Monthly Archives: May 2011

On-again, off-again compromise in Illinois? Off, again

NFL workers’ comp issue expand to other sports, out-of-state workers in Florida


Delicate compromise too delicate: ‘surprise reversal’

Last time we posted ” ‘Delicate’ compromise may avoid killing Illinois system,” as part of our ongoing coverage of workers’ comp reform movements around the country.

Apparently, the “delicate compromise” has blown up. A May 30 piece at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Web site says:

In a surprise reversal of what was to have been historic workers’ compensation reform in Illinois this year, state House members killed the bill late Sunday after a bitter floor fight that pitted medical and business interests against workers.

The workers’ compensation system is a state-run program that settles cases between injured workers and employers, keeping those cases out of the courts. The system has been plagued by skyrocketing costs for employers and alleged abuses by employees.

The Democratic-sponsored bill that failed Sunday would have lowered those costs by reducing the program’s fees to doctors, and would have tightened rules for employees trying to collect. Proponents claimed it would have saved employers some $500 million a year. Critics said it unfairly attacked doctors and didn’t go far enough to stop fraud.

‘Nuclear option’ still on table

The so-called “nuclear option” remains viable. That’s the threat of simply letting the workers’ comp system die, forcing injured workers to take their cases to the court system. According to the Journal Star’s online site:

Backers of a failed plan to overhaul the Illinois workers’ compensation system prepared Tuesday to try again, while the possibility of simply eliminating the system loomed in the background.

Rep. John Bradley, a key negotiator on the proposal, filed motions that would allow another vote. The overhaul failed Sunday in the House as Republicans opposed it as a group.
Bradley, D-Marion, originally said lawmakers would only get one chance to vote on the overhaul. He said if it failed, the next step would be abolishing workers’ compensation altogether.
Bradley said that “nuclear option” is still a possibility. The Illinois Senate could vote on it Tuesday, the final day of the legislative session.

The point is to avoid costly court battles and get workers back on job

As the Belleville News-Democrat explains, the whole point of workers’ comp is to avoid injured employees’ having to sue employers.

The bill [passed by the House on Friday] would require employees to sue for damages if they believe a workplace injury has caused pain and suffering or loss of income. That would mean proving an injury is job-related. Under the current system, an employee need only show that it is possible for an injury to have resulted from the job.

Workers’ compensation is an agreement that employees won’t sue employers over job injuries. In return, employers pay into an insurance fund that distributes financial awards if an arbitrator rules in the employee’s favor.

Agency under federal investigation

Besides the reform attempt, the state workers’ comp agency is also dealing with a federal investigation of its practices, an investigation launched in the wake of a series of revealing stories published in the News-Democrat: “The newspaper reported that in just three years beginning Jan. 1, 2008, almost $10 million was paid for injuries to employees at Menard Correctional Center. Most of the tax-free settlements, including one paid to the warden for $75,678, were for repetitive trauma, or injury to the wrist or elbow that guards claimed was caused by manually locking and unlocking cells.”

NFL issue spreads to other sports, out-of-state workers

We’ve also covered workers’ comp issues in the NFL, some that threaten to spill over into non-athletic workplace situations. News from Florida updates with recent events. From the May 31 Orlando Sentinel, this headline: “Prodded by sports teams, lawmakers block out-of-state workers comp claims“:

Florida workers who travel as part of their jobs may soon have a harder time claiming benefits from on-the-job accidents — thanks, in large part, to the state’s professional sports teams.

Sometime in the next few weeks, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign into law a measure designed to ensure that workers who are injured while temporarily working in another state can’t pursue workers-compensation claims against their employer in those states.

The legislation, passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature last month, was sought by Florida’s professional sports franchises, lead by the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic, the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning and the National Football League’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

Lobbyists for the teams say the law is needed to close a loophole that allows their players to seek claims in other states. Their most oft-cited statistic: From the inception of the Jaguars in 1995 through 2009, the franchise has played only five of its 224 games in California. Yet 95 percent of the team’s workers-compensation claims have been in California, where workers-comp laws are more favorable for employees. But the law could face a swift court challenge from unions representing professional athletes, which say lawmakers are attempting to take away rights from their members in Florida.

Beneath mainstream radar, issue closely watched in WC circles

This promises to be an ongoing issue in the workers’ comp arena. Sports franchises may hope to restrict language such that it applies only to professional athletes. So far, they haven’t been able to do that. Taken together, all these subjects indicate the complexity than can follow a workplace injury, whether you’re an elite “star” or simply a worker trying to make a living.

