Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wage protections for home health care workers

This is great news. This class of employee has been taken advantage of for years and years. As our population ages, home health care workers have a daunting job.

Here is a link to the article from the New York Times.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Layoffs at Wyalusing's Cargill Plant

From the Towanda Daily Review:

The Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Wyalusing has eliminated ten positions as part of a worldwide reduction in the company's workforce. The cuts amount to about one percent of the Wyalusing plant's 1,100-person workforce, said Cargill Meat Solutions spokesman Mike Martin. The eliminated positions come from a variety of departments within the plant, Martin said.
The only reason I highlight this article is to point out and remind workers that if you're laid off due to economic conditions AND you're still on light duty from an accepted work injury, then your workers' comp wage benefits automatically get reinstated-- no questions asked.  If the insurance company refuses to immediately reinstate your weekly wage benefits, then you need to contact a lawyer so he/she can file a penalty petition with the workers' compensation judge.  This rule even applies to old injuries.  As long as you're still on restricted duty from a work injury and you get laid off, then your benefits are reinstated.

Hope this helps.  And my heart goes out to the laid off workers and their families.  Tough time of the year to be unemployed.  Good luck to them.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Less regulation means more death and injuries in the gas industry

Here's a great article about the unsafe practices of the gas industry, specifically related to the construction of the gas pipelines that criss-cross the Commonwealth. Less regulation and enforcement of those regulations will lead to more worker death and injury. It's a simple fact. And no matter how many billboards the gas industry erects toting how wonderful they are will not change this simple fact.

If you're a gas worker and you are injured, don't be afraid to contact a good workers' compensation lawyer. There are several great comp lawyers in our region that will help you and protect you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crazy Commonwealth Court Decision

I think the Commonwealth Court has lost it marbles. In a recent decision, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board v. WCAB, the court addressed what is an abnormal working condition while working at a liquor store.

As we all know from my past blog entries, you can receive workers compensation benefits for a psychological injury but only if you prove that the event that caused the psychological injury (stress, anxiety, nightmares, post traumatic stress disorder) was caused by an abnormal working condition. Obviously, these cases are extremely fact sensitive and it depends upon the specific jobs being looked at.

For example, in the above case, the employee worked for a liquor store who suffered an armed robbery while working. The court held that this incident was not an “abnormal working condition” because four other liquor store robberies had occurred in the same general area of the store that the robbery took place. Therefore, the court must have felt that this one particular liquor store clerk who experienced a traumatic armed robbery, should have expected to undergo this event.

This is why I think the Commonwealth Court has lost its marbles. How insane are they to believe that this is a normal working condition? Being held up at gun point and suffering a traumatic, emotional/psychological injury because of it is normal?!?! I'm dumbfounded...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More possible treatments for lumbar disc injuries

Surprisingly, the treatment doesn't involve surgery or spine manipulation or traction or any of the traditional treatments. It involves the use of adult stem cells to regenerate the damaged disc including the reversal of the degenerative process. Cool stuff...hope the clinical trial pans out. Here's a link to the article.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Child Labor Rules Stalled At White House As Farm Accidents Continue

Good read from We live in a very rural area where many kids and teenagers live and work on farms. Farming can certainly be a dangerous place. Actually, Bradford County's District Attorney, Dan Barrett, lost an arm in a farming accident when he was a teenager.

Last week, two 17 year olds were critically injured in Oklahoma when they were pulled into a grain augur while on the job. Responders had to cut the augur to free the boys, who were flown to a hospital with severe leg injuries.

Yet the White House continues to sit on new child labor rules proposed last year by the Department of Labor that some safety advocates say could have prevented that accident.

Although the rules proposed by the Labor Department have not yet been made public, sources familiar with them say they would deem certain work activities on farms too dangerous for minors to perform, potentially strengthening laws that haven’t been updated in 40 years.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Update on the recent gas worker fatality in Bradford County

Here's an update on the recent gas worker fatality that occurred in Bradford County. From the Towanda Daily Review:

Leonard L. Inness III, 35, of Elmira, N.Y., was pronounced dead on arrival at Memorial Hospital in Towanda at 5:06 p.m. Thursday, according to a report by the Bradford County coroner's office.

Coroner Thomas Carman ruled the manner of Inness' death as accidental. A cause of death was withheld pending the results of an autopsy scheduled for Saturday. An autopsy is standard procedure in the case of a workplace accident, Carman said. Routine toxicology tests will also be performed.

Inness was married and had children, Carman said.

Inness was operating a bulldozer Thursday at the Chesapeake Energy Corporation gas well site off Towner Hill Road. He lost his balance while standing and fell onto the bulldozer's track. The machine then ran him over, according to the coroner's office.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Another gas worker fatality in the Marcellus Shale

From the Towanda Daily Review:

Christine Dwyer, spokesperson for Ferguson Enterprises, parent company of Onda-Lay Pipe, confirmed Friday morning that a temporary employee of Onda-Lay Pipe has died as a result of a workplace accident Thursday at a gas well site in Rome Township.

