Sunday, April 29, 2012

Preventing Electrical Accidents

Hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries occur every year as a result of electrical accidents at work, and most of these types of accidents can be prevented.

Some important things to keep in mind about electrical accidents:
  • Normal workplace or household current can be lethal. 
  • Electrocution can occur as the result of contact with seemingly innocuous objects, such as a broken light bulb. 
  • Overloaded electrical circuits can cause fires. 
  • Electricity always travels to ground, and a person can be the conduit for the electricity to ground. 
Case study: Meuser & Associate represented an individual who worked at a manufacturing facility. The normal maintenance person was gone for the day, so our client was asked to change a fluorescent bulb that had burned out. He had no electrical training, and had not been trained how to change a fluorescent bulb. He got on a metal ladder to reach the bulb, and suffered a severe shock injury when he came into contact with the electrical connectors. He also fell from the ladder as a result of the shock. Our client sustained burn injuries on his hand and feet, and suffered from memory loss and concentration difficulties following the injury. As a result of falling off the ladder, he also injured his knee and his back. He required significant emergency medical care, and missed several months from work. Thankfully, our client ultimately recovered with few residual effects from the injury, and he was able to return to work with his employer.

Some tips to avoid electrical accidents:
  • Don’t use cords or wires with damaged insulation. 
  • Don’t use electrical tools or equipment that smokes, sparks, shocks, smells, blows a fuse, or trips a circuit. 
  • Don’t use any non-GCFI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet in a wet area. 
  • Don’t use cords with bent or missing grounding plugs. 
  • Don’t use metal ladders or tools when working near electricity. 
  • Don’t use water to extinguish an electrical fire. 
  • Don’t touch anything electric when your hands are wet, if you’re standing on a wet floor, or when you’re in contact with a wet surface. 
  • Don’t touch an electrical shock victim. 
  • Don’t place cords where they can be damaged. 
  • Don’t place cords near heat or water. 
  • Don’t place nails or sharp fasteners on electrical cords. 
  • Don’t permit overloaded outlets or circuits.
  • Don’t permit blind reaches into any areas containing energized parts. 
  • Don’t permit combustible trash on or around electrical equipment or circuits. 
  • Don’t permit anyone who isn’t trained and qualified to repair electrical equipment. 
  • Don’t permit unauthorized removal of a lockout device or tag. 
If you’ve sustained an on-the-job electrical injury, you may be eligible for Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and/or rehabilitation benefits. For a free, no-obligation case consultation, contact Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

PERA and Choosing the Right MN Workers' Compensation Lawyer

If you are a Minnesota police officer or firefighter and you've sustained a serious on-the-job injury, you may be eligible for PERA disability benefits and/or health care continuation benefits, in addition to your workers' compensation benefits. PERA benefits and health care continuation benefits can be worth several hundreds thousand dollars.  A Minnesota workers' compensation lawyer who also handles PERA disability claims can help you protect your rights.  

Choosing the right Minnesota workers' compensation lawyer is an important decision, especially for injured police officers and firefighters. If your workers' compensation lawyer can't or won't help you with your PERA claims, it's a good idea to consult with a lawyer who can and will handle PERA claims.

We occasionally take calls from and meet with people who are not happy with how things are being handled by their Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer. Ron and I are happy to evaluate your situation, and give you our recommendations. We will give you an honest assessment as to whether or not your attorney is handling things appropriately. If it looks like things are headed in the right direction, we’ll tell you so. If it looks like things are not moving along as they should be, we’ll tell you so. Sometimes it makes sense to switch attorneys, and sometimes it doesn’t make sense. There is nothing wrong with getting a “second opinion” if you feel your case is not being handled appropriately. You always have the right to change workers’ compensation lawyers, at no additional cost to you. 

One thing we’ve seen a lot recently, however, is police officers and firefighters with workers’ compensation claims, who are represented by otherwise competent workers’ compensation lawyers, who are being given poor advice regarding their claims for PERA disability benefits. Some people are being told not to file for PERA or to wait an excessive length of time, they’re told that their lawyer doesn’t practice in that area, so they can’t give them any guidance, or their workers’ compensation claims are being handled in a way that jeopardizes their PERA claims.

