Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Received a PPD Payment, Is My Case Closed? Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Permanent Partial Disability

I get calls from injured workers in Minnesota a couple times a month who’ve received a check in the mail from the workers’ compensation insurance company and a Notice of Benefit Payment which indicates that they’re receiving payment for Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits. These folks often have questions about what exactly this payment is for, and how it may affect their rights. 

Usually, the permanent partial disability (PPD) payment is based on a rating that your doctor assigned to your permanent injury. In some cases, insurance companies pay a minimum amount of permanent partial disability benefits if there’s a question as to whether the injured worker may be eligible for a higher rating.

Receiving a permanent partial disability (PPD) payment on a Minnesota workers’ compensation case does not mean that your case is settled or closed. Cashing your PPD payment does not mean that you’ve accepted a settlement, or agreed to close your case. 

Many workers who receive a PPD payment are eligible for additional workers’ compensation benefits. When I speak with injured workers who have questions about a PPD payment they’ve received, I typically try to evaluate:
  • Whether the amount of PPD is correct. 
  • Whether a maximum medical improvement (MMI) determination is premature. 
  • And, whether they may be eligible for additional workers’ compensation benefits. 
A while back, I met with an injured worker for an initial consultation. He had a couple back injuries over the years, and had undergone back surgery. He had been off work due to his back problems for a couple years, which had resulted in progressively worsening neurological problems in one of his legs. He told me that he had settled the monetary benefits on his back injury claims. In the meantime, we decided to pursue a claim for payment of his outstanding medical expenses.

As part of investigation his claim, I obtained copies of his workers’ compensation file from the Department of Labor and Industry. While I found documentation that this gentleman had been paid permanent partial disability benefits for some of his back injuries, I couldn’t locate any documentation of any settlements. The attorneys for the insurance companies involved were also unable to locate any documentation of any settlements. I realized that this gentlemen ASSUMED that he had settled his cases because he had received permanent partial disability payments for his injuries.

In fact, because he hadn’t settled his cases, this gentleman has a substantial claim for wage loss benefits, in addition to his claims for payment of his medical expenses.

The moral of the story is that a permanent partial disability (PPD) payment on a Minnesota workers’ compensation case is not a settlement or a close out of other claims. 

If you’ve received a permanent partial disability (PPD) payment on your Minnesota workers’ compensation case, a workers’ compensation attorney can evaluate whether the payment is appropriate and whether or not you have additional workers’ compensation claims. For a free, no-obligation Minnesota workers’ compensation case consultation, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email. 


Monday, January 30, 2012

Do I Need A Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?

If you’re injured on the job in Minnesota, in most instances, you are covered by workers’ compensation insurance which provides  medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and/or rehabilitation benefits

In an ideal world, all Minnesota workers who are hurt at work would automatically get all the benefits they are entitled to under the law. Unfortunately, in most Minnesota workers’ compensation cases, it’s not a matter of IF the workers’ compensation insurer will dispute your claim – it’s a matter of when.

Meuser & Associate represents injured workers thorough the State of Minnesota for a variety of on-the-job injuries, including neck injuries, back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, shoulder injuries, crush injuries, spinal cord injuries, ankle injuries, burns, and catastrophic injuries.

If the workers’ compensation insurance company is paying on my claim, why do I need a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer? 

Even injured workers who are currently receiving workers’ compensation benefits are well advised to take advantage of a free, no-obligation consultation with a Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney.

As a rule, once you’ve sustained a work-related injury, you are a liability for your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance company. At all stages of your case, the insurance company is looking for ways to minimize the cost of your claim. Even on admitted workers’ compensation claims in Minnesota, where the insurance company has acknowledged responsibility for payment of benefits, there are dozens of ways they can seek to cut you off, undermine your rights, and minimize your entitlement to claims.

For example, workers’ compensation insurance companies often:
  • Contest everything about your case, including the reasonableness and necessity of your medical care, your entitlement to wage loss benefits, or even whether or not you were actually hurt at work. 
  • If given the opportunity, refer you to a short list of doctors who will minimize the seriousness of your injuries, provide minimal medical care, or push you to return to unrestricted work too soon. 
  • Delay or deny your access to treatment with a specialist, diagnostic testing, or surgery. 
  • Cut off your wage loss benefits in the hopes that the delay in your receipt of monetary benefits will “starve you out” and force you to accept a settlement for pennies on the dollar. 
  • Underpay on wage loss benefits or permanent partial disability benefits, either intentionally or unintentionally. 
  • Neglect to tell you about your right to rehabilitation benefits, or permanent partial disability benefits. 
  • Wait for you to make a mistake on your claim that will give them a basis to cut you off. 
Even loyal, hardworking employees who have worked for the same employer for years, sometimes discover a dramatic change in attitude in their supervisors if they’ve sustained a work-related injury.

If you’ve suffered a serious work-related injury, everything you’ve worked for can be at risk, including your financial security, your career, and most importantly, your health. A good Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help you navigate the process and help you protect your rights.

An injured worker should never rely on the workers’ compensation insurance company to protect his or her best interests. Being informed about your Minnesota workers’ compensation rights is your first step to protecting your interests. For a free, no-obligation workers’ compensation consultation to learn more about your rights, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email. 



Sunday, January 29, 2012

Treatment for Burn Injuries

Severe burn injuries caused by car accidents or workplace accidents, often require hospitalization. Burn injuries are treated with a variety of types of treatment. For example, treatment may include: 
  • Topical treatments with antibiotics. Patients with severe burn injuries are susceptible to viral and bacterial infections. Topical antibiotic medications may be applied to the skin to speed the healing process, to minimize scarring, and to prevent infection. 
  • Bandages. Serious burns typically need to be bandaged to prevent infection, and to allow the wound to remain clear of fluids and pus. Bandages also help reduce pain and keep the skin and body part immobilized during healing.
  • Pressure garments. Pressure garments are often worn on a burned area during the healing process to help prevent excessive scarring. 
  • Elevating burned areas. Elevation helps minimize swelling of the affected limb. In severe burns, fluid often accumulates in the wounded area, causing swelling. Swelling can complicate a burn injury because the affected area can develop high levels of pressure and blood flow problems. 
  • Surgical cuts or escharectomies. This procedure helps reduce excess pressure under the skin in a burned limb. 
  • Skin grafts. This procedure involves transplanting a piece of skin from one area of the body to another. 
  • Synthetic skin grafts. If a large portion of a victim’s skin is burned, synthetic skin may be used instead of the victim’s own skin. 
  • Physical therapy. During healing, scar tissue is formed. To help keep the newly formed skin flexible for normal movement, burn victims may participate in rehabilitation and physical therapy. If the burn extends through the skin into the muscle tissue, more intensive physical therapy may assist in a patient’s recovery. 
  • Dermabrasion. This is a surgical procedure to improve or minimize the appearance of scars, restore function and correct disfigurements as a result of a burn. 
If you’ve suffered burns as a result of a motor vehicle accident, in Minnesota, your auto insurance company is obligated to pay for up to $20,000.00 for your medical expenses. These are known as personal injury protection benefits. In addition to claims for your past and future medical expenses, you may be able to make a claim for past and future wage loss and past and future pain and suffering as part of a civil liability claim against the at-fault driver.

