“You Matter To Us” Podcast
SEASON: 1 EPISODE: 1
Workers‘ compensation insurance provides benefits to employees who are injured on the job and protection to employers who have provided coverage at the time of injury.
In this episode, we’ll discuss the essential Workers’ Compensation questions that come up when a worker is injured, by no fault of their own, while employed in the State of Nevada with an expert, Jason D. Mills, Esq. partner at GGRM Law Firm.
Over his career, Mr. Mills has acted as lead counsel on several thousand contested workers’ compensation claims. He has developed a reputation as a tireless advocate for his injured clients. Mr. Mills has successfully litigated workers’ compensation cases through the Nevada Industrial Insurance system at all levels of the administrative law process; from the initial Hearing Office through the Nevada Supreme Court.
Mr. Mills is also active in the state trial lawyers association, the Nevada Justice Association (NJA). In that capacity, Mr. Mills has both lobbied and testified for the NJA on important issues related to Nevada’s injured workers at the Nevada Legislature since 2015. In 2016 Mr. Mills was elected to the Board of Governors for the NJA. In 2017 Mr. Mills was awarded the NJA’s “Badger Award” for his distinguished service to the association and the people of the State of Nevada. In 2018 Mr. Mills was elected to the Board of Trustees for the Citizens for Justice, the NJA political action committee. In 2018 the State Bar of Nevada selected Mr. Mills as one of the five co-founding board members to serve on the State Bar of Nevada Board of Workers’ Compensation Legal Specialization in order to create and administer a state bar certification and testing process for attorney specialization in the field of Nevada workers’ compensation law. Mr. Mills is also a member of the national trial lawyers association, the American Association of Justice (AAJ), and Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG).
Workers’ Compensation 101 with Jason D. Mills, Esq.
Fri, 6/18 11:34AM • 44:45
employer, Nevada, claim, state, job, benefits, entitled, firefighters, injury, called, injured, fight, pay, employee, statutes, rules, police officers, vocational rehabilitation, workers compensation, law
Kevin Johnson, Jason D. Mills, Esq.
Kevin Johnson 00:00
Today’s episode is workman’s compensation 101. workman’s compensation insurance provides benefits to employees who are injured on the job and protection to employers who have provided coverage at the time of injury.
Kevin Johnson 00:21
So today, I’m here with Jason Mills. He’s a partner at GGRM law firm. Jason, you’ve been practicing workers’ compensation laws since 2000. Is that correct?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 00:24
That’s right. 2000 I earned my bar license. And I’ve been handling workers’ compensation cases since I got my license.
Kevin Johnson 00:30
And why workers’ compensation?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 00:33
I have always been a believer in helping the working class. I grew up in a working-class family. My parents worked in the casinos here in Las Vegas. I was born and raised with family and friends that were in construction and the casinos. There were no professionals, so to speak, in my family. So I saw how working families experienced injuries on the job, including my younger brother, who got injured years ago, and it angered me the way they handled it. And I thought Wish I could do something about that.
Kevin Johnson 01:05
You’re also active in the Nevada Justice Association, otherwise known as the NJA. What is the NJA exactly?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 01:13
The NJA the Nevada Justice Association, it was formerly the Nevada Trial Lawyers Association is the group of primarily claimant or plaintiff attorneys here in Nevada that essentially exists to advance the consumers rights here in Nevada and to ensure access to the courts for those consumers of products and services in our state. And what we do is essentially exist as an educational organization to the community. And we also do things like lobby the legislature on rules and laws and basically engage in other informational training programs for not only our members but people in the community that are interested in the civil justice system and interested in protecting individual and consumer rights.
Kevin Johnson 02:02
Speaking of training, in 2018, the State Bar of Nevada selected you as one of the five co-founding board members to serve on the state bar of Nevada’s board of workers compensation, Legal Specialization. That was in order to create and administer a State Bar certification and testing process for attorneys specializing in the field of Nevada’s Workers Compensation Law.
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 02:28
That’s exactly right. You cannot declare yourself a specialist as a lawyer unless the state bar has given that authority for one to do so. So the State Bar worked closely with the NJA to develop a system of tests and rules and requirements, that if lawyers would like to become specialists, certified specialists in the state of Nevada, in the area of workers compensation, that they need to come before a board that would then administer a test examination to ascertain if attorneys meet that particular requirement myself and for others were selected by the state bar to serve on that board. And we’ve been serving on it for several years now, administering that test, giving examinations to other lawyers that want to be actual certified specialists in the state. So if you want to have a specialization in Nevada and workers’ compensation, you’ve got to come before that board. And I am gratefully a co-founding member of that particular board. I still sit on it today.