We can help you find an attorney

Frequently enough, a worker’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources:

Workers compensation basics

Injury on the job

‘Delicate’ compromise may avoid killing Illinois system

Oklahoma governor outmaneuvers Senate; North Carolina measure advances

We most recently updated our coverage of the Illinois’ workers’ comp hullabaloo in this post.

‘Blow up bill” still in play despite progress toward compromise

Since then, there’s been progress, of sorts; from a May 26 piece at

After months of negotiations, breakdowns and false starts, state business groups and legislators have a tentative agreement to reform Illinois’ workers’ compensation system, though the lead House negotiator says there is still work to be done.

“We have two options: We have this compromise agreement that is moving closer to having something that we can move forward with, and we have the blow-up bill,” Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, said Thursday.

“Those are both viable options, and we intend to pass one of those two before the end of session,” he said. (The “blow-up bill” is Bradley’s alternative proposal to abolish the entire workers’ comp system in Illinois, leaving decisions on individual workplace injuries up to the courts.)

Supporters say measure could save $500 million

A May 27 account in the Chicago Tribune adds, “Illinois businesses would save about $500 million but give up on their biggest demand under a worker’s compensation overhaul that key lawmakers called a tentative deal Thursday.

“The plan includes a 30 percent reduction in the rates businesses pay to physicians, uses nationally recognized standards for determining an injury’s severity and creates a medical network for handling workplace injuries.

Idea dropped to “prove” injuries are work-related

“It would not require employees to prove injuries are directly related to their jobs, a demand businesses had made through months of negotiations.”

Legislators describe the status as a “delicate balance” and emphasize that nothing is final, yet. However, it seems as though Bradley’s House Speaker Michael Madigan’s support of the so-called “nuclear option” has spurred serious compromise, which is much needed in the state with the costliest workers’ comp premiums in the nation.

Governor’s vetoes delayed until too late for Legislature to reconvene

In Oklahoma, according to a May 27 Tulsa World report, the governor has pulled an end-around concerning a contentious workers’ comp bill:

Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed five bills Thursday, thwarting a possible override on a contentious workers compensation “trailer bill” by withholding action until it was too late for the Legislature to reconvene before Friday’s constitutional deadline to adjourn.

Fallin signed 38 bills.

The workers comp measure, Senate Bill 761, would have changed the payment schedule agreed to in an earlier bill in a way that would have generally favored physicians who provide medical equipment such as crutches and wheelchairs and implants such as artificial joints.

Legislators didn’t make it easy for governor

As reported May 28 in The Oklahoman:

Thursday was the last day for Fallin to act on bills passed this session. Legislators ended their business last week, but didn’t adjourn. The session will end officially at 5 p.m. Friday.

Legislators finishing their business last week made it more difficult for the governor to silently veto legislation.

Because the session isn’t adjourned officially until Friday, Fallin accomplished the rare feat of getting her work done before lawmakers. She had no choice.

When legislators are in session, Fallin has five days to sign a bill. If she doesn’t sign it, the measure becomes law. She has 15 days to sign a bill when lawmakers are out of session. If she doesn’t sign it, the bill does not become a law; that action is often called a pocket veto.

North Carolina proposal clears House

We have updates on the proposed changes in North Carolina, too. From a May 27 piece at, “An agreement on changes to rules governing North Carolina workers’ compensation claims cleared a House committee on Thursday.

“The panel voted to recommend a bill its chief sponsor said followed weeks of negotiations with groups representing employers, employees and the state. Rep. Dale Folwell of Winston-Salem says the agreement will protect workers, compensate the injured and encourage people to return to work.

Total disability payments capped

“The bill caps temporary payments for a totally disabled worker at nearly 10 years. The current law has no cap, which Folwell said places North Carolina at a competitive disadvantage. The bill also raises the maximum time for wage benefits for the partially disabled and for death benefits.”

‘Advocates’ say important rights preserved has some background info:

Attorney Gina Cammarano, who is a North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist, as well as a former Special Deputy Commissioner at the North Carolina Industrial Commission, said, “The NC Chamber fought hard and won major concessions, and yet the common ground preserved in the consensus bill allows North Carolinians to retain a fair workers’ compensation system.” Cammarano and Hank Patterson, representing the AFL-CIO, spearheaded extensive negotiations on behalf of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and its members who represent injured workers from across North Carolina. Throughout negotiations, NCAJ supported changes to the existing law that:

  • Incentivize people to return to suitable employment;
  • Protect the most seriously injured workers at a cost reasonable for business; and
  • Retain a fair approach toward injured workers and employers.