If you suffered burn injuries as the result of a workplace accident, you may be eligible for Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and rehabilitation benefits.

If you’ve suffered a burn injury as the result of a car accident or workplace injury, a Minnesota personal injury lawyer or workers’ compensation lawyer can help you through the process of making sure you get the benefits you’re entitled to. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Preventing Work-Related Back Injuries

Back injuries are the most common work-related injuries we see in our Minnesota workers’ compensation law practice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, back injuries account for 1 in 5 workplace injuries/illnesses. Back injuries are painful and debilitating. After you’ve sustained a back injury, you’re more likely to suffer a re-occurrence or re-injury of your back in the future. 

Risk factors for back injuries include:
  • Improper lifting or lifting objects that are too heavy. 
  • Repetitive motions that lead to muscle fatigue and injury or gradual wear and tear. 
  • Poor posture while sitting, standing, or performing job activities. 
  • Stress, which can lead to muscle tension and back pain. 
  • Age-related wear and tear. 
  • Excess weight, which puts extra strain on the back. 
  • Presence of other diseases, such as arthritis or degenerative disc disease. 
  • Cigarette smoking which increases the risk of low back pain and slows healing of injuries.
Preventing work-related back injuries involves taking simple precautions. For example:
  1. Learning and using safe lifting techniques.
  2. Using mechanical lifting aids when possible. 
  3. Improving posture while sitting, standing, or performing work activities. 
  4. Using ergonomically-appropriate chairs, equipment, and materials to avoid awkward postures and reaching. 
  5. Changing positions frequently. 
  6. Taking mini-breaks, especially while performing repetitive tasks. 
  7. Minimizing bending and reaching. 
  8. Managing and reducing stress. 
  9. Maintaining a healthy weight. 
  10. Improving overall wellness by eating well, sleeping enough, and getting regular exercise.
  11. Adopting an exercise routine focusing on strengthening the back and abdominal muscles. 
If you hurt your back at work in Minnesota, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, including wage loss benefits, medical expense benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and/or rehabilitation benefits. Don’t let an on-the-job back injury ruin your health or your career. For a free, no-obligation Minnesota workers’ compensation case consultation, contact Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email

Friday, January 27, 2012

Does MN PERA Cover PTSD and Other Psychological Conditions?

I spoke with a Minnesota police officer recently who asked me whether or not Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was covered for Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) Police and Fire Plan Duty Disability Benefits. 

I explained that, yes, psychological conditions are specifically enumerated under the PERA Duty Disability statute, meaning that they are specifically covered. This police officer had been involved in some extremely high-stress incidents in the last few years, and had started to exhibit symptoms consistent with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His doctors are telling him that he can no longer work in law enforcement due to his condition. He was obviously concerned about what his options were in the event that he could not continue working as a police officer.

Interestingly, before calling me, he had talked to “some people” who told him that psychological conditions weren’t covered by PERA. First off, I’m glad he called. If he had relied on what “some people” told him, he wouldn’t be aware that he’s eligible for 60% of his high-five salary, tax free, through age 55, plus continued health insurance through his employer. These benefits are potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to him. 

Police officers and firefighters in Minnesota who are covered under the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) Police and Fire Plan are eligible for disability benefits in the event that they are unable to perform their normal duties. There are two basic types of disability benefits under the PERA Police and Fire Plan: Duty and Regular.

Duty disability benefits. Duty disability pays at a basic rate of 60% of police officer or firefighter’s average high-five. Qualification for duty disability also entitles a police officer or firefighter to continued health insurance under Minn. Stat. § 299A.465.

PERA duty disability is defined as follows:
"Duty disability," physical or psychological, means a condition that is expected to prevent a member, for a period of not less than 12 months, from performing the normal duties of the position held by a person who is a member of the public employees police and fire plan, and that 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. 
Regular disability benefits. Regular disability is paid at a base rate of 45% of a police officer or firefighter’s high-five salary. Individuals who qualify for regular disability are not eligible for health care continuation under Minn. Stat. § 299A.465.

PERA regular disability is defined as follows: 
"Regular disability," physical or psychological, means a condition that is expected to prevent a member, for a period of not less than 12 months, from performing the normal duties of the position held by a person who is a member of the public employees police and fire plan, and which results from a disease or an injury that arises from any activities while not at work, or while at work and performing those normal or less frequent duties that do not present inherent dangers that are specific to the occupations covered by the public employees police and fire plan. 
Unfortunately, police officers have a high incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as the result of experiencing disturbing, dangerous, and traumatic situations. 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.

If you’re a Minnesota police officer who is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of experiencing traumatic incidents in the line of duty, and you cannot return to work in law enforcement due to your condition, you may be eligible for PERA duty disability benefits.

Don’t rely on “some people” to give you legal advice about your rights to hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of benefits PERA disability benefits. Speak with a PERA lawyer about your rights. There’s simply too much at stake to risk trying to figure it out on your own, or to risk depending on the advice of “some people.” 

Meuser & Associate has represented dozens of police officers and firefighters throughout the State of Minnesota in conjunction with claims for PERA disability benefits. We’ve also successfully secured PERA duty disability benefits on behalf of a number of police officers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of in-the-line of duty psychological trauma. For a free, no-obligation legal consultation to learn about your rights, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule an appointment with Jen or Ron.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Choose Your Own QRC: MN Work Comp. Qualified Rehabilitation Consultants

In Minnesota, if you are having difficulty performing your job duties because of your work injury, or if your employer has terminated you or laid you off because there is no work within your restrictions, you may be eligible for the assistance of a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC).

