Monday, December 31, 2012

Possible Changes to the Comp Law in 2013

From the Central Penn Business Journal:  An ongoing attempt by the Republican establishment to weaken injured workers' rights.
Despite repeated failures in the legislature, Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers will try again in the next year to pass state workers' compensation law changes that would double the required time injured workers must use employer-approved doctors.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Medicare Posts List of Top Hospitals

Medicare on Thursday disclosed bonuses and penalties for nearly 3,000 hospitals as it ties almost $1 billion in payments to the quality of care provided to patients.
The revised payments, which will begin in January, mark the federal government's most extensive effort yet to hold hospitals financially accountable for what happens to patients. In what amounts to a nationwide competition, Medicare compared hospitals on how faithfully they followed rudimentary standards of care and how patients rated their experiences.
In many regions, the hospitals that did the best are not the ones with the most outsized reputations, but regional and community hospitals, according to government records. New York-Presbyterian in Manhattan and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, both dominant hospitals in their cities, will have their payments reduced. Other leading names in the hospital industry, including the Cleveland Clinic and Intermountain Medical Center in Utah, will receive bonuses, although not the largest in their regions.
In all, Medicare is rewarding 1,557 hospitals with more money and reducing payments to 1,427 others, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of records released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The maximum amount any hospital could gain or lose was 1% of its regular Medicare payments.
Locally, Robert Packer Hospital, in Sayre, Pennsylvania, faired better than the average hospital.  Here's a link to the RPH's Hospital Profile Page where you can look at many different categories that Medicare rated.  Since many of my workers' compensation clients and personal injury clients have treatment at RPH and Guthrie Clinic, I thought this information was relevant.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another Gas Worker Fatality in Bradford County

From the Towanda Daily Review:

A Missouri man died Wednesday while working on a natural gas pipeline project in Burlington Township.In a news release, Bradford County Coroner Tom Carman said that Kenneth Donovan Elliott, 42, of Missouri was pronounced dead at 1:49 p.m. in Burlington Township, off of the Berwick Turnpike, following the 12:42 p.m. accident.   
When asked for comment, Kristi Gittins, spokesperson for Chief, said that the mishap did not take place at a Chief site.  She said it was a PVR (Penn Virginia Resources) site. She noted that the company, based in Radnor, Pa., is "a large national pipeline company working in the area."  Carman said Elliott was employed by Midway Oilfield of Midway, Texas. 
Midway Oilfield was in the process of clearing the right-of-way for a natural gas pipeline, according to Carman.  He said Elliott was operating a chainsaw, and was in the process of cutting down a tree, when the tree kicked back, striking him and knocking him to the ground.  Carman said Elliott died as a result of blunt force head trauma, and the manner of death has been ruled accidental.

This article demonstrates the complexity of all of the various companies that are involved in this kind of work.  The question that I would have is which employer or corporate entity is ultimately responsible for this man's workers' compensation death benefits so that his family can be taken care of.  It is a horrible accident and our hearts go out to this man's friends and family.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Man hurt in workplace accident recovers more than $12M

A jury awarded more than $12 million to a man who claimed that he sustained brain damage in a workplace accident. The matter dates to June 16, 2007, when Victor Munoz fell off of a ladder while painting the exterior of a Manhattan hotel. 

He sustained fractures of a shoulder, his spine and several ribs, and he contended that he also sustained a brain injury that resulted in severe impairment of his balance and damage of his hearing and vision. 

Munoz sued the hotel's owner, operator and landlords. The defendants traded blame, but Judge Joan Madden deemed that all were liable. A jury awarded $12,320,856.69 to Munoz and $700,000 for his wife's derivative loss. The judgment will be paid by Munoz's employer, which was a third party to the suit.

You can see a full report on the case here at

Friday, November 16, 2012

Can you contract Parkinson's Disease from Work?

Many workers, particularly in plants and factories, use and are exposed to solvents.  These are a broad category of substances that are present in fuels, paints, glues, lubricants and cleaning products.  There was a recent study that has shown a strong link between long term occupational exposure to the solvent trichloroephylene and parkinson's disease.  

The study examined 6 specific solvents which were chosen for investigation because of past case reports of Parkinson Disease or Parkinson-like symptoms occurring in persons with exposure to one or more of these chemicals.  Parkinson Disease is a degenerative brain disease that causes tremors, movement problems, and dementia.  

This study is just one more bit of evidence that demonstrates employers should be extra cautious in teaching their employees how to handle these chemicals and protect themself from exposure, particularly long-term exposure.  

However, the researchers on the study voiced concerns about more than occupational exposure; their concerns about far reaching public health implications was due to the fact that trichloroephylene is the most frequently reported organic contaminant in ground water and is detectable in up to 30% of U.S. drinking water.  

If you want to read more about this and the study, click here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Exposure to light at night lowers cognitive function

Over the years I have written several posts about the effects of working third shift (or night shift) on workers' health.  There is a growing body of evidence that supports the idea that employees who work third shift can suffer from a cadre of health problems that their day shift counterparts won't suffer from, merely from working at night and sleeping during the day.

