Category Archives: Workplace Injury

The Role Workers’ Compensation Plays in the Amtrak Train 188 Derailment

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Our sympathies go out to all of the friends and families of the victims of Tuesday’s Amtrak passenger train derailment in Philadelphia, as well as a wish for the recovery of those injured. The latest news reports indicate that, as of Friday morning, the crash has left at least eight dead and more than 200 injured. 

In reading some of the profiles of those fatally injured in the crash, I have thought about how the families of these victims move forward now. There has been a lot of discussion of the role of Amtrak’s negligence, train safety in the United States, and the engineer responsible for driving the train, but little has been mentioned of the role of the employers of the victims, some of whom were traveling to or from work or on work-related business. Some of these employers may be responsible for providing workers’ compensation benefits, and some may not. Of the eight fatalities, one individual was reportedly headed home following work-related meetings in Washington, D.C. Another was reportedly commuting home to New York from her job in Philadelphia. Although the circumstances appear similar, Nebraska and other states’ workers’ compensation law would likely treat these two claims very differently. 

Nebraska follows a going to and from work rule, which states that accidents occurring in the course of a worker’s travel are generally deemed not to be compensable when the worker is “going or coming” from his or her place of employment. This rule essentially finds that a worker’s daily commute is not covered by workers’ compensation. This travel time is not considered to be within the course and scope of employment. It is likely that the crash victim who was commuting home to New York and her family would not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

One of the exceptions to the going to and from work rule is the “commercial traveler” rule. This rule essentially provides that, if a claimant must be required to travel in the performance of his or her duties and be on the employer’s business during travel, they are generally within the course and scope of their employment from the time they leave home until they return. Some exceptions may arise if it is determined that the employer’s interest was merely incidental, but generally those workers traveling on business, like the crash victim who was reportedly returning home from work-related meetings, should be covered by workers’ compensation.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , , .

ALF-CIO Report: Here are Some of Nebraska’s Numbers and Rankings

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How did Nebraska fare in the recent AFL-CIO Death on the Job annual report? Generally speaking, better than some but not as well as all the other states.

Here’s some helpful information that quantifies how things are going for working Nebraskans when it comes to safety at work, looking through information from many sources, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“When it comes to job safety enforcement and coverage, it is clear OSHA lacks sufficient resources to protect workers adequately. A combination of too few OSHA inspectors and law penalties makes the threat of an OSHA inspection hollow for too many employers,” according to the report.

Staffing levels are stark at federal OSHA. Nebraska is one of 10 states (others include Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia) where “it would take 150 years or more for OSHA to pay a single visit to each workplace,” based on current staffing levels, with the actual number in Nebraska being 163 years. Though at the current level of state and federal OSHA inspectors there is one inspector for every 71,695 workers, Nebraska is one of the states where “the ratio of inspectors to employees is greater than 1 per 100,000 workers.” That means for the 932,768 employees in the state in 2013, there were 9 actual inspectors, leading to a ratio of 1/103,641, according to the table “Number of OSHA Inspectors by State Compared with ILO Benchmark Number of Labor Inspectors.” Note that Nebraska relies on the federal program only, so unlike Iowa, there is no state OSHA program.

Here’s some statistics from the table “Profile of Workplace Safety and Health in the United States.” For Nebraska, there were 39 fatalities in 2013, meaning a rate of 4.0 fatalities per 100,000 workers, ranking the state 31st in the nation for worker fatalities that year.

In addition, there were 24,700 worker injuries or illnesses reported in 2013, resulting in a rate that was 3.8 injuries or illnesses per 100 workers. OSHA’s penalties in fiscal year 2014 averaged $2,569, or 4th in the nation, for “averages per serious citation for conditions creating a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm to workers,” according to the same table cited above.

The table “State-by-State OSHA Fatality Investigations, FY 2014” shows that 12 OSHA fatality investigations were conducted in Nebraska in fiscal year 2014. A total of $268,671 in penalties was proposed, with the average penalty per investigation being $22,389. The median initial penalty proposed by OSHA was $10,800, while the median current penalty is $4,800.

Businesses often negotiate down their penalties with OSHA, and OSHA also tends to decrease or eliminate penalties once there is evidence of the safety issues being fixed. This is because OSHA’s ultimate focus is on workplace safety, not on holding businesses’ accountable for workers’ injuries or deaths.

To get your questions answered about specific Nebraska or Iowa workplace safety concerns, please contact lawyers who are experienced in workers’ compensation law.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , , , , .

Death on the Job Annual Report from AFL-CIO Informative, Useful

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workplace death graphicThe AFL-CIO’s annual report about “the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers” has been written about in a previous year on this blog. The recently released 2015 version focuses in an in-depth manner on data from 2013 and includes around 200 pages of text, tables, details and information, along with a bit of jargon.

The report is extremely informative, and Nebraska and Iowa’s numbers will be examined in more detail in future blog posts, as these are states where the firm’s attorneys are licensed.

