Articles Posted in Workers Compensation

Last month, President Barack Obama declared April 28 Workers’ Memorial Day. OSHA (the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration) memorialized fallen workers across the country. At the same time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported its final numbers for worker fatalities in 2012. That year, 4,628 workers lost their lives on the job. This was a slight decrease in national workplace death statistics compared to 2011.

Baltimore, MD workers’ compensation lawyers like us know that any life lost on the job is a tragedy, both for the worker and his or her family. No one plans to go off to work and not come home that day. But accidents happen, sometimes due to negligence or recklessness on the part of employers, property owners, company owners and even coworkers. Construction accidents — particularly falls — remain one of the top causes of worker injury and death in the U.S.

The preliminary 2012 workplace fatality data for Baltimore / Towson, Maryland reflect national trends. But one of the top two causes of worker death in our region may not be what you’d expect. According to the BLS, 34 people died on the job or as a result of work-related injury in Baltimore – Towson in 2012. This was up from 28 worker deaths in 2011. Transportation accidents tied for the top cause of workplace fatality. The other top reason people die on the job in Baltimore – Towson might surprise you: Workplace violence.

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When an employee suffers an injury or work-related illness, their lives literally may be at stake. As Maryland Workers’ Compensation lawyers, we work with hurt and sick workers to obtain the compensation they need while they’re recovering from their work injury or illness. This means promptly filing a Maryland Work Comp claim and sometimes, taking the employer to court if they refuse to honor the claim in a timely manner.

One law that provides workers who become seriously ill with some protection is the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which Congress passed 20 years ago under the Clinton administration. The Act ensures job security by providing workers *who meet certain requirements* (this is significant) with 12 weeks of unpaid leave, to care for a family member (including maternity/paternity care) or to care for themselves in the event of injury or illness. The law was designed to protect sick workers from losing their jobs or medical coverage.

Some employee rights advocates heralded the FMLA as the beginning of a “Workers’ First” attitude in the U.S. However, others have criticized the Act as not going far enough, as it does not require all employers to provide the unpaid-leave benefit for all employees (see link to terms of the law below) — and some people simply can’t afford to take 12 weeks off without pay. Considering how exorbitant medical expenses rack up quickly, this is significant for sick workers in Maryland and everywhere else.

The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) announced its plan to inspect workplaces in industries with increased hazards for worker illness, injury, and death.

OSHA announced in a press release that the Site-Specific Targeting 2012 plan aims inspections at high-hazard, non-construction site workplaces with 20 or more workers. The plan is the result of data collected from a survey of 80,000 establishments in high-hazard industries. Industries surveyed included farming, automotive, trucking, packing and crating, manufacturing, grocery, lumber, department stores, as well as hospitals and psychiatric and nursing facilities.

Baltimore, Maryland Worker’s Compensation lawyers like us know that construction work can be very dangerous. A fair number of our work injury cases result from construction workers who suffer injuries from slip and fall accidents, being struck by machinery or objects, and construction vehicle accidents. However worker hazards exist in other non-construction industries target by OSHA – both nationally and regionally, here in the Mid-Atlantic.

A high-profile case this past summer drew attention to an issue we Baltimore County work accident injury lawyers encounter with our clients. What happens if you’re hurt at work in Maryland, but your employer is based out of state? What if your work in Maryland requires you to travel and work at employer sites in other states? How does Maryland Workers Compensation fit into the picture?

Work-related injuries can happen to people in just these types of situations. Often they are sales people, construction workers, and others who travel for their Maryland jobs. But not always.

This past summer, former Washington Redskins pro football player Tom Tupa took his Workers Compensation claim to the Maryland High Court. In August 2005, Tupa injured his back while playing a pre-season game at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. However, he had an employment contract with Pro-Football, Inc., which is based in Virginia. Tupa and his attorneys pursued the Workers Compensation claim in Maryland courts, asserting that because the injury happened in Maryland – Maryland Workers Comp should cover Tupa’s injuries.

“Is it hot enough for you?” Folks jokingly use that rather tepid greeting when temperatures rise to uncomfortable levels. However heat stroke is no laughing matter. Vast parts of the U.S. have experienced record-breaking heat this summer, with some states seeing temps soar and stay above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Baltimore, Maryland and entire the Mid-Atlantic region have not escaped the brutal heat, as we’ve sweated under a heat advisory for much of the summer.