Kevin Johnson 03:35
So we could clearly say you’re an expert in the field.
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 03:38
Yes, I am. I actually have the certification myself.
Kevin Johnson 03:41
So what is workers’ compensation?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 03:44
Workers’ compensation is one of the earliest forms of social protection or social insurance that was found in the United States, the late 1800s, mid-1800s. As you know, the United States was rapidly industrializing people moving off the farms, and now they’re working on railroads, and in factories and commercial grade slaughterhouses, and things like that. And people would get injured in these settings. Back then, if you were injured on the job, you would have to have sued your employer for something they did wrong. And only after you sued them and went through the court system could you then, if you one, get monetary damages, and then go have money to be able to see doctors and take care of yourself and recover for your damages. The problem is, of course, that it could take years to get through a court system, right. And it also created some bad blood between the employer and the employee because the two of them are essentially pointing fingers at each other for blame; who did what wrong, why did they do it? And you’re coming after the company’s coffers, and the employee would say, Ah, well, you know, you’re endangering me needlessly. So these fights went on around all over the United States, and then state and the federal government started to think about there’s got to be a better way to do this. And they started to figure it out in the railroads; they started to figure out these systems of Why don’t we remove the ability of an employee to sue their employer for bodily injury that’s based on fault, and create a no-fault system. And this no-fault system says, you know, we’re not going to look to see what the employer did wrong or whether the employee did something wrong. We’re just going to say, Hey, where are you doing your job? And in the course of that job, did you get hurt? And if so, we’re going to provide you medical benefits, and if so, we’re going to provide you some monetary benefits. And if you are so severely injured, you can’t go back? Well, we’ll provide you some long-term benefits. And the employers got a certain amount of surety out of that now, they’re not subject to defending against employees lawsuits that could result in either giving them nothing or losing huge cases and financially harming them, they would just buy an insurance product or pay into a state-run system, and their employees would be covered. And now there’s no longer this fight between the employer and the employees over the entitlement to these benefits. And that really started to take on all around the country. And here in Nevada, it started running, and by 1913. We adopted a comprehensive system here in Nevada, and we’ve had one ever since.
Kevin Johnson 06:35
So, Jason, how is it in Nevada workers’ compensation?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 06:39
Well, as I mentioned earlier, Nevada originally adopted its statutory system; sometimes you hear it called the statutory scheme, not not, not in a negative or nefarious way. Or sometimes you hear it referred to as the Act, as in the Nevada Industrial Insurance Act. It started in 1913. It’s been amended substantially several times back in 1947. Then again, in the early 1990s, huge changes were made. Over the decades, also in the 80s are substantial changes. And the system was originally a state-run system. There was no private insurance involved. And now, since the 1990s, it’s a private system again. So an employer buys an insurance policy or has enough revenue or enough money in the bank to say that they’re, quote, self-insured. So you’ll often see the big employers of the state often are self-insured, like large casinos and mining organizations. And just any large employer, sometimes employers band together in what’s called a self-insured group, or they could just buy an insurance policy. And even if they’re self-insured, they can administer these claims themselves, or they can shift it out to another company, often called third-party administrator, sometimes you hear the phrase of a TPA, call my TPA, what is that? That is the third party administrator for your claim, or call the insurer what is that they’re often one and the same. Sometimes they’re the TPA, and sometimes they’re also the insurer. Sometimes they’re both, but it’s privatized. Now, no longer state industrial insurance system. No, those days are gone. There’s not a single fund that we pay into like we used to, and you proceed in workers comp, against that self-insured policy or against that, that that insurance policy that the employer has bought.
Kevin Johnson 08:40
So because of that insurance policy the employers purchased, that takes that conflict between the employer and the employee that was injured out of the equation, and now it’s the injured worker and the insurance company that you work with to come up with what benefits are available.
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 09:01
The notion is that they didn’t want the claimant to proceed against the employer. And you know, you often hear this phrase, no, I don’t, I don’t want to sue my employer, or what if I sue my employer, you can’t, you’re not in this capacity for a bodily injury that you sustained through no fault of your own through negligence. But there is this notion that you’re not suing your employer. So effectively what it is right now, that changed in 1999, slightly with the self-insured group, again, you’re not using them. But when you’re self-insured, and you administer the claim yourself. It’s in some ways brought forward some of the attention that originally existed, you know, over 100 years ago, and that is, you’re dealing with the employers, risk management department in the self-insured scenarios where they’re also running the claims. The good news is, is most of the self-insured employers that are that big, have professional departments in them, so they understand what this system does for them. So it’s not like a mom-and-pop pizza shop, being mad at their pizza delivery guy for being injured on the job and taking it out on him. Thankfully, with these self-insured employers that administer the claims of selves usually, they are professionals in there, in their departments that are that are managing the claims.
