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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.

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.

Volunteers and Workers’ Compensation in Nevada

Volunteers and Workers’ Compensation in Nevada

Organizations that rely on volunteers to do some of their work should carry adequate insurance to cover the possibility that a volunteer is injured on the job. But volunteers who suffer injuries while helping out causes they care about can be surprised to discover that the organization’s insurance program doesn’t cover them. That is in part because employers are not required to provide workers’ compensation coverage for most types of volunteers. And when they do, the unsalaried nature of a volunteer position can raise questions about the scope of benefits the injured worker should receive.

Volunteers are not necessarily covered by workers’ comp

Nevada law provides that “employees” must be covered by an employer’s workers’ compensation plan. Independent contractors, subcontractors, and their employees can fall within the scope of mandatory coverage as well. In general, because volunteers are not employees the organizations for which they work are not required to give them workers’ compensation benefits. There are a number of exceptions to this general rule: volunteer firefighters and volunteer health practitioners are two examples of volunteers who receive benefits.

One of the reasons an organization that relies upon volunteers might seek workers’ compensation coverage for them is to avoid facing expensive personal injury litigation in the event a volunteer is hurt. Once a person is covered by workers’ compensation insurance it becomes his or her sole remedy as a matter of law, except in rare cases of intentional injury. A volunteer who isn’t covered by workers’ comp benefits may be placed in the difficult position of needing to file a personal injury lawsuit against the organization they support.

Calculating a volunteer’s benefits

A volunteer who is fortunate enough to be covered by workers’ compensation benefits should have medical expenses taken care of. One of the key questions in these cases is how to calculate the volunteer’s lost wages in the event the volunteer must take time off from a regular job. Because the volunteer work isn’t compensated, there isn’t a clear measure against which to calculate lost wages with respect to the volunteer work. And what about lost wages from the regular job?

The Nevada Supreme Court recently examined this question in Felton v. Douglas County, No. 70497 (Nev. Feb. 15, 2018). In a nutshell, the Felton case held that an injured volunteer’s “deemed wage” benefits should be calculated taking into account all of the worker’s concurrent employment. In other words, an organization’s workers’ compensation coverage should provide lost wages benefits that are calculated according to a volunteer’s full employment picture, not just the volunteer work itself.

For over 45 years the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. If you have been injured while volunteering and have questions about how to resolve your situation, we may be able to help. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.

When Must a Work-Related Injury Be Reported?

When Must a Work-Related Injury Be Reported?

People who get injured at work sometimes feel that they shouldn’t say anything about it. Perhaps the culture of the workplace encourages a “grin and bear it” attitude. Perhaps a worker is concerned about losing the job or being judged harshly by a manager. Whatever the reason, workers do themselves a disservice by not reporting workplace injuries. Failing to do so can jeopardize workers’ compensation benefits to which workers are entitled by law.

The basic rule workers should follow is to always report every incident where an injury has occurred on the job. In cases where the injury is serious, the first step is always to seek medical care. But once the initial treatment is provided, it’s important to report the incident. Nevada provides a prescribed form for this purpose: Form C-1 Notice of Injury or Occupational Disease. The employee must submit the form to his or her employer no later than seven days after the incident, or after discovering an occupational disease.

If the injury doesn’t require medical intervention, Form C-1 may be the only reporting step required. But when an injury does call for further health care, the fact that the employee submitted the initial report ensures that treatment will be covered by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Other reports become necessary when the employee goes to the doctor for treatment. The physician’s office will assist the employee to complete the next forms in the process, which are used to begin the insurance claims process through which the health care provider gets paid.

Nevada employers must comply with state and federal laws that require employers to report serious injury incidents. In Nevada an employer has 24 hours from the time it receives notice of a qualifying injury to notify the Division of Industrial Relations of any employee injury requiring hospitalization, amputation, or the loss of an eye. Among other things, these reports trigger an inspection by the state.

What if the employee didn’t complete Form C-1 at the time of the injury, but it later becomes evident that the injury isn’t superficial but requires medical intervention? In this case employees should still submit the paperwork and tell their health care provider that the injury is work-related. There can be legitimate reasons why an injury doesn’t appear serious at first. For example, an injury that gets infected, or a muscle strain that later turns out to be a tear, could still qualify for benefits even though it wasn’t reported immediately after the event. However, employees in this circumstance can expect to face questions from insurance adjusters who are paid to find excuses to deny coverage.

Working with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney from the beginning of the claims process can address many problems before they arise. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served injured workers for over 45 years. If you have questions about a work-related injury and how to get workers’ compensation benefits, call us today for a free attorney consultation. Reach us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

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.

The Scope of Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Nevada

The Scope of Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Nevada

Just about every kind of work involves the possibility of injury. People who work in risky professions like construction, law enforcement, or firefighting know that the risk of injury comes with the job. But even desk workers can develop repetitive motion injuries. Fortunately, Nevada’s workers’ compensation law provides injured workers with a range of protections and benefits to help them get back on their feet after suffering an injury at work.

1. Medical treatment.

The most important benefit of workers’ compensation coverage is medical treatment for injuries. Serious injuries can require treatments with costs ranging into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. By requiring employers to carry insurance, Nevada protects employees from being financially ruined solely because of a work-related injury.

The scope of medical treatment coverage is not boundless. A few of its characteristics include the following:

  • Only treatment for conditions related to an injury that arises out of and in the course of employment will be covered. NRS 616C.137. An insurer, third-party administrator, or employer may review each invoice and deny coverage for any services that they believe fall outside the scope of the work-related injury. This can be a problem when an insurer believes that an injury is not as serious as the worker’s physician believes, or if the worker needs care that appears to be outside the scope of the injury, even though it is appropriate (for example, psychological counseling after a serious fall).
  • Injured workers have the right to choose a doctor from a prescribed list of approved physicians, however the insurer can require evaluations by a doctor of the insurer’s choosing.
  • Doctors who prescribe medication to workers’ comp recipients must prescribe generic versions, unless the generic form is not medically beneficial or more expensive than the branded version. NRS 616C.115.
  • If problems from an injury persist after the initial period of coverage has closed, the worker may request a reopening of benefits.

2. Disability benefits.

An injured worker is entitled to temporary and permanent disability benefits when appropriate. The level of disability determines the kind of compensation that is available:

  • Workers are placed on temporary total disability if they are unable to return to work for more than five days. Such workers are entitled to receive two-thirds of their average monthly wage, up to a maximum of about $3,700 per month, until they return to work or until their medical treatment has run its course.
  • Workers are placed on temporary partial disability if their injuries prevent them from returning to their old position, but they can still return to work on light duty. Such workers receive two-thirds of their normal pay, less the amount they earn doing light duty work for up to 24 months.
  • Workers are placed on permanent total disability if their injuries are serious enough to make working impossible. Such workers receive the same rate as someone who is temporarily totally disabled, but for the duration of the permanent disability (possibly for life).
  • Workers are placed on permanent partial disability if their injuries impair part, but not all of their ability to work. A permanent partial disability is given a percentage value to reflect the amount by which it impairs the person’s ability to work. The percentage is used to determine how much monthly compensation the worker is entitled to receive.

3. Vocational rehabilitation services.

Injured workers who aren’t able to return to their old positions may qualify for vocational rehabilitation services. These services help injured workers find other work or get retrained. The length of time such benefits will be available depend on how the worker’s disability is categorized.

GGRM is a Las Vegas workers’ compensation law firm

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients protect their rights to workers’ compensation benefits. If you have questions about Nevada’s workers’ compensation laws, reach out to us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. Call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.