Posted On: March 31, 2009

Maryland Workers Comp Eligibility: Hurt at Work? "Report and Record"

Earlier this month, I talked about how the Maryland Workers Comp system is tilted in the employer's favor, and how important it is for injured workers to take charge of their situations right away. (See "Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer on Maryland Workers Compensation System," March 18, 2009, below.)

My partner and I have handled personal injury cases for injured workers in Maryland for more than two decades. We've seen all kinds of work comp cases, from people who throw their backs out lifting something heavy, to typists who develop carpal tunnel syndrome, to a client who got bit by a mosquito and contracted malaria while on a sales call to a foreign country. We've seen industrial accidents resulting in burns and other serious injuries, and people who suffer shock and psychiatric problems as the result of a traumatic event at work, like a robbery.

Advice for Injured Workers in Maryland
Our experience has literally covered the entire range of possible problems that can occur at work and cause injury. Here are a few tips on what to do right away if you suffer a personal injury at work in Maryland.

1. Report the Injury to Your Supervisor Immediately
Let's say you wrench your back lifting a box at work. TELL YOUR SUPERVISOR IMMEDIATELY that you think you may have injured yourself -- whether you're sure you're hurt or not. You don't have to put it in writing to them or put on a show by flopping around on the floor. Just tell your supervisor. Don't leave the premises to take a break at McDonald's or to try to walk it off. Tell him or her right away.

By law in Maryland, if you tell your boss you think you've been hurt at work, she has to file an "Employer's First Report of Injury" form with the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission -- written documentation that can save your bacon down the road if the insurance company starts to question whether or not your herniated disc was caused by a work injury. If you wait to report your injury, the workers comp insurance carrier could say your injury happened someplace else besides at work. Then you're in for an uphill battle.

2. Record the Details Surrounding Your Injury
If you are physically able, write down the circumstances of your injury -- what you were doing, the environment (including lighting, the condition of the floor and workspace), the equipment you were using -- anything that might come into play if your claim is questioned. Don't let loyalty to your employer prevent you from protecting your own health and well-being. What a lot of people don't understand is you may have the nicest employer in the world. But when you're filing a Workers Comp claim in Maryland, you're dealing with insurance companies, not your employer.

Related Web Resources

Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH)

Posted On: March 25, 2009

Maryland Motorcycle Helmet Law Debate

Some Maryland motorcycle riders would like the state to relax its mandatory helmet law, which was enacted in 1992 to decrease the rate of Maryland motorcycle crash fatalities. Senator John Astle (D-Annapolis), who is himself a biker, is behind the latest push in the General Assembly to allow exemptions to the helmet law for some cyclists.

Sen. Astle presented a proposal to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in Annapolis, Maryland, earlier this month which would allow a helmet law exemption for motorcycle riders aged 21 or older who have been licensed to operate a motorcycle for at least two years, or who have completed a safety course approved by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or the Motor Vehicle Administration.

Maryland Fatal Motorcycle Crash Statistics
According to the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program, motorcycle crashes are on the rise, up from 1,749 in 2005 to 1,804 in 2006. This rise in fatal motorcycle accidents in Maryland corresponds with national statistics: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle operator deaths have increased an alarming 138 percent -- amounting to 4,155 fatalities in 2006, up from 1,742 deaths in 1997 (NHTSA, "An Analysis of Motorcycle Helmet Use In Fatal Crashes," Aug. 2008).

Maryland is one of several states with a mandatory helmet law for all motorcycle operators. Bikers who want the law relaxed say helmets encroach on their personal freedom. Those who object to changing the Maryland motorcycle helmet law say not only does it save lives, but it cuts down on the costs and burden incurred by the insurance industry and the health care system when motorcyclists involved in crashes suffer serious injury or death.

The Maryland motorcycle helmet law is challenged every year in the legislature. The argument for maintaining the law may seem obvious to those of us who prefer to drive with four tires on the pavement beneath us: Motorcyclists are at a significant physical disadvantage when involved in a crash with other motor vehicles. An experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer looks at the details surrounding a motorcycle accident to determine who may be at fault and whether there is a compensable case to pursue.

