6
Aug 2019
By

What NOT To Do When Obtaining Workers’ Comp Benefits

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyIf you’ve been injured on the job and are collecting workers’ compensation, you could be your own worst enemy. After some time has passed, you may think you’re well enough to take on some work “on the side” to earn a little extra cash at the same time you are receiving benefits. You may do so out of a sense of guilt that you are not providing enough support for your family. There’s no harm in that, right?

You couldn’t be more wrong.

Doing so is considered workers’ compensation fraud and can result in fines, paying restitution and even facing criminal charges. The Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts last year referred 256 cases to federal, state, and local prosecutors – a record.

“Most of them do have injuries, there’s some form of injury that happens to that person. The question becomes, how long are they out with that injury?” said Tony DiPaolo, vice president of investigations.

The Road to fraud is paved with good intentions

You may think your intentions are good, but fraud investigators are going to view you the same as other workers who cheat the system. Here are three examples:

  • A man injured falling off a ladder began collecting workers’ compensation. A month later, he was caught climbing a ladder while operating his own window and siding business. He fraudulently collected $18,668.
  • A man who suffered a back injury at a restaurant was caught working at another restaurant 10 months later, while still collecting workers’ compensation. His fraud totaled $31,729.
  • Another man with a back injury collected both unemployment and workers’ compensation while actively operating his own construction company. He was ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution.

Tough questions? Hire a tough attorney

The workers’ compensation bureaucracy can seem intentionally designed to frustrate you and prevent you from legally collecting benefits. Maybe your claim was denied. Maybe an adjuster doesn’t believe you were injured on the job. Maybe you’re confused by the red tape and legalese. You are under tremendous physical, mental, emotional and financial stress – perhaps unable to provide for your family as your case drags on. You need expert help.

For three decades, the workers’ compensation attorneys at The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl have been handling cases just like yours in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. We will combine our thorough knowledge of the workers’ compensation system with our extensive experience to answer all of your questions and secure financial compensation for you and your family (you also may be entitled to lost wages and Social Security Disability benefits). Contact us today for a free case consultation. You pay nothing unless we win your case.

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26
Jul 2019
By

Are more injury claims filed when unemployment is low?

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyAs the unemployment rate continues to drop in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, more people are working now than in recent memory. Insurance Journal reports that the number of workplace injury claims has declined over recent years as a result of improved safety, among other reasons.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that unemployment in Rhode Island and Massachusetts is at historic lows (less than 4 percent).

It’s a double-dose of good news, but researchers at the National Council of Compensation Insurance have found that injury claims could rise during times of low unemployment.

The reason? Companies are hiring less-experienced workers and people who may be physically out of shape to do the job, according to Insurance Journal.

What are the common types of workplace injuries?

According to the National Safety Council, a worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds. While an accident can happen to any worker, workplace injuries tend to happen to people whose jobs require physical labor. The top five occupations with the most workplace injuries are:

  • Firefighters and police officers
  • Transportation and shipping (drivers who deliver packages)
  • Manufacturing and production
  • Installation, maintenance, and repair
  • Construction

The top three events that result in on-the-job injuries are:

  • Overexertion
  • Contact with objects and equipment, such as being struck by equipment or crushed by a collapsing structure
  • Slips, trips, and falls

Report the incident and seek medical attention

If you’re injured on the job, your No. 1 priority is your health. Obtain medical treatment as soon as possible. Once you are stabilized, contact the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl to speak with an experienced workplace accident attorney. You will also need to report the incident to your supervisor.

Your next step is to request workers’ compensation forms and other paperwork. Our attorneys can help ensure the paperwork is completed properly. Our law office can protect your rights every step of the way.

Be sure to continue following up with medical treatment and following your doctor’s orders. You may need to stay home from work. If your employer is pressuring you to return to work, talk to your attorney to determine the best course of action.

Why is an attorney necessary for a workplace injury claim?

An injury on the job can lead to a dispute between employee and employer. Employers and their insurance companies may fight a claim. They might argue the injured worker was hurt outside of work, or the worker filed the claim too late or improperly.  They may even reject a legitimate claim for reasons that are a mystery to the injured worker.

That’s why it’s wise to talk to an attorney as soon as possible after the injury. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl puts experience and resources to work for clients who have been injured on the job. Your attorney will be your advocate when the employer and insurance company are giving you a hard time about the claim. Injured at work? Contact us today for a free consultation.

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24
Jul 2019
By

The Best Ways to Avoid Hearing Loss in the Workplace

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyListen up!

