = $3,750.00
9% PPD (x) $80,000.00 = $7,200.00
16% PPD (x) $90,000.00 = $14,400.00
24% PPD (x) $95,000.00 = $22,800.00
36% PPD (x) $120,000.00 = $42,200.00
50% PPD (x) $140,000.00 = $70,000.00
75% PPD (x) $265,000.00 = $198,750.00
100% PPD (x) $515,000.00 = $515,000.00
Sometimes, determining permanency is relatively straightforward under the schedules. Other times, however, such as when the type of injury is not specifically addressed in the schedules, if there is disagreement as to the precise diagnosis, if there is a question as to whether the individual had a pre-existing condition, or where multiple body parts are injured, determining permanency may be more complex. As a rule, Minnesota workers’ compensation insurance companies adopt the lowest possible rating.
Our office frequently reviews files of injured workers who don’t think they have any workers’ compensation benefits available, only to discover that the work comp. insurer either did not pay PPD benefits, or underpaid those benefits.
For more information about Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits in Minnesota, check out these previous posts:

MN Work Comp and Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits

Calculating Permanent Partial Disability (PPD): MN Work Comp

For a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to speak with one of our Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Home Health Care Workers and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Our office has represented several home health care workers for a variety of injuries, including, most recently, a low back injury resulting in surgery, a broken ear drum resulting from an assault, a broken leg resulting from a fall down some stairs, Hepatitis C due to exposure from a client, and a torn rotator cuff from lifting a client.

One thing that we see far too often in handing Minnesota workers compensation cases for injured home health care workers and personal care attendants, is poor handling of the situation on behalf of the employer. In fact, upon receipt of our letter of representation, one employer called and left me a message on my voicemail advising me that she was firing the worker for talking to a lawyer. Bad move on her part, and she left the proverbial “smoking gun” evidence on my voicemail. Not all home health care employers behave this way, but for some reason, it seems to be more prevalent in this field.

I can’t stress enough how many of these workers fall through the cracks of the workers’ compensation system. Too many employers of personal care attendants and home health care workers do not report their injuries, and take inappropriate retaliatory actions against them when they do report them. I would recommend to any Minnesota home health care worker who is injured at work to speak with a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure that their rights are protected.

According to the CDC, in 2007, there were 896,800 home health care workers. Amazingly, among those healthcare workers, there were 27,400 injuries reported. It’s anyone’s guess as to how many injuries were not reported. Some of the injuries resulted from unintentional needlesticks, latex allergies, and violence. The most common injuries, however, were sprains, strains, and other musculoskeletal injuries related to lifting and moving patients. The rate of patient lifting injuries in 2007 among healthcare workers was 20.5 per 10,000.

Unfortunately, persons with mobility problems are often not furnished with lifting equipment or adjustable beds. Moreover, nurses, aides, hospice care workers, and other in-home care providers typically work in the client’s home alone. Moving patients by themselves, in cramped quarters, and without lifting equipment is an injury waiting to happen. In fact, research indicates that assistive devices should be used to lift more than 35 pounds of a patient’s weight.

Some examples of ergonomic assistive devices to reduce the incidence of overexertion and musculoskeletal injuries among home healthcare providers include hoists, rolling toileting and showering chairs, grab bars, adjustable beds, raised toilet seats, and slip sheets.

Reducing musculoskeletal injuries involves ergonomic planning to make it physically easier for in-home health care providers to do their jobs. Employers may wish to consult with professional in patient care to evaluate whether and when assistive devices should be used. They should also provide ergonomics training for providers, evaluate each patient-care plan to determine whether ergonomic assistive devices are needed, and reassess the training, the care plan, and the assistive devices to determine their effectiveness.

In order to avoid injuries, home healthcare providers should use ergonomic devices when they are available to avoid manual patient handling, and to use proper body mechanics when manual patient handling is necessary.

Home health care workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured in the course and scope of their employment. These benefits include medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanency benefits, and rehabilitation benefits. If you are a home health care worker who sustains an injury on the job, make sure you get the benefits you are entitled to.

For a free, no-obligation with one of our Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers, call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Visit us at MeuserLaw.com for more information about Minnesota Workers' Compensation.
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