I'll post more information once I have it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Mystery of Chronic Pain

Many of my clients suffer from chronic pain. It is a costly--physically, emotionally and financially-- condition. I have attached a video from Dr. Elliot Krane who is an expert on chronic pain. It's a quick, fascinating explanation of chronic pain.

We think of pain as a symptom, but there are cases where the nervous system develops feedback loops and pain becomes a terrifying disease in itself. Starting with the story of a girl whose sprained wrist turned into a nightmare, Elliot Krane talks about the complex mystery of chronic pain, and reviews the facts we're just learning about how it works and how to treat it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

April Proves Tough Month for Gas Drillers

From the Wyalusing Rocket Courier:

Mounting Protests and Government Crackdowns Challenge Industry

April has perhaps been the most difficult stretch of time yet faced by companies related to the natural gas drilling industry, especially in Bradford County. The heated rancor of the public was already reaching a fever pitch when Chesapeake Energy’s Atgas 2H well in Leroy Township experienced a serious malfunction on April 19 that spewed thousands of gallons of toxic fracking water, much of which ran off into a tributary of Towanda Creek.

Earlier in the month, state environmental regulators asked the gas companies to voluntarily suspend the controversial practice of discharging extracted fracking water into rivers and streams. Meanwhile, local municipalities are refusing to allow the companies to construct wastewater treatment plants. Citizens in towns along both branches of the Susquehanna River are mounting objections to additional drafting of river water for fracking purposes.

The gas well blow-out and mounting public opposition to almost every aspect of gas drilling prompted Bradford County Commissioner Mark W. Smith to compose a stern letter to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

“Issue after issue has arisen in Bradford County in relation to the development of natural gas,” Smith stated at the beginning of his letter. Smith went on to detail several key gas-related issues that have affected the residents of Bradford County in ways, he asserts, that are not being addressed at the state level.

Among his concerns are recent reports that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) spends an average of 35 minutes deliberating the approval of new gas well permits. “This is an appalling statistic considering the significant impact of a natural gas drilling site and even more appalling considering that there have been nearly 2,000 gas wells permitted in Bradford County.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Can I Settle My PA Workers’ Comp Case?

Sure! (Well, most of the time.) I represent injured workers who receive PA workers’ comp. Sometimes, a case is just right to “settle” - or “put an end to” - medical benefits, wage benefits or even both. Settling a Workers’ Comp case means that the injured worker and the insurance company have come to an agreement as to just how much ‘value’ (or ‘money’) the case is worth when considering medical bills and treatment as well as any past or future lost wages. Once everyone agrees on a value for the case, a Workers’ Comp Judge reviews the terms of the settlement (in Comp lingo, called a ‘Compromise and Release’). Then, the Judge issues a Decision approving the C&R and the insurance company pays you the ‘value’ you agreed upon.

Do we settle every case? Definitely not! In most cases we start thinking about settling only after our client is finished treating with his doctor and once we know the client’s long-term prognosis. It makes no sense to settle your case if you are unsure about the need for future surgery, therapy or the like. It also makes no sense to settle the case if you are unsure whether you’ll be returning to work at the same wage you earned before the injury or whether you might not return to work at all. And then there are the times that settling the case is the right thing to do despite the medical or wage issues.

Based on my 16 years' of experience in litigating PA Workers’ Comp cases, I may have reason to believe that your chances of winning before the Judge are slim. If this is the case, it may be in your best interest to settle the case rather than risk losing before the Judge and getting no
Comp benefits at all. It is important to remember that each case is different. You need to evaluate your case based on these and other factors to determine if settlement is appropriate.

More likely than not, there is value in your case and many times the insurance company can be motivated to pay “top dollar” to clear their books of open claims. I will evaluate your case to determine if it’s ready to settle, and if so, the fair ‘value’ of your case so you can move on in your life and support your family. Send me an email, give me a call or just stop by if
I can help with your PA Workers’ Comp case.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gas industry worker injured in Terry Township

From The Towanda Daily Review:

A gas industry worker was flown by emergency medical helicopter to a hospital in the region after he suffered a foot injury in an accident at a gas drilling site in Terry Township, the Wyalusing fire chief said.

"He was on a drilling rig (with his foot) stuck between two metal plates" said Adam Dietz, chief of the Wyalusing Volunteer Fire Company.

He was stuck approximately 20 feet above the ground, the fire chief said.

Dietz said he did not know the severity of the man's injury.

