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Can a Nevada Workers’ Comp Claim be Reopened?

In an ideal world every injury would have a predictable, consistent path to recovery, or at the very least a clearly defined range of potential harms. Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. An injury can be misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed at preliminary medical appointments, or its treatment can lead to unexpected complications that require additional medical care or expensive drugs that weren’t part of the original plan. For someone who is receiving care under a workers’ compensation claim, these kinds of complications can require a claim to be reopened.

“Reopening” a workers’ compensation claim can be necessary if an insurer has formally indicated that its financial obligations with respect to it have been fulfilled—that is, the claim has been closed. Closing claims is one of the ways insurers manage the predictability of their costs: by closing a claim, the insurer knows with certainty how much it had to pay, and how much it needs to pass on to the employer. Reopening a claim therefore necessarily involves a degree of paperwork.

Nevada law sets out specific procedures for when and how a workers’ compensation claim may be reopened. The specific procedure depends on how long the claim has been closed. For claims that have been closed less than one year, the insurer is only required to reopen the claim if:

  1. Medical evidence demonstrates that an objective change in the claimant’s medical condition has taken place.
  2. There is clear and convincing evidence that the claimant’s change in circumstances was primarily caused by the injury covered by the original claim.

A claim must be reopened within one year of being closed if the claimant wasn’t forced off of work for at least five days, and didn’t receive benefits for permanent partial disability. In other words, for relatively minor injuries workers have a shorter timeframe to reopen their claims.

To reopen a claim that has been closed for a year or more, the claimant must show three things:

  1. A change of circumstances (complications during recovery, discovery of previously undiagnosed problems, and so on) warrants an increase or rearrangement of compensation.
  2. The primary cause of the change of circumstances was the injury covered by the original claim.
  3. The claimant’s doctor has provided a certificate attesting to the change of circumstances.

Any effort to reopen a claim must be grounded in an assertion that the reopened claim remains completely related to the original claim. That is to say, the ongoing circumstances of the worker’s condition must relate to a job-related injury. If circumstances that were unrelated to the original claim have since intervened, the insurer will deny the request to reopen the claim.

If an insurer denies a request to reopen a claim it may be necessary to sue. It is always a good idea to consult with an attorney before starting the process of reopening a claim to reduce the likelihood that a request will be denied and to have a plan for contesting a denial. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in workers’ compensation cases for over 45 years. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.

Common Construction Site Injuries

Construction workers have some of the most dangerous jobs in the country. They and their employers need to take safety very seriously to keep injuries to a minimum. Ideally a safety program has a flawless record, but accidents can and do still happen. Some of the common sources of injury at construction sites include:

  • Injuries from equipment. Because of the powerful forces involved, accidents involving tools and heavy machinery can cause particularly serious injuries, like amputations. The risk of injury is greater if equipment isn’t properly maintained, or is modified to remove safety features.
  • Trip hazards are commonplace at construction sites. So are projects that are high off the ground. Falls from scaffolding, or into holes, are frequent events.
  • Injuries from vehicles. With heavy trucks, bulldozers, and other large vehicles moving around a job site, there’s always a risk that someone could be struck, run over, or crushed. A worker wearing hearing protection might not hear the warning signal of a backing truck. Vehicles might slip on loose or muddy ground.
  • Falling objects. Even a relatively small item dropped from significant height can pose a serious danger to people below. Hard hats help, but a hammer dropped on an unprotected shoulder can cause long-term problems.
  • Heat-related injuries. In Nevada we often experience weather that is hot enough to pose a significant health danger to people who are doing strenuous work outdoors. Heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other serious complications can result if workers aren’t provided with adequate hydration and opportunities to cool down.
  • Long-term diseases. Illnesses caused by exposure to dust, toxic substances, and carcinogens can be slow to develop and difficult to tie back to a particular job. For example, workers may be exposed to materials like asbestos during a demolition job. The consequence could be respiratory disease or even cancer.

A worker who is injured while on the job at a construction site is entitled to workers’ compensation coverage. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that coverage applies regardless of who was responsible for the injury. In most circumstances, an employer that has legally required workers’ compensation coverage is shielded from being sued for personal injuries. That doesn’t mean, however, that an injured worker doesn’t need the help of an attorney. A workers’ compensation claim can involve complicated nuances. Insurers often try to limit the scope of the coverage they will provide.