If you are injured on the job, you have the right to request a consultation with a QRC at any time. After your consultation, the QRC will determine if you are a “qualified employee,” which means
"an employee who, because of the effects of a work-related injury or disease, whether or not combined with the effects of a prior injury or disability:
A. is permanently precluded or is likely to be permanently precluded from engaging in the employee's usual and customary occupation or from engaging in the job the employee held at the time of injury;
B. cannot reasonably be expected to return to suitable gainful employment with the date-of injury employer; and
C. can reasonably be expected to return to suitable gainful employment through the provision of rehabilitation services, considering the treating physician's opinion of the employee's work ability."
If you are found to be a qualified employee, your QRC works with you, your employer, your medical providers, and the workers’ compensation insurance company to help you get back to suitable gainful employment.

QRC’s also provide medical management services, transferable skills analysis, vocational testing, ergonomic job modification, job seeking skills training, resume preparation, and job development and placement.

You have the right to choose your own QRC! The QRC you choose can have a significant impact on your case. 

Qualified Rehabilitation Consultants are licensed in the state of Minnesota to provide vocational rehabilitation services to injured workers. While QRC’s are supposed to work in the interests of both the employee and the employer, some QRC’s are not exactly “independent.”

If an insurance company assigns you a QRC, there’s a good possibility that if push comes to shove, your insurance-company-assigned QRC is not going to be looking out for your interests. Even if you’ve met with a QRC the insurance company assigned to you, and you’ve signed a Rehabilitation Plan (R-2) in Minnesota, you have the right to change QRC’s within 60 days without having to seek approval from the workers’ compensation insurance company.

If you feel like your QRC is minimizing your injuries, if you feel like your QRC is pushing your doctor to return you to work too early, or if you feel like your QRC is pressuring your doctor to decrease or remove your restrictions, you may want to consider changing QRC’s. 

After 60 days have passed, it gets more difficult to change QRC’s. After that point, you must have pre-approval from your workers’ compensation insurer, or you must get a decision from the Department of Labor and Industry or a Workers’ Compensation Judge in order to switch. You must show that a change in QRC’s is in the best interests of both parties.

If you’ve been contacted by a QRC that’s been assigned to you by your employer or their insurance company, it’s a good idea to speak with a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer before agreeing to that QRC. For a free, no-obligation workers’ compensation case consultation, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More TTD Means TPD More Likely: MN Workers’ Comp. Wage Loss

According to an analysis done by the MN Department of Labor and Industry, workers who receive Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits for an extended period are more likely to be eligible for Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits once they return to work. 

Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits are available to injured workers if they are completely restricted from working, or if they are unable to return to their date-of-injury employer as a result of their injuries, and they are conducting a diligent job search. These benefits are currently available for a maximum of 130 weeks at a rate of 2/3 of the workers’ average weekly wage (AWW) at the time of the injury, capped at a maximum of $850.00 per week. If the employee has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), entitlement to TTD ceases 90 days after reaching MMI.

Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits are available to injured workers who are able to return to work at a reduced wage due to their work-related injury or illness. TPD benefits are available for a maximum of 225 weeks, but for no more than 450 weeks after the date of injury. TPD benefits are paid at a rate of 2/3 of the difference between the workers’ average weekly wage (AWW) and their reduced earnings.

The Department of Labor and Industry determined that the overall percentage of injured workers with wage loss benefits who receive TPD benefits has stayed at about 29 percent. For injuries between 2003 and 2008, the percentage of indemnity claims with TPD benefits increases with the duration of TTD benefits, leveling off at about 55 percent for claims with more than six month of TTD benefits.

In plain language, what this means it that the longer an injured worker receives temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, the more likely it is that he or she will be eligible for temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits. 

In our Minnesota workers' compensation practice, we see many claims where an injured worker with permanent restrictions returned to work, possibly with minimal or no wage loss, and then subsequently lost that job, or had to take a lower paying job due to his or her injuries. In many of these cases, the injured worker was never told they were eligible for additional TPD benefits.

For a free, no-obligation workers' compensation case evaluation, contact Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and MN Workers' Comp.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common work-related injuries we see in our Minnesota workers’ compensation law practice. Carpal tunnel syndrome is not only painful, but it can interfere with your ability to do your job. 

If your work activities substantially contributed to your development of carpal tunnel syndrome, you may be eligible for Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and rehabilitation benefits.

In Minnesota, when carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a worker’s day-to-day activities, or where it develops over time as a result of an employee’s work, it is known as a repetitive motion injury, or a Gillette-type injury.

Unfortunately, workers’ compensation cases involving carpal tunnel syndrome are also very commonly disputed by workers’ compensation insurance companies. Rather than acknowledging that your work activities contributed to the development of your condition, the workers’ compensation insurance company will usually try to point to some other cause, such as obesity, diabetes, or no cause at all.

In fact I’ve seen a number of independent medical examiners simply conclude that females over the age of 40 are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, and that therefore, the workers’ job activities are not a substantial contributing factor to her carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there is pressure on the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel in your wrist. This pressure causes sensations of tingling, numbness, pain, and/or weakness in parts of your hand.

Things that can contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
  • Repetitive or forceful hand and wrist movements that cause the membranes surrounding the tendons to swell putting pressure on the median nerve. 
  • Work that requires awkward positioning of the hands or wrists for long periods can also put pressure on the median nerve or cause swelling of the tendons. 
  • Work activities that cause hand-arm vibration for long periods can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. 
  •  Broken wrist bones, dislocated bones, new bone growth or bone spurs can put pressure on the median nerve.
  • Conditions or illnesses that cause swelling in the joints and soft tissues, or restricted blood flow to the hands, such as obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, diabetes, lupus, or hypothyroidism can result in pressure on the median nerve. 
  • Buildup of fluid, or edema, in the carpal tunnel, caused by pregnancy or conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, can put extra pressure on the median nerve. 
  • Smoking may contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome by affecting blood flow to the median nerve. 
If you’ve developed carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of your work activities, a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help protect your rights. For a free no-obligation case consultation call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pre-Existing Conditions and MN Workers’ Compensation

In Minnesota, if you re-injure or aggravate a pre-existing condition, it is covered by workers’ compensation. A person’s work activities or work injury need only be a substantial contributing factor to his or her current condition for it to be compensable under Minnesota workers’ compensation law.

While an employer is not obligated to cover a worker’s personal health, that employer take employees as they find them with whatever health conditions they bring to the job. Employers in Minnesota assume the risk that an employee’s non-work related pre-existing condition may be aggravated by a work injury or work activity.

In Minnesota, in order to be compensable workers’ compensation claim, it is not necessary that a work injury or an employees work activities be the only cause of the condition for which workers’ compensation benefits are sought. The work activities or the work injury need only be a substantial contributing factor to the cause aggravation or acceleration of a pre-existing condition.