I have found that many gas workers do not want to report injuries for fear of being blackballed or just flat out fired.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Workers At Walmart Warehouse Claim Wage Theft

From The Huffington Post:

A group of eight workers has accused Wisconsin-based Schneider Logistics, a Walmart contractor, and Reliable Staffing, an Illinois-based temp agency, of violating state and federal labor laws at the Elwood, Ill., warehouse where the workers load and unload trucks and containers carrying goods bound for Walmart stores in the Midwest.

Schneider is contracted to run what is effectively a Walmart distribution center. The warehouse inked its contract with Walmart back in 2006.

Reliable and other staffing agencies supply the workforce for Schneider and other warehouses like it in the Chicago area, and much of the staffing comes on a temporary rather than direct-hire basis. The suit could involve hundreds of warehouse employees if it is certified as class-action.

As In These Times first reported, the workers claim their employer reneged on the promise of a $10 hourly rate for their work, a “piece rate” for each of the items they schlepped and bonuses for “team lifts” on especially heavy goods. Robert Hines, who’s been working on and off in Chicagoland warehouses on a temp basis for years, said he wasn’t compensated for what was often grueling work.

This type of behavior is par for the course for WalMart and it's contractors.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Two injured in Sullivan County gas drilling vehicle fire

From the Towanda Daily Review:

DUSHORE - Two men were injured as a result of a vehicle fire at a Chesapeake drill site around 11 a.m. Sunday off Star Road in Colley Township, Sullivan County, said Dushore Fire Company Fire Chief Scott Hope.

He said the men were hurt while fighting the fire, which destroyed the vehicle. He described it as a construction truck, and said the fire occurred near the rig at the site.

According to the fire chief, one man was flown by Geisinger to a hospital and the other man was taken by ambulance to a hospital. He didn't know what hospitals they were taken to or what caused the fire.

He said they both suffered burns.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Man Mauled By Bear After Smoking Marijuana, Covered By Workers' Compensation

I call this good lawyering.....

The Montana Supreme Court has upheld a Workers' Compensation Court ruling that about $65,000 in medical bills incurred by a man who was mauled while feeding the bears at a tourist attraction should be covered by workers' compensation, despite the fact the man had smoked marijuana on the day of the attack.

Brock Hopkins filed a claim with the Uninsured Employers' Fund in December 2007, saying he suffered injuries to his legs and buttocks when he was mauled by a bear at Great Bear Adventures near Glacier National Park on Nov. 2, 2007. Hopkins was treated for his injuries at a Kalispell hospital.

The UEF denied Hopkins' claim because Hopkins had smoked marijuana before entering a bear enclosure. The fund also argued that Hopkins was acting outside the scope of his duties.

The Workers' Compensation Court ruled last June that Hopkins was an employee and noted that while his "use of marijuana to kick off a day of working around grizzly bears was ill-advised to say the least and mind-bogglingly stupid to say the most," there was no evidence presented regarding Hopkins' level of impairment.

The WCC found that grizzlies are "equal opportunity maulers" without regard to marijuana consumption.

Friday, March 11, 2011

New "Workers' Comp" sitcom....seriously...

From Hollywood Reporter:

Morgan Fairchild has been tapped to star in the comedy pilot presentationWorkers Comp.

Charley Koontz, Robert Carradine, Castille Landon and Jennifer Lee Wiggins also star in the independently produced project, which centers on a family insurance business owned by Joan (Fairchild) and the workers comp claims -- often extremely bizarre -- that they are forced to manage.

Just one more way for the insurance industry to paint our clients as fakers, frauds and crazies.

Gas Industry Truck Crashes

Many of our clients, either workers' comp clients or personal injury clients, come to us due to work related car or truck crashes. As you can tell by merely reading the Towanda Daily Review or the Sayre Morning Times, the amount of crashes in Bradford County has increased significantly. This is all related to the boom in the Marcellus Shale gas drilling. It seems like every other day there is news of another fatality due to a gas drilling truck accident. Below is an article from a Missouri lawyer about the specifics of truck crashes and their differences with car crashes.

Over the last few weeks there have been quite a few tractor trailer truck accidents and bus accidents. Inclement weather like we've been experiencing has been responsible for many of these truck accidents, but accidents occur even in the best of conditions. If you or a family member is hurt in an accident, it is important you understand the difference between truck and bus accidents and passenger vehicle accidents. The difference is important.

The first difference is plain to see, due to the size of vehicles such as trucks, busses, and other forms of commercial transportation accidents are far more likely to lead to serious injuries or even fatalities than accidents with passenger cars and trucks.

The next difference is not that obvious. There are a lot of people out there who assume that truck accident laws are the same as car accident laws. That is not the case.