Over the last several years, our firm has handled workers’ compensation claims on behalf of dozens and dozens of Minnesota police officers and firefighters. Over time, we realized that if you are handling these types of cases, you absolutely have to know what you’re doing when it comes to PERA. As a workers’ compensation lawyer, telling your police and fire clients that you don’t handle PERA claims is really doing those clients an expensive disservice by not expeditiously helping them get these benefits. Even worse, if you don’t have a good grasp of some of the complexities surrounding PERA disability benefits, you can mess up their claims, which can literally cost your police and fire clients hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of benefits.  

If you are a Minnesota police officer or firefighter and you’ve sustained an on-the-job injury that jeopardizes your career, you should consult with a lawyer that practices BOTH workers’ compensation law AND PERA law. 

With rare exception, if you are a Minnesota police officer or firefighters who has sustained a career-ending in-the-line-of-duty injury, the value of your PERA disability benefits and healthcare continuation benefits substantially exceeds the value of your workers’ compensation claim. In my opinion, usually, your lawyer’s first priority should be evaluating your PERA disability claims.

My firm has recently taken over representation on a number of police officer and firefighter cases where their prior attorney dropped the ball on the PERA claims. On two cases, our client was told by their prior attorney that they don’t handle PERA claims, and couldn’t answer their questions. On one of those cases, the client’s PERA claim should have been filed at least six months before our involvement. On the other case, the client tried to file for PERA on her own, and made mistakes that took a hearing to sort out, and almost cost her hundreds of thousands of dollars. On yet another case, our client was told by her prior lawyer NOT to file for PERA. Her claim should have been filed months ago. On another case, the client’s prior workers’ compensation lawyer was pursuing a strategy that would have netted him a few thousand extra dollars on his workers’ compensation case, but would have cost him in excess of a hundred thousand dollars on his PERA duty disability and healthcare continuation claims.

I’m not fond of criticizing how other Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers handle claims, and we’re not in the business of “stealing” cases from other attorneys. That being said, I’m frustrated by how many police officers and firefighters with significant work-related injuries we’re hearing from lately where their PERA claims are not being properly handled.

We’re proud of the work we do for our Minnesota police officer and firefighter clients. After successfully handling dozens of PERA police and fire disability claims, we know what we’re doing and we understand the nuances of these types of claims. 

As far as I’m aware, Meuser & Associate is one of the few law firms in state (if not the only law firm in the state) that also regularly handles PERA claims. If you’re an injured police officer or firefighter, from the time of your first consultation with a workers’ compensation lawyer, you should feel confident that your lawyer knows what they’re doing as it pertains to your claim for PERA benefits. This is a complex area of law with lots of nuances. Ask your lawyer how many PERA cases they’ve handled. Is he or she able to answer your specific questions? Can he or she give you an analysis as to whether or not you meet the PERA duty disability criteria?

Even if you are currently represented by another workers’ compensation lawyer, if you are a disabled Minnesota police officer or firefighter, we are always happy to provide you with a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your potential PERA claims. 

For more information about PERA benefits, check out these other articles I've written:

Call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with Jen Yackley or Ron Meuser.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Alternative Treatments for Neck Pain

If you’ve got constant, severe neck pain that just won’t go away, it can be difficult to perform your activities of daily living, such as self-cares, cooking or cleaning, it can cause you to be depressed or irritable, leading to friction in your family relationships, and it can make it difficult, if not impossible, to be remain gainfully employed.

If you’re suffering from neck pain, and you’ve tried a variety of traditional treatment options, such as physical therapy, cortisone injections, narcotic pain medications, or surgical intervention, and you’re looking for other options, you may wish to ask your treating physician about alternative forms of treatment.

You might want to ask your doctor about:

Acupuncture: Many patients experience neck pain relief after a course of acupuncture treatments. Practitioners believe that acupuncture can help restore the healthy flow of energy in the body, which in turn can lead to pain relief. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into your body at specific points.

Herbal remedies: Ask your doctor before trying any herbal remedies. Some herbal remedies have side effects, and some can interfere with other prescribed medications. Some herbal remedies that may help with neck pain relief include capsaicin cream, devil’s claw, or white willow bark.

Massage: Stress can cause neck pain, and it can make neck pain worse. Massage helps release tension, and can help reduce muscle inflammation and pain.

Yoga or Pilates: Yoga and Pilates help increase your core strength, help improve your balance and posture, and help reduce stress. Increased strength, better balance and posture, and reduced stress can all help decrease neck pain.