I just read an article about a study from Johns Hopkins University that found that regular exposure to bright lights at night can subject you to anxiety, depression and lower cognitive from.  From the article:

Basically, what we found is that chronic exposure to bright light — even the kind of light you experience in your own living room at home or in the workplace at night if you are a shift worker — elevates levels of a certain stress hormone in the body, which results in depression and lowers cognitive function,” said Samer Hattar, a biology professor in the Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Iraq War contractor ordered to pay National Guardsmen $85M over toxic chemical exposure

Work injuries can happen in all sorts of places....from

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A jury on Friday ordered an American military contractor to pay $85 million after finding it guilty of negligence for illnesses suffered by a dozen Oregon soldiers who guarded an oilfield water plant during the Iraq War.
After a three-week trial, the jury deliberated for just two days before reaching a decision against the contractor, Kellogg Brown and Root.
Each Army National Guardsman was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and another $6.25 million in punitive damages for "reckless and outrageous indifference" to their health in the trial in U.S. District Court in Portland. 
Guardsman Rocky Bixby, the soldier whose name appeared on the suit, said the verdict should reflect a punishment for the company's neglect of U.S. soldiers.
The suit was the first concerning soldiers' exposure to a toxin at a water plant in southern Iraq. The soldiers said they suffer from respiratory ailments after their exposure to sodium dichromate, and they fear that a carcinogen the toxin contains, hexavalent chromium, could cause cancer later in life.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Work-related Fatalities Declined in 2011

Finally some good news from The Bureau of Labor Statistics-- There was a decline in worker-related fatal accidents in the American job force comparing the years 2011 and 2010.  In 2010, 4,690 workers lost their lives due to various accidents and incidents.  In 2011, the number was 4,609.  But even one death is one too many, particularly because we know that most of these incidents are preventable, assuming the employers are motivated to spend the time and money to prevent them.

One question that occurred to me is why the drop in number?  I wonder if it's because of the high unemployment rate, i.e., when there's less people working, there are less work injuries.

2 Injured At Explosion at Sam Adams Brewery

Two workers at a Sam Adams Brewery in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, had minor injuries when an explosion occurred at the brewery.  Over 100 employees were evacuated.  You can see the whole article here from Channel 69 News.

For some reason, the firefighters and first responders to the scene refused to leave until they tested all of the merchandise to make sure it wasn't damaged in the fire.*

*I made that last part up.  ;)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Walmart Strikes Seem to Be Spreading

It seems that the initial Walmart strike that was reported on this blog last week is spreading to other stores.  From

The strikes on Tuesday were just the second time in more than a half century that Walmart workers walked off the job at multiple stores, and comes on the heels of strikes at nine Walmart stores in Los Angeles. Those followed a 21-day action put on by Chicago-area Walmart warehouse workers, whose strike recently ended after their employer agreed to a major settlement over allegations of wage theft. 
In the wake of these two strikes and the ripple-effect being felt across the company, it suddenly looks like a whole new ballgame for organized labor. 
One of the problems striking workers cite is the lack of access to full-time working hours, which prevents them from obtaining even the meager health benefits the company offers. The National Consumer’s League (NCL) told Raw Story that Walmart’s refusal to provide those benefits by exploiting part-time labor leads to a number of spillover costs that taxpayers ultimately pick up. 
“Many Walmart workers are dependent on public assistance programs due to their low wages and not having access to full time jobs and being denied benefits because they’re not working the number of hours required to get access to those benefits, or the benefits are just so expensive that on their low wages they just can’t afford them,” NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg said in an exclusive interview. “Walmart has a record of even working with employees to sign them up for public assistance programs, which we think is really atrocious.”

Friday, October 5, 2012

At Long Last...An Honest to God Walmart STRIKE!


For the first time in Walmart's 50-year history, workers at multiple stores have gone on strike, even though their jobs are not protected by a labor union. 
More than 70 Los Angeles Walmart workers from nine stores walked off the job Thursday, Allison Mannos, of labor advocacy organization the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, told The Huffington Post. 
Workers and supporters protested outside the Pico Rivera Walmart store, carrying signs that read, "On Strike for the Freedom to Speak Out" and "Walmart Strike Against Retaliation." The workers said their complaints about working conditions and low pay have been met with threats, suspensions and terminations. 
The strikers said they plan to return to work Friday. Some of the workers will speak at LA City Hall Friday to relay Walmart's response to the strike. The strike was coordinated by OUR Walmart, a labor group backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) that defends Walmart workers' rights.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

15 Common Mistakes That Will Sink Your Pennsylvania Work Comp Claim

After more than 17 years of helping victims of workplace injuries collect workers' compensation benefits, I have seen claimants make serious mistakes that hurt their claim and made it more difficult for them to collect full payment.  To help you avoid these mistakes, I have categorized the 15 most common mistakes and present them to you.  I am confident that after reading this article, you will have a better chance of collecting full payment for your workman's compensation claim.

1. Failure to Report the Accident to Your Employer.

Pennsylvania law requires that a claim be reported to your employer within 120 days from the date of the injury.  The best practice is to report an incident immediately, even if you don't go to the hospital right away.  The best way to report an injury is to talk to you supervisor and make sure a report about the discussion is made.

2. Failure to File a Claim Petition within the 3 year statue of limitations period.

Reporting an injury to your employer is merely a first step.  If you are owed benefits and your employer or its insurance company refuses to pay for your medical bills or wage loss, Pennsylvania law requires that a claim be filed with the Bureau of Workers' Compensation 3 years from the date of the accident. If you wait to contact a lawyer and file a claim beyond the 3 years, you might be precluded from receiving the benefits you deserve.

3. Failure to Inform the Doctor of the Details of Your Accident.

If your medical records do not reflect the fact that you have been in an accident, your claim may be suspect. Insurance companies use any excuse they can find to deny your claim. The absence of any information in your medical records about your accident may give them the excuse they want

4. Failure to Keep a Job Search Log.

The worker has the burden of proving that they are unable to work as a result of a workers' compensation injury or occupational disease. One of the best ways to prove that you cannot work is to show that you have honestly tried to work but were unable to find and maintain a job.