There are many more laws and regulations controlling the operation of commercial motor vehicles than those that regulate driving the family station wagon. If you think about it the extra laws make sense. These vehicles are big, they sometimes carry dangerous cargo, they are on the road for considerably more time, and they often have more equipment which provides greater opportunity for failure. The laws providing oversight for the commercial vehicle industry and specifically for tractor trailers require trucks to be routinely maintained and inspected in order to prevent catastrophic failure. They require the vehicle to be driven in a safe manner (there are more types of traffic tickets that can be issued to commercial vehicles and regular tickets are harder to fight when you have a CDL). Also, there are many rules and regulations meant to supervise driver conduct. Drivers can only drive for so many hours and must rest for specific periods of time before they can drive again. In my opinion, the violation of any of these rules and regulations instantly makes the driver and the trucking company liable for the injuries that result.

A final difference is who could be held responsible for the accident. In an accident between two passenger vehicles the fault generally lies with one of the drivers. Commercial vehicle drivers are usually driving for work. This means that if they act inappropriately, were acting within the terms of their employment, or shouldn't have been allowed to drive the company might be responsible for the driver's accident. Not to complicate the issue; there are also scenarios where what the driver is hauling or what vehicle they are driving can bring more responsible defendants into the case. An accident with a vehicle such as a commercial truck could put any number of parties at fault, including: the truck driver, truck leasing company, the truck's maintenance company , the manufacturer of the truck, the loading company, or even the municipality or county government who maintain the road where the accident happened.

If you're involved in a truck accident or bus accident, you should start by following the steps you normally would take after being involved in an accident. However, truck accident will require extra work by the victim or the victim's attorney because there are more records and evidence to track down, and this information must be gathered immediately. These include the name of the trucking company and all the DOT numbers on the truck and the trailer. In some instances you must also recover the "black box" information from the computer that records certain information about the truck's speed, braking, and other accident related information.

Truck accidents will most likely involve a corporate legal team working against you. Truck and bus companies are, after all, usually big corporations. They have legal departments whose sole responsibility is handling cases like your accident. There will be experts and investigators lined up and ready to respond to an accident at any time. Often times the trucking company will have a lawyer and a legal team respond to the accident along with the police and ambulance. Those companies will have a team of lawyers representing them; you need an experienced truck accident lawyer representing you.

James Brown is a Missouri injury lawyer in St. Louis. If you are hurt in a car accident you need to know the common mistakes car accident victims make when talking to insurance adjusters that ruin their accident claims. Request a free copy of his Missouri accident guide, "I Survived! The Crash Victims Guide to Surviving the Aftermath" at his website

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Highway Deaths Rise in 2010 After Hitting Historic Low in 2009

We all think the same way about car and truck won't...can't... happen to me. But deep down inside we know that this really isn't true at all. People are involved in crashes every day and are seriously injured and killed every day. But I'm the same as everyone else, even though I see the results of these crashes all the time and deal with the grieving families all the time. I still think it won't happen to me.

Let this be a small reminder to all of us-- if you're not careful when you're could be one more statistic. There are only a few simple rules to follow and you will significantly decrease the chances of being in a crash: Wear your seat belt; Drive defensively and slowly; Don't text and drive; Don't drink and drive.

Or, you could be one of the statics listed in this article from the Wyalusing Rocket Courier:

Deaths in crashes on Pennsylvania highways climbed to 1,324 in 2010, an increase of 68 from the year before, according to Acting PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch, P.E.

“Fatality statistics are not simply numbers; they represent the many families that suffered the loss of loved ones on Pennsylvania roads last year. Although there is nothing we can do or say to ease the pain of losing a loved one due to a crash, we will continue to look for the best ways to keep highway travelers safe,” Schoch said.

While still too high, modern highway deaths are still well below those reported 20 and 40 years ago. In 1990, there were 1,646 traffic deaths in Pennsylvania. In 1970, there were 2,255 fatalities.

Unbuckled fatalities in-creased to 524 last year, up from 451 in 2009. The seat-belt use rate in Pennsylvania was 86 percent last year.

Fatalities in crashes that involved a 16- or 17-year-old driver increased from 40 in 2009 to 57 last year. Highway fatalities involving 65-year-old and older drivers dropped from 276 to 266 in the same time period.

Alcohol-related deaths increased from 442 in 2009 to 444 last year. Fatalities in work zones dropped to 21 in 2010 from 23 a year earlier.

Speeding-related and aggressive-driving related deaths also increased last year. Speeding-related deaths jumped from 231 in 2009 to 284 last year while aggressive-driving-related deaths increased from 130 to 168.

Motorcyclist and bicyclist deaths also increased last year. Motorcyclist deaths rose to 223 in 2010 from 204 a year earlier, and bicyclist fatalities increased from 16 to 21 in that same time period.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More evidence against the use of spine fusion surgery

A few months ago I blogged about the rise in the use of spinal fusion surgeries. You can see this post here. The basic gist of the post was that the evidence clearly demonstrates that spinal fusion surgeries don't work, but doctors are continuing to use the technique anyway.

