Apr 2017

Rhode Island Roofers and Waterproofers Face Risks of On-the-Job Injury

Roofers and waterproofers have physically demanding jobs and are often exposed to the hazardous elements. Their professions require them to work in all sorts of weather conditions and their work may be performed at high elevations, or with a variety of dangerous industrial chemicals.

Roofing Accident Attorney Rhode IslandLike most in the construction business, roofers and waterproofers face a disproportionately high risk of being hurt or killed at work. If injured while acting in the course or scope of employment, that worker may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits. In the event of a work-related death, family may be entitled to benefits as well.

These benefits can provide coverage for treating all medical conditions associated with the injuries sustained while doing roofing work or waterproofing work. Disability income is also available when injuries temporarily or permanently impact a workers’ ability to do the job. These benefits can be very important to avoiding financial loss, so any roofer or waterproofer who is injured should strongly consider talking with a workers’ compensation lawyer to understand and protect their rights.

Additionally, a lawyer may help the worker assert third-party liability in the event a non-employer on the construction site was negligent in causing the accident or contributing to the extent of one’s injuries. These third-party liability claims are not limited to lost income and coverage of medical bills the way workers’ compensation claims are. In a third-party liability lawsuit, a worker can claim non-economic damages, including those for pain and suffering.

Risks to Roofers and Waterproofers of Getting Hurt at Work

Research published by PubMed took a close look at proportionate mortality among roofers and waterproofers who are union members. The research was designed to determine if employees within these professions faced a proportionately greater risk of death than others of the same gender and demographic groups who were not working in roofing or waterproofing.

The researchers considered the toxins to which roofers were exposed that could make them sick, including asbestos and fiberglass when old roofs are being replaced and bitumen like asphalt and coal tar pitch. Researchers also considered common causes of physical injuries which could occur while a worker was on the job.

Unfortunately, a statistically significant increased mortality rate for unionized roofers and waterproofers was found for all different types of illnesses and injuries which were included in the research.

Roofers faced a much greater risk of death due to falls than other people in their same age group in other professions. They were also found to experience higher rates of lung and esophageal cancer and higher rates of cancer of the larynx.

Waterproofers and roofers were also at greater risk of non-malignant respiratory diseases as compared with people in the same demographic group in other professions.

While safe worksites can help to minimize these undesirable outcomes, the fact remains that far too many workers are putting their lives on the line in dangerous jobs. If a job does turn out to be high-risk and you are harmed as a result, you need to talk with an experienced attorney to understand your options for obtaining workers’ compensation benefits.

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Mar 2017

What Happens When a Rhode Island Independent Contractor Suffers a Workplace Injury?

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training makes it clear that independent contractors who get hurt on-the-job aren’t entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. This is true even when the injury they suffered clearly occurred in the course and scope of their work duties. workers' compensation for independent contractors

Not being able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits means that independent contractors are deprived of very important workplace protections. Workers’ comp ensures the payment of medical expenditures for an illness or for an injury that occurs due to work tasks. The benefits available through workers’ comp can be obtained by reporting a work injury. There is generally no need to file a lawsuit and there is no need to prove an employer did anything wrong to get benefits.

For an independent contractor, these automatic benefits won’t be available after the contractor is harmed while doing work, which means the contractor could struggle to pay the bills. There are circumstances in which independent contractors may be able to recover damages for work injuries, but they’d have to go through the process of filing a personal injury claim and proving liability. This would mean showing that the defendant breached some legal duty and caused the damages due to the breach.

While this is a major downside of working as an independent contractor, it is important to know that Rhode Island has very strict laws for who can be an independent contractor. If those laws were not followed and a company hired you do to do work, it’s possible the employer could actually be responsible for providing workers’ comp coverage. There are also circumstances where people who work for themselves will be eligible to purchase workers’ comp coverage and will choose to buy it so they are protected if an injury happens.

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training explains the rules for workers’ comp for independent contractors. According to the department, independent contractors are “exempt from the RI Workers’ Compensation Act and are not eligible to collect benefits. For purposes of workers’ compensation, domestic employees, independent contractors, sole proprietors and partners are exempt.”

As of January 1, 2001, independent contractors are required to file a specific form, called a Notice of Designation as Independent Contractor (DWC-11-IC) form, with the Department of Labor and Training (DLT).

Rhode Island law also makes clear that just because you and your employer may believe you are an independent contractor, this isn’t enough to always make you fall within this designation.

“An independent contractor is someone who maintains an independent business and is available for hire to provide service to the public,” the Department of Labor and Training outlines.

It doesn’t matter if you and your employer both agree: If you only work for one company and that company controls how you work, you’re likely an employee and should be covered by workers’ comp.

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Feb 2017

Preventing Overexertion Injuries Could Cut Costs & Reduce Harm for Construction Workers

Overexertion is one of the leading causes of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). WMSDs are a major problem for workers within the construction industry, with a substantial number of employees experiencing this injury each year. According to Fox News, studies showed approximately 18,000 construction workers suffered work-related musculoskeletal disorders in 2014. injured construction worker

This is down from around 55,000 annual WMSDs reported by construction workers in 1992. However, the big decline isn’t just because of safer worksites, but is instead, partly explained by underreporting of WMSDs. In part, the decline is also explained by changes in how injuries are reported to Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Despite the decline in work-related musculoskeletal disorders, this type of injury still accounts for about 25 percent of non-fatal, work-related injuries that affect employees in the construction industry. WMSDs is actually a relatively broad category of injuries, which includes injuries to muscles, joints, and tendons. Overexertion is one of the big ways in which people hurt these parts of their body, although there are also other ways to injure the musculoskeletal system including repetitive motion. If you overexert yourself, such as by lifting more weight than you can, your body systems suffer and you can experience pain and limited mobility.

Many construction workers who overexert themselves, or who otherwise develop WMSDs, will end up with back injuries. Approximately 40 percent of musculoskeletal disorders that happen due to construction tasks are back injuries. When a back injury or any other WMSD happens, workers miss an average of 13 days of work. In 1992, they missed around eight days of work for work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

The costs that come with missed work include loss of productivity for the employer and loss of a paycheck for the injured worker. Annual costs are around $46 million, which is obviously a substantial amount of money. Workers often cannot afford to cover the costs of treatment for injuries and time they are forced to take off from work. Employees should not have to pay for these costs, as workers’ compensation benefits should be available to provide them with disability income and medical coverage. With help from an attorney, an injured worker can make a claim for benefits and should be eligible as long as he can prove his musculoskeletal disorder was caused by doing work tasks.

Prevention of injury is the best way for employers and workers to avoid costs, and preventing injuries can be possible if employers do things like offer proper training on safe lifting or incorporating the use of power equipment to move items instead of relying upon workers to always lift and transport heavy materials. Construction workplaces should be designed as much as possible with a focus on ergonomics in order to try to ensure that construction staff members are able to avoid damaging their musculoskeletal system while they are performing their own duties.

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Jan 2017

Work Accident Risks Rising for Truck Drivers

On I-95 in Rhode Island, a tractor trailer rolled over and WPRI indicated the traffic was slowed or stopped for hours as crews tried to clean up the debris from the truck accident According to initial reports, it was unclear if anyone had sustained injuries in the rollover truck collision. Unfortunately, injuries in these types of crashes are common. truck-4-1478008

Commercial truck drivers spend many hours on the roads and travel many miles. They face a substantial risk of accidental injuries, including fatal injuries. When they are hurt at work, truckers must understand their rights.

Unlike in a traditional motor vehicle accident case, truckers may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits either instead of or in addition to other types of available compensation. Accidental injuries of truckers are on the rise, so knowing what to do after a crash is becoming more important than ever for commercial truckers.

Bureau of Labor Statistics came out with a report recently which emphasizes the added dangers of workplace injuries for truckers. Truck drivers are very susceptible to suffering serious or fatal injuries when roadside accident rates rise. Truckers account for around half of the annual workplace injuries that happen in road accidents, which makes sense because their job involves driving almost all of the time.

According to BLS, there was a substantial increase in fatal accidents involving transportation incidents. In 2015, there was a nine percent rise in the number of transportation incidents leading to fatal work injuries. Transportation incidents now account for 26 percent of all workplace deaths that happen over the course of the year, with a good portion of the victims coming from the trucking industry. Out of 1,264 fatal roadway incidents in 2015, a total of 629 involved a driver who was operating a tanker, tractor-trailer, or semi-truck.

Because of the increasing number of roadside incidents, and the disproportionate number of truckers who are hurt in this type of incident, BLS indicates heavy truck drivers and tractor-trailer truck drivers sustained the most fatal injuries of any occupation. A total of 725 fatal injuries were recorded in the trucking field, according to BLS.

Truck accident risks may be rising for several different reasons. One issue is the overall increase in road collisions, which is driven by improvement of economic conditions. There are more people who drive on the roads, and those who drive travel for more miles. This is because both gas prices and unemployment are down. A shortage of qualified truck drivers is also contributing to rising accident risks since companies may hire less experienced truckers and may pressure drivers to do more work than is safe.

If a truck driver gets into an accident while doing his work tasks, he should be covered by workers’ compensation, provided he was an employee of a trucking company or other business. Truckers can make workers’ compensation claims not only for truck accidents they are involved in but also if they are injured in other ways, such as getting hurt while loading or unloading their truck or making a delivery.

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Dec 2016

Delays in Treatment Show Workers’ Comp Insurers Don’t Care About Rhode Island Workers

Workers’ compensation insurers are paid premiums by employers to provide coverage if an employee gets hurt on-the-job. Unfortunately, some of these insurers seem to care more about making money than they do about fulfilling their obligations. Workers who get hurt are suffering greatly because insurers are stretching out the time it takes them to pay for medical care, sometimes even outright denying care that should be covered. backache-1620045

Since insurers are focused only on their bottom line, injured workers need to make sure they have an advocate to help them deal with workers’ comp insurance companies. If you are hurt on-the-job and are struggling to get medical care bills paid for by an insurance company, you need to have a legal advocate on your side.

Workers’ Comp Insurers Causing Unnecessary Delays in Work Injury Treatment 

NBC reported recently on the difficulties that injured workers are having getting their treatments covered by workers’ comp. Workers’ compensation insurance is supposed to pay for all necessary medical care arising out of work injuries.

There are times when care must be approved for it to be paid for. This is an especially big issue for employees who have serious and complex work-related illnesses or injuries or for employees who need ongoing treatment for medical conditions that developed over a long period of time.

Workers are submitting requests to try to get care, and some of these requests either go unanswered for months or end with a denial of legitimate care. According to one survey of physicians who treat workers’ comp patients, more than half said their patients had experienced denials of coverage for care considered medically necessary, including both diagnostic services and actual treatment. A bigger percentage of physicians, 67 percent, said delays and other problems had occurred when trying to get workers’ comp to pay for patient care.

Not only does this practice of delaying and denying end up causing workers to linger in pain, but it can also end up causing workers to get worse. Some workers told NBC about deteriorating body parts due to delays in treatment. Others reported longer recovery periods before they could get back to work. Since ongoing disability benefits have to be paid if it takes longer for an employee to go back to work, insurers are not doing themselves any favors by causing injured employees to have to draw out their recovery period.

Injured employees should get all of the care deemed medically necessary in an efficient and timely manner so they can recover and get back to work. When insurers fail to keep the promise to cover workers that they made by accepting premiums, they should be held accountable by the injured employees whose health is being compromised by insurance industry shenanigans. An experienced attorney can provide assistance in trying to get benefits paid as needed.