Dick Taylor, of NCAJ, said, “Many may feel that the bill does not go far enough to reduce costs and others will feel the provisions fall short of protecting the interests of injured workers, but in times such as these all sides made compromises, and overall we feel the changes preserve the backbone of our Workers’ compensation system that pays fair compensation to injured workers at a reasonable cost to the employers.”

We can help you find an attorney

Frequently enough, a worker’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources:

Workers compensation basics

Injury on the job

Compromise finally yields bill in Washington state

But things in scandal-ridden Illinois may have reached breaking point


As regular readers know, we’ve been following the battle over workers’ comp reform in Washington state. A bill finally has been passed, although some observers believe the new legislation is merely a starting point.

Supporters say bill will save $1.1 billion

From a May 24 Business Insurance piece:

Washington state legislators approved a workers compensation reform bill that its backers say will save the state’s disability system $1.1 billion over the next four years.

H.B. 2123 passed the Washington state House on a 69-26 vote and the Senate on a 35-12 vote on Monday, wrapping a three-week effort to revamp the state’s system.

Gov. Christine Gregorie, who backed the effort, is expected to sign the bill into law.

“Among several provisions, the agreement reached (Monday) promotes getting workers back on the job faster, freezes cost of living allowances to ensure parity with others and provides the option of a structured claims settlement,” Gov. Gregorie said in a statement.

A blog at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Web site has this to say:

Governor: ‘one of the most contentious, complex and difficult issues’

The big news out of Olympia Sunday evening was a deal on changing the workers’ compensation system.

From Mike Baker at AP:

The proposal announced by Gov. Chris Gregoire and leaders from both parties seeks to improve the long-term health of the system by offering financial settlements to older workers who get injured. Labor groups immediately panned the deal as unacceptable while business advocates gave lukewarm approval.

Gregoire called it one of the most contentious, complex and difficult issues that she and the Legislature have tackled.

“There’s no one here who won. There’s no one here who lost,” Gregoire said while looking around at Democratic and Republican leaders from both chambers.

Jordan Schrader at The News Tribune has more details.

Congrats, Washington legislators–let’s just hope no injured workers get lost in the cracks of such extended gamemanship.

Editorial questions soundness of the new bill

Here’s the start of an editorial about the new bill, from The Seattle Times, May 24, expressing similar sentiments:

THE Legislature’s hard-won compromise on workers’ compensation reform yielded a solid start to restoring sustainability to Washington’s system for injured workers. It also broke the logjam on the state budget, avoiding a second special session.

More reform of industrial insurance needs to be done. The option for an injured worker to take a cash settlement for an economic loss (but not a medical claim) is more useful the younger the worker. A younger worker has more time, strength and interest to stay in the world of work rather than being pensioned off.

For reasons that make no sense to us, the compromise limits the cash-out option to workers older than 50. The bill also spreads out larger cash settlements over several years, making it more difficult to buy expensive tools or start a business. Still, it is a new option. Workers will take it, and people will see the results.

For employers, the reforms will save several hundred million dollars a year. This will help them create jobs and power the economic recovery.

More revelations in the Illinois scandal

Another story we’ve been monitoring is the unfolding scandal over the Illinois’ workers’ comp system. Much of the story has been broken by reporters at the Belleville News-Democrat, a McClatchy paper. However, a May 23 editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times effectively summarizes the situation:

If the sudden agreement not to talk about workers compensation reform is any indication, negotiators in Springfield might be getting close to a deal.

It’s a deal that Illinois needs to boost its image as an employer-friendly state. But any deal must also be fair to everyone with a stake in the system.

Businesses have long complained that soaring Illinois workers comp costs are chasing jobs out of the state. Unions just as adamantly insist that workers must be protected and treated fairly. Among others with an interest in any rule changes are hospitals, medical professionals, insurance companies, trial lawyers and taxpayers, who indirectly are employers of public workers. It’s a puzzle with a lot of moving pieces.

However, two reporters writing for the GateHouse News Service filed a May 23 piece indicating that the debate has reached the make-it-or-break-it stage: “Workers’ compensation reform negotiations were on the rocks again Monday in the Illinois General Assembly, and a key senator said lawmakers will move Wednesday to abolish the system if the talks are not resurrected.”

