Workers' Memorial Day was this past Sunday, April 28th. What is Workers' Memorial Day?
Workers' Comp Myths: Let Me Explode a Few
Everyone knows what Workers' Comp is, but unless you deal with it every day, you only know what you've read in the media or heard from others in casual talk. Here are some common Workers' Comp myths, and my "myth busters."
Myth #1: If I file for Workers' Comp, I'm suing my employer.
Mythbuster: Nope. Workers' Comp is a benefit, not a lawsuit. Similarly, when you file for unemployment benefits, you're not suing your employer either. Workers' Comp actually protects employers from being sued directly.
Myth #2: Everyone on Workers' Comp is a fraud.
Mythbuster: Workers' compensation fraud does happen, but is actually very uncommon, despite what you may have seen on TV or in newspapers. The vast majority of New York workers' compensation claims are made by honest working people just like you, who are actually hurt at work.
Myth #3: You cannot be fired if you are on Workers' Compensation.
Mythbuster: The law actually says that you cannot be fired BECAUSE you are on Workers' Comp. But if your employer has another, valid reason, such as that you need to be replaced so the company's work can get done, usually you CAN be fired while out on comp.
Myth #4: You must be out of work to file for Workers' Comp.
Mythbuster: Not at all. The only requirements to file are that you are an employee who was injured while working, and that the job CAUSED the injury. Plenty of my comp clients never lost a day from work.
Myth #5: My boss will process all of the forms for me if I get hurt at work.
Mythbuster: Unh-uh. Don't depend on your employer to file all of the required forms for you. One required form, a "C-3" form, is neither filed by your employer or with your employer. YOU must file it. Yes, YOU, the injured worker, must file this with New York State yourself!
So, did you believe some of these common myths? Not to worry! Dan is here!
Last week I received a call out of the blue from Hofstra Law School. They needed a Disability attorney to come in on Sunday morning and advise veterans about Disability issues. This would be a "pro bono" (free) clinic. Could I help out? It took me a couple of miiliseconds to think about it. Of course I could, I responded.
I get this question all the time. My clients can be hospital workers, maintenance men, teachers, machine operators, carpenters, cooks, you name it. Some are union members, some are not. Almost all are initially worried that if they hire me, that it will somehow threaten their job. A job that they cling to for dear life, a job that they need to hold onto to survive. "Will my employer fire me" is a legitimate concern. Here's how I advise injured workers about these types of issues:
1. You didn't intend to be injured at work. It just happened by accident, and you shouldn't be made to feel guilty because of it or feel you need to give up your rights to help your employer. Workers' Comp ("WC") says you have certain rights, and those are your rights whether you get a lawyer or not. WC is NOT a lawsuit. WC is a claim for benefits, similar to unemployment.
2. Employers are prohibited by law from retaliating against injured workers who claim Workers' Comp ("claimants.") Section 120 of the law says that an employer can be fined and assessed monies if they retaliate against an injured worker because the worker filed a claim. These cases do happen; but, truly, not too often, from what I have seen.
3. In real life, there can be intimidation at work by the boss. There can be implied threats by the boss. This does go on. In my 30+ years of experience, however, I have rarely if ever seen an instance of a worker getting fired because he/she hired a Workers' Comp attorney.
4. Almost every day I look at the Judges' Calendar at the Workers' Comp Board which lists every comp case on the docket that day---dozens and dozens of cases at each hearing point. I would guess that 75-80% of all cases have a lawyer on them for the claimant. So it's almost expected.
5. The employer and its insurance company ALWAYS have a lawyer or representative at WC hearings, so why shouldn't the claimant?
6.You can be fired in New York State if the reason is "legitimate". Some union contracts add additional protections for workers. In truth, I find that most often, it is a multitude of factors that lead someone to get fired, and that filing WC claims is most often looked down upon by employers only when an employer feels that the employee is being excessive and files many, many claims that are trivial or frivolous.Which does happen sometimes (not in my office, though!)
7. The bottom line is, workers need to be aware of their rights. WC is a very complicated system, and to even the playing field, workers deserve adequate representation without fear of being fired for exercising their rights.
Dan's Social Security Tip of the Day
I belong to a wonderful organization called "NOSSCR" (National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives) which is based in New Jersey but which services the entire country. It is made up of the attorneys and others who specialize in handling Social Security Disability ("SSDB") claims. When hiring an attorney or representative for a SSDB claim, always ask if he or she is a member of NOSSCR. If the answer is no, I suggest you hire someone else who is.
I will be attending NOSSCR's semi-annual convention and conference in Washington D.C. over a four-day period this May.
I worked really hard on a legal brief for my client Angela, a proud woman who was forced onto welfare because they stopped her Workers' Comp checks. Well, I just received a decision on her case, and I won. A State Workers' Compensation Judge has ruled that she is totally disabled due to multiple physical and mental injuries and is entitled to both retroactive and future payments.. Sounds great, right? Well, it is, and it isn't, because the employer/ insurance company attorneys can now appeal and hold up her money for one year. One year! Ordinary people who are injured and disabled have to fight against lawyers for employers and a government that doesn't want to pay them. It's that simple. Think that injured workers "scam the system" all the time? More often than not, I find that it's injured workers who give up fighting for what they are entitled to under the law, because of a legal system that is stacked against them. AN EXPERIENCED WORKERS'COMP/DISABILITY ATTORNEY CAN LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD FOR THE ORDINARY FOLKS WHO GET INJURED, DISABLED OR EVEN KILLED ON THE JOB AND HAVE TO FIGHT TOOTH AND NAIL FOR THEIR BENEFITS. Call me if you know someone who is disabled or injured on the job. I HANDLE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY CLAIMS AS WELL AS WORKERS' COMP. Consultations are always free.
My letter to the Editor of Newsday was published today.
Right now you're at a Social Security Disability Hearing. You are claiming that you've been disabled and unable to work since a certain date, (let's use as an example, January 1, 2011.) The Judge hearing your case has two choices---he/she can either grant your application (you win) or dismiss it (you lose.) Right?
In New York, injured workers have the absolute right to choose their own medical provider for their work-related injury. The only requirement is that the doctor or other health provider accept Workers' Comp (WC) insurance. I regularly advise injured workers who come into my office the following:
* Don't treat with a doctor your employer send you to. More often than not, the employer's doctor does not have your best interests in mind.
*Choose a doctor you are comfortable with. If you see a doctor who you feel isn't helping you, switch! You can switch doctors as often as you like, under WC.
* DO NOT SEE YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR IF YOU ARE INJURED AT WORK. FAMILY OR GENERAL DOCTORS ARE RARELY IF EVER FAMILIAR WITH THE WC SYSTEM... SEEING YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR CAN SCREW UP YOUR CASE!
*Instead, see a specialist. These include: Orthopedists, Physical Medicine and Rehab doctors, Neurologists, Chiropractors, and/or Pain Management Doctors. You can see more than one specialist at the same time!
*Since Workers' Comp pays the doctor 100% of their bills, for as long as the treatment is allowed, see the very best specialist you can. Hospital clinics and walk-in clinics are also no-no's for TREATMENT of a work-related injury!
*The Law Office of Daniel M. Morrin can help injured workers find the right doctor for their injury and their case!
Every so often I get this call from an attorney I know: