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Workers' Comp in a Digital Age

Posted On: May 01, 2019

Workers’ Comp in the Digital Age

In 2018, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board began rolling out its Virtual Hearing system. These virtual hearings allow all parties in a workers’ compensation claim—attorneys, claimants and witnesses alike—to participate remotely via their computers, tablets or phones. New York is the first state to have implemented such a system state-wide.

The system utilizes Cisco WebEx, and requires steady internet connection and a device with both camera and microphone capabilities. In 2019, the Board also released a virtual hearing mobile app. As of the time of this article, virtual hearings are available at all New York State Workers’ Compensation Board locations except Newburgh (this location will be added soon).  

With some hearings lasting only several minutes, this virtual hearing option is especially helpful to eliminate claimant’s travel burden, especially if the claimant is still injured or ill at the time of the hearing.

However, while the virtual hearings may be useful in some cases such as inclement weather or travel-preventing injury, it is important to note that in-person contact between the claimant and his/her attorney is extremely important. Due to this, the attorneys of Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn generally recommend that claimant’s attend all hearings possible. This ensures that the attorney can connect personally with the claimant, answer questions and explain the hearing.

We expect that the workers’ compensation system will continue to evolve and change with times and technology, bringing both advantages and disadvantages.  As these changes come, our staff will continue to answer your questions and ensure you get the benefits you deserve.

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Workers’ Comp for Administrative Professionals

Posted On: April 22, 2019

Workers’ Comp for Administrative Professionals

When many people think of workers’ compensation, they think of construction workers and laborers.  But, our attorneys at Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn have been in the workers’ compensation business for many decades, and have had clients from dozens of professions.

This week, as our office is celebrating our own Administrative Professionals, we’ve compiled some of the workers’ compensation claims that office workers may have.

  • Administrative professionals often experience injuries that are gradual in nature. These repetitive motion injuries include carpal tunnel, back pain and eye strain. These conditions can develop over years of typing and staring at a computer screen. Many people do not realize that injuries like carpal tunnel are eligible for workers’ compensation.
  • Slips and falls are a common workplace injury. Wet floors, exposed computer and phone wires, cluttered offices, upturned rugs and uneven surfaces are all everyday hazards in offices. Rain, snow, ice and wind can make sidewalks and parking lots dangerous. No matter how careful we are to straighten our rugs and tuck in loose wires, an accidental fall from a leaky faucet or icy sidewalk can still cause an office worker injury.
  • Many administrative professionals routinely run errands like picking up supplies for their workplace. A car accident when completing a task necessary to his/her job would also fall under workers’ compensation.
  • Unfortunately, office workers are occasionally injured in acts of violence by coworkers or strangers. An assault by a coworker or client would fit under this category. Workplace violence can also include threats, harassment and intimidation.
  • Occupational diseases like asthma can also occur from poor ventilation, exposure to irritants, and/or mold. This can be especially problematic for office workers regularly exposed to manufacturing and construction materials.

If you have suffered any of these workplace injuries, contact the law office of Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn for your free consultation.

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New York Workers’ Comp and the Opioid Crisis

Posted On: April 16, 2019

New York Workers’ Comp and the Opioid Crisis

Opioid addiction is a major public health concern affecting workers’ compensation nationally.

Pain management—and the use of prominent drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl—is often an important component of healing from workplace injuries. While opiates are effective at controlling pain, are relatively inexpensive and easy to access, they are also highly addictive. For injured workers facing managing their pain, long-term opioid use can also lead to dangerous respiratory depression and failure, liver damage and brain damage. For employees returning back to work after recovering from their injuries, drug misuse can contribute to workplace accidents and even death from impaired judgement and motor function.

According to the National Safety Council, “more than 70% of employers have been impacted by prescription drugs.”[i][1] According to the CDC, “46 people die every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids,” and “prescription opioids are involved in more than 35% of all opioid overdose deaths.”[2]

Facing this epidemic of opioid addiction and high costs of treatment, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board adopted the Non-Acute Pain Medical Treatment Guidelines in 2010. These guidelines were intended to be a new mandatory standard of care for treating New York’s injured workers.