I've come across more evidence that spinal fusion surgeries are not ultimately helpful to injured workers, as opposed to other more conservative treatment. This study was performed specifically with injured workers. You can see the full article, with related links, here. Also, here's an interesting review of the evidence and it's implications from the excellent blog Workers' Comp Insider.

At a time of continued debate over the role of spinal fusion surgery (lumbar arthrodesis), the results suggest that this operation "may not be an effective operation for workers' compensation patients" with certain causes of low back pain. The lead author was Dr. Trang H. Nguyen of University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Using Ohio workers' compensation data, Dr. Nguyen and co-authors identified 725 workers with chronic low back pain who underwent spinal fusion surgery. Spinal fusion is an operation done to fuse together adjacent vertebrae in certain types of chronic back problems. Most of the patients in the study had degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, or nerve root disease (radiculopathy).

The researchers assessed the final treatment outcomes—including return to work, disability, and use of strong pain medications (opioids)—at two years' follow-up. They compared the results of spinal fusion with those in a random sample of 725 patients who underwent nonsurgical, conservative treatments (such as physical therapy, exercise, etc).

Almost all categories of outcomes were worse for patients undergoing spinal fusion. Just over one-fourth of spinal fusion patients had returned to work, compared to two-thirds of those treated without surgery. Twenty-seven percent of patients in the spinal fusion group had repeat surgery, while 36 percent experienced some type of complication.

The use of spinal fusion surgery for chronic low back pain has increased dramatically in recent years—despite a lack of consistent evidence that it improves patient outcomes. Few previous studies have looked at the use of spinal fusion surgery, compared to nonsurgical treatment, in workers' compensation patients.

Although it's not a controlled scientific trial, the study raises questions about the long-term effectiveness of spinal fusion surgery for workers' compensation patients with chronic low back pain. Dr. Nguyen and co-authors write, "This procedure is offered to improve pain and function, yet objective outcomes showed increased permanent disability, poor return to work status, and higher doses of opioids."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Loneliness of Disabled Workers

Employers and insurers regularly challenge the injured worker's right to either wage or medical workers' compensation benefits, and thousands of dollars are spent everyday, in the hiring of doctors, vocational experts and lawyers, all to prove that the worker is either not injured as he claims; his medical treatment is unreasonable; he can work in light of his injuries; or that his continuing complaints relate to some other medical condition, and are therefore not "work-related," the legal key that unlocks the system of benefits.

The goal of returning the injured worker to productive employment is given lip-service only; our system is at best inept and at worst counterproductive in failing to address the thousands of people whose injuries prevent them from returning to the type of work they customarily perform, and providing little guidance, funding or other assistance in re-education or retraining in an appropriate skill to permit return to work in a new job. The same, incidentally, is true for workers whose jobs have been outsourced. For example, an injured worker who can no longer lift or carry heavy objects, working for an employer who has no "light duty" work available, is directed to find and accept other employment.

These other jobs are typically low wage, entry level positions in which the injured person has neither experience nor interest. But the only legal issue that matters is the workers' physical ability to do the new job - not his long term future, availability of insurance or other benefits, or even the hours or location of work. The midnight desk clerk position at the local motel, or cashier position at a gas station, are perennial favorites found by insurer hired vocational "experts" seeking to aid the injured worker back into the workforce, and a lot of time and money is spent to prove these jobs suitable. There is value in that work, but it is far from suitable, in any sense other than physical ability, for many injured workers.

How much smarter would it be to redirect the money spent on proving the availability of low wage jobs, in order to justify cutting workers' comp benefits, to paying for re-education in a new field by obtaining an associate's degree at the local community college? Answer: incredibly smarter. Why doesn't it happen? Because the law imposes no obligation on insurers or employers to either evaluate, retrain or re-educate injured workers. An insurer will easily spend $10,000 to prove the suitability of a low wage job: it needs a medical expert to show physical capability, a vocational expert to show job availability, and a lawyer to present evidence of both. What would that same $10,000 buy? Probably an associate's degree.

Admittedly not all injured workers would qualify for or be interested in going back to school, but my bet is that many would if given the chance, or if they were at least advised of the availability of additional education, some guidance about how to decide what to learn, how to enroll, and continuation of benefits for 2-3 years. This outcome can happen now, but only by a combination of luck, good advice and self-direction. How many people would know about the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, a state agency charged with, among other things, helping injured workers, unless they are told about it?

There is the potential for big gains in money saved, careers rehabilitated, and increased economic competitiveness. The legislative fix could be as simple as requiring insurers to vocationally evaluate injured workers (similar to what they do now, but earlier in the game, and for the right purpose, i.e. increased job opportunities); notify workers' of the educational and retraining opportunities that exist, and, in cooperation with local community colleges, monitor enrollment and timely completion of classes, and pay for tuition and related expenses while continuing wage loss benefits for the time required for completion and job acquisition following graduation. Workers' who without good cause don't follow through with an approved re-training program could have their benefits suspended.

