Monthly Archives: September 2012

How Apportionment Relates to a New Workers’ Compensation Claim

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multiple injuriesCan I get workers’ compensation benefits for an injury even though I had a past workers’ compensation claim?

The simple answer is yes. In nearly all instances, you would be entitled to full benefits for your new injury regardless of whether you have already experience a workers’ compensation injury in the past.

Apportionment:

“Apportion” or “Apportionment” means that your employer is allowed to assign disability to a previous workers’ compensation injury to the same body part, which reduces the money benefits for your current injury. However, only under certain situations is your employer allowed to “apportion” benefits from your current injury to a past injury.

Specifically, in order to “apportion” your current injury to a previous injury (thereby reducing money benefits) there needs to have been a loss-of-earning-capacity evaluation for your previous injury. Often, this is not present. Even in rare situations where there was a previous loss-of-earning-capacity evaluation attributable to a previous workers’ compensation injury, your employer must still show Continue reading

Associate Brody Ockander Tapped for Nebraska State Bar Association Leadership Academy

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Attorney Brody Ockander

Attorney Brody Ockander

It is important for attorneys to stay current with the law, and I encourage the firm’s members to participate in continuing education and networking opportunities through professional associations and other occasions.

Associate Brody Ockander was recently selected for the Nebraska State Bar Association Leadership Academy. As stated by the NSBA, the leadership academy’s mission is “to develop the leadership skills of the participants to allow them to make greater contributions to the legal profession and their community.”

Academy goals include the following, according to the NSBA:

  • To nurture effective leadership with respect to ethical, professional and community service issues
  • To build relationships among legal leaders from across the state and from across disciplines within the profession
  • To raise the level of awareness among lawyers regarding the broad range of issues facing the legal profession
  • To enhance the diversity of leaders within the legal profession and the community as a whole

Discussion topics for the group will include Effective Leadership; Legislative Issues; Balancing Work and Life; and Public Trust and Confidence in the Judicial System, according to the NSBA web site.

Congratulations!

The Very Real Dangers Of Worry (Part 2)

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Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case from Causey Law Firm in Seattle. Since the first post in this series established that worry is real, this second blog post addresses how the act of worrying affects one’s body. And the effects on a person’s body are where the potentially harmful long-term consequences on a person’s health appear. But if you know someone who has been physically injured, speaking to a lawyer to make sure the worker’s rights are protected and knowing all the options can sometimes help alleviate that worry.

Previously we posted on how worry can affect the lives of injured or disabled workers. In today’s post, we’ll talk about some of the specific effects of worry on the body.

The physical reactions to excessive fear and anxiety (worry) initiate a chain or cascade of pathological events by stimulating the amygdala area of the brain (fight/flight response), releasing neurotransmitters to the cortex. There, the fear or anxiety, whether real or imagined, is analyzed in detail and the analysis is returned to the amygdala where, in normal situations, the fear response is shut off by amino-butyric acid (GABA). GAD worriers may not have high enough GABA levels to shut off this pathway. Consequently, there are constant marked secretions of glucocortocoids and catecholamines that increase blood sugar levels. Marked levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine dilate blood vessels in skeletal muscles and other adrenergic (adrenal) stimulations that in turn create modifications in breathing, increased temperatures, sweating, decreased mobility of the stomach, bowels, and intestines, constrictions of the sphincters in the stomach and intestines.

Simply said, constant fear and anxiety result in debilitating amounts of stress hormones like cortisol (from the adrenal glands) and hormones that cause blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) to rise significantly. This process, if not shut off or modulated, can cause premature coronary artery disease, short-term memory loss, digestive problems, and suppression of the natural immune system. The scientific literature is now implicating constant stress, such as constant work stress or toxic fear and anxiety, in causing large weight gains in the midriff area which can greatly exacerbate orthopedic injuries, particularly of the spine or knees, and can lead to increased incidences of diabetes and cancer.

Worry causes increased mortality and morbidity. It is that simple.

For information on how to treat and avoid worry, check in with us later this week for the next installment in this 3-part series.

The Very Real Dangers Of Worry (Part 1)

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Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case from Causey Law Firm. As has been written about in previous blog posts, when a worker suffers an injury, there is often a mental component to processing through that injury. Worry is often an unwelcome and unexpected part of this process and actually can have long-term consequences on a person’s health. But if you know someone who has been injured, speaking to a lawyer to make sure your rights are protected and you know all your options can sometimes help alleviate that worry.

Worry is increasingly pervasive in our society as insecurity about the economy and safety, nationally and personally, grows daily. Worry is compounded in the daily lives of those who are injured or disabled, as they struggle with the added burdens of medical costs and loss of income, all of which engenders a bleak outlook on their future.

“At its worst, [toxic] worry is a relentless scavenger roaming the corners of your mind, feeding on anything, never leaving you alone.” This was the description of “worry” by Edward M. Hallowell, MD, in Worry, 1997, with a 2002 introduction. (This study is still considered the “bible” in lay literature and often quoted in scientific research.) Long ago, Dr. Charles Mayo said, “Worry affects circulation, the glands, the whole nervous system and profoundly affects the heart.” Indeed, worry appears to be, at worst, of genetic origins, and to a lesser degree a learned or environmental response.