In Vanda v. Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., 27 W.C.D. 379, 218 N.W.2d 458 (1974), the Court explained that:
"[W]hen the usual tasks ordinary to an employee’s work substantially aggravate, accelerate, or combine with a pre-existing disease or latent condition to produce a disability, the entire disability is compensable, no apportionment being made on the basis of relative causal contribution of the pre-existing condition and the work activities."
A judge will consider several factors in determining whether an aggravation of a pre-existing condition is temporary or permanent, including (1) the nature and severity of the pre-existing condition and the extent of restrictions and disability resulting therefrom; (2) the nature of the symptoms and extent of medical treatment prior to the aggravating incident; (3) the nature and severity of the aggravating incident and the extent of the restrictions and disability resulting therefrom; (4) the nature of the symptoms and extent of medical treatment following the aggravating incident; (5) the nature and extent of the employee’s work duties and non-work activities during the relevant period; and (6) medical opinions on the issue.

Denials and disputes based on an actual or alleged pre-existing condition are some of the most common disputes we see in our Minnesota workers’ compensation law practice. For most workers hurt on the job, if there is any suggestion or evidence of a pre-existing condition, there is a strong probability that the workers’ compensation insurance company will deny or dispute the workers’ compensation claim. We fight these issues on a regular basis, and we win these fights on a regular basis. The key is having solid medical evidence evaluating the factors listed above.

I’ve seen workers’ compensation insurers deny a back injury claim based on the fact that the worker had a minor back injury 20 years ago. I’ve seen IME doctors characterize a disc herniation as “degenerative” and argue that it pre-dated the injury, even if the worker never had any back pain or medical care prior to the injury. I’ve seen a workers’ compensation back injury claim disputed because the worker had gone to a chiropractor a few times a couple years prior to the injury. I’ve seen a knee injury claim denied because an MRI revealed evidence of degenerative changes in addition to the claimed injury. Just because the insurance company says your injury is not covered, does not mean they’re right! 

In Minnesota workers’ compensation cases involving an actual or an alleged pre-existing condition, disputes with the workers’ compensation insurance company are almost inevitable. For a free, no-obligation Minnesota workers’ compensation case evaluation, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Aging Workforce and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation

It is projected that in 2012, 19.1% of the workforce will be 55 years old and older, and will include more than 21 million workers. Many older workers are working longer and delaying retirement because they enjoy their jobs, and want to continue working. In these tough economic times, however, many older workers are forced to keep working due to their financial circumstances.

While studies show that older workers incur fewer on the job injuries than younger employees, older workers generally suffer more severe work injuries. This is due, in part, because older workers typically have decreased physical abilities than younger workers, they tend to have more degenerative-type injuries or conditions, and they typically take longer to heal than younger workers.

Older workers tend to be at greater risk for knee problems, rotator cuff conditions, and carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as degenerative conditions of the neck and back. Workplace risk factors increase the likelihood of these types of injuries, including work positions that require kneeling and squatting, work positions requiring lifting over the shoulders, job duties requiring heavy lifting, work equipment that requires awkward positioning of body parts, and job duties that require bending for prolonged periods.

Older workers often face additional legal battles over their Minnesota workers’ compensation claims. Specifically, older worker claims are more frequently denied on the basis that their condition is pre-existing. Older workers are also frequently denied wage loss benefits based on the argument that the worker “retired.”

Some types of injuries and conditions tend to develop over a long period of time, as a result of gradual wear and tear. These types of conditions are often described as “degenerative.” Injuries that develop over a long period of time, which are substantially caused by an individual’s work activities are generally referred to as repetitive motion injuries or Gillette-type injures. Even where a worker has an underlying condition that is not work-related, if that condition is aggravated or accelerated by that individual’s work activities, it is still an injury that is covered by workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation insurance companies very commonly deny these claims on the grounds that the condition is pre-existing. Just because the insurance company says your condition is pre-existing doesn’t mean they’re right! 

Even where an older worker has sustained an injury, and the workers’ compensation insurance company has accepted responsibility for the injury, the insurer often refuses to pay wage loss benefits if the worker cannot return to work. The workers’ compensation insurer often argues that the worker “retired,” and withdrew from the labor market, and that they are not responsible for wage loss benefits. This is particularly common in cases where the worker is close to retirement age, or if the worker accepts a pension or retirement package from the employer. More often than not, however, that injured worker would have kept working had they not been hurt on the job. In that case, usually the injured worker will be eligible for wage loss benefits. Just because the insurance company says you retired, doesn’t mean they’re right! 

If you’ve sustained a work injury, and you’re over the age of 55, you may face additional difficulties in securing all of the Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits you’re entitled to. Learn about your rights! For a free, no-obligation case consultation, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a time to speak with one of our Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cold Weather Work Safety

Up until recently, winter has been unseasonably warm here in Minnesota (not that I’m complaining). That being said, temperatures have now been in the low teens, and we’re in for even colder weather.

We Minnesotans think of ourselves as a hardy breed of people who are able to tolerate the cold, but even the hardiest among us still need to take measures to stay warm and safe during cold winter weather. Minnesota workers who have to work outside in these temperatures should be mindful of the hazards of cold weather work, and they should be aware of ways to keep themselves safe and healthy when working outdoors.

Cold stress can occur when the body is unable to warm itself, and it can lead to tissue damage and possibly even death. Factors that contribute to cold stress include: 1) cold air temperatures, 2) high velocity air movement, 3) dampness of the air, and 4) contact with cold water or surfaces. A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Below-freezing temperatures can cause cold stress, but even higher temperatures, combined with wind or moisture, can cause cold stress. The most common injuries and illnesses that occur due to cold stress are hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot.

Hypothermia 

Hypothermia occurs when body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced. Symptoms begin with shivering and feet stomping in an attempt to generate heat. Workers may begin to lose coordination, experience slurred speech, and fumble with hand tools. Skin becomes cold and pale. As body temperature drops, symptoms will worsen and shivering stops. If body temperature drops below 85°F, severe hypothermia will develop, and the person may lose consciousness. At 78°F, death can occur. Medical treatment depends on the severity of the hypothermia.

Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when the skin freezes and loses water. Frostbite usually affects the extremities, including fingers, toes, and hands and feet. Exposed areas of the face can also be affected. The affected body part will be cold, tingling, stinging, or aching, followed by numbness. The skin turns red in color, then purple, then white, and is cold to the touch. In severe cases, blisters may develop. Amputation may be required in cases of severe frostbite.