Some of this information was provided by Attorney Dan Stern of Harrisburg, PA.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

OSHA investigating Sullivan County gas worker fatality

As per the Towanda Daily Review:

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is investigating the death of a worker who suffered a traumatic injury on Jan. 14 at a Chesapeake Appalachia gas well site in Sullivan County.

The Chesapeake Appalachia gas well site where the traumatic injury occurred on Jan. 14, 2011 is located on Elsroy Hill Road in Fox Township in Sullivan County. The worker who was injured on Jan. 14 at Chesapeake Appalachia's Fox Township site was transported by helicopter to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, and he later died, Sullivan County Coroner Wendy Hastings confirmed.

He was pronounced dead by Montour County Coroner Scott Lynn, she said.

Hastings said she did not know the name of the worker who died.

A preliminary report from first responders at the scene was that the worker had suffered a traumatic head injury.

Chesapeake Energy has referred questions about the incident at the Fox Township site to Patterson-UTI Drilling Co., which is the company that the worker who died was working for. Patterson-UTI Drilling Co. was a contractor hired by Chesapeake Appalachia to work at the gas well site in Fox Township, according to Brian Grove, senior director for corporate development for Chesapeake Energy.

Patterson-UTI Drilling Co. has refused to provide any information to The Daily Review about the worker's death, saying in a written statement that Patterson-UTI Drilling "does not comment on confidential personnel matters involving individual employees."

In a separate section of the same article, the Review reported that Nomac drilling was fined $7,000.00 for safety violations related to a gas worker fatality in 2010 in Towanda Township. This amount of a fine does not seem like enough of a "sting" to Nomac's bottom line in order for them to change their practices. But it's at least something. In many, many instances, employers are not fined at all by OSHA, who is an overworked and under-funded agency.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Many issues faced by injured Marcellus gas workers

Given the fact that my office is in the heart of the Marcellus Shale gas fields in Northeast Pennsylvania, my firm has seen a huge increase in the amount of workers who have been injured while working at the gas drilling sites and/or working for the gas industry in other capacities, such as water tanker drivers, welders and general laborers. These gas industry cases have some unique issues that arise given the type of work performed and the type and location of employer.

1. One of the more common questions that arise is which state’s workers’ compensation law should apply? You would think that this would not be an issue since the injured worker was injured while working in Pennsylvania. And that is what Pennsylvania’s law calls for—if you are injured in PA then PA workers’ compensation law applies. But what I have been seeing in some cases is the employer attempting to apply the law of the state in which the employer is from. Many of the businesses that work in the gas fields are not based out of Pennsylvania, but are based out of states like Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee, to name a few. For example, one of the largest gas companies working in this area, Chesapeake Energy, has corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City.

In many instances, these employers argue that the employee was actually hired in the other state and is thus subject to that state’s workers’ compensation laws. Once again, this is not accurate. In these cases, it does not matter where the employee was actually hired because once the injury occurs in Pennsylvania then that’s the state that will apply. Pennsylvania has one of the strongest workers’ compensation laws in the nation.

2. The second issue that I often see in these cases is injured workers fearful of actually reporting work injuries due to the threat of losing one’s job and being sent packing. Of course, this fear is prevalent in most industries, but it appears to be a big problem in the gas industry. One of the issues is that a lot of the workers are from out of state and they are paid a significant amount of money at these jobs. The idea is that if they “rock the boat” and complain about a work injury, then they will be sent back home and would be “blacklisted” and never be able to work again at a gas drilling site.

3. The most important issue, in my opinion, is that it’s dangerous work! I have seen many more fatalities in this industry than in any other type of industry in which I represent injured workers. There are more fatalities in the Marcellus Shale gas industry than even long haul truck drivers who are subject to truck crashes every day. It seems that at least once a month there is a newspaper article about the death of another gas worker. Just this week, in Potter County, a worker who was walking on a pipeline was struck by a truck and suffered a fatal injury. At this point I cannot tell if it is just dangerous work by nature or a significant lack of safety procedures on the drill sites. It is probably a combination of both, however.

If you are a gas industry worker and have been injured, please talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney before you sign anything for your employer.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gas Pipeline Accidental Death in Potter County

From WETM:

A man was killed near a gas well pipeline after being accidentally struck by a truck. Authorities say 50-year-old Joseph Craig was walking on a gas pipeline in West Branch Township on Tuesday. While on the pipe a truck struck him. The Potter County coroner pronounced Craig dead at the scene. State police say no charges are filed after an investigation revealed the driver of the truck didn't see Craig.