5. Failure to Fully Inform Your Lawyer of All Facts.

Workers' compensation cases are difficult enough to handle successfully, even when a lawyer has all the facts. If you do not fully inform your lawyer concerning all facts, the good, the bad and the ugly, you severely handicap your lawyer's ability to win the case for you. Many facts which you may feel to be adverse can be successfully handled. Do not short change yourself by keeping your lawyer in the dark.

6. Failure to Fully Cooperate with All Vocational Rehabilitation Efforts.

The point at which the insurance company hires a vocational rehabilitation specialist to actively become involved in trying to find a job for you is probably the most critical point in the claims process. You should not attempt to deal with the rehabilitation process without the assistance of an experienced workers' compensation lawyer. Vocational rehabilitation counselors, in the vast majority of cases, are not on your side. It is their job to terminate your benefits, either by your becoming employed or by taking advantage of your failure to cooperate, thereby have your benefits terminated. It is in your best interests to return to work at suitable employment. You should, therefore, fully cooperate with all reasonable vocational rehabilitation efforts.

7. Failure to Accept Suitable Employment.

It is in your best interest to accept suitable employment whether at your prior job or at a new job that may be presented to you. The law does not (and should not) allow a worker to collect workers' compensation benefits if they can work. On the other hand, you are not required to accept any job that your employer or their vocational rehabilitation worker finds for you. The work must be "suitable" to you based upon your physical limitations, age, education, training, and experience. It is important to work closely with an experienced workers' compensation lawyer to help you determine whether any job offered to you is suitable

8. Failure to Anticipate That You Will Be Followed and Videotaped.

It is a mistake to assume that you will not be followed and videotaped by private investigators. Insurance companies would rather pay money to private investigators and lawyers than pay it to you. You should assume that a private investigator will be watching your every move outside of your home. In some cases, they even look inside your home.

9. Working outside Restrictions When You Return to Work.

If a doctor allows you to return to work but conditions your return to work on certain restrictions such as not lifting above a certain weight, or raising your arms above your head, you should follow these restrictions explicitly. When you return to work, there is a temptation to follow your supervisor's instructions even if those instructions would have you working in excess of the limitations your doctor imposes upon you. This is a serious mistake. Carry the doctor's written restrictions with you when you return to work and, if your supervisor tries to coerce you into working outside of those restrictions, give another copy of those restrictions to your immediate supervisor and politely tell that supervisor that your doctor will not allow you to work outside those restrictions

10. Settling Your Claim without the Benefit of an Experienced Workers' Compensation Lawyer.

It is a serious mistake to assume that your employer and its insurance company will treat you fairly. You should understand that in the vast majority of the cases, they will take advantage of you if you let them. The professionals who work for your employer and the insurance company know workers' compensation law inside out. They are looking after themselves, not you. Always seek the advice of an experienced workers' compensation lawyer before you sign any agreements.

11. To Assume That Nurse Case Managers Are Your Friend.

Nurse Case Managers are working for your employer and the insurance company. They are not working for you.  They should not be allowed to talk to your doctors nor be present during examinations.  They will do everything in their power to attempt to get you back to work, whether you are physically ready to return to work or not.

12. Allowing the Employer to "Doctor Shop".

If your employer accepts your claim and agrees to pay, they do have a right to direct your medical care for the first 90 days, assuming they have posted a list of various doctors at your place of employment.  You can choose whom you wish to treat from this list.  
If you treat outside of that list, then you run of risk of the employer not paying for your medical care.  However, there are things the employer must do before they can enforce this rule.  If there is no list then you can treat with whoever you want.  Further, iff you weren't provided with a copy of that list when you were hired AND right after your injury, then you can choose whoever you want.  However, once your medical providers have been established, they cannot switch you to another doctor without your permission. Insurance companies like to have you seen by doctors who they can count on to "sing their song". Do not allow them to do this. If your employer or its insurance carrier attempts to switch you to another doctor, consult an experienced workers' compensation lawyer immediately.

13. Failure to Consider a Second Opinion.

The law allows an injured worker to obtain a second opinion if the worker is not satisfied with the opinion of the doctor concerning the nature and extent of your disability. You should consider asking for a second opinion. However, it is not always wise to ask for a second opinion. This decision is case specific. You should consult with an experienced workers' compensation lawyer to help you decide whether you should ask for a second opinion.

14. Assuming That the Compensation Rate Set by the Employer is Correct.

Most of the benefits you are entitled to receive from your workers' compensation claim are based upon your average weekly wage. The average weekly wage includes the gross amount of your pay before any deductions. Average weekly wage may also be increased because of certain allowances your employer may provide such as a housing allowance. Do not be short changed by settling for an incorrect compensation rate.

15. Failure to Seek Medical Care.

Many injured workers, especially males, try to "shake it off" after they are injured at work and fail to seek appropriate medical attention. It is not unusual for a person to have significant injuries without realizing it. If an injured worker waits several days or weeks before seeking medical attention, the claim is suspect. This delay in treatment gives the employer still another excuse to deny the claim.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

PA Chamber of Commerce Attacks Injured Workers

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry (the Pennsylvania chapter of the United States Chamber of Commerce) often suggests changes to the Workers' Compensation Act that will harm injured workers rights' and help major cooperations big business.  Every year they come out with new proposals to limit the rights afforded under the Workers Competition Act to injured employees.  This year is no different.  I'm not going to give them a google them if you want to find their site.

Some of the major suggestions to the Workers' Compensation Law that the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce is suggesting:  

1.  Alter the fee schedule.  The Chamber proposes to change the amount of money that workers' compensation insurance companies have to pay doctors for the treatment of injured workers.  Obviously, they are not proposing to pay more.  They want the insurance companies to pay the doctors less.  