A carrier may file an RFA-2 requesting a hearing for opioid weaning issues. During the hearing, the Judge will consider whether or not the claimant’s opioid use adheres to New York’s Non-Acute Pain Medical Treatment Guidelines. The claimant can present medical reports and depositions from his/her treating physician(s) outlining their treatment and opioid usage. A Workers’ Compensation Judge will then weigh evidence and decide generally if 1) the opioid use is effective at the time of the hearing and can continue under the guidelines, or 2) the claimant should be weaned from opioids. If the Judge decides that the claimant requires enrollment in an addiction treatment program, the insurer would be required to cover the expenses of this treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug abuse, please consider calling New York State’s HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY or visit the nearest emergency room.


[1] https://www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/NewsDocuments/2017/Media-Briefing-National-Employer-Drug-Survey-Results.pdf

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing.html


 

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Workers' Comp in a "Gig" Economy

Posted On: April 03, 2019

Workers' Comp in a “Gig” Economy

Nationally, the gig economy is on the rise. A report by the Freelancer’s Union titled “Freelancing in America 2018” indicates that 56.7 million people in the United States are in the gig economy, and this number continues to grow.[1] You may be familiar with some of the most famous examples of freelancing businesses: Uber, Lyft, Juno, Doordash, PostMates, Handy, TaskRabbit, Fiverr and Care.com.

And while services like these make our lives as consumers easier, they have serious implications for workers. As stated in a National Employment Law Project report, “Tech-mediated gig work is the latest iteration of a 50-year-old pattern of workplace fissuring—the rise of ‘nonstandard’ or ‘contingent’ work that is subcontracted, franchised, temporary, on-demand, or freelance. Gig companies are simply using newfangled methods of labor mediation to extract rents from workers, and shift risks and costs onto workers, consumers, and the general public.”[2]

These now large and powerful companies continue to lobby for lower standards of worker protection. Their goal is to avoid complying with tax and labor laws by ensuring so-called “gig” workers are seen as independent contractors under workers’ compensation law.

When an employer incorrectly treats employees as independent contractors, it is called “misclassification”. Growing businesses like Uber use misclassification to hire as few employees as possible and claim the workers who carry out the bulk of their business (e.g. driving) as independent contractors. These businesses can then avoid paying for sufficient workers’ compensation insurance, as well as unemployment insurance and social security benefits, and upholding proper minimum wage and overtime laws. This not only hurts workers by depriving them of their rights, but also places an unfair burden on law-abiding businesses that sustain higher costs for their workers’ compensation, unemployment and social security benefits.

There is an ongoing debate as to whether these “gig” workers are employees or independent contractors. The companies contend that the workers make their own schedules and provide their own equipment (e.g. cars), thus making them independent contractors. However, companies like Uber or Handy negotiate the workers’ pay rates (e.g. the cost of a ride), take a percentage of these earnings, and solely handle behind-the-scenes business matters like complaints and advertising.

Misclassification is fraud. While the business may contend that a worker is an independent contractor and provide them a 1099 form instead of a W-2 form, this may not be valid under the law. The New York Workers’ Compensation Board may decide that the workers are in fact employees and thus are entitled to benefits.

New York State has developed a task force specifically for tackling this exploitation of workers’ rights. Their task force hotline number is 1-888-469-7365, and they also have a digital reporting form available at https://www.ny.gov/content/report-suspected-workplace-violations

If you have been injured on the job but your employer contends that you are an independent contractor and not entitled to benefits, please call the office of Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn. Our attorneys will help to assess your case and ensure your rights as a worker are upheld.


[1] https://www.upwork.com/press/2018/10/31/freelancing-in-america-2018/

[2] https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/Rights-at-Risk_4-2-2019.pdf

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Knee, Shoulder and Elbow Injuries at Work

Posted On: March 26, 2019

Knee, Shoulder and Elbow Injuries at Work 

Injuries to knees, shoulders and elbows are relatively common workplace injuries that can be caused by repetitive motion or heavy lifting. Pain from knee, shoulder and elbow injuries may be localized or spread to the surrounding areas. 