Kevin Johnson 10:20
What are some of the typical injuries that happen on the job?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 10:24
We deal with things like overexertion, injuries, you know, a new strain or stress your back from lifting something, you know, automobile accidents, knee injuries, burns, diseases, exposures, I like to say that can be anything from you know, a cut finger to a cut off limb and anything in between, right, the important thing is on these injuries is that it’s that it happens suddenly, and with a manifestation of an injury, at the time of the event, not a gradual onset system here, it’s you know, you, you were working on the scaffolding collapsed and you didn’t, you know, you broke your knee, my knees hurt, you know, you were lifting up a patient. And, and you strange, you’re back, you overexerted your back, you’re exposed to a certain chemical on the job, and now you have lung disease, you have a disease claim.
Kevin Johnson 11:19
For example, if I was working at the jail, and I’m processing someone, and I’m attacked, even though I didn’t hurt myself, necessarily, I didn’t trip and fall or things, but I was attacked, that still falls under workers compensation.
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 11:35
That’s right. So even though this person is doing an intentional act against you, you know, in theory, you have the right to proceed in what we call a civil tort. Bodily injury claim for someone who attacks you, you’re you also are able to proceed in the workers’ compensation system for the injury you sustained while working. Now, if you’re there working in the jail, and an inmate attacks you, and you now have, you know, a busted jaw, or whatever injury came from it, you would be able to file an industrial insurance claim or workers compensation claim for the injuries sustained. And that’s true, not just in the jail, obviously, if you’re working at 711, and a robber comes in and hits you over the head with a pistol, you know, you’re able to, to bring a claim for that.
Kevin Johnson 12:23
So as long as you’re involved in the course of your employment,
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 12:27
That’s right. We call it the course and scope of your employment. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be engaged at that moment in time and work duty. You know, the law recognizes we’re human beings, we could be standing around the watercooler during a break, talking about how well the Vegas Knights are doing, you know, a light fixture falls and hits me on my head. It’s not a defense for the for the insurance company’s lawyer to say, Well, you know, we don’t pay you to stand around the water cooler. No, but we’re human beings, we’re allowed to stand around the water cooler. And that’s within the core scope of my appointment to be able to grab a drink at the water cooler and say hello to my co-workers and brag about our city’s team, and go back to work. We’re allowed to do that. And it’s still within the course and scope of your employment. The course and scope of your employment, as we like to say, isn’t merely just counting widgets on the assembly line, right. It’s everything that’s encompassed in doing that job.
Kevin Johnson 13:20
So we talked a bit about what the typical injuries are. And those are great examples. I guess what are the benefits that I’m entitled to when I am injured,
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 13:30
There are several different types of benefits that are; basically, they’re called compensation under the Act. And compensation is broken into effectively monetary benefits, indemnity benefits, and medical and training benefits. So for example, if you’re if you’re injured on the job, you’re entitled to medical care for your accepted body condition until you are deemed stable by a doctor on the insurance company’s panelist that you have a right to select, and he or she treats you until you are stable, stable doesn’t mean cured. As you know, we’re only human beings. There’s nothing you can ever know if someone can be fully cured. But the doctor says this is as much that I can do for you whether it’s a week, a month, a year, however long it takes, he or she says this is it, you’re maximally medically improved. That’s the extent of that medical treatment you’re entitled to, which would include anything from, you know, a band-aid and some medication to complex multiple surgeries on a case, right. You’re also entitled to things like short-term disability pay for when you’re off work or you’re on modified duty, and your employer can accommodate that modified duty, which consists of 66 and two-thirds of your gross wage up to a state cap. If they bring you back to work and you’re not earning 66 and two-thirds of your wage. There they have to pay what’s called temporary partial disability TPD the former thing that I mentioned before was TTD temporary total disability pay. At the end of your claim. If you have a permanent impairment or permanent injury to your body, you will be entitled to a rating examination by a physician or chiropractor and then they ascertain the damage That your body sustained, according to this guidebook put out by the American Medical Association. And under this guidebook, you’d be rated and you’d receive what’s called a compensation award or PPD award. You also have the right if you were permanently restricted from going back to work to either get a different job at your employer. And if they can’t accommodate that, then they would send you out for vocational rehabilitation training, or possibly, if not the training, they could send you out for a compensation lump sum buyout in lieu of your training. And lastly, this last right, that kind of dangles off on the edge is whether or not your claim is reopened double, and you can reopen in the future.