Trench Foot 

Trench foot, also known as immersion foot, is caused when feet are immersed in cold water at cold temperatures for long periods of time. It is similar to frostbite, but usually less severe. Symptoms include tingling, itching or burning.

Minnesota workers exposed to cold weather should take the following precautions to avoid illness or injury:
  • Wear at least three layers of clothing. Wear an outer layer, such as Gortex, to break the wind. Wear a middle layer of down or wool to absorb sweat and provide insulation. Wear an inner layer of cotton or synthetic weave to allow ventilation. 
  • Wear a hat. Significant amounts of heat escape from the head. 
  • Keep an extra change of clothing. If work clothes become wet, change into dry clothes. 
  • Wear loose clothing. Loose clothing allows better ventilation than tight clothing. 
  • Don’t over-do it. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Work during warmer parts of the day if possible. Take frequent breaks out of the cold. Work in pairs. Avoid fatigue. Eat warm, high calorie food. 
Cold injuries that require medical attention are covered under Minnesota workers’ compensation. If you’ve sustained a cold injury that resulted in medical attention, you may be eligible for medical expense benefits. If you miss work as a result of a cold injury, you may be entitled to wage loss benefits. If you sustain a permanent injury as a result of cold exposure, you may be eligible for permanent partial disability benefits. If you can no longer do your regular job as the result of a cold injury or illness, you may be eligible for rehabilitation and/or retraining benefits.

If you’ve sustained an on-the-job cold injury in Minnesota, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. For a free, no-obligation workers’ compensation case consultation, call at Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Work Restrictions and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation FAQ’s

If you’ve sustained an on-the-job injury in Minnesota, and your doctor has advised you to limit or restrict your work and/or leisure activities, these limitations are referred to as work restrictions. 

Your doctor may provide you with a workability report documenting your limitations, or may tell you to avoid doing certain activities. If you have concerns about your ability to perform your normal job activities following a work injury, it is critical that you discuss these concerns with your doctor. If your doctor tells you to restrict your work activities, you need to have your doctor provide you with a note or workability form documenting your limitations. Documentation of your work limitations must be provided to your employer. Whether an injured worker has work restrictions or not is a major factor in a Minnesota workers’ compensation case. Injured workers who have work restrictions often have questions, including:

What if I can’t do my job because of my restrictions? 

If you can’t perform your normal job duties, your employer may provide you with light duty work, may make accommodations to your job duties to meet your restrictions, or they may give you an alternative assignment that is within your limitations. If your employer cannot accommodate your restrictions, and as a result, you can’t work at your regular job, you may be entitled to wage loss benefits and/or rehabilitation benefits.

I’m afraid to tell my supervisor that I have restrictions because I don’t want to lose my job, what should I do? 

If you are injured at work in Minnesota, you’re required to provide documentation of any work restrictions to your employer. Failure to do so can hurt your legal rights. More importantly, however, if you continue to work outside your restrictions, you may make your injury worse. Your employer cannot fire you for having work restrictions.

My employer won’t let me come back to work unless I’m 100% cleared for duty, what should I do? 

If your employer cannot provide you with light duty work and you have work restrictions because of an on-the-job injury, the workers’ compensation insurance company should be paying you wage loss benefits while you’re off work. You may also be entitled to rehabilitation assistance from a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant. Don’t let your employer pressure you into being released to full duty before you’re ready. Returning to full-duty work before you’re physically ready to do so can adversely affect your legal rights, and more importantly, it can adversely affect your health.

My employer isn’t following my restrictions. They keep having me do work that’s outside what my doctor says I should be doing, what should I do? 

Your employer cannot force you to work outside your physical restrictions, but unfortunately, some employers do it anyway. What an employee should do in this situation is dependent on the circumstances. A Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help you if your employer is forcing you to perform duties that are outside your restrictions.

I’m working light duty, but I’m still having trouble doing some of my job duties even though they’re within my doctor’s restrictions, what should I do? 

You should discuss the situation with the doctor and explain the job duties that are causing your problems. If appropriate, your doctor may clarify or adjust your restrictions to help you avoid those job activities that are causing you difficulty.

My restrictions are now permanent. My employer can’t provide me with a permanent light duty job. What should I do? 

If you not able to return to your former employment because you have permanent restrictions as a result of a work injury, you may be eligible for wage loss benefits while you look for a new, physically suitable job. You may also be eligible for the assistance of a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultation who can provide vocational rehabilitation services or help you with a retraining plan to help you find a new, physically and economically suitable job.

I don’t have written restrictions – I’ve just been watching what I do at work and avoiding activities that cause me difficulty. Do I need written restrictions? 

Written documentation of your work restrictions are ALWAYS, repeat ALWAYS, better than simply just watching what you do at work. If there’s ever a dispute about your ability to do your job, while your testimony about limiting your work activities can be used to support your claim, written documentation of your restrictions is much, much stronger. We’ve seen this situation go awry for countless injured workers. Written work restrictions go a long way towards protecting your legal rights.

My doctor has given me work restrictions, but the insurance company’s independent medical examiner says I can return to work without restrictions. What should I do? 

You should speak with a Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney. If your claim has not already been denied, it will be soon. That being said, what an injured worker should do in this situation is largely based on the circumstances, and a workers’ compensation lawyer can instruct you on the best course of action. In some circumstances, the injured worker should continue to follow his or her doctor’s orders. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate for the injured worker to try to return to work and see how it goes. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate for the injured worker to undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) to get an objective measure of that worker’s limitations.

I have work restrictions due to an on-the-job injury, and I'm being laid off. Am I eligible for benefits?

In many cases, yes! Workers' compensation insurance companies often fail to tell injured workers who have restrictions, and who are laid off, that they may be eligible for wage loss benefits and/or rehabilitation benefits in the event that they are laid off or terminated. Speak with a Minnesota workers' compensation attorney to help you get the benefits you're entitled to.

I have a work injury and work restrictions, and my employer says I was terminated "for cause." What should I do?

You should contact a Minnesota workers' compensation lawyer. While Minnesota law prevents employers from terminating an employee in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim, unfortunately we see cases on a regular basis where an injured worker who is under restrictions suddenly becomes targeted for write-ups, discipline, and termination, after they're been hurt. Termination for misconduct can be a basis for denial of benefits in some workers' compensation cases. That being said, "termination for cause," is not the same thing as "termination for misconduct." Even when an injured worker with work restrictions has been terminated for misconduct, he or she may be entitled to wage loss and/or rehabilitation benefits.