2.  The Chamber has proposed to double the time that an injured worker has to treat with a panel physician.  Currently, it is 90 days.  The law says that if your injured at work you have to treat with a panel physician for the first 3 months after the work injury.  Now, the Chamber wants to increase that to 180 days.  

3.  The Chamber proposes to take away the Workers' Compensation Judges' ability to determine if medical treatment provided to an injury worker was "reasonable and necessary" thus requiring the insurance company to pay for the treatment.  Currently, judges are the individuals who ultimately decide whether or not a doctor will get paid for treatment that renders an injured worker.  If that treatment is related to the work injury and is reasonable and necessary, the workers' comp insurance has to pay.  Now, the Chamber is proposing to take away that right from a judge and to rely upon "independent" peer review doctors to make that decision.  

4.  The Chamber is proposing to limit the places where injured workers can get prescription drugs.  The Chamber has proposed the use of a prescription benefits manager to provide drugs to injured employees.  How it normally works is that you can go to any pharmacy you wish and send the bill to the workers' compensation insurance company for payment.  However, the insurance companies want to retain the right to dictate where you can get your medications.  

As you can probably tell, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is not on the side of working Pennsylvanians who are injured.  They are on the side of big business and the insurance industry.  I urge you to contact your State Representative and your State Senator and ask that they do not enact laws that harm the rights of the injured workers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

The "Independent Contractor" Scam

Are you an employee or are you an independent contractor?  The answer to this question could determine whether you get the rights that you are entitled to if you're hurt on the job.  If you are an "independent contractor" then you do not get the protections of the workers' compensation laws of Pennsylvania.  Your employer will not pay for your medical bills or pay your lost wages if you are hurt at work.  Because of this, many employers try to label their employees as "independent contractors" as opposed to actual employees in order to deny you what is owed to you under the law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

This practice of misclassifying workers as "independent contractors" rather than "employees" enables corporations to: (i) cheat workers out of basic benefits (such as, for example, overtime pay, worker’s compensation insurance, and unemployment insurance), (ii) cheat the government out of tax dollars, and (iii) gain an unfair advantage over competitors who comply with the law.

Make no mistake about it:  the practice of misclassifying employees as “independent contractors” is a disaster for American workers and their families.  Congress’ failure to effectively crack down on this practice is a national embarrassment.

Since our politicians are incapable of protecting working families against the independent contractor scam, it’s up to Trial Lawyers and the hard-working (but under-resourced) Department of Labor to protect working families.

Based on our review of the recent caselaw, Federal Court decisions appear to be trending in favor of workers in lawsuits alleging independent contractor misclassification.  It seems that Federal Judges are becoming more skeptical of the independent business model.

We see hints of the growing judicial skepticism in Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals opinion issued in the massive, multi-district litigation involving thousands of FedEx package delivery drivers allegedly misclassified as independent contractors.  (Our firm has the privilege of working on the FedEx litigation alongside many excellent law firms throughout the United States.)

The Seventh Circuit opinion, issued on July 12, 2012, made some very cogent observations about the importance of the independent contractor misclassification issue:

The question [of whether the drivers were properly classified as independent contractors] appears to be a close one.  And the issue is of great importance not just to this case but to the structure of the American workplace.  The number of independent contractors in this country is growing.  There are several economic incentives for employers to use independent contractors and there is a potential for abuse in misclassifying employees as independent contractors.  Employees misclassified as independent contractors are denied access to certain benefits and protections.  Misclassification results in significant costs to government:”[B]etween 1996 and 2004, $34.7 billion of Federal tax revenues went uncollected due to the misclassification of workers and the tax loopholes that allow it.”  And misclassification “puts employers who properly classify their workers at a disadvantage in the marketplace[.]”  FedEx has approximately 15,000 delivery drivers in the U.S.  This case will have far-reaching effects on how FedEx runs its business. . . throughout the United States.  And it seems likely that employers in other industries may have similar arrangements with workers, whether delivery drivers or other types of workers.  Thus, the decision in this case will have ramification beyond this particular case and FedEx’s business practices, affecting FedEx’s competitors and employers in other industries as well.

Craig v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., 686 F.3d 423 (7th Cir. 2012)

The Seventh Circuit hit the nail on the head.  In these tough economic times, the fight against independent contractor abuse is more important than ever.

If your firm represents current or former independent contractors in workers compensation lawsuits or other types of litigation, we would be delighted to speak with your clients about whether, due to misclassification, they might be able to recover overtime wages and other valuable benefits.  As you know, we always pay a fair referral fee.

****The foregoing article was provided by the law firm of Winebrake & Sintillo, LLC.  If you feel that you have been unfairly denied your wages or overtime pay, please contact Winebrake & Sintillo, LLC.  They are the best wage & hour lawyers in Pennsylvania.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Certified Nursing Assistants Vulnerable to Work Injuries

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA's) who work in nursing homes or special care homes are likely to be injured at work 2.3 times more than all private businesses combined.  This information has been provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  

In my 17 years of representing injured workers in workers compensation cases, CNA's have been one of the most frequent professions that I see.  In my opinion, this stems from the fact that often times they are required to lift heavy patients.  Further, they are not provided with the appropriate training for assisted lifting or the appropriate devices or the appropriate levels of staffing.  Often times, these workers are overworked and underpaid and are basically left on their own to handle way too many patients.

It takes a special kind of person to be a Certified Nursing Assistant working in a nursing home caring for elderly people.  I think they deserve more credit than they get.  They deserve more pay than they receive and they certainly deserve to have a safer working environment.