Kevin Johnson 15:56
What if I’m killed on the job?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 15:58
Yeah, we sadly, we see that sometimes, right? We represent people from all walks of life here in Nevada, from construction workers to police officers, and firefighters and delivery personnel, and retail clerks. Sometimes these people are killed on their job, through no fault of their own, something bad happens, an accident happens, somebody did something negligent, something horrible happens, and they pass away. If they have a spouse, or minor children, or wholly dependent parents, or any other person who’s dependent upon them, that family member have a right to death benefits. And those death benefits are burial expenses and 66. And two-thirds of the employees’ wage for a duration of time, for example, to the spouse that would be for the duration of the spouse’s life, even if months or many, many years later, they remarried, the benefit used to end or was curtailed because of that. Then the policymakers, the legislature has figured that’s onerous, right? They don’t penalize someone for falling in love again, and right putting their life back together doesn’t mean that they didn’t lose something significant in their life and shouldn’t be entitled to remuneration in some way for their loss. Those funds come monthly, and they’re entitled to an annual increase every January of 2.3%. And that was a change that was pushed through the law in 2019, along with several organizations, including the NJA, which was pushing in support of that particular change so that there’s so they’re not trapped in time and the monetary amount that it actually grows with a little bit of 2.3% every year.
Kevin Johnson 17:47
Let’s say I get hurt at work. Do I need an attorney?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 17:50
I would say that you do. And here’s why. You’re not required to have one, of course. But do you need one? Yes. I believe that. If you are even an attorney in Nevada, and you attempt to navigate the Nevada Industrial Insurance Act with Nevada occupational disease act, you are likely yourself committing malpractice unless you practice this stuff day in and day out, and have spent years going to court and sliding these issues. Because this Nevada Industrial Insurance Act in Nevada occupational disease act are several 100 pages in the statutes, they’re not based on fairness or what someone feels is right or wrong. They’re the rules in the statute. And if you don’t understand those rules and how they apply, or how they can be used against you, you will be outmaneuvered by the insurer, the insurance defense attorney, they are very skilled at understanding where the lines are drawn on the statutes and rules and regulations. And if you’re a car mechanic and you’re a master engine builder, or you’re a police officer and the best detective on your squad, or a firefighter who’s the who’s the highest-ranking chief in the state, he knows everything about firefighting, it doesn’t mean that you have sufficient information about how to navigate the Nevada industrial insurance system, right any more than I would know how to build an engine like a master engine builder or how to put out a huge structure fire. This area of law is specific. And it requires in-depth knowledge. And it requires expertise that if you don’t practice it day in and day out, your claim, whether you know it or not, is going to be harmed or adversely affected by not having a competent workers compensation council working for you.
How long do I have to file a claim?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 19:45
So in Nevada, to file a claim, there’s actually a two-step process. This is really important. You have to first give notice to your employer that you were injured. Now that notice must be given within seven days of the accident. It requires written notice; it’s called a C1 form. And you basically write on that form, and you notify your employer what happened, and he or she has a supervisor or the boss or something And sign off that they received it. If a boss or supervisor won’t sign off on it, then fax it or email it to HR. So you can prove that you delivered it inside that seven days. And that’s just notice of injury that isn’t actually the claim. You’re just saying, Hey, boss, I fell off the scaffolding and hurt my left knee today. Just letting you know, you know, scaffolding collapse, left knee hurts really bad. The boss might even say, hey, do you need to go to the doctor, man, I think I’m okay, I’m gonna walk it off. But you’ve at least given notice, that has to happen in seven days. Now to file the claim, you have to go to a doctor. And the doctor then says, Oh, yeah, this, this came from that fall off the scaffolding. And he fills out a C four form along with you, with the bottom half filled out by him or her and the top half filled out by you. And the doctor then causally links your injury and your diagnosis to that accident. And then that claim has to be given to the employer and the insurance company. And that has to happen within 90 days of the date of the accident. So the seven days, you have to give written notice to your employer, and then 90 days, you have to file the claim. These are very, very short statute limitations. And again, filing a C1 doesn’t mean you file the claim, you’re just telling everyone that, Hey, I got hurt on the job. That doesn’t mean you have to file a claim. But if you want to file a claim you’ve had done that step,
Kevin Johnson 21:32
Are all employers bound, and do they all have the same process in place in which to fill out the C1 and go forward from there?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 21:44
The law does require an employer to give this information to their employees, the vast majority of employers do. But not all employers are like, you know, they’re run by and operated by people. And just like people, there are really good ones out there. And there are really bad ones out there. Right. So employers are the same way. Most employers are good people, but some aren’t. And in fact, they can try to trick you or not give you the information. So it’s very important that you reach out to a firm like ours and just get a consultation to say, Hey, what’s what are my rights? We don’t charge for that. Come on down, talk with us. Speak with our intake staff, our intake attorneys. And we’ll let you know whether you have a claim or you don’t or what do you need to do to protect your rights? You know you don’t need to hire us just but come on down. And we’ll explain this to you free of charge.