And on May 24, the Belleville News-Democrat broke more related news:

A state agency has hired a prestigious Chicago law firm at taxpayers’ expense to assist in its appeal of an attorney general’s order to release information related to millions of dollars in settlements paid to Menard prison guards for injuries they say were caused by operating heavy cell locking mechanisms.

The state Central Management Services, which processes Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation claims, filed suit Monday in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to deny a request for the records from the Belleville News-Democrat, contending the agency is an insurance pool and therefore allowed to withhold the information as proprietary.

Also on Monday, state Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon introduced House Resolution 405 in an effort to get the legislature to order CMS to turn over the records.

Following is a link to many of BND’s scoops on the state’s troubled workers’ comp system: just click here and scroll down a bit.

We can help you find an attorney

Frequently enough, a worker’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources:

Workers compensation basics

Injury on the job

Judge upholds OSHA request for workplace safety info from carrier

GOP wants cap in N. Carolina; hot debate in Illinois draws Speaker’s ire


According to a May 16 account at trade site Business Insurance, “A federal judge has upheld a subpoena issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requesting inspection reports from an insurer of a company where two workers were killed in a grain bin accident last July.

Ruling says OSHA due info from insurance company in grain company deaths

“In his May 2 ruling, Judge Philip G. Reinhard upheld the recommendation of the magistrate judge in Hilda L. Solis vs. Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co., which requires the workers compensation insurance company to testify and present documents concerning inspections and reports it prepared for Haasbach L.L.C. when two teenage workers died in a grain engulfment at Haasbach’s Mount Carroll, Ill., site last year.”

On the same day, the (Freeport, IL.) Journal-Standard reported:

Carrier says subpeona  would ‘discourage businesses’ in safety inspections

Says a May 12 OSHA press release:

Grinnell contended that the subpoena would discourage businesses from allowing insurers to conduct safety inspections if the material contained in the inspection reports can be used against a business during later litigation or OSHA enforcement proceedings. The court ordered that the records be given to OSHA.

OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels praised the decision. “The court affirmed OSHA’s authority to obtain relevant information from an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. This is not surprising legally, but it does illustrate that workers’ compensation and OSHA are not separate worlds divorced from each other,” he said. “Workers’ compensation loss control activities overlap with OSHA’s efforts to bring about safe and healthful workplaces, and in order to achieve a safe and healthful working environment for all Americans, all efforts of business, insurance, labor and government must move forward together.”

The court ruled that OSHA has jurisdiction to investigate the workplace fatalities, and further has the authority to require the production of relevant evidence and the ability to issue a subpoena to obtain that evidence. The requested documents, which included copies of site safety inspections, applications for insurance coverage for the site, and correspondence between Grinnell and Haasbach concerning the site, were found to “reasonably relate to the investigation of the incident and the question of OSHA jurisdiction,” according to the decision.

Transparency in workplace safety should be the goal

Regardless of your stance on the “over-reach of the federal government,” it’s hard to argue against any decision that introduces transparency to workplace injuries, as long as the resultant data are used to improve worker safety. If you have an ongoing case that you believe may be affected by this ruling, make sure your attorney is aware: Simply ask if the decision has any bearing on your case.

GOP–now in control in N. Carolina–seeks cap on long-term benefits

Workers and workers’ comp attorneys and advocates in North Carolina should be aware of a GOP proposal reported on by station WXII. In a May 16 report, the station says, “ The way North Carolina compensates workers injured on the job faces major changes in legislation nearing a vote in Raleigh, but critics say the law would force thousands of people back into the job market at the wrong time.

“The most controversial change proposed would put a cap on how long injured workers can receive benefits. Currently there is no cap.”

Forsyth County Republican Rep. Dale Folwell introduced the legislation, which caps workers compensation at 500 weeks, which is a little more than nine years.

“When you see lifetime benefits (being paid out) for temporary disability, most people would agree that’s something needs to be looked at and corrected,” Folwell said.

He said the current system discourages injured workers from returning to work. Often that means at lower paying jobs.

Apparently, similar reform was attempted about six years ago, but in a much different political climate. When business interests attempted to lower their exposure then, Democrats still had control. Now, Republicans–for the first time in a century–control both the House and Senate.