If you are a CNA and have been injured at work or know of a friend who has been injured at work and you have questions, always feel free to contact me.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 Unintended Consequences....More Car Accidents

One of the many unintended consequences of 9/11 was a significant increase in the amount of car and truck crashes in the year after 9/11.  It has been estimated that approximately 1,600 extra motor vehicle deaths occurred in the year after 9/11 due to people being afraid of flying and choosing to drive instead.

To give you some perspective, the risk of being killed in a car or truck accident in the United States in any given year is one in 7,000.  But dying of cancer is one in 600 and dying of heart disease one in 400.

In 2010, the number of people killed in car accidents in the United States was 32,885.  In the year 1972, the number of deaths was 54,589.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Facebook Problem

One of the interesting aspects of our modern societies' fascination with social media is how that social media, particularly Facebook, is being used in litigation, specifically personal injury litigation and divorce/custody litigation.  A new tactic from insurance company defense lawyers that I've been seeing is them requesting to have access to plaintiff's Facebook account so that they can fish around in your posts, pictures and private communications with your Facebook friends.  An insurance defense lawyer is basically trying to find something that they can use against you in your personal injury case or  your workers' compensation case.  Although I don't do family law, this also occurs in divorce litigation and custody litigation.  All they need to do is to find some photo or comment that was posted by you or a friend and twist that to make you look bad.

One of the best pieces of advice that I can give to clients is to make sure that your Facebook profile security settings are as private as possible, particularly if you have a personal injury case like an auto accident case or a slip and fall or a defective product that has injured and disabled you.  This also applies to workers compensation cases.  These insurance defense lawyers will find any little piece of information or photograph that is posted by you or about you and twist it to make it seem like you are faking your injury.  It is difficult to defend against these requests, however, if your Facebook security profile is left open for the general public to see.  How can I go in front of the Judge and say that this is an invasion of your privacy when anyone can get on Facebook and see your entire life.  

Another sneaky trick that insurance defense lawyers like to do is to have their secretaries or paralegals "friend" you in order to get access.  However, this is a double edged sword.  There have been ethics decisions adverse to these insurance defense lawyers for basically sneaking around a persons' private life without them knowing and then using that information against them in court.  

The bottom line is that you have to be careful with who you friend and what type of security profiles that you use in your social media.  And most importantly, if you have a new personal injury case or workers compensation case or are involved in divorce litigation, be careful what you post on Facebook.  You truly don't know whose watching.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Philadelphia Drivers Among The Nation’s Worst

For all of you Philly people....LOOK OUT!!  I'm often traveling to the Philly region for work and play.  Thankfully, I've never been in an accident.  But time is not on my side given this report.  The only advice I can give is to drive defensively, don't text and make sure you have good insurance.  Many people are surprised by the number of driver who don't even have insurance or have very minimal insurance.  But you can purchase additional insurance on your own policy to protect against those irresponsible drivers-- Un-insurance and Under-insurance.  Call your agent today and double check your coverage and make sure you have these types of coverages.  As always, if you have any questions, you can always just call or email me.  Drive Safe!

According to Allstate’s 8th annual “America’s Best Drivers Report,” Philadelphia ranks as one of the least safe driving cities, landing at number six on the list. The report ranks the 200 largest cities in terms of car collision frequency.  According to the report, the average driver in Philadelphia will get into an accident every 6.1 years. Philadelphia drivers were 64.1 percent more likely to get into an accident than the average driver.
The national average is one crash every 10 years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Deadliest Jobs in America

Click through to see an infographic on the deadliest jobs in America.  Some of surprising findings (all in year 2010)....

--219 workers died in Pennsylvania due to work related incidents.

--39% of work related deaths are transportation related.

--8% were women, 92% involved men.

--65 years and older workers are twice as likely to die at work than any other age group.

--8 million worksites, 133 million workers, only 2,200 OSHA inspectors.

--Most construction fatalities are caused by falls.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Progressive Insurance is being taken to the wood shed

Progressive Insurance is being taken to the wood shed...via the internet.  I'm not sure if you've heard about this story yet but it's becoming viral.  Here's where it all started.  I'm seeing it all over the place now.  It gives me a little peace of mind that...finally...the unfair tactics insurance companies use in automobile accident cases are becoming well known.

Of course, this story deals specifically with Progressive, but all auto insurance companies act this way.  I see it every day in my practice.  Insurance companies deny claims, refuse to pay a fair amount for someone's injuries caused by a negligent driver, commit fraud, delay trials and justice, etc. etc.  They are not in the business of helping their customers...they are in the business of denying benefits owed to their customers.

So, if you're sitting on a jury in a auto crash case or a truck crash case, just remember this story and know that the reason you are there is because some insurance company somewhere is trying to screw over a plaintiff.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Overtime Wage Complaints Hit Record Level

If you think you've been short-changed on your overtime pay, you need to call me immediately.  I and a few of my colleagues who specialize in overtime pay disputes handle these types of cases often. this article describes....the practice of employers not paying proper overtime is occurring more and more.  Sometimes the practice can be wide-spread throughout an organization-- such as the massive class action against Walmart that resulted in Walmart paying to workers millions of past due overtime pay.