You could be at risk of losing your hearing because of where you work, according to EHS Today, an occupational safety and health magazine.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to damaging noise levels at work, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says workplace-related hearing loss is the most commonly reported injury.

Jobs where workers are regularly in danger include manufacturing (hearing loss is the most commonly recorded occupational injury), construction, carpentry, mining, entertainment, military and agriculture.

There are many risks associated with hearing loss:

  • Hearing protects us from harm by alerting us to possible dangers, such as an approaching vehicle or broken machinery.
  • Injuries are more common among workers who cannot hear warning sirens or other alerts.
  • Hearing loss negatively impacts quality of life – for example, making interpersonal communication difficult and straining relationships.
  • The ringing of ears associated with hearing loss interferes with sleep and concentration, sometimes leading to depression, anxiety and stress.

Other symptoms range from social rejection and loneliness to impaired memory and the inability to learn new tasks.

Is Your Employer Listening?

The key is prevention. Steps employers can take include:

  • Regular, ongoing observation. Employers who monitor sound levels can help employees understand when the risk of hearing loss is highest.
  • Annual audiograms. Results can be compared to previous tests to protect workers.
  • Employee training. Minimally, employers should conduct annual training, including one-on-one sessions for workers exposed to louder noises. Regular reminders throughout the year are also recommended.
  • Protective equipment. Many options are available, including different styles of earplugs and earmuffs.

Contact Someone Who Will Listen

Unfortunately, some employers play down the importance of hearing safety. They may reason that a certain amount of hearing loss is acceptable among workers as part of the job. They may think safety programs are too expensive. They simply may not care. If you’ve suffered workplace hearing loss, your life is changed forever because your hearing is not coming back. In the end, it comes down to your word vs. the word of your employer, their attorneys and their insurance company as you’re trying to navigate the complex world of workers’ compensation.

You need a workers’ compensation attorney to cut through the red tape and fight for your rights. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl have handled every type of comp claim in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, from Fall River and Foxborough to Providence and Newport. They will aggressively pursue justice for you and your family while treating you with the compassion you need and deserve. Put your mind at ease by putting your case in the hands of experienced professionals. Contact them today for a free case consultation.

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27
Jun 2019
By

Take workplace safety to new heights

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneySome workplaces require employees to work on ladders, cranes and steel beams on high-rise buildings, which are certainly red flags for safety. What can also be a safety hazard at work are objects falling from above. Workplace heights are something that should be taken seriously when it comes to the safety of employees, as well as anyone else in the area.

For example, in April, a crane fell in Seattle, killing four people and injuring others. Several years ago a worker on a high-rise dropped a tape measure from 50 stories and killed a passerby below.

Most common height-related hazards

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that being struck by falling objects or equipment resulted in 45,940 injuries in 2017, accounting for 5.2 percent of all workplace injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), dropped objects are the third leading cause of injuries in construction.

In addition to dropped objects, workplace falls are a huge problem. BLS reported that in 2017, “fatal falls were at their highest level in the 26-year history of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), accounting for 887 (17 percent) of worker deaths.”

How to improve height safety

EHS Today offers the following tips:

  • Employers need to follow best practices. That includes implementing the American National Standard for Dropped Object Prevention Solutions (ANSI/ISEA 121-2018) developed by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), in conjunction with industry stakeholders.
  • Employers need to jettison the crass and counterproductive notion called “acceptable risk.”
  • Education is vital for improved safety. ISEA — in partnership with the National Association of Tower Erectors and The Associated General Contractors of America — launched SafetyAtHeights.org, an educational website.

At the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl, our team fights for construction workers and all others who have been injured on the job in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. We believe that a successful case starts with building a strong, trusting relationship with our clients.

From your first call to your last court date and beyond, we work tirelessly to get you the care and compensation you so rightfully deserve. If you were injured at a job site, don’t wait. Contact us today. We’ll take care of the rest.

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25
Jun 2019
By

Best Ideas to Avoid Injuries in the Food Manufacturing Industry

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyIn 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private industry employers. Approximately 19,740 happened in the food manufacturing industry.

As the population increases, so does the demand for the food manufacturing industry. This demand places increased pressure on employees to work faster and more efficiently.