A workers’ compensation attorney acts as the workers’ advocate, protecting the worker’s interests in the face of potentially adversarial insurance adjusters. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases for over 45 years. We are standing by to help workers who have been injured at construction sites in Las Vegas and surrounding areas. For a free attorney consultation about your case, call us today at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.

Seeking Compensation for Child Care After an Injury

Parents and other guardians of children can find that caring for a child after a serious injury is significantly harder than it was before the injury occurred. Routine tasks like lifting, driving, doing laundry, or cooking may no longer be possible while recovering from the injury. As a consequence, it may be necessary to hire outside help. Plaintiffs in this circumstance sometimes wonder if they can include the cost of child care in their personal injury lawsuit claims.

Nevada law allows plaintiffs in personal injury cases to include “replacement services” in the scope of the damages that are demanded in a lawsuit. Replacement services essentially covers things that the injured person used to do for themselves, but now must hire an outside person to do. This includes cooking and cleaning, and also includes taking care of children.

Replacement services are a form of economic damage, because they can be tied to real-world numbers. The actual cost of hiring a nanny or housekeeper, hiring a driver to take the kids to school, or hiring someone to cook can be proven with actual invoices or, if the plaintiff hasn’t been able to afford such services before the lawsuit begins, with reference to estimates or averages taken from services available in the plaintiff’s community.

As with other forms of damage, the cost of replacement services must be proven with reasonable certainty to be recoverable. Making a full accounting of the cost of child care will require consideration of a range of factors that include the anticipated likelihood of the plaintiff’s recovery to resume providing child care, and the age of the children involved (i.e., how long replacement services will be needed).

Although parents may seek to recover the highest possible compensation for child care services, courts may place some limits on what can be recovered. For example, a court may consider it unreasonable to provide plaintiffs with sufficient compensation to allow for a full-time, professional caregiver if the plaintiff’s circumstances would allow for a less expensive alternative. If prior to the injury the plaintiff shared child care responsibilities with another adult, the defendant may only be held liable for replacing the plaintiff’s services alone.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation for personal injuries. We are proud of our long history of providing caring, thoughtful service to each client. We work hard to take every part of a client’s life into consideration as we develop our cases. Please call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Las Vegas Window Washers Face Significant Injury Risk

Highrise window washers quite literally step into thin air to do their work. Hanging from the side of buildings, often hundreds of feet in the air, they help to keep Las Vegas sparkling for its visitors. The approach to safety varies from company to company and building to building, depending on the sort of infrastructure incorporated into the building and the approach taken by the window washer. Everything from a scaffold to harness points built into the side of buildings may be used to keep washers safe.

Working at such heights involves significant risk of serious injury or death. People who work in the window washing business need to have a clear understanding of their legal rights so that if they are injured they can take the right course of action to protect themselves. Here are some principles to consider:

  • Make sure your employer has workers’ compensation coverage. Every employer in Nevada is required to cover its employees with workers’ compensation coverage. People who are hired as “independent contractors” generally also have access to their employer’s workers’ compensation coverage. A Nevada employer’s coverage can be verified online. A key question is whether the employer’s coverage is adequate for the sort of risks that employees must face. It’s best to understand these questions before heading up to the top of a skyscraper.
  • Be mindful of safety. All employers are required to maintain their workplaces in safe condition for employees under state and federal occupational safety and health rules (the familiar OSHA standards). These laws are enforced by regulatory agencies at the state and federal level. An employee who has safety concerns that aren’t being addressed by the employer should consider reporting them to authorities. This is especially true of professions like window washing, where inadequate safety measures can turn an otherwise low-risk job into something highly perilous.
  • Understand who is responsible. Window washers often rely on the safety equipment already present at project sites. Things like hydraulic systems, winches, ropes, harnesses, and scaffolds may all be provided by the owner of the building that is being cleaned. When an equipment failure leads to injury it’s important to know if the building owner or operator may have some share of the blame.
  • Be prepared to refuse the job. Working in high winds or with defective equipment dramatically increases the risks window washers face .A scrupulous employer should take such risks very seriously and keep workers off the job until conditions improve. If a manager is insisting that workers should ignore the risks and work anyway, the correct course may be to refuse to work. Under OSHA rules an employer cannot force an employee to continue to work under conditions that are known to be unreasonably dangerous.