From the article:

The number of workers filing complaints against their employers under the Fair Labor Standard Act has skyrocketed, a report published by the law firm Seyfarth Shaw shows. Since 1993, the number of federal case loads relating to misclassification of workers, failure to pay overtime and miscalculated overtime for non-exempt workers has risen to a new all-time record of 7,006 in 2011 from 1,457 cases in 1993. 
And this year is on track to beat that, with 7,064 cases already filed. Lack of clarity in overtime laws and lucrative settlements for plaintiffs are just some of the reasons why the number of reported wage abuse cases is going up. In addition, a weak economy has pushed corporations operating with a slimmed-down staff to squeeze more out of their employees. 
Findings from other studies echo the data. In a report cataloging wage violations in New York City, the National Employment Law Project found that 77 percent of the study's surveyed low-wage workers who had worked more than 40 hours in one week did not receive their required overtime pay; the number rises to 93 percent for workers who worked more than 10 hours in one day. 
The study also found that 21 percent of workers reported that they were being paid less than the required minimum wage. Only non-white U.S. born workers did not report a minimum wage violation. The average low wage worker loses out on $58 per week and $3,000 per year due to wage violations by employers, according to the study.

More evidence on the dangers of 2nd and 3rd Shifts

More bad news for late-shift workers: Their odd hours may be raising their risk of heart attack and stroke.  So says a new, large-scale study in the British Medical Journal that adds these two problems -- which fit into a broader category known as vascular disease -- to the previously known risks of shift work. Previous research had suggested that working the graveyard shift, the swing shift or any irregular shift other than the traditional 9-to-5 is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. 
British and Canadian researchers analyzed the findings of 34 studies that included more than 2 million people who had work schedules including anything other than regular daytime hours. They found that shift work was linked to a 23 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 5 percent increased risk of stroke. Those working night shifts seemed to be at the highest risk.  The study authors said it pays for workers to know that their jobs may put them at increased risk. 
A variety of factors -- not just the shift work itself -- could be culprit in increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke for people in those occupations. A lack of sleep, poor eating habits and lower levels of physical activity could plague those who work irregular hours and drive up the risk of vascular disease. 
Dr. Robert Bonow, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and past president of the American Heart Association, said it's possible that people working jobs requiring shift work may be economically disadvantaged and have less access to health care -- two factors generally associated with unfavorable health outcomes.
For years I've been fascinated by the growing evidence of the negative health affects associated with shift work.  It seems to make sense when workers' sleep patterns are constantly disrupted. Interesting stuff.  I'll keep an eye out on any new studies/articles and post them when I see them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rynone Manufacturing Sets Safety Standard

This goes in the "give credit where credit is due" file.  Rynone Manufacturing is a local (Sayre, PA and Waverly, NY) business that manufactures kitchen cabinets and other kitchen related things.  It has been a Valley business for as long as I can remember.  But I can usually tell if a business is considered a "safe" place to work or not by the number of workers' compensation claims I've fought against it over the years.  And I must say that I believe I've only had one Rynone Claim within the last decade.  That's a safe employer.

From the Towanda Daily Review:

Since 2005, OSHA has repeatedly chosen to award the Rynone Manufacturing Corp. with SHARP certification - which stands for Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program - a prestigious and difficult nationwide achievement to accomplish, according to Rynone Manufacturing Safety Manager Jim Rieker.  Receiving SHARP status is the highest safety designation bestowed on small businesses by OSHA and is achieved by demonstrating exceptional commitment and dedication to safety and occupational health in the workplace.  Rynone Manufacturing is one of approximately 1,100 businesses in America to earn this award.  Since 2005, Rynone is on a record 1,327 days with no lost time accidents. This equates to over 1,011,607 working hours, according to Rieker.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In Pennsylvania steel town, fatal gas explosion goes unpunished by OSHA

4,690 people were killed at work in 2010, up three percent from 2009, the Center for Public Integrity reports. That means that more Americans died in their workplaces in one year than died during the entire war in Iraq.

Many on-the-job deaths were met with only a small fine, an average of $7,900. Some workplaces were never inspected at all. And because of understaffed regulation offices — and the looming threat of further budget cuts — the numbers aren’t likely to change.  The Federal regulatory agency tasks to investigate and enforce job-safety regulations, OSHA, is poorly staffed and underfunded.  And Republicans want to cut the agency's funding even more.

It would take the perpetually short-staffed OSHA 130 years to inspect every workplace in the U.S. Managers and their underlings must strike a balance between meeting “performance goals” set in Washington and conducting comprehensive inspections when deaths occur. A target of 42,250 inspections nationwide was established for fiscal year 2012, up 5.6 percent from the previous year’s goal. The number of federal inspectors, meanwhile, has stayed mostly flat; there were 1,118 in February 2012.

As this article details, sometimes when someone is killed in a preventable work injury, not much is done.  

Nick Revetta’s death did not make national headlines. No hearings were held into the accident that killed him. No one was fired or sent to jail.  “These deaths take place behind closed doors,” says Michael Silverstein, recently retired head of Washington State’s workplace safety agency. “They occur one or two at a time, on private property. There’s an invisibility element.”

Here's a nice video about this story.  Very sad....

Friday, April 20, 2012

Woman Injured During Sex On Business Trip Gets Workers' Compensation

I call that some good lawyering.....

An Australian female civil servant woncompensation for an injury sustained while having sex on a business trip, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The Australian Federal Court ruled the woman was entitled to compensation claim for facial and psychological injuries suffered when a light fixture fell off the wall and on top of her in a motel room bed where she was having sex with a male friend.
The woman, who remains anonymous to protect her identity, suffered injuries to her nose, mouth and a tooth from the glass light hitting her face, according to the BBC.
The incident, which took place in November 2007, reverses a previous lower court decision.
As an employee for Australia's Commonwealth Government agency, the woman's lawyer argued 
sex was an ordinary incident of life in a hotel room, reports
Because the woman had been on a work trip, the judge made the decision to compensate her for the incident.
"If the applicant had been injured while playing a game of cards in her motel room, she would have been entitled to compensation," Justice John Nickolas said.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fewer children die in accidents as number of car crashes falls

Having many children of my own...and doing what I do with representing people injured in auto collisions, etc., these types of articles always come onto my radar screen.