Kevin Johnson 22:32
What’s really surprising to me is that as long as I’ve been in the workforce, in different jobs in different states, until I started working here, I had no idea that about a process, I had never been informed. This is what happens, and it might have been in an employee handbook at one point, but you don’t know what you don’t know until the event happens.
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 23:00
You know, I’m almost entirely confident that most employees, when they get a job, they get a handbook that somewhere buried in there says these are our workers’ compensation rules. So there might even be a chart or a notice hanging on the wall in the break room, you know, and to font. You know, it says these are your rights and remedies. The reality is, is that most people do not know what their rights and remedies are unless they’re sitting across the table from a competent, informed workers compensation lawyer in that state. So that’s very important to you know, sometimes so I’ve spoken to people say, Well, you know, I don’t think I need any, any help. I’ve got an uncle who’s a lawyer out in California that does bankruptcy law, so I’m gonna ask him. No, no, no, no, no. All 50 states, the rules are completely different conceptually. They do similar things, you know, what we talked about earlier about what the goal of worker’s compensation is and where it came from, but how the procedures work, what the rules are, what the timeframes are, what the deadlines are, those are different in all jurisdictions across this country, and at the federal level as well.
Kevin Johnson 24:09
So if I’m employed here in Nevada, and I’m sent out to a job, let’s say in Arizona, or in California, and I’m hurt on the job, I would revert to the Nevada law where my employment and where I live?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 24:24
There’s Juris there’s jurisdictional rules that it would depend on, you know, where your company is operating from, where you are dispatched from where you’re actually injured at. There’s what are called choice of law statutes between different states. But if you do have an employer in one state and employee in another in an injury, and yet another state, it’s imperative that you get on the phone with competent workers compensation counsel, because there are conflicting and sometimes confusing rules and statutes that apply when you start dealing with out of state claims or whether the claim should be deemed out of state or not,
Kevin Johnson 25:05
Can I get fired for filing a claim?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 25:08
In Nevada, if you were fired for filing a claim, you would have a retaliatory right to go in Your employer for doing that retaliatory discharge, they’re not allowed to do that. The problem is, of course, proving that you were terminated for filing the claim. Most employers, if they’re bad employers, and they want to get rid of an injured employee, they’re not going to send you an email or text that says, you know, I’m firing you because you filed this claim. Now, I’ve seen that before. That’s how retaliatory charges or claims abroad, it’s often as with many things in the law, the devils in the details right, in Nevada, where a so-called, quote, right to work state, which sadly, effectively means, you know, it’s the right of an employer to fire you at will just like you have the right to leave at will, but they cannot use the claim itself as a basis to terminate you and say, we are firing you because you filed a claim.
Kevin Johnson 26:08
And what if I find out that my employer doesn’t have insurance workers comp insurance?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 26:13
Thankfully, the Nevada legislature and governor in the past have thought about that particular issue, and it’s called uninsured employers claims fund. And what that does is if an employer is not carrying industrial insurance, and you were injured on the job, the state of Nevada is backstopping, even those criminal employers that are doing that the state will bring criminal charges in most situations against those employers for not having that coverage. Because what they’re doing is they’re not paying in to the premiums that are required to make sure that people are covered in this state. And then the uninsured fund covers those losses and then goes after that employer for not having the industrial coverage. But we are able to help people, even when their employer claims you’re not an employee or claims they don’t have any workers compensation insurance. We fight those all the time in win those all the time.