It seems that these types of incidents are becoming a weekly occurrence in the counties of Northeast Pennsylvania.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More issues involving gas industry truck traffic

As my regular readers know, I am often pointing out the issues that have been created by the significant increase in truck traffic in Northeast Pennsylvania, specifically Bradford, Tioga, Sullivan and Susquehana Counties. I have written about many of the truck accidents that occur every day. But one of the issues of increased heavy truck traffic is the damage done to the roads. From The Towanda Daily Review:

Gas industry trucks are expected to cause additional damage to roads in Bradford County during this year's freeze-thaw cycle, an assistant maintenance manager with the state Department of Transportation.

"We expect some ... road breakage" to occur during the freeze-thaw cycle, said Warren Knapp, assistant maintenance manager for PennDOT in Bradford County.

Knapp said that he hoped that when the gas companies "see the road beginning to fall apart," they would take the pro-active step of ceasing to drive on the road so that area residents can continue to use it.

Knapp made his comments at a summit meeting on traffic and road issues that took place Tuesday at Bradford County's 911 center.

The summit meeting, which was organized on behalf of the Bradford County commissioners and the Bradford County Emergency Services Department, was also attended by officials from the state police and several gas drilling companies, all three Bradford County commissioners, the Troy and Towanda police chiefs, the Wysox and North Towanda fire chiefs, and representatives from the Bradford County Emergency Services Department and Bradford-Susquehanna EMS Council.

During last year's freeze-thaw cycle, there was "some very, very severe road breakup" in areas of Bradford County, with other areas receiving lesser damage, Knapp said. The damage has since been addressed, Knapp said.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New settlement documents required by Pennsylvania Dept. of Labor and Industry

For all my Pennsylvania workers' compensation colleagues out there, the Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Workers' Compensation, has promulgated new Compromise and Release forms that must be used when you settle a case. You can find the new document here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Engineers injured in fall from collapsing stairs awarded $7.8M

In many workers' compensation cases, the work-related injury is caused by a another person or entity. In these types of cases (usually called "Third Party lawsuits) the injured worker can file a negligence claim against the person or entity that was at fault. Actually, many of my personal injury cases are really Third Party cases and have come to me originally as workers' compensation cases that I have determined were caused by someone else's negligence.

You may ask...why file a Third Party case when you have a valid workers' compensation claim? The main reason is that under Third Party negligence lawsuits, the plaintiff can seek pain and suffering damages. But under workers' compensation claims in Pennsylvania, the injured worker is only allowed to recover lost wages and medical bills.

The following case synopsis is an example of just such a Third Party case that was filed in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and was provided to me via

Two engineers who fell from a collapsing staircase in a research plant recovered a $7.8 million verdict. Clifford Decker and David Gillingham were working on project for Consol Energy Inc. when an exterior steel staircase, the only exit from the building, suddenly collapsed and sent them falling 14 feet to the ground. Decker fractured his femur and hip and Gillingham suffered a torn rotator cuff and shoulder impingement. The plaintiffs claimed that the 40-year-old building wasn't properly inspected. Consol Energy argued that there was no notice of a problem with the staircase, which was used numerous times without incident and showed no signs of deterioration.

Decker v. Consol Energy Inc.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The dangers of law suit loans

In the personal injury cases that I handle, often times clients ask about lawsuit loans. It's not surprising because in many instances people are out of work due to their injuries and let's face it, most people live pay to pay check. Once that pay check has stopped due to an auto accident injury, and there's no other disability insurance, then people become desperate to pay their bills during the time it takes to move the lawsuit through the courts-- which could take years.

The New York Times has published an article on the dangers of these types of loans. I try to discourage clients from going this route, but sometimes it's the only way to survive, to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. It certainly is proverbial "double edged sword."

The business of lending to plaintiffs arose over the last decade, part of a trend in which banks, hedge funds and private investors are putting money into other people’s lawsuits. But the industry, which now lends plaintiffs more than $100 million a year, remains unregulated in most states, free to ignore laws that protect people who borrow from most other kinds of lenders.

Ernesto Kho had pressing needs of his own. Medical bills had piled up after he was injured in a 2004 car accident. So he borrowed $10,500 from Cambridge Management Group, another company that lends money to plaintiffs in personal-injury lawsuits. Two years later, Mr. Kho, a New Jersey resident, got a $75,000 settlement — and a bill from Cambridge for $35,939.

But if you're considering a law suit loan, read the article carefully and consult your lawyer for a clear understanding of the implications.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Worker suffers 'traumatic injury' at gas well site in Sullivan County

From the Towanda Daily Review:

An individual suffered a traumatic injury Friday at a gas well site just west of Shunk in Sullivan County, the Sullivan County director of emergency services said.