As production increases, employers must find effective ways to promote employee safety, including:

  • Understanding what usually causes workplace accidents
  • Implementing employee safety training
  • Maintaining oversight to remove or reduce workplace hazards
  • Regularly offering safety tips and reminders to workers

Injuries likely to occur in food manufacturing

The most common injuries to occur in the food manufacturing industry include:

  • Sprains and strains: Workers who perform repetitive and awkward motions for long stretches of time are at a heightened risk of sustaining sprains and strains. Tasks may include portioning, cutting, and operating machines and tools. The likelihood of sustaining sprains and strains can be reduced by performing warm-up exercises and stretches prior to a shift.
  • Slips and falls: Slippery floor surfaces caused by spilled oil, water, and other liquids can put workers at risk of slipping and falling. These accidents often result in sprains, muscle tears, bone fractures, and lacerations. Slipping hazards can be reduced by installing nonslip flooring, requiring workers to wear non-slip footwear, and clearing debris from floors.
  • Machine-related injuries: Workers who operate machinery could be at risk of coming in contact with sharp blades or having body parts stuck in a machine. This can result in serious cuts, lacerations, bone fractures, and amputations. Machine-related injuries can be reduced by implementing guards and covers on certain machine components, as well as lockout processes to prevent equipment from automatically turning on when being serviced.

Safety first

Adequate training is key for safety in the food manufacturing industry. Employers should focus on the following areas:

  • How to properly use machines and tools
  • How to properly cut, prepare, portion, and package food
  • How to work efficiently with others to avoid accidents
  • How to maintain a safe and clean workspace
  • How to spot and remove hazards

Taking these precautions can only reduce the likelihood of injuries occurring on the job. Accidents happen unexpectedly, and sometimes in the safest work environments. That’s why if you been hurt at work, it’s important that you consider your legal options when pursuing a workers’ compensation claim.

The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can help guide you through the process and negotiate for a fair settlement. Contact us online today to get started. Consultations are free of charge.

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28
May 2019
By

Saving Lives and Preventing Catastrophic Fire Damage: What to Look for

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyFire departments across the nation respond to about 13 calls from business and industry every hour, according to the National Fire Protection Association, in addition to the average of 43 calls from residential properties that come in hourly.

When it comes to workplace fire hazards in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, Occupational Health and Safety Online the following factors:

  1. Clutter: Dust, shavings and waste in work areas.
  2. Improper Fire Extinguishers: Fire extinguishers are not designed for all types of fires.
  3. Electrical Issues: Extension cords, daisy-chained connections, overloaded outlets and blocked electrical panels.
  4. Inadequate Sprinkler Clearance: Items stored too close to sprinkler heads spray and the system’s ability to douse an area.
  5. Improperly Stored Chemicals: Hazardous substances that are not properly stowed, handled and utilized.
  6. Open Waste Containers: Lids not on containers that prevent the unintentional mixing of waste and dangerous vapor emissions.
  7. Improperly Rated Appliances and Tools: Household appliances, not industrial-rated tools, used for workplace tasks.
  8. Defective Detectors: Smoke alarms, carbon dioxide detectors and hazardous gas sensors not tested and, when necessary, calibrated. Emergency exit lighting, alarms and signs should be checked periodically.
  9. Blocked Aisles: Emergency exit paths not always kept clear.
  10. Unmanaged Hot Work: Safety procedures for welding, cutting, brazing and other hot work not followed.

Fire Dangers Far Too Common

Burn injuries occur under countless work-related circumstances, ranging from construction sites and restaurant kitchens to building fires and radiation exposure. Less obvious are fire injuries caused by exposure to toxic spills, hazardous chemicals, gas leaks and dangerous dusts. These pose a risk for workers at hardware stores, home supply stores, factories, gas stations, hospitals, pharmacies, and even schools, government buildings and in public transit jobs.

Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness, headaches, fatigue
  • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting
  • Chemical burns in the lungs and on skin
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Itchy, burning eyes
  • Racing heart or palpitations
  • Fever

Don’t Get Burned by Your Employer, Too

Burn injuries can be painful, debilitating and disfiguring, requiring extensive treatment or preventing the victim from ever returning to work. While victims are eligible for worker’s compensation benefits, the claims process is complex. A company attorney may try to blame the injury on you or downplay its significance. An insurance company may pressure you into accepting a financial settlement that comes nowhere close to meeting your needs because they know you are desperate. Furthermore, proving you’ve been injured by hazardous fumes or chemicals can be particularly difficult without the help of experts.

The workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl have been handling cases just like yours in Rhode Island and Massachusetts for 35 years. Their legal team will assist you in every step of the process, from filing your claim to negotiating with insurance companies. They have offices in Providence, Rhode Island, and Fall River and Foxboro, Massachusetts. Contact them today for a free, no-obligation, confidential consultation.