Kevin Johnson 27:15
What about my immigration status?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 27:18
That matters as well, Nevada law indicates that whether you’re lawfully or unlawfully employed, you’re entitled to compensation benefits in this state. And there’s a couple of supreme court cases on that issue, including a recent one here in Nevada that basically says that compensation even to a person who does not have the proper documentation to work inside the United States, is still entitled to the monetary benefits and the compensation and the medical treatment. But there is a case on the books from years ago, that says that if you don’t have documentation here to work, and you are entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits, you know, you can’t go back to your old job if you have a permanent injury, and they don’t have a position for you. You are not entitled to those vocational rehabilitation benefits because of your dog, you’re undocumented status. That’s an unfortunate rule that we have in this state. It’s not us. It’s not a statute per se, it was a Supreme Court ruling, but it is law in this state that you cannot get vocational rehabilitation benefits. When you don’t have documentation here to work notwithstanding you were injured through no fault of your own on the job.
Kevin Johnson 28:28
What if I’m self-employed?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 28:29
Every employee in this state, even those that are self-insured, need to carry workers compensation coverage, there is a form that you can sign if you’re a self-employed business owner that you can exempt yourself and only yourself exceptionally unwise, the premiums are often super cheap, especially for employers, that it makes little to no sense to do that. Now, you actually have to execute that form. So you can’t just not get the coverage and say, Oh, well, you know, I heard I didn’t need it. Well, you still need to follow the law. So you can’t just not cover yourself.
Kevin Johnson 29:05
Can I qualify for work comp, even if it’s partly my fault for my injuries?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 29:11
Yes, as we discussed earlier, this is a no-fault system. Okay. And by no fault, I don’t mean that. Nobody has to be at fault. What it means is, is the fault is not analyzed. So it doesn’t look to say, Well, Kevin, you weren’t wearing your harness when you were working on the windows today and you fell two stories that’s on, you know, that’s a fault-based analysis. Well, you know, you’re a trucker, and you weren’t wearing your seatbelt that’s on you know, not for workers compensation. Likewise, it’s the same reason we can’t go after the employers for faults that they do. They gave you a faulty strap and it and they knew it and but didn’t want to spend the money on it and it breaks and you fall and now you busted your hip. The reality is, is that you don’t need to show that the employer did anything wrong. You just need to show Hey, I was within the core scope of my employment and I got injured. You don’t need to disprove your own fault, and they and we don’t need to show their fault. Now the exception is, of course, an intentional act. For example, your boss walks right up to you punches you in the nose on purpose with the intent to break it. You can sue that boss for that bodily injury. Likewise, you’re on the job, and you’re like, you know, I’m tired of doing this job. Hey, guys, watch this, I’m going to step off the staffing and break me out and break my leg because I want out of here, you can’t intentionally injure yourself just like someone can’t intentionally harm you. And then the parties are protected by the laws to say that the workers’ compensation doesn’t apply in those situations only in those intentional acts situations with the industrial Insurance Act not necessarily apply.
Kevin Johnson 30:51
So I go through the process, I file my forms, I inform my employer, or through the process, I’ve seen the doctor, how long does it take for me to get my benefits?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 31:02
it can take no time at all hours or days, or years. It depends if the industrial insurer wants to fight or not. That’s one of the advantages of having counsel, we can utilize the law to the best of our ability to assist you and figure out what rights that we can obtain for you, even when they’re fighting us. That doesn’t mean that every time they’re going to quickly pay those benefits. But it will mean that we will be fighting inside the system to protect you and get those rights as quickly as possible. But unfortunately, you know, the insurance the employers have the right to say no, just like we have the right to fight them and say no, no, no, we’re right. We’re entitled to those benefits. And then a hearing or appeals officer, or if it keeps going District Court Court of Appeals or Nevada Supreme Court will be the ultimate arbiter. You know, I’ve fought a Supreme Court case, always Supreme Court last year, and that case was almost six years old before it was determined that my police officer client was entitled to any benefits six years, ultimately, you know, we won in Supreme Court agreed with us. So it can be a long period of time. Now is that common? No. Most cases run from beginning to end, somewhere between nine and 18 months from the day you’re injured to the day the claim closes and you’re back on your way. Of course, some cases go quicker, and some cases go longer, but nine to 18 months is a pretty standard timeframe for a significant majority of the claims to run.
Kevin Johnson 32:31
If we have this time period where there’s a significant period of time, and I need treatment during that time, am I on the hook for that?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 32:42
There are several laws on the books that explained several different scenarios where we can utilize other aspects of the law. You know, your own health insurance. There are also some protections for police officers and firefighters on heart and lung cases, that they’re entitled to certain benefits even on denied claims. So the answer isn’t there is a one-button and we hit it and you automatically get x y z again, you have to be knowledgeable in the Nevada Industrial Insurance Act to know when and how to get these benefits flowing to you even outside the workers’ compensation system and working with your own health insurer to perfect their rights as well once the claim is ultimately one.