There was a rig at the well site, said Sullivan County Emergency Services Director Sean Thibodeault, who added that he did not know if drilling was under way at the time.

Brian Grove, senior director for corporate development at Chesapeake Energy Corp., confirmed that the well pad site where the injury occurred was a Chesapeake Appalachia location.

Grove said that the injured person worked for Patterson-UTI Drilling Co., which is a contractor hired by Chesapeake Appalachia. The person was working at the site when the injury occurred, he said.

The injured worker was transported by helicopter to an area hospital, Thibodeault said.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Key Questions To Ask Your Social Security Disability Lawyer

No one would perhaps contemplate the possibility of having to hire a social security disability lawyer. But as fate would have it if you or your family member is incapacitated to engage in any gainful activity you should immediately file a claim for social security disability benefits. You should hire the services of an experienced social security disability lawyer to ensure that your claim is approved at the earliest without any hassles.

Make inquiries and zero in on a competent and reputable lawyer. Most lawyers offer an initial consultation free of charge. You should utilize this opportunity to have a free and frank discussion with the social security disability lawyer and seek clarification of any doubts or apprehensions that you might have.

Interview with Social Security Disability Lawyer

Ask the lawyer about what cases he normally deals with and whether he has prior experience in dealing with similar cases. You would not want a personal injury lawyer to deal with your social security disability claim. Enquire about the law school the social security disability lawyer graduated from as someone in your family, friends, or social circle might have passed out from the same school.

You should also question the lawyer about the number of years he has been practicing and his performance in social security disability claims. It is not possible for any lawyer to have a hundred per cent success rate, therefore, quiz him about the satisfaction level of his previous clients and not the success rate. You can ask him to furnish any testimonials to validate his success or satisfaction rate. Social security disability lawyer should be able to explain the reason if he does not wish to disclose any information.

You should ask the lawyer whether your claim stands a good chance of being approved and if yes, the time it could take before you start receiving the payment. Clarify from the lawyer about his professional charges and any other expenditure that you might have to incur on the claim. Make sure that social security disability lawyer gives you a specific reply or a tentative timeframe and does not beat around the bush. It would be better to hire a lawyer who works on a contingency basis.

Approval of a social security disability claim will take months or even years and it is important that your lawyer keeps in touch with you and regularly provides updates about the status of your claim. Ask him how often he is going to update you and the mode of communication. Busy lawyers tend to delegate cases to their juniors. Ask the lawyer who in his/her office is going to deal with your case regularly. A good lawyer answers all your questions patiently and will seek further details regarding the claim.

Your future depends on the outcome of the claim while your lawyer might treat this as just another case in his/her practice. Interview the social security disability lawyer and hire his/her services only if you feel confident about his/her attitude, aptitude, and approach.

Make an educated decision when looking for the right social security disability lawyer. It's wise to konw what you need to qualify, what to do if you've been denied a claim, and things to be careful of when filing. This ssd lawyer site will break down each medical condition in an easy to understand way, and will help you win your claim!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Feds Lower Painkiller Dose In Vicodin, Percocet

Because many of our Pennsylvania workers' compensation clients suffer from chronic injuries that cause constant, debilitating pain, this article jumped out at me.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it will cap the amount of acetaminophen in the drugs at 325 milligrams per capsule. Current products on the market contain doses of up to 700 milligrams.

Acetaminophen is a ubiquitous pain reliever found in Tylenol, Nyquil and thousands of other medicines used to treat headaches, fever and sore throats. The ingredient is also used at larger doses in prescription combination drugs that mix it with narcotic drugs like oxycodone.

Those products are not dangerous by themselves but can cause toxic overdoses when patients combine them with a second acetaminophen-containing drug like Tylenol.

This is good news for people with chronic conditions that rely solely on these drugs to merely get through the day. Many of my clients feel that, when it comes to these drugs, they are damned if they do and damned if they don't. They know that narcotic medications are bad for them and can cause other health problems, but the pills are the only way they can cope on an hour to hour and day to day basis.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Athens, PA IR plant closes after 100 years

Nothing lasts forever. Here is the story from the Sayre Morning Times.

After more than 100 years, Ingersoll-Rand in Athens, the worldwide company’s oldest manufacturing plant, closed its doors for the final time.

With only a handful of employees remaining, the old whistle was blown for the final time in a special ceremony inside the plant. The few employees then walked to the front of the building where Norm Catlin lowered the IR flag for the final time.

Some employees surmised that Chesapeake Energy, new tenants in the building, may soon raise their flag in place of the Ingersoll-Rand one.

Kim Quinn’s husband had worked at IR since 1993. Standing with her father, who had worked at the plant for 35 years, she wiped tears from her eyes, reflecting on more than three decades of memories

“That place brought a lot of income in for families. Kept us off the welfare line,” she said.