Hallowell defines worry as two types: toxic worry and good worry. He likens toxic worry to a virus, insidiously and invisibly attacking you and robbing you of your ability to work, your peace of mind and happiness, your love and play. On the other hand, good worry, or adaptive worry, is necessary to avoid real danger and life-threatening situations.

Worry is categorized as part of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in most lay and scientific literature. The National Institute of Mental Illness (NIMH) defines GAD as people who go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little to provoke it. NIMH literature states that people with GAD anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems or difficulties at work. GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about everyday problems for at least six months. Worry, as part of GAD, is commonly treated with medication and cognitive therapy.

The everyday worry of the disabled or injured worker is direct, with anxiety and fear over money, physical abilities, medical care, vocational options, housing, food, and family disintegration. It does prey upon so many, compounding their physical health problems and environmental lives.

For more on the very real physiological implications of worry, check in next week for the next installment in this series.

“I’m In It for the Money!”

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Surprisingly, many employers and insurance companies actually believe workers hurt themselves on purpose or at the very least put themselves in positions where they think an injury is likely. We hear this a lot as a basis for not settling claims for existing employees. Employers are worried that it will encourage other employees to get injured as well. What does that say about the particular employer who believes this? Either they are downplaying lots of injuries or they truly believe employees are willfully getting hurt.

The reality is that most of our clients come to us because their injury-related medical bills are not being paid or they’re not being paid for time off from work due to their injury.

In this age of limited, and in some cases very limited, workers’ compensation benefits, you would have to be an imbecile to actually believe people are willingly causing permanent injuries to themselves to cash in on the “windfall” that is workers’ compensation. Who would honestly trade even thousands of dollars for a lifetime of uncompensated pain and suffering? The reality is that most of our clients come to us because their injury-related medical bills are not being paid or they’re not being paid for time off from work due to their injury. The vast majority of them don’t even ask how much they could get for their injuries in their initial meeting with us, as I’m sure is the case with most workers’ compensation law firms.

This is one of a long line of personal-injury myths perpetrated by the insurance industry to make filing a workers’ compensation claim a stigma. It’s similar to the one about “if you file a claim our premiums will go up and they’ll have to shut down the plant.” Shouldn’t the question really be: are we requiring too much physically of our employees, and if so, what can we do to make things safer? Instead, Continue reading

How Can Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) Be Treated? (Part 2)

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Treatments can vary as symptoms change over time.

Today’s post is continued from last week, when we discussed the symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Today we will discuss treatment options.

The job of your doctor is to identify and treat your symptoms before they become incurable. Common forms of treatment for CRPS are

  • physical therapy
  • injections
  • sympathetic mediated injections
  • sympathetic blocks
  • nerve conduction studies
  • CT scans
  • vasomotor studies
  • Doppler studies
  • bone-density tests
  • medications for pain & anti-inflammation

No single form of treatment has been found 100% effective.  Continue reading

What Is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)? (Part 1)

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Diagnosis of CRPS is made through process of elimination.

Representing clients with chronic pain is both one of the hardest and most rewarding parts of my job.

The International Association for the Study of Pain sets forth four diagnostic criteria for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS):

  1. an initiating event,
  2. continuous pain,
  3. edema, temperature, or color differences affecting a limb, and
  4. excluding all other causes.

These criteria are vague but, because diagnosis of CRPS is elusive, they are the established criteria for a physician identifying and treating chronic pain that cannot be attributed to any other cause.

When your doctor believes the pain you are experiencing is out of proportion to your examination findings and the severity of your injury, it creates a problem. However, this is quite common when suffering from complex regional pain syndrome. While those who suffer from CRPS are often frurstrated because the exact cause of the pain cannot be proven, the medical literature confirms that this disease, and the resulting pain, is real!

The 3 stages of complex regional pain syndrome, ie. chronic pain, are variable but the descriptions below show how the disease can progress: Continue reading

Labor Day Provides a Chance for Reflections, Lore

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Historically, Labor Day celebrations were a street parade to exhibit to the public ‘the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations’ of the community

Happy Labor Day! What are your plans? And why do we have this day off of work? Is it to celebrate summer ending and school starting? In Nebraska, it might be to celebrate what is often the first weekend of Husker football and the last weekend of the State Fair.

But are there other reasons? Just like the origins of workers’ compensation, we can attribute the fact that we have a holiday to the American worker.

Labor Day – the first Monday in September – celebrates the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of America,” according to www.usa.gov.

Sources explain in varying amounts of detail the controversy over who founded Labor Day and how the “workingmen’s holiday” was celebrated on that day. But what isn’t up for debate is that unions and their workers were a very important part of developing Labor Day to celebrate workers’ contributions.

I am pleased to share that the state of Nebraska was actually one of the first to celebrate Labor Day and had passed legislation recognizing the holiday by 1890. Other states that were Labor Day pioneers included Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

There are some romantic notions about how Labor Day came into being, and some sources even gloss over some of the gritty details, but Continue reading