 

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15
May 2019
By

Best Ideas to Avoid Posture-Related Injuries in Manufacturing

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyManufacturing usually involves highly repetitive job functions. According to EHS Today, many injuries among manufacturing workers are attributed to ergonomics, heavy lifting, and repetitive tasks. Postures plays a major role in the health and longevity of workers.

Poor posture can lead to painful musculoskeletal conditions and accident-related injuries. Over time, it can damage the joints, muscles, and ligaments. On the positive end, good posture can boost productivity.

Proper posture isn’t something that comes naturally to most people. It takes daily practice and mindfulness. When in a crunch of job-related stress, it’s very easy to forget to hold yourself upright.

In order to prevent an injury from occurring, it’s important to follow these suggestions provided by EHS Today.

When sitting:

In manufacturing, it’s common for some workers to primarily be seated at a station. While you’re unlikely to sustain an injury from sitting, developing musculoskeletal disorder is probable when taking posture and ergonomics into account.

When sitting, you can maintain proper posture by:

  • Positioning your buttocks all the way to the back of the chair.
  • Keeping your back straight and shoulders back.
  • Keeping your weight evenly distributed in the chair.
  • Keeping your knees as close to a right angle as possible.
  • Keeping your feet flat on the floor.

When lifting:

Proper posture is crucial when it comes to lifting, especially when lifting is repetitive. If an object is too heavy for you to lift, it’s not worth putting the strain on yourself and risking an injury. Always seek help from other workers.

When lifting, it’s important to:

  • Ensure that you have a firm grasp on an item before lifting it.
  • Ensure you have good footing and a wide stance when lifting heavy objects.
  • Bend with your knees and hips but lift with your legs. Avoid bending with your hips to reach down and pick up an object
  • Avoid reaching to lift items from tables, counters, or shelves. Always pull the item to the edge and lift it close to your body.

When driving:

Some manufacturing employees drive trucks or forklifts to transport objects. As with sitting at a work station, it’s important to follow these suggestions to maintain proper posture:

  • Avoid extending your arms to reach the steering wheel. Adjust your seat if you need to.
  • Ensure that your knees are bent, and your feet can comfortably reach the pedal.
  • Make sure your seat height is adjusted so your knees are at the same level as your hips.
  • Keep your back straight and rested against the back of your seat.
  • If need be, use a lumbar roll to support your back’s natural curve.

Injured on the job? Talk to an attorney today.

Maintaining good posture on the job can significantly reduce the likelihood of being injured. Whether your injury was posture-related or caused by another factor, you may be eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits.

Before filing your claim, it’s critical that you consult with an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney. To learn more, contact the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl today.

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25
Apr 2019
By

What is the impact of opioids in the workplace on on-the-job injuries?

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyThe opioid epidemic has gained such a grip on the United States and Massachusetts residents and the impact can be felt everywhere, including the workplace. Common opioids used to treat work injuries include:

  • Oxycontin
  • Vicodin
  • Percocet
  • Demerol
  • Norco
  • Lorcet

According to the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), opioid prescriptions are most likely to given to injured workers who are older, work for companies with smaller payrolls, and in counties where more people have health insurance.

How opioid prescriptions impact workers

The study, dubbed Correlates of Opioid Dispensing, tapped into data on 1.4 million pain medication prescriptions filled within an 18-month period after an injury between October 2014 – September 2015.

The study found:

  • Workers age 55 and older received opioid prescriptions in 49 percent of injury cases, and two or more prescriptions in 24 percent of injury cases.
  • Workers ages 25-39 received opioid prescriptions in 42 percent of injury cases, and two or more prescriptions in 19 percent of injury cases.
  • Mining workers were the most likely to receive opioid prescriptions, accounting for 62 percent of the overall workforce. Construction workers were the second most likely, at 55 percent.
  • In areas with fewer than 20,000 residents, injured workers were prescribed opioids 68 percent of the time. In areas with more than 250,000, injured workers were prescribed opioids 54 percent of the time.
  • Among workers who sustained fractures, 79 percent received opioid prescriptions. For carpal tunnel and neurological spine pain, injured workers received opioids 70 percent and 66 percent of the time, respectively.

The long-term risks

According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, injured workers who receive one week’s supply of opioids, or at least two opioid prescriptions, are twice as likely to sustain another injury within one year in contrast to those who don’t receive opioids.

This, in part, is due to the lingering effects of opioid painkillers. Upon returning to work after roughly three months of using opioid prescriptions, workers may experience dependency and tolerance to the drug.

At Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl, we are deeply concerned with how opioids impact workers. In the event of a workplace injury, we’ll gladly work with you to help you through the process of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits.

To learn more, contact us today to set up a free consultation.

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10
Apr 2019
By

The Challenges of Collecting Workers’ Compensation in Mass.

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyWe think of workplace injuries as exclusively physical – slips, falls, and slipped discs — but at any given time, an employee could be experiencing mental health issues that could compromise his or her ability to work.

Some workers may wonder what their options are when it comes to the impact their jobs have on their mental health. It’s critical to understand the implications and challenges surrounding work-related mental health conditions, as well as the importance of addressing them.

Why workers are less likely to take time off due to mental health

In a recent Harris Poll survey, over 2,000 adults across the United States shared their perspectives on work-related burnout and mental health. Roughly 55 percent of respondents reported experiencing burnout on the job, but only 34 percent took time off because of it.

The survey identified the primary reasons why workers were less likely to take time off due to mental health:

  • 46 percent of respondents said that employers wouldn’t consider mental health an acceptable reason to take time off from work.
  • 39 percent reported being too busy to take time off from work to address mental health.
  • 36 percent didn’t want to deal with the shame or judgment by co-workers.
  • 35 percent feared that someone else would take over their responsibilities.
  • 33 percent feared the social stigma surrounding mental health.

Work-related burnout can manifest in many ways and can often lead to some of the most devastating injuries to workers. Among survey respondents who experienced burnout on the job:

  • 68 percent reported feeling fatigued
  • 65 percent reported having anxiety
  • 53 percent reported symptoms of anger
  • 48 reported depression

Why mental health matters

Collecting workers’ compensation due to mental health issues can be challenging. Most importantly, any injury (whether physical or mental) must have occurred within the scope of your employment. Otherwise, your claim will likely be denied. If you slipped and fell at work, there is hard evidence that you were injured on the job but proving that the conditions of your job caused burnout can be difficult.

In some cases, enough evidence can exist to prove that a work-related incident caused a mental injury. For example, a worker could suffer anxiety or PTSD after experiencing bullying or violence on the job.

Nonetheless, mental health in the workplace should be addressed by employers. In many cases, symptoms of burnout play a factor in physical injuries that occur on the job. For example, an anxious worker may be more likely to take unnecessary risks that could result in an injury. In addition, burnout and worker fatigue is a common factor in serious workplace injuries.

If an incident at work, or the conditions of your job, caused any type of injury, it should be reported to your employer immediately. An experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney can review the details surrounding your accident and help you explore your legal options. If you’ve been hurt on the job, contact Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl.

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18
Mar 2019
By

Our Attorneys Offer Ideas to Avoid Work-Related Knee Injuries

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyOur knees bear a lot of the workload for our bodies. We use them for walking, lifting, kneeling, and almost every other physical activity on the job. With all that pressure, it is little surprise injuries at work often happen to our knees.

How common are work-related knee injuries?

In a systematic study of work-related knee injuries conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that studied data from emergency department surveillance, researchers established that knees were the second-most common body part to suffer a work-related injury that resulted in days away from work. The spine took top place.

There was some variance based on factors like industry, age, and gender. The rate of knee injuries relative to all work-related injuries was twice as high in federal and state employees compared to the private sector. Within the private sector, the highest rates of knee injury were found to be in transportation and warehouse work, utilities, and then construction. Younger workers of all genders had a high rate of knee injuries, and older women in the workforce showed similar results.

Knee injuries at a glance

There are a variety of knee injuries one can suffer at the workplace. Some, like osteoarthritis, arise slowly from regular wear and tear on the joint or factors that can be aggravated, but not necessarily always caused, by personal or environmental conditions. That link also describes what to expect with more acute conditions that can be directly caused by a workplace accident.

These include bursitis, when overuse or falls cause irritation to a fluid sac above the knee; patellar dislocation, when the kneecap is moved out of place; or a meniscal tear, where the cartilage in the knee is ripped and causes friction.

Each of these requires rest and some form of pain management. Some conditions may require more extensive work, like removing excess fluid, physical therapy, or even surgery. The common factor is time. Employees who suffer a workplace injury to one or both knees will need time to rest the joint and allow it to recover, as returning to activity too soon can make the problem even worse.

This is a problem when employers will not take responsibility for their involvement in the injury, or when worker’s compensation will not provide adequate means to recover. When this happens, you need someone to help you navigate the law and receive the justice you deserve. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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