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Personal Injury Lawsuits for Hearing Loss

Significant hearing loss can have profound consequences, from a life-long reliance on hearing aids to loss of enjoyment in music, challenges holding conversations, and other problems. Hearing loss can also be accompanied by pain and uncomfortable auditory conditions, like tinnitus. A wide variety of accidents can cause hearing loss. It’s easy to imagine someone suffering ear damage in a car accident, for example: a blow to the head, or exposure to very loud sounds, could lead to long-term hearing problems.

Because damaged hearing is a significant injury, it can be the basis of a personal injury lawsuit, or form part of a broader set of claims arising from a defendant’s negligent behavior. A claim for hearing loss will need to contend with similar issues as other forms of personal injury. Some of the common issues faced by a plaintiff in such cases include:

  • Causation. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions were the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury. How difficult this question is to answer will depend on the facts of the case. If the plaintiff suffered hearing damage during a car accident the relationship between the defendant’s actions and the hearing damage may be relatively simple. Other cases may require expert testimony to establish how the defendant’s actions led to hearing loss.
  • Actual injury. One of the challenges of proving hearing loss can be a lack of base-line information. This is a common problem in workers ‘compensation cases and why police, fire fighters, and other first responders are required to get their hearing tested regularly. If an event causes a sudden reduction in hearing the plaintiff may be able to recover compensation only for the amount of hearing that was actually lost as a consequence of the event. If the plaintiff doesn’t have a medically accurate measure of his or her hearing before the event, establishing the amount of loss may be more difficult and, therefore, full compensation may be more difficult to obtain.
  • Quantifying the injury. A challenge in any personal injury case is determining the appropriate amount of compensation that the defendant is responsible for paying to the plaintiff. Hearing loss often requires a range of concrete costs, such as specialist medical care and expensive hearing aids. It can also cause long-term ear pain and headaches. For some plaintiffs, especially musicians, loss of hearing can impact earning potential. Accounting for all these damages is important for ensuring that plaintiffs get the most from their claims.

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. If you have suffered hearing loss as a consequence of another person’s negligence and you have questions about your legal options, call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We’re available at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Professional Musicians and Hearing Loss

Professional Musicians and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a common problem among professional musicians. It isn’t just a problem for rock n’ rollers who keep their amplifiers dialed to eleven. Classical musicians also face a serious risk of long-term ear damage. Degraded hearing can affect a musician’s career, especially if it is serious enough to make playing with others too difficult.

Workers’ compensation for hearing loss

Musicians who have the benefit of working for a regular employer in Nevada should be able to rely upon their employers’ workers’ compensation insurance coverage to provide benefits in the event that work-related hearing loss requires treatment or even a career change. Coverage should be provided regardless of whether the musician is characterized as an employee or an independent contractor, provided the work is regular and the musician hasn’t signed a contract agreeing to be excluded from the broad definition of “employee” under Nevada law.

For a musician who qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits, a key question will be whether the hearing loss arose in the course and scope of employment. An insurer will require an independent evaluation intended to explore alternative sources of the hearing loss. Musicians can take a number of steps to protect their hearing and reduce the chances of a claim being denied:

  • Wear hearing protection, especially when not at work. For example, musicians who are also gun enthusiasts should wear protection while shooting.
  • Get routine hearing tests to establish a record and catch problems early.
  • Avoid performing in loud settings outside of work. For example, an orchestra trumpeter who moonlights in a jazz band probably will face questions about whether the jazz band was responsible for some or all of the hearing loss.

Not all musicians are entitled to workers’ compensation

Of course, most musicians pursue their art as a side job, without a steady employer. Under NRS 616A.110(3) workers’ compensation coverage need not cover a musician who is hired on a casual basis for a gig that doesn’t last more than two consecutive days and doesn’t recur for the same employer. The object of the rule is to carve out special events, like weddings, so their organizers aren’t on the hook for expensive insurance. On its face, the exception wouldn’t put a semi-professional setting like a community theater off the hook. But it likely covers most venues who hire musicians for one or two nights.

Musicians who don’t work for an agency but who earn a steady living doing impromptu gigs may want to consider buying insurance for themselves. The cheapest form of insurance, of course, are custom-made ear plugs designed for musicians. Although initially expensive, they are significantly cheaper than the long-term consequences of ear damage.

GGRM is a Las Vegas law firm

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez represents clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. If you have suffered hearing loss as a consequence of your work as a musician, our attorneys are happy to discuss your legal options with you. For a no-cost attorney consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

How to Handle Work-Related Hearing Loss

How to Handle Work-Related Hearing Loss

Nevada’s workers’ compensation laws treat hearing loss as an occupational disease. Like some other kinds of disease, such as cancer, hearing loss can raise challenging evidentiary problems for workers who seek workers’ compensation coverage. A sudden, catastrophic loss of hearing caused by a single loud noise is relatively straightforward. But often hearing degrades over the course of routine exposure to loud sounds, like noisy engines, sirens, or gun shots. When the hearing loss is due to an accumulation of small incidents, proving that the employer is responsible can be a challenge.

The types of hearing loss

A good starting point for anyone thinking about how hearing loss relates to workers’ compensation is to understand the kinds of hearing loss. Hearing loss is divided into three types. Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems in the outer or middle ear that prevent some frequencies from reaching the inner ear, where sounds are converted into electrical signals that the brain interprets. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by things like ear infections, fluid from colds, or punctured ear drums. Exposure to loud noise doesn’t cause conductive hearing loss. Work-related conductive hearing loss would need to involve something more than just noise: an object getting stuck in the outer ear, for example.

Sensorineural hearing loss is the second type. It takes place in the inner ear and can be caused by aging, genetic predisposition, or illnesses. It can also be caused by exposure to loud noises, making it the more likely type of hearing loss to be covered by workers’ compensation.

The third type of hearing loss is a mix of the first two. Someone who has noise-related damage to the inner ear and routine fluid buildup in the middle ear due to allergies might be diagnosed with mixed hearing loss. In these cases, the challenge is to allocate the relative significance of the two (or more) causes of hearing loss. An audiologist may be able to distinguish between different causes and provide a diagnosis of the extent to which sensorineural hearing loss is a factor.

Where the work is loud, problems arise

Employers that regularly expose their workers to loud noises are routinely advised, and in some cases required, to put their employees through pre-employment hearing tests (or audiograms). A test at the beginning of employment provides a baseline that serves at least two important purposes. First, it relieves the employer of any obligation for covering existing hearing loss that might have occurred at the employee’s prior jobs. Second, it can serve as evidence of how much hearing loss the employee has suffered, especially if the loss has been gradual. In some cases, like firefighters and police officers (see NRS 617.454), employees are required to undergo routine hearing tests.

The timing requirement for reporting an occupational disease poses a real challenge to employees who have suffered hearing loss. Nevada law requires employees to report an occupational disease within seven days of knowing about the disease and its relationship to their job. NRS 617.342(1). But determining when an employee “knew” about the hearing loss can be difficult. Waiting too long to act can be grounds for a denied claim. For that reason, workers who think their hearing has been affected by their jobs shouldn’t wait to begin the reporting and claims process.

Experienced workers’ compensation attorneys can help

The attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez specialize in resolving complicated workers’ compensation problems. We have served employees in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years, and we’d be happy to answer your questions. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.