The percentage of children and teenagers being killed in an accident has dropped while the the amount of young people dying from prescription drug overdoses has spiked.

The death rate for children 19 and younger has tumbled 30 per cent from 2000 to 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, accidental poisonings for that age group jumped up by 80 per cent.

To see the whole article from The Daily Mail online, click here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What to do if you have a work injury on a gas well site?

Accidents on Gas Well sites are far too common in the Marcellus Shale region. This is partly due the fact that a number of different types of specialists and companies are having to work together in a confined area and often with different and varying standards of safety and procedures.

But it is also often that the person or public body responsible for the overall safety of the site has simply not taken enough care over the arrangements or not properly checked that any safety procedures have been properly implemented.

Whatever the cause, injuries on a well pad site very often result in very serious and sometimes fatal injuries and such accidents can commonly occur in the following circumstances:

Being struck by falling loads or equipment

Lifting heavy loads without proper training and supervision

Working with asbestos without proper protection

Not being provided with adequate equipment or clothing (such as a hard hat)

Accidents caused by faulty plant or machinery

Being hit by moving vehicles such as fork lift truck or bulldozer

Falling from a height or from ladders or scaffolding


Toxic exposure

Co-workers who are too tied and overworked being careless.

What sort of compensation might you receive? Compensation for a gas well site injury is to cover for the pain and suffering and distress caused by the injury and also for any loss of earnings, medical fees, rehabilitation costs- in fact any financial loss that has been caused by the accident. As far as possible you should keep any record (such as receipts, prescriptions etc) of payments you have made for things bought as a result of the injury. If the injury is caused by a co-worker, then your only option is getting wage and medical benefits through your employer's workers' compensation insurance company.  If the injury was caused by a third party-- such as an employee from another company working on the site-- then you can also get money for pain and suffering, assuming we can prove that the third party's actions were negligent.

What should I do if I have had an accident on a Gas Well Site? If you have had an accident, however minor, you should ensure that you take the following steps if possible (and as soon as you can after the accident)

Report the accident to your employer or supervisor and make sure it is recorded somehow, such as an incident report, etc.

Take photographs of where you had the accident

Take photos of any of your injuries such as cuts or abrasions as soon as possible after the accident

Keep a record of any potential witnesses to the accident who may be able to help in any future claim as necessary.

Is there a time limit for bringing a Claim? Yes, there are strict time limits for bringing a claim if you have had an accident on a Gas Well site.  There are different time limitations for workers' compensation claims and for negligence lawsuits.  So, the best course of action is to contact an experienced lawyer immediately.  You should contact a lawyer who is both experienced in workers' compensation as well as filing lawsuits, since those areas of the law are very different.

Shift workers 'risking' Type 2 diabetes and obesity

This article from BBC News is fascinating.  Over the past several years we've been seeing several studies about shift work and its effects on the body.  One that comes to mind is the relation between shift work and cancer.  But there just hasn't been any hard evidence yet.  I think we're coming closer to at least determining some of the risks of shift work and abnormal sleep patterns. am I going to prove that someone's Type 2 Diabetes is work related...hmmmmm...thinking...thinking..... 

Shift workers getting too little sleep at the wrong time of day may be increasing their risk of diabetes and obesity, according to researchers.The team is calling for more measures to reduce the impact of shift working following the results of its study.
Researchers controlled the lives of 21 people, including meal and bedtimes.
The results, published in Science Translational Medicine, showed changes to normal sleep meant the body struggled to control sugar levels.Some participants even developed early symptoms of diabetes within weeks.
Lead researcher Dr Orfeu Buxton said: "We think these results support the findings from studies showing that, in people with a pre-diabetic condition, shift workers who stay awake at night are much more likely to progress to full-on diabetes than day workers. "Since night workers often have a hard time sleeping during the day, they can face both circadian [body clock] disruption working at night and insufficient sleep during the day. "The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that sleep should be at night for best effect."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When are we going to require school busses to have seat belts?

A school bus carrying high school basketball players and a van collided Monday afternoon in Bradford County, sending some students to the hospital, according to a parent whose child was on the bus.  State police confirmed the crash happened about 4:30 p.m. on Route 414 near Leroy. The parent said the bus was carrying Canton Area Junior Senior High School boys’ and girls’  basketball teams on their way to Towanda for games. The parent added many of the girls were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries.
See the full story here.  And when are we going to start requiring seat belts in busses that carry our children??!?  Why isn't that a law yet?  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Despite all the safety efforts, you can still die at work...

From the Scranton Times Tribune:

WASHINGTON TWP. - The Procter & Gamble Paper Products plant employee who died after suffering injuries at the plant Saturday has been identified. 
Jason C. Slavish, 36, of Luzerne, was transported to Tyler Memorial Hospital in Tunkhannock, where he died at 3 p.m. after the industrial accident at the Wyoming County plant on Saturday. "He died of traumatic head injury, which happened while he was working on a paper- making machine," Wyoming County Chief Coroner Thomas Kukuchka said. 
Few additional details about the accident have been released as the investigation continues. The accident occurred when production was down during a regularly scheduled maintenance program, according to Alex Fried, spokesman for the plant.

My only hope is that the Employer studies this incident as much as possible and learns how it happened and implements procedures so it can't happen again.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Even the gas industry truck drivers are nervous about accidents...