The report can also feel overwhelming once a person processes through the fact the each numeral on each chart represents the death of one person due to the workplace. There is also a ripple effect, as each person represented here had loved ones who both cared about and relied on that person. And for many involved, their lives changed drastically when their loved one died.

I appreciate the work, funding, thoughtfulness and effort put into compiling and analyzing the data, which includes a methodology section at the end of the report.

Here’s some sobering information from the summary.

“In 2013, 4,585 workers were killed on the job in the United States, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of 150 workers each day from hazardous working conditions.

“Nearly 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported, but many injuries are not reported. The true toll is likely two to three times greater, or 7.6 million to 11.4 million injuries each year.”

States with the highest fatality rate in the nation include a couple of relative neighbors: North Dakota and Wyoming. West Virginia, Alaska and New Mexico round out the top five. Lowest state fatality rates in 2013 were Hawaii, Washington, Connecticut and Massachusetts (tied) and New York and Rhode Island (tied).

Please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer if you or a loved one is hurt on the job or has questions about job safety.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in AFL-CIO, Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury and tagged , .

Workers Can’t Wait to Cash In?

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Worplace-Safety-Workers-Compensation-Worker-Injury-ConstructionIt’s not uncommon in the workers’ compensation arena that we hear allegations of malingering or workers being hurt on purpose to reap the monetary rewards of a work injury. Some employers refuse to settle a case as long as the worker is still employed by the company, fearing a large monetary settlement will encourage other workers to get injured.  The limited benefits of a workers’ compensation claim make these assertions ridiculous.  Specifically, no benefits are paid for the pain and suffering.  Additionally, the reality is that many states compensate a permanent injury for only a matter of weeks or years.  The worker and his or her family are left to deal with the ongoing effects of these injuries for the balance of their lifetime.

The Insurance Journal listed the top 10 leading causes “of serious, nonfatal workplace injuries” from “2012 claims data for injuries lasting six or more days and ranked the injuries by total workers’ compensation costs,” according to a recent article.

Not surprisingly, horseplay or purposefully getting injured was not among them. In fact, the leading cause of workplace injuries is ironically enough – overexertion! Overexertion and other exertion-related injuries made up almost a third of all workplace injuries. So much for the theory of money-hungry workers playing around or purposefully getting injured. Falls comprise two of the top 10 leading causes of workplace injuries, making up a total of just over 24 percent of all injuries.  Being struck by or striking objects combined for around 15 percent. Motor vehicle accidents (5.3 percent) and repetitive movements (3.1 percent) round out the top 10 list. The full list is detailed below. In total, the 10 most common work injuries accounted for almost 84 percent of all injuries.

  1. Overexertion 25.3 percent
  2. Falls on same level 15.4 percent
  3. Struck by object or equipment 8.9 percent
  4. Falls to lower level 8.6 percent
  5. Other exertions or bodily reactions 7.2 percent
  6. Roadway incidents 5.3 percent
  7. Slip or trip without fall 3.6 percent
  8. Caught in or by equipment or objects 3.5 percent
  9. Repetitive motions 3.1 percent
  10. Struck against object or equipment 2.9 percent

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that workplace deaths have decreased from 38 per day in 1970 to 12 per day in 2012, according to the article. Additionally, OSHA reports occupational injury and illness rates have declined 67 percent since 1970, all while employment has almost doubled.

Despite these accomplishments, insurance companies and large employers continue to lobby state legislatures about the injustice and cost of workers’ compensation benefits. In reality, workers and their families continue to bear the real burdens of workplace injuries.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Disability, employer fraud, fighting fraud, Fraud, Work Injury, Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , .

April 28: Celebrate Workers’ Memorial Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work

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Workers’ Memorial Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work is set for April 28 this year. The history of Mary “Mother Jones,” whose name graces a progressive magazine, is noteworthy. She fought tirelessly to improve worker safety, and events such as Workers’ Memorial Day are part of her legacy. 

A recent article from John Speigelhoff and Dale Moerke, a pair of Minnesota labor leaders, shares some of her history and calls attention to Workers’ Memorial Day.

I agree with the authors’ closing thoughts, quoted below, and encourage all of our readers to remember and observe Workers’ Memorial Day in some way. I also encourage all worker advocates and activists to keep up the hard work and dedication, because the efforts to limit and outright take away worker protections seem to be like the coming and going of the tide. It never ends.

“On April 28, 2015, take a moment to reflect upon those who have come before us and tirelessly championed the cause of a safer workplace, oftentimes being beaten and imprisoned for their advocacy. Every worker deserves to come home safe to their family. It is only when we remember our history, view ourselves (workers) as having a common bond and demand better working conditions will we prevent tragedy.  Observing Workers’ Memorial Day is the first step.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in AFL-CIO, Legislation, Memorial Day, OSHA, worker rights, Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , .

Is Your Job Causing Asthma or Making It Worse?

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The spring allergy season that also causes asthma concerns is upon us, and this is especially evident in the Great Plains, where the wind blows dust and pollen throughout most days. 