Motorcyclists: 'Let those who ride, decide' March 16, 2009

Related Web Resources

Motorcycle Safety Foundation

Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program: Choose Safety for Life

Posted On: March 18, 2009

An Introduction to the Maryland Workers Compensation System

Unlike a lot of states, the Maryland Workers' Compensation system is very adversarial. In some states, the hurdle injured workers have to get over to receive compensation is ridiculously low. They basically just need to prove that they were hurt at work -- or anything remotely close to work. If they were injured driving to or home from work, they're covered. Even if they were goofing around and got hurt at work, they're covered. In Maryland, it's different.

Maryland is an “at will” employment state, meaning you can be fired at will by your employer, providing they're not violating any Federal laws against discrimination for age, gender, race, etc. The playing field is not level -- it's tilted in the employer's favor. And that goes for the Maryland Workers Comp system, too.

The bright spot is if you're injured on the job in Maryland, your employer is required by law to carry workers' compensation insurance. Even if they don't have it -- which I've seen a dozen times or so in 20 years of helping injured workers in Maryland -- the Uninsured Employers' Fund will step in and pay. So the good news is if you're hurt at work in Maryland and if you have a compensable claim, your employer has insurance to cover it.

The first high hurdle that you have to face is proving you have a compensable claim.

Hurt at Work in Maryland? Don't Wait to Seek a Lawyer's Advice
An experienced Maryland Workers Comp attorney helps people who are hurt in the line of their work navigate the insurance claims process and receive compensation for their injuries. If you are hurt at work, don’t be shy and don’t feel guilty or bad about it. Call a lawyer and say, “Listen, I’m not even sure that I’m looking at filing a work comp case, but here's what happened. What should I do?” It's important that you at least know where you stand, and exactly what rights you do (and do not) have. Because if you don’t, trust me--the employer is already doing things that they have to do by law that sets a sequence of events into motion that puts you at a disadvantage. It’s a lot like being in a foot race, and allowing your opponent to start ahead of you. Not good.

What you do in the first couple days of getting hurt at work in Maryland will determine whether you are going to have a successful case or not. Please visit my blog again for more on the Maryland Workers' Compensation system and what to do if you are hurt on the job in Maryland.

Related Web Resources

Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH)

Posted On: March 5, 2009

Maryland Teen Driver Safety and Accident Statistics

The AAA has a new report on the hazards of teen driving, not only for the young drivers behind the wheel but to their passengers, people in other cars, and pedestrians. The report states that in fatal auto accidents involving teenage drivers, the majority of people killed are passengers and others involved besides the young drivers themselves.

As Baltimore Maryland injury lawyers, my partners and I are aware of what can go wrong when a young driver makes a mistake in judgment or loses control when operating a motor vehicle. Some national statistics from the AAA report:

  • In the U.S. between 1998-2007, crashes with drivers aged 15 to 17 resulted in the deaths of 28,138 people.
  • Of the total number killed, about 37% were teen drivers themselves, with 10,388 teenage drivers losing their lives in auto accidents.

Maryland Law and Teenage Drivers
Maryland car accidents involving teenage drivers are on the minds of our state's insurance officials and lawmakers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) made a statement before the Maryland Senate Committee on Judicial Proceedings on Senate Bill 265 presenting research on the hazards of teenage driving—particularly when passengers are involved and when teens drive at night. From the IIHS statement:

  • In Maryland, between 1998-2007, in fatal car crashes involving 16 to 19 year old youths -- 353 young drivers and 230 passengers were killed. About 39% of the deaths were passengers.
  • When a Maryland driver is 16, the ratio in fatal accidents is about 50-50, with near equal numbers of drivers and passengers killed.

Since 1979, Maryland has had a graduated licensing law with nighttime driving restrictions for teenage drivers. Maryland also restricts the numbers of passengers these young drivers may carry. These and other safety measures can and do reduce fatal auto accidents in Maryland: The AAA reported that over the last decade, NHTSA data have shown a reduction in teen driver deaths as well as fatalities for others involved in teen driving accidents. Links for both the AAA report and IIHS statement are below.

Teen Drivers Pose Bigger Threat To Others Feb. 27, 2009

Related Web Resources

AAA Report: Teen Crashes: Everyone Is At Risk
People Fatally-Injured In Motor Vehicle Crashes Involving 15- to 17-Year-Olds

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:
Statement before the Maryland Senate Committee on Judicial Proceedings on Senate Bill 265:
Passenger and Nighttime Restrictions for Young Drivers