People who work outside in Maryland performing manual labor jobs at are greater risk for suffering heat stroke and heat-related illnesses, which can lead to death. This includes people who work in the construction industry as well as farm workers in Maryland.

With these hard-working people and their employers in mind, the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) announced a national campaign aimed at preventing worker injury and death from heat-related illness. The Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers aims to educate business owners, managers, and employees to learn who is at risk, the signs of heat illness, and how to respond if a worker is in distress.

Maryland lawmakers have moved forward with legislation that seeks to privatize the state-run Workers’ Compensation fund. S.B. 745 seeks to require the Maryland Injured Workers’ Insurance Fund (IWIF) to restructure into a private workers’ compensation insurance fund, to be known as the Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Co.

The bill was introduced to the Maryland State Senate on Feb. 3 by State Senator Thomas M. Middleton and is co-sponsored by State Senators Katherine Klausmeier and Delores G. Kelley. The bill passed with amendments in the Maryland State Senate in mid-March, and has moved to its first reading in the House (House Bill 1017).

Since 1914, the IWIF has been the Maryland workers’ compensation insurer of last resort — meaning it has written policies for employers who couldn’t otherwise find suitable insurance in the private marketplace. The Baltimore Business Journal reports that the IWIF has been Maryland’s largest workers’ comp insurer — providing insurance for some 21,000 Maryland businesses (more than 20 percent). That amounted to about $170 million in policies written in 2011.

A Towson, Maryland rehabilitation center has been sued by the United States Department of Labor for allegedly mishandling employees’ retirement contributions. According to a news release, the U.S. Labor Dept. has filed a lawsuit against Towson Rehabilitation Center LLC and its CEO for failure to remit employees’ retirement contributions to the company’s 401K plan.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore, seeks to restore all plan losses and “permanently bar the defendants from serving in a fiduciary capacity to any employee benefit plan…” covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

A case such as this suggests an alleged breakdown in trust between the employer and employees–in this case, with workers’ retirement contributions at stake. Trust can also break down when someone is injured at work, and the employer may not always do what is in the best interest of the injured employee.

Which are the most dangerous occupations in Maryland? What types of fatal work-related accidents occur most frequently? As we look ahead to 2012, it’s worth looking to the recent past to consider Maryland workplace safety, accidents that happen on the job, and trends.

The answers may be found in the most recent Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) survey results, which are available to the public (see link below). Some highlights from the 2008 Maryland Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries…

> Nonfatal work related injuries and illnesses in Maryland declined in 2008, numbering at 75,000. Maryland is statistically one of the safer states in which to work in the U.S., with a “TRC” (total recordable case) incidence rate that’s 12 percent below the national average. (Md.’s TRC rate was, for 2008, 3.7 injuries and illnesses per 100 equivalent full-time workers.)

What would happen to you and your family if you were hurt on the job and temporarily or permanently disabled? For construction workers, electricians, machinists, farmers, truck drivers, and others in high-risk occupations, surviving a Maryland work accident can be just the start of an uphill battle. Keeping up with day-to-day medical and living expenses, while recovering from a work-related accident, can be an enormous struggle for injured Md. workers and their families.

Harford County, Md. work comp injury lawyers know families may struggle just to get by in the wake of a work related accident. This is why we work hard to relieve injured Maryland workers and their families of the burden of dealing with their Maryland Workers’ Compensation claims and well as related legal claims and lawsuits.

How much money can a Maryland injured worker expect to receive when filing a Workers’ Comp claim on their own? The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission posted its Workers’ Compensation Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) for the New Year. Let’s take a look at a few numbers and consider what that could mean for injured Md. workers and their families.

Did you know that in the U.S., an average of 12 people die on the job every day? As an experienced Baltimore County work injury lawyer will tell you — no one heads off to work in Maryland not expecting to make it home for dinner that night.

But for people in dangerous jobs, including shipyard workers, commercial truck drivers, farm and agricultural workers, and those in the construction fields, serious and fatal work accidents can and do happen in Maryland.

New Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that the U.S. as a whole showed little change in the overall number of workers killed on the job last year as compared to 2009. Preliminary results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries show that in 2010, an estimated 4,547 workers died from work-related injuries, down from 4,551 fatal work injuries in 2009. Some improvements…