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that 16 percent of American adults had asthma that was either caused or aggravated by conditions at work. According to the National Institutes of Health, workers who are regularly exposed to chemicals and dust, such as millers, bakers, woodworkers and farm workers, are most vulnerable to work-related asthma. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that adults lose 14 million work days per year because of asthma. 

In terms of Nebraska, this means that approximately 134,400 days of work are missed in Nebraska due to work-related asthma. In Iowa, that number is closer to 224,000 days of work that are missed because of work-related asthma. This is an estimate of missed days nationwide in proportion to the population of the states. 

Workers should make sure their employers are providing safety equipment that protects against respiratory injury. Employees should make sure they are carrying inhalers in the workplace if they have been prescribed them by a doctor for asthma. 

But if a worker suspects their work is causing breathing problems or making pre-existing asthma worse, they should report that as a workers’ compensation injury and seek treatment with a specialist in treating breathing conditions. Medical bills for treating asthma should be covered like any other work injury, and any lost time because of work-related asthma should entitle an employee to temporary disability for lost time and permanent disability for permanent breathing problems. 

Work-related asthma would also be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and under similar state laws. Further, an employee has protection against retaliation under most states’ laws, including Nebraska and Iowa, as well as under federal law, for reporting work conditions that cause asthma and/or from claiming workers’ compensation benefits for work-related asthma.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , , .

Safety, Health a Struggle at Wal-Mart, Nation’s Biggest Employer

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the nation’s largest employer, according to USA Today. Including Sam’s Club, 2.2 million people worldwide work there, and more than 1.3 million work for the company in the United States.

Being the nation’s largest employer also should mean being responsible for employees’ health and safety. Sadly, that’s not really the case.

Charlene Obernauer, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) recently wrote this blog post for HuffPost Business.

Her framework starts with OSHA’s citation of $7,000 when security guard Jdimytai Damour died after being trampled on Black Friday almost 7 years ago. Earlier in March, after spending more than $1 million fighting the fine, “Wal-Mart decided to withdraw their appeal and pay up, not because they admitted wrongdoing, but because of a desire to put the matter to rest,” according to Obernauer’s article.

She goes on to list examples of health and safety violations by “Wal-Mart-affiliated warehouse distributors” and Wal-Mart stores themselves.  This included the following scenario:

“The company was also cited several serious violations for not immediately providing employees with adequate personal protective equipment and never offering a Hepatitis B shot after they cleaned up blood on the job, along with a number of other violations of OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standard.”

In addition, the firm’s blog has previously featured posts that include Wal-Mart’s attitude toward injured workers on transitional duty and paying workers so little that they need public benefits.

I agree with Obernauer’s final paragraph completely.

“While finally agreeing to stop appealing a $7,000 fine after a worker died on Wal-Mart’s watch is a step in the right direction, it is a puny step down a prolonged path towards creating healthier, safer and more just jobs at Wal-Mart. They have a long way to go.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , , .

Workers’ Compensation Covers Truckers’ Injuries from Falling Asleep at Wheel

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASleep disorders are a significant health problem for truck drivers.  Trucker injuries resulting from falling asleep at the wheel can be compensated by workers’ compensation, as shown in this recent article from the LexisNexis Legal Newsroom.

Former FMSCA administrator Anne Ferro put it this way in remarks she made at the 2010 Sleep Apnea and Trucking Conference in Baltimore.

“I count fatigue among those high risk behaviors and sleep apnea is a condition that contributes to fatigue. This is a highly sensitive subject which is why this meeting is so important. The challenge here is to focus on sleep apnea as a serious medical condition and identify affordable screening and treatments that work in the truck driving environment.

“In many cases, truck drivers experience poor health because of the challenges associated with their job and lifestyle.

“According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy for a driver is less than 61 years – is 16 years younger than the average American. That is simply not acceptable.

“From our own estimates, almost three out of 10 truck drivers currently suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea. And we know from our research that drivers with severe sleep apnea are known to be at a much, much greater risk of being involved in a severe crash.

“Fatigue is estimated to be an associated factor in 13 percent of all truck crashes annually and 28 percent of single vehicle truck crashes, based on the Large Truck Crash Causation Study.”

As has been written on the firm’s blog before, “sleep is essential for health and well-being. And not getting enough sleep is a compensable condition.”

In a guest blog post a few years ago, respected lawyer Jon Gelman of New Jersey shared information from the National Sleep Foundation and CDC. In addition to falling asleep when a person was planning to stay awake, people who don’t sleep enough are at “increased risk of motor vehicle accidents; increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation; increased risk of diabetes and heart problems; increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse; and decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information.”

Please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer with questions about specifics in yours or a loved one’s case. In addition, please work to get both the quantity and quality of sleep that is needed to be safe and healthy.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Business Travel, Driving, Health, mental health, Night Shift Work, Safety, truck driver, Trucking, Work Injury, Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury and tagged , , , .