If you have questions about your work restrictions, what rights you have if you have work restrictions, or what to do if your employer cannot accommodate your work restrictions, a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help. Call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys. 


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Younger Workers at Higher Risk for Work Injuries

According to a study released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), young employees are almost twice as likely to suffer on-the-job injuries as their older co-workers. An analysis of workplace injuries among young people aged 15-24 between 1998 and 2007 revealed that 8 million young people received medical care for work injuries. Eighteen and nineteen year olds experienced work injuries most frequently. 

Contact with objects or equipment was the most common cause of work-related injuries for workers of all age groups, but accounted for a larger portion of injuries among younger workers (49 percent) compared with older workers (40 percent). These injuries often involved the worker being struck by or against an object, being rubbed or abraded by a machine or object, or caught in or crushed by tools, equipment, machinery, parts, or materials.

Workplace fatality rates for younger workers were also twice as high as the rate for older workers. There were a total of 5,719 fatal injuries among workers aged 15 – 24 between the years of 1998 – 2007. Young Hispanic workers suffered fatal injuries far more frequently than black or white young workers. The greatest number of fatal injuries among young workers occurred in the services industries, the construction industries, the wholesale and retail trade sectors, and the agriculture sectors.

The report concluded that “[l]ack of job knowledge, training, and skills might contribute to increased risk among younger workers, who might be less likely to recognize hazards, less likely to speak up regarding safety, and less aware of their legal rights as workers.”

In my own experience as a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer, I’ve represented a number of young workers for their workers’ compensation injuries. What I’ve seen time and again, is that young workers who sustain on-the-job injuries are also far less likely to report those injuries, and to seek appropriate medical care than their older counterparts. Unfortunately, young workers who sustain on-the-job injuries are also often taken advantage of by their employers and workers’ compensation insurers, because they’re not aware of their workers’ compensation rights.

Young workers who sustain serious injuries on the job should be mindful of the fact that five years from now, ten years from now, or twenty years from now, those injuries can worsen and become disabling or require significant medical care. If you’re a young person who has sustained a work-related injury, it is extremely important to exercise your workers’ compensation rights to protect your long-term health.

We can help you navigate the complex Minnesota workers’ compensation system and make sure your future interests are protected. For a free, no-obligation case consultation, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Overtime and MN Workers' Comp. Wage Loss

For folks who work overtime on a regular basis, missing out on that overtime pay due to a work injury can be a significant hardship. In Minnesota, overtime pay may be taken into account when calculating an injured workers’ average weekly wage. 

In Minnesota, the amount of an injured worker’s wage loss benefits is based on that worker’s average weekly wage (AWW) at the time of the injury. If that injured worker worked overtime, and that overtime pay was “regular and frequent throughout the year,” it should be included in the average weekly wage calculations.

Obviously, what “regular” and “frequent” mean is somewhat subject to interpretation. For example, if you worked ½ an hour of overtime once in the 6 months before your injury, it probably shouldn’t be included in calculating your average weekly wage. If, on the other hand, you worked a minimum of  hours 10 overtime every week in the 6 months before your injury, that overtime pay should probably be included.

In those cases where overtime isn’t quite so regular, there can be disputes as to whether or not it should be included. 

So why is this a big deal?

For folks that worked a substantial amount of overtime prior to their injury, it can mean the difference of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. 

For example, if an individual was paid $15.00 per hour and worked 40 hours per week, every week for six months prior to his or her injury, his or her average weekly wage would be $600.00, entitling him or her to temporary total disability (TTD) benefits of $400.00 ($600.00 (x) 2/3) per week, if that individual is off work as a result of a work injury.

If that same individual worked 10 hours of overtime per week, every week, at time-and-a half ($22.50), his or her average weekly wage would be $825.00 ($600.00 + $225.00), entitling him or her to temporary total disability (TTD) benefits of $550.00 ($825.00 (x) 2/3), if that individual is off work as a result of a work injury. That’s an extra $150.00 per week. If that worker is off work for an extended period of time due to a work injury, that extra $150.00 per week makes a huge difference!

The issue of overtime also comes into play when an injured worker who used to regularly work overtime hours cannot work overtime following a work injury due to his or her work restrictions.

Using the same example as above, if the injured worker cannot work overtime due to his or her work injury, he or she is missing out on $225.00 per week in overtime pay, meaning that he or she is probably eligible for temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits.

Since that worker is earning less money as a result of his or her work injury, the workers’ compensation insurer is required to pay 2/3 of the difference between his or her average weekly wage (AWW), and his or her reduced earnings. In this case, that injured worker would be eligible for temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits of $150.00 per week. Over an extended period of time, that can add up to a lot of money!

Unfortunately, insurance companies frequently overlook overtime pay in calculating an injured workers’ average weekly wage (AWW). 

Again looking at the example above, if the workers’ compensation insurance company failed to include that workers’ overtime pay in calculating his or her average weekly wage (AWW), he or she would be missing out on an additional $150.00 per week on temporary total disability (TTD) benefits if he or she was completely off work, or an additional $150.00 per week in temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits if he or she was no longer able to work overtime following his or her work injury.

Underpayments of wage loss benefits based on an incorrect average weekly wage (AWW) calculation is one of the most common errors or disputes we see in our Minnesota workers’ compensation practice.

In fact, we regularly sit down with injured workers who are currently receiving workers’ compensation benefits, only to discover that the workers’ compensation insurance company has underpaid them hundreds or thousands of dollars. For a free, no-obligation Minnesota workers’ compensation case evaluation, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Murder and Minnesota Workers' Compensation

Everyone knows that some jobs are more dangerous than others and that some workers are more likely to get hurt on the job than others. But the risk of being murdered on the job is not something anyone should have to think about. 

I was shocked and saddened to read that an 18-year-old woman was murdered in Montevideo, Minnesota on Friday night. I’m originally from Southwest Minnesota near Monte and I have family in Montevideo.

This young woman, who leaves behind an 18-month old son and a fiancĂ©e, as well as her parents, was stabbed to death by a 24-year-old co-worker as she left Pizza Ranch after finishing her shift. The initial news reports suggest that the suspect, who had worked with the victim for a year, had become infatuated with the young victim, but the feelings weren’t mutual. Apparently, the suspect was somewhat of a social outcast and the kind-hearted victim had been friendly to him. As a result he started offering to do her chores at work and began giving her cigarettes. It is unclear whether or not the suspect had also been working a shift at Pizza Ranch that night prior to the murder. It is expected that he will be charged with first degree murder.