Minnesota workers’ compensation covers almost any type of medical treatment, so long as it is reasonable and necessary, and causally related to your work injury. Several of our Minnesota workers’ compensation clients who are suffering neck injuries have had success in reducing their pain with acupuncture and massage. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation insurance companies sometimes tend to be somewhat wary about approving or paying for so-called “alternative” therapies.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Minnesota Workers' Compensation Lawyer

A workplace injury can be a devastating experience for a worker and his or her entire family. 

In addition to the physical pain of the injury itself, an on-the-job injury often causes a lot of stress and anxiety. A work injury can be financially devastating, and it can end your career. 

If you’ve sustained an on-the-job injury in Minnesota, Meuser & Associate can help protect your rights and assist you in getting the compensation you are entitled to. Jen Yackley and Ron Meuser, Jr., attorneys at Meuser & Associate, have over 25 years of combined experience representing injured workers and ensuring that they have been compensated for their work-related injuries.

An on-the-job injury often leads to anxiety and worry about medical bills and lost income. To avoid some of this anxiety and worry, you should learn about your rights and what benefits are available to you, which may include medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and/or rehabilitation benefits.

A Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help you bring a claim for these benefits, or help you protect your rights to these benefits in the event there are disputes on your claim. We can also explore the possibility of securing a settlement of your workers' compensation claims.

You don’t need to wait until there’s a dispute on your case to consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer. In fact, the sooner you speak with us, the easier it is for us to help you navigate the system and avoid making costly mistakes.

At Meuser & Associate, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means our attorney fees are based on the amount we recover for you. There are no fees up front, there’s no monetary retainer, and there’s no out of pocket expense to you. In the event we are unsuccessful, there is no charge for our legal services.

If you’ve been hurt at work in Minnesota, one of the most important things you can do to protect your interests is to learn about your rights. Call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation legal consultation. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Types of Spinal Fractures

A spinal fracture is when you break a bone in your spine. The spine is made up of vertebrae stacked on top of each other, and they can break, just like other bones in your body. Spinal fractures, however, can be more severe than other bone breaks because a spinal fracture can result in trauma to the spinal cord.

There are number of different ways to classify spinal fractures depending on the area of the vertebrae that is fractured, the severity of the fracture, and the kind of fracture.

There a variety of different types of spinal fractures, including:

Compression fracture: Compression fractures are common in patients with underlying osteoporosis. Sudden force or pressure applied to the vertebra can cause the vertebrae to fracture, especially if the vertebra is already weakened. A wedge fracture is a type of compression fracture, where the anterior, or front, of the vertebra collapses and becomes wedge shaped.

Burst fracture. Burst fractures are caused by extreme trauma, such as car accidents. They happen when the vertebra is crushed by extreme forces, and it is fractured in multiple places. Bony fragments from the fracture can cause spinal cord injury. Burst fractures are usually severe.

Flexion-distraction fractures. Sudden forward forces, such those involved in a high speed rear end collision, that cause extreme stress on the spine can break vertebrae. A flexion-distraction fracture usually involves the posterior (back), and middle portions of the vertebra.

Fracture-dislocation. Any spinal fracture can also involve dislocation, where the vertebra moves significantly, and causes the spine to become very unstable. Fractures of the spine are severe injuries, and can be caused by car accidents or workplace accidents. They can involve significant medical care and disability. If you’ve sustained a spinal fracture as a result of your work activities, or as the result of a car accident, a Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney or personal injury attorney can help you get the benefits you’re entitled to. For a free, no-obligation case consultation, contact Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Money Benefits in a Minnesota Work Comp Case

Individuals who are hurt at work in Minnesota may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits, which, in addition to medical expense benefits and rehabilitation benefits, can include significant monetary benefits.