Kevin Johnson 33:28
You mentioned firefighters and police, are there separate laws that protect them?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 33:33
Police and firefighters do have their own set of rules, particularly with regard to heart claims. Lung claims, hepatitis claims, firefighters with cancer claims, and medical providers, which are paramedics and things like this, but all medical providers that are exposed to contagious diseases. Now, this is important for the world we live in right now. Right with COVID. So there are certain rights and remedies that apply just for police and firefighters and arson investigators and EMTs. Specifically, you’ll often hear the phrase the heart and lung bill, the heart and lung act, you’ll hear that it’s two statutes in the Nevada occupational disease act, where police officers and firefighters are guaranteed specific rights for Heart and Lung claims that are significant hepatitis as well, even if those conditions are not due to an occupational disease or exposure, it’ll be deemed as much because the legislature is effectively said that, you know, all the evidence and studies show that police officers and firefighters die or are exposed to heart and lung claims earlier than the general population. Now there’s endless theories and medical reasons why that may be applicable, and they’re not entirely sure what it is the is that they you know being stress levels the cortisol is it going from you know, you’re literally asleep and 90 seconds later you’re driving you know multi 1000 pound vehicle down the road, you know, to life and death situation or a police officer Literally just sitting there on his motorcycle or his patrol vehicle, and, you know, 90 seconds later, he’s in a fight for his life or her life. I mean, most jobs don’t entail that. And you do that for decades. And what kind of impact does that have on your heart and on your lungs. So the legislature basically said, we’re not gonna, we’re not going to make them prove where this came from, we’re just going to say that it came from the job, and it is. So now, they fight those claims. Like, heck, they really, really do speak to a lot of police officers, a lot of firefighters in my career, and I thought we were supposed to just get these. It’s what the law says. And I’m like, Yeah, I know. That’s what it says, but you got to go fight for him because they do not just hand them to you. They’re expensive claims for insurers to run. But again, these are rights that the legislature is gifted to them granted to them, granted to them, because of the danger that their jobs pose and what their jobs mean to you know, protecting society at large. Another important point is the firefighters have their own rules for cancer claims. And that one’s for more obvious reasons, right? burning building Who the heck knows what you’re exposed to, in a car fire in a building fire in a furniture fire, oh, my God, the chemicals that you’re exposed to from furniture that’s created overseas, who knows what’s in that stuff. So the cancer levels are just way higher and firefighters than the general population. So they have special rules on cancer benefits as well.
Kevin Johnson 36:43
So you’re suggesting that if we buy furniture in the United States that there’s,
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 36:48
Well, I’m a big proponent of buying things in the United States, but even then, if you light it on fire, and you’re in a room, you’re gonna be exposed to more chemicals than you and I are just sitting at our desk,
Kevin Johnson 36:58
How much vocational training am I entitled to?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 37:02
You are entitled to vocational rehabilitation training if you’re unable to go back to your old job for your industrial injury, and your employer doesn’t have a position for you anymore can’t fit that new restriction that you have saved before you were a, I’m gonna make this up your steelwork, you know, you got to lift over 100 pounds over your shoulders at any given time, and you’ve had a neck injury, from a fall from steel rigging and you have fusion plates in your neck, and the doc says, hey, look, I don’t want you to lift more 20 pounds over your head, well, you’re not gonna be a steelworker, if you have a 20-pound lifting restriction, this is not gonna happen. And that employer might say, Well, you know, I don’t need a steelworker who can’t lift more than 20 pounds over his head. So we don’t have a permanent position for you post-injury. But we can send you out to vocational rehabilitation training. And that’s the Voc Rehab statutes, the amount of time you’re entitled to this training is fixed based upon the size of your permanent partial disability evaluation. So whether you get six months or nine months or 12 months or 24 months of retraining, is ultimately pinned to the size of your rating impairment evaluation that was paid out at the end of your claim. So typically, vocational rehabilitation training is somewhere between six and 24 months, with the most common being 12 to 24 months.
Kevin Johnson 38:23
So you can basically get trained to do something in a completely different vocation?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 38:29
That’s exactly right, they will pay your 66 2/3 of your wage at this point, it’s called vocational rehabilitation maintenance payments. It’s the same dollar amount that you got at the start of your claim when you were in the hospital recovering from your neck injury, and you were out for two months, and they were paying you 66 2/3 of your wage up to a state cap, then when you invoke rehab, they pay you vocational rehabilitation maintenance payments, that’s equal to that same dollar amount, okay. And you’ll be going to school or in a training program or in practice program, and they’re literally paying you to get retrained. And you will meet with a vocational rehabilitation counselor that you get to choose from a list of at least three and we assist in making those selections when there are clients and we advise you know this, this vocational rehabilitation counselor has got a good reputation for working well with claimants, I suggest you pick him or her over these other two or this one is really good at people that are second or English and second language, utilize this particular vocational counselor, etc. And we assist clients all the time on those issues.