Injuries can include:

  • Sprains, strains and fractures;
  • Dislocated shoulders, knees or elbows;
  • Rotator cuff tears (injury to the tendons covering the shoulder);
  • Torn ligaments (a break in the tissues that connect bones to one another at joints);
  • Bursitis (inflammation of the bursae that cushion joints);
  • Tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon that connects bone to muscle) 

For each of these injuries, surgery and/or physical therapy may be necessary. Your workers’ compensation funds would cover these medical interventions. 

Feel free to contact the law offices of Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn for a free consultation on your possible claim.

 

 

 

 

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Heart Attack & Stroke at Work

Posted On: March 12, 2019

Heart Attack & Stroke at Work


OSHA reports that each year 10,000 heart attacks occur at work.[1] Jobs with especially long, irregular hours and stressful environments—such as nurses working in Intensive Care Units—are at higher risk for heart attacks. Even if a workers’ heart is healthy, a sudden blow due to a fall or impact, can damage the heart and cause cardiac arrest.

While in the U.S., men are more prone to heart attacks, women are more prone to strokes. A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood to the brain; without blood, brain cells do not have access to vital oxygen and nutrients and they begin to deteriorate. Strokes can be caused by brain injury, stress, or overextension, and can lead to either short-term or long-term symptoms. According to one study, long work hours (defined as over 55 hours per week) increase risk of both stroke and heart attack immensely.[2]

It can be difficult to prove that unusual workplace stress caused the heart attack or stroke, but a workers’ compensation attorney will be able to assess your case. Medical experts can attest to whether the cardiac arrest or stroke was caused by workplace activities, or simply occurred at work.

Feel free to contact the law offices of Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn for a free consultation on your possible claim.

[1] https://www.osha.gov/Publications/3185.html

[2] http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)60295-1/abstract

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Hernias at Work

Posted On: February 26, 2019

Hernias at Work 

The CDC places hernias along with carpal tunnel and strains, sprains and tears in the category of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.[1] A hernia is an abnormal protrusion of tissue, which can cause pain, discomfort, numbness, tingling and trouble moving. Common hernias include abdominal hernias (a protrusion of the intestine in the abdominal cavity) and herniated disks (protrusion of one or more of the disks that cushion vertebrae in the spine). Hernias can be sustained at work from heavy lifting or a fall. They can occur suddenly or develop over time. Hernia injuries are fairly common, and surgery combined with physical therapy can repair the injury. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if your hernia was sustained at work, or if your pre-existing hernia condition was exacerbated by workplace activity. 

Feel free to contact the law offices of Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn for a free consultation on your possible claim. 

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/health-strategies/musculoskeletal-disorders/index.html

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Vision and Hearing Loss a Work

Posted On: February 12, 2019

Vision and Hearing Loss a Work 

You may file a workers’ compensation claim if you have sustained vision or hearing loss—either partial or complete—in the workplace. Vision and hearing loss can occur at work due to a wide array of causes, from exposure to chemicals to illness. 

Exposure to harmful levels of light, exposure to harmful chemicals, and trauma to the brain can cause vision loss at work. Even when workers wear protective eyewear, accidents or repetitive exposure can cause either partial or complete vision loss. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most eye injuries at work are caused by debris (such as gravel, splinters, and sand) hitting the eye. BLS also reported that almost 30,000 non-fatal eye injuries lead to time lost at work each year.[1] 

Most work-related hearing loss is occupational, not traumatic; damage to the ear, either temporary or permanent, is sustained from repetitive exposure to harmful noise levels or chemicals, as opposed to one, extreme event (e.g. working in a loud factory for 20 years, as opposed to experiencing a singular loud bang). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the U.S., approximately 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, and over 30 million workers are exposed to chemicals that are harmful to the ear at work.[2] According to Healthy Hearing, those with manufacturing, construction, entertainment, military and agricultural careers are particularly at risk for hearing loss. While hearing loss can be disheartening and frightening, there are treatments and solutions available—from therapy with hearing loss professionals to hearing aids and other listening devices. 

Even if your vision or hearing loss does not cause complete disability (the inability to work), you may still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. 

Feel free to contact the law offices of Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn for a free consultation on your possible claim. 

[1] https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/cwc/workplace-injuries-involving-the-eyes-2008.pdf

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/default.html

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