I often meet with potential Minnesota workers’ compensation clients who tell me that they just want to get the medical care they need and get on with their lives. They tell me they don’t want any money, they just want to get back to work, and they don’t want their employer to think poorly of them if they hire a lawyer. While this is an admirable attitude to have, all injured workers should know a few things about monetary benefits available under Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits.  
  • The amount of your wage loss benefits is usually dependent on how much money you earned in the 26 weeks preceding your date of injury.  This calculation method is used to determine your Average Weekly Wage (AWW). Your AWW is used to calculate wage loss benefits, including temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, temporary partial (TPD) disability benefits, and permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. In some cases, a different calculation rule may apply. Determining an injured workers’ correct AWW is important to determining the appropriate compensation rate for wage loss benefits. Calculation errors or under-calculations can cost an injured worker hundreds or even thousands of dollars
  • There is no pain and suffering compensation available in a Minnesota workers’ compensation case. Compensation paid on a work injury claim is based strictly on the benefits available under the law. “Pain and suffering” or “loss of enjoyment of life” are money damages awarded by judges or juries in personal injury cases, not workers’ compensation cases. Even the most horribly painful injury will not warrant any compensation for pain and suffering if it is a workers’ compensation injury in Minnesota. In some workers’ compensation cases, however, there may be what’s known as a third-party liability claim, or a personal injury claim, against someone other than an injured workers’ employer or a co-worker, which can include damages for pain and suffering. 
  • Permanent partial disability awards are available only to injured workers whose injuries are permanent. Permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits are available to injured workers in Minnesota who have suffered a permanent injury. A worker in Minnesota who sustains a serious, but temporary injury, is not eligible for permanent partial disability benefits. For workers who have sustained a permanent injury, your doctor should assign a permanent partial disability rating based on the Minnesota PPD schedules once you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). This rating is often a source of disagreement in workers’ compensation cases. In some cases, five different doctors might come up with five different ratings. 
  • Insurers sometimes “close” a Minnesota workers’ compensation case without obtaining a permanent partial disability (PPD) rating from the injured worker's treating physician. On occasion, this may be because the primary treating physician simply isn’t familiar with the workers’ compensation PPD schedules or the rules governing timing of assigning a PPD rating. In other cases, the doctor, unfortunately, simply doesn’t want to be bothered. In yet other cases, the insurer never requests a rating from the doctor, and a rating is never issued, even though the worker clearly has a permanent injury. We routinely see cases that were supposedly “closed” by the insurance company, where the worker was clearly entitled to several thousand dollars’ worth of permanent partial disability benefits.
  • It may be difficult, if not impossible, to predict how much money an injured worker will get for a Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) award at the outset of the claim. When an injured worker comes for a consultation at the beginning of his or her claim, I may not be able to predict how much money will be awarded for PPD, because we don’t know the extent, if any, of any permanent injuries that individual may have until that worker has gone through a course of medical treatment. For some types of injuries, I can give a ballpark estimate on the permanent partial disability, but others depend on loss of range of motion, review of MRI’s or operative reports, or neurological testing. Aside from the value of a claim for permanent partial disability benefits, an injured worker’s case may have additional monetary value for wage loss benefits and other workers’ compensation benefits. 
  • The workers’ compensation insurance company is not required under the law to offer you a settlement on your workers’ compensation case. One of the most common questions I hear is: “when does the insurer have to offer me a settlement?” The answer is: They don’t. That being said, in many, many cases, we are able to secure a settlement on behalf of our clients. There are a variety of different types of Minnesota workers’ compensation settlements. An injured worker is extremely well advised to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer before attempting to settle his or her case. There’s simply too much at stake to try to “wing it” when you’re looking at settling your workers’ compensation case, particularly if your injuries are serious, or if you’ve missed significant time from work. 
Even if you have an “admitted” Minnesota workers’ compensation claim, meaning that the insurer is paying your benefits, as a rule, it’s not a matter of IF there will be a dispute on your case—it’s a matter of when. At every turn, the workers’ compensation insurer is looking for ways to minimize the amount of benefits they have to pay on your claim. You need to look out for your best interests!

To learn more about the benefits available to workers’ hurt on the job in Minnesota, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Electrocution Injuries and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Almost all workers are exposed to the dangers of electric shock and electrocution in the workplace, although construction workers, and electrical and cable professionals are at the most risk of electrocution injury.

Approximately 1,000 people in the United States are killed annually as the result of electrocution. Power line accidents account for almost 1/3 of all fatal electrocutions. Electrocution burns are the most common electrical related injury, and approximately 3,000 people suffer electrical burns each year in the United States.

Depending on the power, the path, and the duration of the electrical shock, a worker can suffer a variety of injuries as a result of an electrical accident:

Cardiovascular: An electric shock can stop the heart or cause fibrillation of the heart rhythm, both of which are lethal if not treated immediately, and permanent damage to the heart may also occur.

Respiratory: If electrical current passes through the chest, it can cause respiratory arrest. Respiratory arrest can also occur if the respiration-controlling area of the brain is affected by the electrical shock.

Neurological: The spinal cord or brain can be damaged if the electrical current passes through the brain or spinal cord. Victims of electrocution often suffer secondary brain injuries or spinal cord injuries if they fall from a height after being electrocuted.