I extend my deepest sympathies to the family of the young victim.

Dependents of workers who are killed in the course and scope of their employment in Minnesota are eligible for death and dependency benefits, including burial expense benefits of up to $15,000.00, and dependency compensation. Dependents can 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 workers’ 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.

Thankfully, murder is not an issue that comes up too often in workers’ compensation in Minnesota. That being said, depending on the circumstances, even when a worker is murdered on the job in Minnesota, it may or may not be covered by workers’ compensation.

Minnesota workers’ compensation law sets forth that
"Personal injury does not include an injury caused by the act of a third person or fellow employee intended to injure the employee because of personal reasons and not directed against the employee as an employee, or because of the employment." Minn. Stat. §176.011, Subd. 16. 
In plain language what this means is that an employee must show that the injury (or death) caused by a third-party or co-worker was unintentional, or if it was intentional, motivated by the fact that the employee was an employee.

Over the years, the court developed a test, as set forth in Hanson v. Robitshek Schneider Co., 11 W.C.D. 463, 297 N.W. 19 (1941), which divides cases involving intentional acts, including murder, into three categories:
  • Where the assailant is motivated by personal animosity towards his victim arising from circumstances wholly unconnected to the employment, the employee’s injuries are not compensable under Minnesota workers’ compensation. 
  • Where the assailant was provoked or motivated solely out of the activity of the victim as an employee, the employee’s injuries are covered under Minnesota workers’ compensation. 
  • Where the assault was directed at the victim neither solely due to the employment, nor solely due to personal reasons, these cases are usually compensable. 
In the young woman’s case above, because there are indications that the suspect was obsessed with the victim, it is not 100% clear which category this case would fit into. While it might be possible to argue that there are potential defenses to this claim, I would sincerely hope that the workers’ compensation insurance company does the right thing. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

How Do I Know If My Employer Has Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

If you are hurt on the job in Minnesota, in most cases, a workers' compensation insurance company pays your workers' compensation benefits. 

How Do I Know If My Employer Has Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Insurance? 

Employers in Minnesota are required by law to carry Minnesota workers’ compensation insurance to provide benefits to their employees in the event they are injured on the law. If you are injured on the job, your employer is required to complete and file a First Report of Injury. They are required to send this form to their insurance company. They should also provide you with the name and contact information for their insurance company. If your employer refuses to file a First Report of Injury, you can report the injury on your own, or a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help you file a First Report of Injury.

All Minnesota employers are also legally required to have a poster entitled “Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Employees Rights and Responsibilities,” posted in a conspicuous space. This poster includes a space for the name and phone number of their workers’ compensation insurance company. If your employer does not have a copy of this poster posted in a conspicuous space, you can download and print off a copy from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

If your employer won’t give you their workers’ compensation insurance information, you can verify if your employer has worker’s compensation insurance 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, you can 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 My Employer Doesn’t Have Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Insurance? 

If you suffer an injury on the job, and your employer has no insurance and is not self-insured, in Minnesota you may request that the Minnesota Special Compensation Fund pay you the appropriate benefits. The Special Compensation Fund will conduct an investigation into whether the employer had insurance coverage, and they will make a determination whether or not to cover your claim. If they determine that you have a compensable injury, you will be eligible for the same workers’ compensation benefits that you’d normally be entitled to, if your employer had insurance.

Often times in cases involving the Special Compensation Fund, there are disputes as to insurance coverage, whether the injured worker was an employee or independent contractor, and disputes as to the nature and extent of the injury. Disputes with the Special Compensation Fund regarding entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits are handled using the same procedures as disputes with workers’ compensation insurance companies.

If the Special Compensation Fund pays workers’ compensation benefits to an injured worker because the employer failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance, the Fund will usually pursue a claim against the uninsured employer for reimbursement of all workers’ compensation benefits paid, as well as a 65% penalty.

In addition, an uninsured employer may also be fined by the Department of Labor and Industry for failing to insure its 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.

Unfortunately, there are many employers in Minnesota who do not carry legally required workers’ compensation insurance. If you’re hurt on the job while working for an uninsured employer, or if your employer won’t provide you with their workers’ compensation insurance information, a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help you protect your rights. For a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about your workers’ compensation rights, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chemical Exposure Injuries and Minnesota Work Comp

There are thousands of different types of toxic chemicals that can cause hundreds of different types of chemical injuries. Direct skin contact with certain types of chemicals can cause chemical burns. Eye contact with certain types of chemical can cause serious eye injuries. Inhalation of certain types of chemicals can cause respiratory diseases or injuries. Exposure to some types of carcinogenic chemicals can cause cancer. Exposure to chemicals can be over a long period of time, and the onset of symptoms can be very gradual and slow in developing. Workers in almost every industry are exposed to at least some type of toxic chemical every day.

Substances containing zinc, lead, mercury and arsenic are toxic to a person’s organs. Exposure to zinc, lead, mercury and arsenic can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, shortness of breath, and abnormal heart rhythm. Significant exposure to these substances can cause coma, seizures, or even death. Skin or eye contact to these chemicals can cause burns.

Acids, such as hydrochloric acid and nitric acid, and alkalines, such as sodium ammonium hydroxide, can cause severe chemical burns if they come into contact with the skins. Ingestion of these chemicals can cause internal burns to the digestive system, and eye exposure can lead to vision impairment or blindness. Respiratory exposure can also result in respiratory injury.

Hydrocarbons, contained in things like gasoline, kerosene, paint thinners, and furniture polish can cause respiratory injury if inhaled, and skin contact can result in chemical burns. Even in small amounts, chemical spills and leaks can be hazardous to workers.

Employees who spot chemical spills in the workplace should notify the appropriate person of 1) the substance involved in the spill, if known, 2) the size of the spill, 3) the approximate rate of flow, and 4) any known exposures.

Unfortunately, chemical injuries can develop or a long period of time after long-term exposure, the symptoms associated with certain types of chemical injuries can mimic other types of conditions, and chemical injuries can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. If you suffer a chemical injury as a result of exposure to chemicals in your workplace, you may be entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and vocational rehabilitation benefits.

Unfortunately, chemical exposure injury claims can be very contentious, and workers’ compensation insurers very frequently dispute these types of claims. A Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate the Minnesota workers’ compensation maze and make sure that your interests are protected.

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

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Post-Concussion Syndrome and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation

In Minnesota, if you suffer from post-concussion syndrome, including headaches, dizziness, or anxiety after a work-related head injury, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to help you deal with the effects of the symptoms you are experiencing. 