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Dec 2016

Is a Toy Maker Responsible for Preventing Holiday Accidents This Holiday Season?

Any parent of a young child knows which toys top their holiday gift wish list. But not every toy turns out to be a fun thing for kids to play with. Toys can present unexpected risks. They can be defective and dangerous. When a problem with a toy arises, a child could be seriously hurt or even killed. If a child is harmed as a result of a defective toy, it is possible the toy manufacturer could be held accountable for the consequences of the incident. toys-1197784

Is a Toy Maker Responsible for the Prevention of Holiday Accidents?

Toy manufacturers, like the manufacturers of any product, are expected to release only safe products to the public. There are especially rigorous standards for the production of toys because children will be playing with these items.

In addition to making certain children’s toys are as safe as possible, manufacturers of kids’ toys also have an obligation to make certain that parents are warned if toys have inherent risks. For example, if a toy comes with any small parts that could present a choking hazard to a small child, the toy manufacturer should provide a warning about the choking risk.

If a toy manufacturer releases an unsafe or defective toy to the public, or fails to provide appropriate warning to parents who purchased the toy for their child, they could potentially be held legally responsible for any harm that occurred due to the toy maker’s failures.

It would be up to parents to prove the toy company either released a defective product or negligently failed to issue a warning about the toy’s risks. If the parents pursue a claim against the toy company due to a defect in the product, parents do not need to prove negligence in order to be able to hold the toy company accountable for damages. However, whether parents claim a defect or a failure to warn about risks,  parents do have to demonstrate that the child was harmed in some way by the incident.

The problems caused by dangerous and defective toys are not insubstantial. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that a total of 254,200 toy-related injuries occurred in 2015 that warranted emergency room treatment in U.S. hospitals over the course of the year.

Since the holiday season is prime time for new toys to be introduced into the home, it becomes essential for parents to be vigilant about what their kids are playing with so those children do not get hurt or even killed by a toy with a defect. Ultimately, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to keep kids safe, but parents can do their part too to help prevent dangers, including checking the CPSC website regularly to determine if there were any recalls or warnings released about new toys which may end up in the hands of kids over the course of the holiday season.

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Nov 2016

Injured Workers Face Holiday Financial Hardship Due to Workers’ Comp Benefit Restrictions

In Rhode Island, workers are entitled to benefits if they sustain an injury on-the-job. The Social Security Administration explains how the workers’ comp system works in Rhode Island when it comes to the provision of benefits. The workers’ compensation statute which outlines available benefits to Rhode Island workers is found in Title 28. The rules establish workers can receive certain payments for loss of wages caused by temporary or permanent disabilities.  Payments are based on 75 percent of pre-injury spendable wages earned by the worker, up to state maximum limits. money-cube-1512873

While an injured worker receives loss wage benefits if he can get covered, sometimes getting access to workers’ comp benefits is difficult even though the law is supposed to provide broad protection to employees.  A worker who receives benefits also will not get his full salary, which can always be difficult for families but which can be especially burdensome during the holiday season when spending tends to rise.  Injured employees need to know what benefits they will receive from workers’ compensation if they get hurt and may need to adjust their holiday budgets accordingly if they do not have the money coming in that they would receive from their normal salary.

While the holiday season can make it especially hard to get by on limited workers’ comp benefits, especially as you have to buy gifts for loved ones and entertain family, there are challenges year-round if an injury causes missed work and necessitates medical care. Cuts to workers’ compensation benefits systems, which have been occurring nationwide, have made those challenges worse.

Workers’ comp should provide comprehensive benefits for injured employees who need to be covered for medical care and who need disability income if they cannot work.  Unfortunately, ProPublica published a report indicating 33 states had slashed workers comp benefits. Affected employees were faced with major financial hardship as available benefits were reduced and as states made it harder for workers to get the coverage they need for workplace injuries.