Window washers who feel that they are faced with abnormally dangerous working conditions or who have suffered injuries and need help navigating their workers’ compensation claims should consider talking to an attorney about their legal options. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Workers’ Compensation and Depression

Depression is a common side effect of injuries. It can arise as a consequence of the injured person’s changed circumstances—lost enjoyment, sleep problems, diminished career prospects—or it can be a side effect of medications. Like any mental illness, depression can be a difficult condition to reliably prove and document for legal purposes. This includes incorporating it into a workers’ compensation claim.

A baseline requirement for an injury to be covered by workers’ compensation is that it must have arisen out of or in the course of the worker’s employment. When a person suffers mental health problems as a consequence of work-related events, establishing a causal link between work and the illness can take special care. In the case of depression, showing that it arose specifically because of work, or a work-related injury, may be challenging if the person also suffered depression for reasons having nothing to do with work. Someone with a history of depression may have a more difficult time getting coverage.

The problem of proof is an advantage for insurers, who will require injured workers to undergo “independent” evaluations that are often conducted by professionals who have a financial interest in making diagnoses that are favorable to the insurer. Unlike a broken bone, depression can’t be found in a scan or observed in a person’s physical movements. Instead, it has to be evaluated by questioning the patient and potentially the patient’s family members, and may be interpreted according to an evaluator’s subjective opinions.

The link between work and depression may be easier to establish if the worker suffering depression can point to a specific event that triggered it. If a physical injury at work leads to depression, that causal link may help. Depression that can be linked to a particular pain medication prescribed as part of a treatment plan may also be easier to link to work. Nevada law also has specific allowance for mental illness resulting from “extreme stress in times of danger” at work, which may apply if a worker suffers depression due to witnessing or suffering a particularly shocking circumstance on the job, such as a violent accident.

Someone suffering from depression in connection with a work-related incident should not be discouraged from exploring a workers’ compensation claim to cover treatment costs. At Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez we have represented clients in workers’ compensation matters for more than 45 years. For a free attorney consultation about your circumstances call us today at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Should Injured Workers Bring an Attorney to their Medical Exams?

After being injured at work it’s important to follow the steps for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Ideally an employer’s workers’ comp insurer will pick up the costs of the employee’s medical care from the first visit to a doctor until the injury has healed. In reality, though, insurers work hard to limit their exposure to costs related to covered injuries. One way they try to do this is by arguing that the injury is not as significant as the employee claims. This risk can be mitigated by having an attorney present during medical exams.

After receiving a claim for benefits an insurer has the right to require the injured worker to submit to an independent medical examination, or IME. The formal purpose of the IME is to ensure that the insurer is basing its coverage decisions on a reliable and supposedly neutral diagnosis by a physician other than one with which the patient may already have a relationship. In reality insurers often request an IME because they disagree with an initial diagnosis, or have doubts about whether an injury is related to the worker’s job.

The state maintains an official list of physicians who are authorized to perform examinations of work-related injuries. Insurers are very familiar with the doctors on this list. They know who has a history of providing insurer-favorable diagnoses and will steer unwary patients to those doctors whenever possible. When a worker is told to attend an IME, the insurer may provide a limited list of doctors to choose from for the examination. The worker is required to attend the IME, but has the right to request a second opinion from another state-approved doctor if the outcome of that initial exam is not satisfactory.

The IME is potentially one of many “independent” examinations that the patient will undergo over the course of a workers’ comp claim. For example, if the injury results in a permanent partial disability the extent of the disability will need to be evaluated by a physician who is specifically trained in how to do this.

The extent to which a patient needs to have an attorney present at a medical exam will depend on the nature of the injury and the extent to which facts about the injury are in dispute. An attorney can help the patient decide whether having an attorney or other witness on-hand is advisable, but as a general rule it is better to have a witness along than to go alone. The witness can take notes about the examination and may provide important testimony in the event that the results of the exam need to be disputed in a later proceeding. Note that some physicians may claim to have a rule prohibiting others from attending these exams. This should raise concerns that the exam may not be fair, and should be disputed.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured workers get the coverage they deserve. If you have been injured at work, our experienced injury attorneys are standing by to offer advice about your case. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.