The following news article from the Towanda Daily Review demonstrates that not only your average Bradford County motorist is nervous with all the truck traffic, but also the truck drivers.  I'm glad to see that an organization that represents the truck drivers is attempting to limit the amount of truck accidents, collisions and fatalities in our area due to the ever increasing gas industry related truck traffic.

CANTON - A Pennsylvania and New York truck drivers' group concerned about the safety of their current route on Route 14 is asking for assistance from area municipalities.  This week, Canton Borough Council briefly discussed the request from the Professional CDL Drivers of Pennsylvania & New York. A letter dated Feb. 15 was forwarded to the borough from the group. It was not signed by a person. Only the group's name and an email address was provided at the bottom of the letter. 
In the correspondence, the drivers expressed concern about the curves, hills, and lack of shoulders along many sections of Route 14 between Elmira, N.Y. and Trout Run. "I am sure that you are just as aware of the safety record of this stretch of road as we are, with the dozens of accidents, multiple fatalities, with all types of vehicles involved," the group stated in the letter. The drivers claimed they "battled" with their companies to change the route with no success. They said the route saves eight miles.  But the drivers said the "vast improvements" to U.S. Highway 15 have made 15 "a much safer option." 
In the letter, the drivers said they understand that all truck traffic cannot be completely eliminated along Route 14, but said they felt all "Thru Truck Traffic" should be restricted. "In reality, it would only take one town to restrict thru truck traffic to make a difference, but better yet, we would love to see all the towns join together and restrict thru truck traffic, to make a difference and take a stand on traffic safety." 
Council didn't take action on the request, however.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Case of the Short Truck Driver

On June 26, 2007, plaintiff Henry Gfroehrer, 43, a furniture deliveryman, and his passenger and co-plaintiff, Andrew Skelton, also a furniture deliveryman, were in a box truck and traveling on East Mountain Drive, through the intersection with Route 155 North, in Plains Township, when they were involved in a broadside collision with the tractor-trailer driven by Steven Calice, who was driving on Route 155.
Gfroehrer suffered numerous injuries during the accident, including to his head and spine.
Gfroehrer and Skelton sued Calice and his employer, Werner Enterprises. It was alleged that Calice had been negligent in the operation of the tractor-trailer, and that Werner Enterprises was vicariously liable. In addition, the employer was accused of negligent hiring and negligent entrustment.
According to Gfroehrer and Skelton, Calice ignored a sign on a nearby highway indicating that trucks over 10-and-a-half tons were not to use exit 105 (which leads to Route 155 North) and, in proceeding toward Route 115 North, allegedly passed by other signs that clearly would have alerted him that he should not be traveling along the route in question.
Calice allegedly lost control of his tractor-trailer after his brakes caught fire as he traveled at a rate of speed grossly in excess of posted speed limits. After the failure of the brakes, Calice's truck blew the red light at the intersection of Route 115 North and East Mountain Drive, and violently collided with the driver's side of the box truck, which the plaintiffs claimed was lawfully proceeding through a solid green traffic signal.
With respect to the claims against Werner Enterprises individually, plaintiffs' counsel asserted that Calice was unqualified and unfit to drive his tractor-trailer, and that Werner Enterprises knew as much yet allowed him on the road despite his sub-par qualifications and inadequate training.
Plaintiffs' counsel noted that Calice's physical stature (4'10" and 95 pounds) posed practical issues during his training at Werner, as Calice had difficulty reaching the pedals and seeing over the steering wheel. Furthermore, Calice received test results far below those of the average driver-in-training.
The case proceeded to trial with Gfroehrer as the only plaintiff, as Skelton and his wife (who had a derivative claim) settled for an undisclosed amount prior to trial.
Calice stipulated as to negligence, but Werner Enterprises did not.
Werner Enterprises argued at trial that, in light of the fact that Calice's tractor-trailer had been out of control prior to the collision, Gfroehrer should have observed the tractor-trailer approaching, and refrained from entering the intersection.
(In response, Gfroehrer testified that Calice's vehicle gave no indication that it was not going to stop, that Calice did not sound his horn, and that he had not heard any screeching brakes.)
The jury found that Werner Enterprises had been negligent with respect to the accident, and that both the company's and Calice's negligence had been factual causes in bringing about Gfroehrer's injuries.
No contributory negligence was found as against Gfroehrer.
Gfroehrer was awarded a total of $4 million in damages.
Thanks to for this information.  Click here for a full free report, including what type of injuries the Plaintiff suffered that justified such a large verdict.

Pennsylvania Superior to hear cases in Scranton

From the Towanda Daily Review:

The broad range of the cases that come before the Pennsylvania Superior Court will do so at Lackawanna College's Mellow Theater Tuesday, starting at 9:30 a.m. and Wednesday, starting at 10 a.m. as a three-judge panel bring appellate action to Scranton. The Superior Court is an appellate court which hears all criminal and most civil case appeals from the trial courts in each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. Elevating that court's profile has been a goal of President Judge Correale Stevens. 
Now in his second year as president judge, this is the second time the court is conducting business in Northeast Pennsylvania. Last year, the court heard arguments at MMI Preparatory School in Hazleton. The court has had other remote sessions around the state. 
"My goal is for people to understand the appellate court process," said Judge Stevens, who earlier in his career was a district attorney in Luzerne County and a state representative. "Most people understand trial courts but don't really grasp the importance or function of appellate courts." 
Perhaps the biggest difference is appellate courts do not hear evidence, or have juries or witnesses. Rather, they hear arguments over points of law - which doesn't make for as compelling television as a trial court. Nevertheless, the far-ranging case are certainly real-life.