Kevin Johnson 39:36
So going back to your steelworker, I can’t go back to that job. I can go and take my vocational training benefit and do something completely different. I’m not I don’t have to be in that industry anymore, I can pick?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 39:53
What happens is you will have certain restrictions that your that your physician indicated apply to you permanently. For example, know what I brought up earlier, no lifting over your shoulder more than 20 pounds. So any job that you are or feel that you are interested in, you have a reasonable amount of acumen for training to do that. You will be given assessment tests by your vocational counselor, who will interview you and talk to you about what things are you interested in? What is your background suited for? What are your physical restrictions suited for? What is on your testing? What is your acumen, your ability to take on this new type of job indicating that it’s worthwhile, what is the pay range is in the scales that this type of work is going to earn you when you get out on the other side of it. So there’s, there’s a, there’s an entire process, they call it the building of a vocational rehabilitation plan. And you are an active participant with your vocational counselor, and us acting as your advocate, assisting you in pushing particular plans that you’re interested in versus You know, sometimes the employer wants to know, I just want to send you this cheap one. And we’re like, no, that that one’s not going to work. For various reasons, let’s fight for this particular plan for these various legal and factual reasons why we should advance one plant over another,
Kevin Johnson 41:14
I understand that the statutes protect the injured worker, I especially like this one. Because it sounds like you’re not stuck, you’re not your life isn’t over your career isn’t over, you at least have the possibility of something new.
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 41:34
That’s right. That is the goal and design of the vocational rehabilitation statutes in the vocational rehabilitation system inside the Workers Compensation Act. Now, this system is not perfect by any means there are significant problems and shortcomings in the vocational rehabilitation training programs that are offered. That’s another reason why having skilled counsel that knows which counselors are better at their jobs than others coming to a firm like ours that have the understanding of which counselors are better than others at obtaining the plans that are more closely aligned to what the injured workers interest and acumen. And restrictions apply. And also, you know, their ability to earn an income afterward, that is good.
Kevin Johnson 42:18
This isn’t part of the work workman’s comp on one. But again, this makes sense to me wherewith what you’re fighting currently is that I was a firefighter, I can no longer work as a firefighter. I’m paid because of my benefit. But I want to go volunteer my time, or I want to do something that is completely different. And I’m not penalized for doing something outside of what my original job was that I was injured, and I can no longer do. I find that. And I think that’s what you’re fighting right now is that you know, if I’m injured, and I can no longer do my job, and I’m paid my benefit that’s I’m owed by the statutes. If I want to go in and make a difference in another in another field, why should I be penalized to go and start a new life or to try to make a difference and to be part of society?
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 43:19
That’s right. Currently, as we speak, the Nevada Legislature is working on SB 295. That was brought by the majority leader Senator Cannizzaro and brought by the Professional Firefighters of Nevada that are advancing that along with their friends in other police and fire unions around the state, along with the support of the Nevada Justice Association, and in my testimony, along with the firefighters and police on this particular bill, we’re trying to make it so that when police officers and firefighters are knocked out of their job due to their heart or lung or hepatitis condition. And they’re entitled to these permanent total disability benefits notwithstanding they’re not permanently totally disabled. But the law says that they’re entitled to these benefits that if they so choose to work in a field that’s not a police officer in firefighting, arson, investigating down the road, that they aren’t penalized for wanting to contribute back to society, that they’re not penalized for, you know, going to teach a community college class to fellow firefighters, fellow police officers on explain their skill, or to go help abused children or to go to work in the Library District or work at the local megamart because you just want to be out of the house shouldn’t be penalized for that. And that’s what SB 295 is, is to take care of him. We’re hoping that that sails through the legislature, but those things are always fought over.
Kevin Johnson 44:57
We’ll see where that ends up.
Jason D. Mills, Esq. 44:58
Kevin Johnson 45:08
The information on the GGRM Law Firm “You Matter To Us” podcast is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon those specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state to state, so that some information on this podcast may not be applicable for your jurisdiction. Finally, the information contained on the GGRM Law Firm “You Matter To Us” podcast is not guaranteed to be up-to-date. Therefore, the information contained in this podcast cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your state.