Musculoskeletal: If the electrical shock causes prolonged muscle contraction, it can cause muscle damage in the effected body part. Body parts in contact with the power source or the ground, or touched by an arch flash are often severely and deeply burned.

Other injuries: Some injuries caused by electrical shock are not always immediately apparent, such as hearing or vision damage. Some individuals may also suffer from mental symptoms following an electrical injury, such as depression, memory loss or confusion.

Electrocution injuries can be severe and complex. You may require extensive medical treatment. You may miss significant time off work, or you may be disabled from returning to work.

If you’ve suffered an electrocution injury as a result of your work activities, you may be eligible for Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits help cover your expenses after an on-the-job injury, and can include medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanency benefits, and/or vocational rehabilitation benefits. After a severe electrocution injury, an experienced Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney can assist you get the benefits you’re entitled to, and 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. 


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Scaffold Safety and Minnesota Workers' Compensation

According to OSHA, at least 2.3 million workers, or 65% of workers in the construction industry, perform their jobs perched on top of scaffolds. 

Scaffold-related accidents can easily result in serious injury or death, and OSHA strictly regulates their use. Annually, on average, 60 workers are killed, and another 4,500 are injured as the result of scaffold accidents.
In our Minnesota workers’ compensation practice, we have handled a number of workers’ compensation claims due to scaffolding accidents. These injuries have included traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, back injuries, neck injuries, shoulder injuries, and knee injuries.

Most commonly, these injuries stem from falling off a scaffold, but we’ve also seen cases involving scaffold collapse or overturning, or workers being struck by objects falling from scaffolding overhead.

Minnesota workers utilizing scaffolding should be aware of the following safety requirements:
  • Scaffolds must be specifically designed for that purposes. Never jury-rig a scaffold from ladders and planks. 
  • Supported scaffolds must be placed on base plates or other firm foundations, must have platforms at least 18 inches wide, and must be built to withstand at least four times the intended load. 
  • Suspended scaffolds must be able to withstand six times there intended load, and have specific requirements about the wire rope used to lift them, and how it must be maintained. 
  • Scaffolds require toprails and toeboards. If there are people working or passing beneath the scaffold, there must be a screen installed between the toprails and toeboards. 
  • Before every shift, a “competent person” must inspect the scaffold. 
  • Debris nets or other protective devices must be used under scaffolds if anyone can pass beneath. People working beneath scaffolds must wear hardhats, and people working on top of scaffolds should wear hardhats, too. 
  • Workers on scaffold should wear shoes with nonslip soles move carefully, and avoid leaving materials on the scaffolds that might cause a tripping hazard or fall on workers beneath the scaffold. 
  • Fall protection devices are required when working more than 10 feet above the ground or the next level down. 
  • Care should be taken by workers at ground level to avoid running into or hitting a scaffold with heavy equipment. 
  • Scaffold work should be avoided in stormy or windy weather, or when platforms are slippery. 
In Minnesota, if you’ve suffered a work-related injury, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and/or rehabilitation benefits. Scaffold accidents often result in serious injury.

A Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney can help make sure that you get the benefits you’re entitled to. For a free, no-obligation workers’ compensation case evaluation, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Osteoarthritis of the Neck and Back: Minnesota Work Comp

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is a common cause of neck and back pain. It is the result of the mechanical breakdown of the cartilage between the facet joints in the spine, which can cause frictional pain. Development of bone spurs can irritate or entrap spinal nerves.

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease of the neck or back can be caused by work activities, or work activities may aggravate or accelerate the condition. An acute work injury can also aggravate a workers’ pre-existing spinal osteoarthritis.

Medical evaluation for neck or back pain typically involves a discussion of symptoms and a detailed medical history, a physical examination, and if osteoarthritis is suspected, a series of x-rays. Other tests, such as MRI’s or CT scans may be performed to confirm the diagnosis or to rule out other conditions. For more information about osteoarthritis visit

Unfortunately, a workers’ compensation claim for a back injury can become complicated if there’s a concurrent or underlying diagnosis of osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. Workers’ compensation insurance companies typically try to argue that the injured worker’s condition was “pre-existing,” or that if they did sustain an injury, it was simply a “temporary aggravation.” They commonly use these arguments to deny an injured workers’ work comp. claim entirely, or to limit the amount of benefits they have to pay if that worker becomes disabled due to neck or back pain.

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

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