Illinois Speaker threatens to send workers’ comp cases to court

The continuing battle over workers’ comp in Illinois took a new tack this month, according to a May 16 account in the State Journal-Register: “In a shot across the bow to bickering interest groups, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said he will back a bill that would kick workers’ compensation cases into the courts if the interest groups involved cannot reach a compromise on reforms to the system.

” ‘In the case of workers compensation, you’re dealing with the five most powerful lobbies in the legislature,’ Madigan said, referring to doctors, hospitals, labor, business and trial lawyers. ‘There’s a club among doctors and lawyers and sometimes labor unions, which is not working in the best interests of the injured worker.’ ”

‘Punishing’ miscreants and ending ‘coziness’

Then there’s this, from the May 14 Chicago Tribune: “The various interests have reached consensus on going after health care providers who submit bills for treatment they did not provide and being more aggressive in punishing companies that fail to maintain proper workers’ compensation insurance.

“There’s also a desire to eliminate what Raoul calls the ‘coziness’ in the system. Arbitrators who decide cases at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission frequently encounter the same attorneys representing clients, leading to the possibility of more favorable rulings.”

The Illinois effort to strike a balance among crucial parties is a microcosm of issues faced by workers’ comp systems across the country. As such, it is worthwhile to monitor developments and notice which interests emerge and which arguments prevail. Stay tuned.

We can help you find an attorney

Frequently enough, a worker’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources:

Workers compensation basics

Injury on the job

Herkimer County, NY, wins suit against town, villages

Ten popped for workers’ comp fraud in Ohio

Encompassing slightly more than 1,400 square miles, Herkimer County is in central New York state in the foothills of the Adirondacks.

It’s also a hotbed of recent workers’ comp litigation.

Sanitation worker pleads guilty on double-dipping
According to a May 6 account in the Utica Observer-Dispatch, sanitation worker Dennis J. Clark Sr., 52, of Paris, NY, pleaded guilty in Herkimer County Court to insurance fraud and was ordered to repay $42,600. He also was sentenced to five years’ probation.

According to the Observer-Dispatch, Clark “began to receive the benefits in 2001 after he was hurt while working as a sanitation engineer for a local garbage collection company, officials said. But he later worked for another garbage collection company while continuing to receive the benefits between 2005 and 2009.”

Even though the case demonstrates the risks, including potential jail time, of trying to game the system via workers’ comp fraud, it’s minor in dollar amounts compared a recent lawsuit between Herkimer County and three cities within the county. The case was heard by a jury in a neighboring county.

Three municipalities ordered to pay nearly $4 million to county

According to a May 16 account at a Utica station, “Three Herkimer County municipalities have been ordered by an Oneida County jury to pay the county over $4 million in back workers’ compensation benefits. The ruling comes after a six year lawsuit between the county and the municipalities.

“In 2005 Herkimer County municipalities withdrew from the Herkimer County Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurance Plan because of escalating costs. The plan was formed in 1956.”

However, 170 cases remained outstanding, which fell to the county. So the county formulated an “Abandonment Plan” that essentially gave municipalities that had withdrawn the choice to pay a withdrawal fee or make up their past portions on an annualized basis.

Subsequently, the Villages of Herkimer and Ilion and the Town of Frankfort sued Herkimer County over the Abandonment Plan, citing multiple complaints of invalidity. The county counter-sued and heard on  May 11 the jury’s verdict, which directs the Village of Herkimer to pay $1,617,528, the Town of Frankfort to pay  $1,369,137 and the Village of Ilion to pay $1,100,546.

BWC probe results in 10 pleas or convictions in Cincinnati area
According to a May 16 piece in the (Greater Cincinnati) Business Courier, “A total of 10 individuals, including three from the Greater Cincinnati area, were convicted or pleaded guilty to charges related to defrauding Ohio’s workers’ compensation system during April.”

The convictions stemmed from investigations conducted by the  Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC)  Special Investigations Department (SID).

In a BWC release, Administrator/CEO Stephen Buehrer said, “BWC continues to mount an aggressive attack on fraud in order to protect Ohio’s workers’ comp system and keep employers’ premiums down. While there unfortunately never seems to be a shortage of cases to investigate, our agents remain persistent in their efforts to track down fraud and put an end to it.”