 Post-Concussion Syndrome Overview 

Post-concussion syndrome is a disorder characterized by post-concussion symptoms, such as headaches or dizziness, last for weeks or months after a head injury that caused a concussion.

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury which usually occurs as a result of a blow to the head. The risk of post-concussive syndrome is not necessarily associated with the severity of the initial injury.

In most people, symptoms of post-concussive syndrome occur within the first week to ten days after the injury, and they typically resolve within three months, although they can persist for a year or more. Post-concussion syndrome treatments are aimed at treating the symptoms associated with the syndrome.

Symptoms of Post-Concussion Syndrome 

Symptoms of post-concussion syndrome can include:
  • Headaches 
  • Dizziness 
  • Fatigue 
  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety 
  • Insomnia 
  • Loss of concentration and memory 
  • Noise and light sensitivity 
Post-Concussion Syndrome Treatment 

Treating post-concussive syndrome involves treating the symptoms associated with the condition. For headaches, your doctor may prescribe medications. For memory or thinking difficulties, cognitive therapy may be helpful. For depression and anxiety, you may be referred for psychotherapy or prescribed medications.

Post-Concussion Syndrome and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation 

If you’re suffering from post-concussive syndrome as a result of a work-related concussion, you may be entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits and/or rehabilitation benefits.

Post-concussive syndrome involves persistent symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and anxiety. These symptoms are subjective, meaning they are not easy to objectively measure. You can’t see a headache, dizziness, or anxiety, on an x-ray or an MRI. That doesn’t mean those symptoms are not real, but it does mean that your diagnosis is based on your subjective complaints of symptoms. Because these symptoms are subjective, workers’ compensation insurance companies often dispute claims involving post-concussive syndrome, particularly if the symptoms last for an extended period of time. Often, a workers’ compensation insurer may send you to an independent medical examination to assess the nature and extent of your injuries. Almost invariably, that IME doctor will say that you have no objective symptoms, and therefore, there’s nothing wrong with you. Based on that opinion, the workers' compensation insurer will then deny your claim for Minnesota workers' compensation benefits.

Post-concussion syndrome is real, and it can be significantly disabling. If your workers’ compensation insurance company denies or disputes your claim for benefits, you have the right to dispute that denial! 

We represented a woman a couple years ago who was a pedestrian who was struck by a car. While this involved a personal injury claim, and disputes with her no-fault insurer, and the uninsured motorist claim over her entitlement to benefits, I think it’s informative as to how far insurance companies will sometimes go to deny a legitimate claim. She was walking down the sidewalk when a car came flying from a nearby parking lot and hit her, throwing her several feet in the air, and she landed, face-first on the ground. She was knocked unconscious and was transported by ambulance to the Emergency Room where she was treated for a concussion. It turned out that the driver who hit her was not only intoxicated, but he was in the process of stealing the car when he ran her down. Almost immediately, she began experiencing significant headaches and severe dizziness as well as fatigue.

Within about six weeks after the accident, her own insurance company sent her to an “independent” medical examination and promptly cut off her No-Fault benefits. The so-called doctor who examined her went to great lengths to downplay the seriousness of the accident. In his report, he described the accident as if she had been simply “bumped” by a slow-moving vehicle, and fell down as a result. He also failed to mention the fact that she lost consciousness, that she had severe scrapes on her face from hitting the pavement, that she was transported by ambulance to the Emergency Room, or that she was diagnosed with a concussion. He suggested instead, that she had sustained a minor neck sprain that should have fully resolved within a couple weeks.

Thankfully, a No-Fault arbitrator saw how ridiculous this opinion was, and awarded her the full amount of her claim for No-Fault benefits. We also secured a significant settlement for her of her uninsured motorist claim.

We’ve represented several Minnesota workers who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, including post-concussion syndrome following a work-related concussion:
  • A security guard who was hit in the head with a two-by-four by a burglar. 
  • A special education teacher who was hit in the face by a student with a behavior disorder. 
  • A truck driver who stuck his head on the ground after a load he was delivering fell out of the back of the truck and hit him, causing him to fall to the ground. 
  • A truck driver who was jostled around in the cab of the truck when a student driver he was training ran the truck off the road. 
  • A stage hand who was hit in the face by a piece of stage equipment that came loose and swung around, striking her. 
  • A police officer who was shot in the head with a rubber bullet during training. 
  • A mechanic who was working underneath a raised vehicle, when he stood up suddenly, striking his head on the undercarriage of the truck. 
  • A young construction worker who was hit in the head by a floor truss that fell off a forklift working above him. 
A knowledgeable Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney can help protect your workers’ compensation rights and make sure you get the benefits you’re entitled to. Don’t trust the workers’ compensation insurance company to look out for your best interests! For a free, no-obligation workers’ compensation case consultation call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email

Friday, January 13, 2012

Work-Related Shoulder Injuries

Meuser & Associate handles all types of Minnesota workers’ compensation cases involving shoulder injuries. Shoulder injuries are a very common type of workers' compensation injury.

Some common work-related shoulder injuries include:
  • Arthritis of the shoulder 
  • Bursitis 
  • Tendonitis 
  • Shoulder dislocation 
  • Shoulder blade fracture 
  • Frozen shoulder 
  • Rotator cuff tears 
  • Shoulder separation 
  • Shoulder impingement 
  • Shoulder joint replacement 
  • Shoulder pain 
  • Labral tears 
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome 
  • Shoulder sprains and strains 
In 2006, approximately 7.5 million people went to the doctor’s office for shoulder problems. Shoulder injuries can be caused by acute trauma, such as a fall or blunt force injuries. They can also be caused by excessive repetitive overhead motions.

If you’re experiencing shoulder stiffness, having difficulty with rotation or range of motion, feel as though your shoulder may slide or pop out of socket, have shoulder pain, or have a feeling of weakness, you should consider seeing a doctor.

If you’re suffering from a shoulder injury and your work activities were a substantial contributing factor to the development of that injury, or substantially contributed an aggravation of a pre-existing shoulder problem, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Shoulder injuries can be debilitating. You may require significant medical care. You may have to take time off work. You may not be able to perform your job duties anymore if you have permanent injury. You may need assistance in finding a new career. In Minnesota, if your shoulder injury is work-related, you may be eligible for medical expenses benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits and/or vocational rehabilitation benefits.

For a free, no-obligation Minnesota workers’ compensation case consultation, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email

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