Can Workers Sue Employers for Especially Dangerous Conditions at Work?

Some jobs are inherently dangerous. Firefighting, heavy construction, and police work are just a few examples of high-risk professions. Employers in these professions take steps to mitigate the dangers their employees face. Beyond the clear importance of protecting their valued employees from harm, employers also want to avoid the expense of an injured employee (in terms of lost time, insurance, disability accommodations, and so on) and the potential regulatory and media attention that can come from serious accidents. But at what point can employees sue employers for dangerous conditions at work?

State and federal safety laws and regulations provide broad guidelines for workplace safety. Enforced by the federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administrations (OSHA), these rules cover most types of high-risk conditions at work. Specific rules address things like workplace air quality, use of ladders, design and use of heavy equipment, and electrical work. In addition to specific rules, state and federal laws also feature what is called the “general duty clause.” This clause requires employers to provide workplaces that are “free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” 29 U.S.C. § 654(a)(1), NRS 618.375(1).

The primary means of addressing workplace safety concerns is to submit a complaint to the Nevada Department of Business and Industry. If the agency determines that a complaint has merit it will arrange for an inspection of the workplace. Findings from the inspection will be reported to the employer, which has a certain amount of time to resolve the dangerous conditions. If the employer fails to adequately address the problem the agency may take enforcement action against the employer to ensure that noncompliant conditions are resolved.

It’s important to note that employees can’t sue to enforce OSHA rules on their own. Instead, workers who file OSHA complaints or who refuse to work in unreasonably dangerous conditions are protected against retaliation by their employers. If an employer fires an employee under such circumstances it may be liable in a lawsuit for wrongful termination. An employee considering these steps should consult with an attorney to craft a sound strategy.

What about workers who are injured at work by unaddressed safety conditions? Even in these situations a worker’s ability to sue the employer may be limited. Workplace injuries are covered by Nevada’s workers’ compensation system, which has two critical features for this analysis. First, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that the worker’s injuries are covered without consideration for who or what is responsible for the injury. Second, an employer that purchases workers’ compensation insurance ordinarily cannot be sued for personal injury unless the employer deliberately caused the injury or doesn’t carry enough insurance to cover the kinds of risks that its employees face.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area with workplace injuries. If you are concerned about dangerous conditions at your job and you’d like to understand how your legal rights may be affected by taking action to resolve them, call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Asking Employers for Evidence of a Workplace Injury

Nevada law provides that workers’ compensation insurance covers injuries and diseases that arise out of and in the course of employment. The worker making a claim bears responsibility for proving that the injury was work-related. In some cases this burden is relatively easy to meet, but in others it can present challenges. Quite often the employer has important evidence that the worker will need to establish and defend a claim.

One source of challenge for injured workers is the financial incentives of employers and insurers to deny claims or limit their scope. Their efforts to do this get much easier if the worker does not have adequate evidence that the injury or disease arose out of and in the course of employment. If an injury’s relationship to the job is clear from the basic facts, the evidence involved may be relatively straightforward. For example, a warehouse employee who is on the clock and injured when a palette falls off a forklift may face few questions about the work-relatedness of the injury.

But other circumstances have given injured workers more difficulty. Here are a few examples:

  • Workers who are injured during breaks.
  • Injuries suffered while traveling, especially if the travel involves an element of personal time.
  • Diseases that are slow to develop, like cancer or hearing loss.

Cases that involve “unconventional” facts require an especially careful approach to evidence. The employer can be a critically important source of vital details that support a claim. A workers’ compensation attorney helps clients get all the relevant information from employers, preferably as soon as possible following the injury to ensure that facts are still fresh. If the employer isn’t forthcoming with details, an attorney can help the client take more aggressive steps to force the issue. And if the employer has deliberately hidden or destroyed vital evidence, the attorney can ensure that such bad faith efforts do not succeed.

Each case involves unique evidence requirements. Here are a few examples of the kind of evidence an employer may have that the worker will need:

  • Evidence of the cause of the injury, to show that the injury happened at work. (Note that because workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, evidence of responsibility for the injury is not relevant.)
  • Testimony from other employees or managers attesting to the facts of the injury.
  • Documentation related to the injury, especially in cases involving diseases where the employer has conducted some analysis that may serve to show the underlying cause.