The BWC release also lists highlights of the fates of the miscreants dealt with in April; following is a sample of their sampling:

Failure to obtain/maintain: 4th-degree felonies
Joseph D. Reed (Castalia, Sandusky County) pleaded guilty to two counts of failure to obtain/maintain workers’ compensation coverage, both fourth degree felonies. A claim was filed against the policy of Reed’s company, Reed’s Supply, after he failed to submit payroll reports but continued to operate with lapsed coverage. During the investigation, payroll reports were obtained and used to calculate premiums and penalties owed in the amount of $33,261.94. On April 26, Reed was sentenced to five years of community control and ordered pay the costs of prosecution, complete 50 hours of community service and make restitution through a payment plan with BWC.

Attempted forgery of certificate

James Slones (Millersport, Fairfield County) pleaded guilty to one count of attempted forgery for falsifying his BWC certificate of coverage in order to make it appear to a potential client that he had the workers’ compensation insurance coverage required to perform remodeling work on their home. BWC began an investigation of Slones, owner of Reed’s Supply, after receiving a tip that he altered his BWC certificate. A client of Slone’s was required to submit proof to a lender that the selected contractor (Slones) had valid BWC coverage to complete home remodeling work. SID discovered Slones did alter a BWC certificate belonging to another business. That business owner confirmed he previously provided a copy of his BWC certificate to Slones, who changed the business name and provided it to his client. The lender would not have approved the loan for the remodeling job if it was discovered Slones did not have valid BWC coverage. A judge sentenced Slones April 21 to 45 days of jail suspended and ordered him to pay court costs.
Operating with lapsed coverage: 5th-degree felony
Charles Thoerner (Cincinnati, Hamilton County) pleaded guilty to one count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud, a felony of the fifth degree, for operating with lapsed coverage. Thoerner, owner of Montgomery Flooring, allowed his policy to lapse and during that time accumulated nearly $20,000 in claims resulting from workplace injuries. SID met with Thoerner at his business and advised him that the policy was lapsed. He subsequently failed to submit the missing payroll reports and was served with a subpoena for the information. In October 2009, Thoerner submitted the payroll records but failed to remit payment or request a payment plan. Sentencing is scheduled for May 25, 2011.

We can help you find an attorney

Frequently enough, a worker’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources:

Workers compensation basics

Injury on the job

I was injured at work, what are my rights?

If you have been injured at work you may be entitled to paid medical benefits, lost wage compensation, and vocational rehabilitation services. If someone you love has been killed at work you may be entitled to survivor benefits. All of these benefits are offered through state workers’ compensation programs.

Workers compensation laws have been passed over the years to eliminate the right of most employees to sue their employer if they are injured at work. If you have been injured at work you may not have a legal right to sue, but workman’s compensation benefits are provided without having to take your employer to court and attempt to win damages by filing a personal injury claim.

Are my Work Injuries Covered?

If you have a common work injury or occupational disease which occurred while you were in the normal course of your job, it should be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. If you were travelling to and from work, injured due to intoxication or engaging in a recreational event at work, your workplace injuries may not be covered.

Common work injuries covered by workers’ compensation can include: back and neck injuries, abrasions, burns, amputations of arms or legs, concussions, heart attack or strokes on the job, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, diseases caused by inhalation of chemicals or other toxins, and bone fractures.

What type of Workman’s Compensation Benefits will I get?

Injured workers will receive medical compensation which is generally paid for the duration of the workplace injury and has no monetary limits (in most states).

Wage loss compensation is also provided for a workman’s comp injury and can include temporary total disability benefits which are paid as a percentage of your income while you recover from your workplace injury (most states have limits for the minimum and maximum amount of temporary total disability benefits paid).

You can also expect workers’ compensation benefits if you suffer a partial or total permanent loss. Permanent total disability benefits are paid for the remainder of your life (in most states) or until a worker is able to return to work. Partial permanent benefits are paid (in most states) according to a schedule, and the amount and the length of time the benefit is paid is different depending on the severity of the workplace injury.

Vocational rehabilitation may also be allowed if you are unable to return to your previous job. Vocational rehabilitation varies by state, but it may allow you to receive job counseling, job assessments, and job re-training.

Do I need to hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?

If your workplace injuries are severe or if your employer has denied your workers’ compensation claim, it is time to talk to a workman’s comp lawyer. Work comp attorneys can help you at any phase in the process and can make sure your get the compensation you need.

Can you file a workers’ compensation claim without legal assistance? Yes, for minor injuries this may be perfectly fine. Keep in mind that insurance companies may have a team of workman’s comp lawyers working for them, and they may be more concerned with finalizing the insurance payments and closing the case than ensuring you get the medical care you need to recover from your workplace injury.