In response to the ProPublica report, democratic senators wrote a letter urging action and the Labor Department responded. The Labor Department prepared a report discussing the detrimental impact state workers compensation laws were having. The Department of Labor also made some recommendations to try to fix the issue. Re-starting a 1970’s commission from the Nixon era was one proposal. The commission would have the power to set some basic standards for state workers’ comp systems and would facilitate federal oversight in situations where workers’ comp programs fell short. Another option would be for congress itself to set minimum standards and to require federal oversight when workers’ comp programs fell short of fulfilling those standards.

Unfortunately, the chances of action on the Labor Department’s report seem slim, so workers may continue to suffer hardship- especially during the holiday season when more money is needed to participate in festive events.

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Oct 2016

PTSD Prevention After a Rhode Island Workplace Accident

The impact of a workplace accident can be devastating for the accident victim and for the victim’s family. However, the consequences resulting from a serious workplace accident or fatality are not felt only by the person who was hurt and his or her loved ones. Co-workers who observed the accident and resulting injury can also be affected. The company as a whole can also be impacted by tragedy in detrimental ways. girl-3-1440414

One of the major issues which can occur after an on-the-job accident is the development of post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. When a victim who got injured develops PTSD, workers’ compensation should generally cover the costs of treatment as the mental issues are directly related to the on-the-job accident. The victim may need to get legal help in fighting for coverage if the insurer or employer denies counseling and treatment. PTSD treatment is not typically provided for co-workers who observed the accident, although the post traumatic stress experienced by these workers is often very real.

Post-Traumatic Stress Following a Workplace Accident

Safety BLR published a report recently detailing issues with post-injury stress among those who witness or help to respond to a workplace accident which caused a serious injury or fatality. This includes those employees who render aid to an injured worker, or who clean up the scene of an accident.  Employees who observed or dealt with the aftermath are said to suffer from “critical incident stress” if they exhibit mental, behavioral, cognitive, or physical symptoms due to the incident.

The symptoms of critical injury stress can be very damaging and debilitating, as critical injury stress can manifest in frightening ways. An employee who suffers from this type of stress after observing a work injury or fatality could suffer regular headaches and/or chest pains. Fatigue and dizziness are common, as are concentration difficulties, depression, anger, anxiety, mood changes, impaired problem solving abilities, memory problems, and confusion. Antisocial behaviors are possible, and many witnesses of workplace injuries will begin to use alcohol more frequently.

For some witnesses to workplace accidents, the critical incident stress goes away on its own with time. For others, however, full-blown PTSD develops. Safety BLR indicates critical incident stress is considered to have become PTSD if symptoms persist for at least four weeks or longer.

Employers should try to help prevent critical incident stress by offering counseling and other stress relieving tips to those who observe a co-worker’s serious accident. While workers’ comp may not force employers to cover PTSD resulting only from observing an accident, the problems with employees who develop PTSD can undermine a company’s future success. In fact, Safety BLR warns around 60 percent of companies close down within two years of the time a workplace tragedy happens.  Companies may close, in part, because they lose good workers who are traumatized by the accident and who could have been helped.

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Sep 2016

Speeding a Factor in Rhode Island Car Accidents

A fiery fatal crash occurred recently in Rhode Island, and law enforcement officers are reporting speed is likely a factor. According to Turn to 10, the accident came to the attention of law enforcement when they received multiple 911 calls about a collision in the area. The car involved in the collision was a red 2004 GMC Envoy, which had ben traveling north when it went around a curve and left the road. speedometer-1449844

The car hit the pole of a traffic light, and then it struck a cement block wall. The car started on fire upon the impact with the wall, and the fire consumed the car completely. It is believed there was one occupant in the vehicle at the time of the deadly accident, but officers responding to the collision scene were initially unable to approach the car as a result of the flames, small explosions, and extreme temperatures. The fire department had to be called to the scene in order to put out the fire.