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in Las Vegas pursue their workers’ compensation claims. We can help you work with your employer to get the facts you need to ensure that your claim is accepted. Call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

How an Attorney Can Help Your Workers’ Comp Case

People often make workers’ compensation claims without talking to an attorney about their rights. This can be the right approach for relatively minor injuries that can be resolved with one or two visits to a doctor and don’t raise disability or other long-term issues. But in many cases proceeding without an attorney’s help can be a serious mistake. An attorney can help a workers’ compensation claim in a number of important ways:

  • Gathering all the facts. Someone who doesn’t handle workers’ compensation claims all the time may not know what information can be important over the lifetime of a claim. An attorney works with the client to gather all the important facts of the injury or disease, with special focus on documenting information in such a way that it can be used in any future appeals process. Evidence is always important but can be especially critical if there are potential grounds for denying the claim, such as questions about whether or not the injury was truly work related.
  • Managing the insurer relationship. Workers’ compensation insurers would much rather deny every claim if they could. Their adjusters are hired to find every excuse to discourage, discredit, or deny claims. Having an attorney on the case does more than just help keep an eye on the insurer. It also can discourage the insurer from using wrongful methods that an attorney will catch. For example, insurers sometimes don’t provide clear notice of deadlines or required next steps. An attorney can ensure that such errors don’t leave the client without options or give the insurer an inappropriate opportunity to make the claims process more difficult.
  • Keeping an eye on the medical examination process. Someone who has been seriously injured at work will need to submit to one or more medical evaluations by a physician selected by the insurer. The doctors who make these evaluations often have conflicting interests: to win repeat business from the insurer, an evaluator may have an incentive to scale back an initial diagnosis to something that will cost the insurer less. Patients can request that their attorney be present for most types of evaluation exams. The attorney’s job in these cases is to verify that the doctor is following prescribed procedures, and to ensure that the client can protect his or her interests during the exam.

These are just a few of the reasons for working with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to resolve your claim. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients get the most from their workers’ compensation claims. If you would like to speak to an attorney about your case, please call us today for a free, confidential consultation at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.

Seeking Workers’ Compensation Coverage from Former Employers

Someone who has suffered a work-related injury or disease ideally gets covered by an existing employer’s insurance. But injuries and diseases are not always immediately obvious, even if their cause is clearly work-related. Sometimes the need for insurance coverage only comes up after leaving the job where the problem arose. In such cases, the individual’s current employer (assuming the individual is still working) may not be responsible for providing workers’ compensation coverage for the problem.

Instead, the injured person may need to seek compensation under a former employer’s insurance. Such cases involve a number of challenges that are best addressed with the help of a workers’ compensation attorney. Here are a few examples of the kinds of challenges the injured worker can expect to face:

  • The problem of proof. Someone who discovers an injury or disease after leaving a job will need to prove that it was related to a specific job and not some other cause. Insurers are likely to deny claims for injuries that are not clearly tied to a work-related incident. Proof can be especially challenging in cases of slowly developing disease, like cancer. Even if the sick person was exposed to a carcinogen at work, the insurer likely will argue that the cancer could have been caused by something else and therefore isn’t covered.
  • Lack of cooperation from the former employer. Related to the issue of proof is the former employer’s potential lack of interest in the case, or worse the employer’s unavailability due to no longer being in business. Quite often the details of a work-related injury need to come from the employer itself. If the employer no longer is in business, or key witnesses are no longer working there, gathering all the necessary background information may be more difficult.
  • Technical errors. The workers’ compensation system is highly regimented with tight deadlines and specific procedures that must be followed to receive benefits. Insurers seize on technical violations to deny claims. Seeking coverage for an illness or injury after deadlines have passed may give an insurer the excuse they need to deny the claim. Although a technical fault may not mean the end of the claims process, it may mean starting a dispute with the insurer.

Given the added complexity of submitting workers’ compensation claims against former employees, people who find themselves in this situation should seek professional assistance with the process. For more than 40 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped people in the Las Vegas area resolve their workers’ compensation claims disputes. For a free attorney consultation about your case, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.