The collisions is currently under investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies, including by the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal’s Office. However, preliminary investigations suggest the car may have been traveling as fast as 90 MPH at the time before the accident happened. If this turn out to be the case, the collision will end up being one of many in which people lose their lives as a result of speeding.

How Speeding Affects Rhode Island Car Accidents

Speeding is a leading cause of car accidents. As in this recent tragic Rhode Island accident, speeding can cause a crash when a driver loses control of a car and leaves the road. This often happens around curves, as occurred in the fiery accident which caused the death of the driver. Drivers who go around curves too fast could also end up rolling their vehicle over. Rollovers are a very common type of high-speed single vehicle accident.

Speeding not only increases collision risks, but also makes the chances of injury or death greater. Both occupants of the speeding car and other motorists on the road face a higher chance of injuries and fatalities when a car crash happens at high speeds. Automotive Fleet explains this is because the force of a collision increases exponentially if a car accident happens.

When a car accident happens at 75 miles an hour, as opposed to occurring at 25 miles an hour, the force of the crash is nine times greater at the higher speed.  If a crash happens at 50 miles an hour, the crash forces are four times greater in the faster crash.  Drivers need to be aware of this substantial added risk and they should make sure to do everything possible to avoid speeding-related accidents by driving both within the speed limit and at a speed which is safe for current traffic conditions.

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Aug 2016

Toxic Exposure at Rhode Island Worksites

Employees deserve to have a safe work environment. This means they should be able to go to work and feel confident they will not be exposed to anything that could make them sick. Unfortunately, many employees find themselves forced to work in environments where they are breathing in dangerous levels of chemicals, risking chemical burns or vision problems due to chemical exposure, or where they are exposed to chemicals that will absorb through the skin. poison-1314907

Toxic exposure at work can cause a wide range of serious health problems, including respiratory issues like lung cancer, COPD, asbestosis, mesothelioma or black lung disease. Toxic exposure could also cause various types of cancer, blindness, burns and rashes, and a host of other conditions. In some cases, the chemical exposure is fatal.

Because of the serious consequences associated with exposure to toxins in the workplace, employers need to do everything possible to prevent workers from coming into contact with dangerous materials. Unfortunately, this is not always what happens. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules provide insufficient protection for workers and many employers do not make an effort to go beyond minimum compliance rules. This means workers get sick. If an illness is work-related, affected employees should be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

Toxic Exposure a Significant Workplace Risk

One reason toxic exposure is a significant risk in workplaces is because OSHA rules on chemicals are very outdated. OSHA sets permissible exposure limits (PELs) for a very limited number of chemicals, but its PEL rules were set all the way back in 1971. In 1989, OSHA tried to make modifications and update the rules, regulating new chemicals and changing the permitted exposure amounts. Unfortunately, in a 1992 case called AFL-CIO vs. OSHA, the 1989 changes were struck down by the court.

The court determined OSHA couldn’t just pass a rule updating all of its PELs and adding new chemicals. Instead, the agency would have to assess the permissible exposure level for each substance individually to make a rule appropriate to that substance. Obviously, this was a significantly greater burden on the agency. The rules reverted back to the 1971 PELs. While OSHA has made some rules since that time, including introducing new silica regulations, OSHA has not been able to make substantial changes to protect workers.

Although OSHA rules do not establish maximum exposure requirements for many of the chemicals that people are exposed to on their jobs, this does not mean that employers shouldn’t try to protect their employees. OSHA has resources available providing information on dangerous chemicals to help employers create a safe environment to prevent illnesses. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.

If an employee is exposed to dangerous chemicals at work and gets sick, it can be difficult to make a workers’ compensation claim because sometimes it is hard to trace the source of the illness back to the job-site. Still, workers should make a claim to get the benefits that they deserve.

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