Workers’ Compensation in Vermont — It Can Be a Challenging System, but Better Than Many States.

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workers compensation services page.Workers’ compensation is an important safety net for workers who have been injured on the job. Vermont’s workers’ compensation statute is more protective of injured workers than many states. However, in almost every legislative session lobbyists make some effort to restrict the rights and benefits of injured workers.

These efforts have been effective in some states. Among the most drastic reductions in benefits have occurred in Oklahoma and Texas, states that allow employers to “opt out” of workers’ compensation and substitute their own system of compensation and medical care.

An investigation by ProPublica and NPR found the plans almost universally have lower benefits, more restrictions and virtually no independent oversight:

These opt-out plans are why McDonald’s doesn’t cover carpal tunnel syndrome and why Brookdale Senior Living, the nation’s largest chain of assisted living facilities, doesn’t cover most bacterial infections. Why Taco Bell can accompany injured workers to doctors’ appointments and Sears can deny benefits if workers don’t report injuries by the end of their shifts.

Opt-out plans in both Texas and Oklahoma give employers almost complete control over the medical and legal process after workers get injured.

Workers’ comp was founded on the premise that employers owed a duty to injured workers and their families. A series of new laws has cut benefits, given employers and insurers more control over medical care, and made it more difficult for workers to qualify for coverage. But other than Texas and Oklahoma, no state has allowed companies to simply opt out.

At Shoup Evers & Green, we represent injured people in Vermont Workers’ Compensation claims. While Vermont’s workers’ compensation law is more favorable than many states’, it can still be a confusing and challenging system to navigate. If you have questions about your claim, contact us today. There is no charge or obligation for our initial consultations.

For more information on our workers’ compensation page and to search our workers’ compensation case database head to our workers’ compensation services page.

Bad Worker’s Compensation Reforms

Categories: workers' compensation, Workers' Compensation Hearing DecisionAuthor:

You might have heard the recent series which was  broadcast on National Public Radio and published by Pro Publica http://www.propublica.org/article/the-demolition-of-workers-compensation about the many recent changes in state workers’ compensation laws that have reduced benefits to claimants. We are pleased that the Vermont legislature has generally protected workers’ interests in the Vermont Workers’ Compensation Act.

Nationally, however, many states have reduced benefits or introduced procedures that are hostile to injured workers.

The article explains that over the past decade, state after state has been dismantling America’s workers’ comp system with disastrous consequences for many of the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer serious injuries at work each year.

The cutbacks have been so drastic in some places that they virtually guarantee injured workers will plummet into poverty. Workers often battle insurance companies for years to get the surgeries, prescriptions and basic help their doctors recommend.

The changes, often passed under the banner of “reform,” have been pushed by big businesses and insurance companies on the false premise that costs are out of control. Read more →

An Interesting Article on Medical Errors in Canada

Categories: Health and Safety, Medical Malpractice, Safe PracticesAuthor:

A recent article in the National Post, a nationally distributed Canadian newspaper that focuses primarily on financial issues, discussed at length the extent of error and “adverse events” in the Canadian health care system. The article concludes that the failure to publicly acknowledge errors harms patient safety:

The point of publicizing medical error, patient-safety experts stress, is not to shame or blame, or take away from the fact health care is replete with highly trained, dedicated professionals. Aside from a tiny smattering of true incompetents, no one comes to work expecting to dispense anything but exemplary care, says Rob Robson, a physician who led the Winnipeg health authority’s groundbreaking patient safety program for seven years. Read more →

FAQ: Can I Obtain Workers’ Compensation Benefits Even Though My Employer Did Not Have Workers’ Compensation Coverage?

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Vermont Law requires that all employers provide workers’ compensation benefits to employees injured on the job.  Unfortunately, some employers fail to obtain workers’ compensation insurance.  If that has happened to you, you should speak to a Vermont workers’ compensation lawyer.

Vermont law recognizes the concept of a “statutory employer.”  Injured workers can obtain workers’ compensation benefits from a statutory employer when their own employer fails to provider workers’ compensation benefits.

We see this most commonly in construction accident cases.  We have represented injured workers who were not covered by workers’ compensation because their own employer considered them to be independent contractors.  This misclassification of workers may violate the law. Read more →

Hospital Safety Scores

Categories: Health and Safety, Medical MalpracticeAuthor:

According to the Patient Safety Journal, 440,000 individuals die in the U.S. each year from medical errors.  This means that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in this country.  The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit devoted to improving health care quality, safety and transparency, recently published its 2014 Hospital Safety Score for U.S. Hospitals. This survey assigns each hospital a letter grade based on the ability to prevent errors, injuries and infections. In Vermont, Central Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center both received “C” grades.  Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Northwestern Medical Center and the University of Vermont Medical Center (formerly, Fletcher Allen Health Care) all received “B” grades.  Read more →

Damage Caps and Vermont Personal Injury Law

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This article in the New York Times explains how laws that limit personal injury damages have protected manufacturers of defective products. The parents of an 18 year old who was killed in a car crash when the G.M. car’s airbags did not open were shocked to learn that Wisconsin law limited their recovery for their daughter’s wrongful death to $350,000. Two teenagers were killed in the crash and neither family could find a lawyer who would take the case against G.M. because the costs alone would have exceeded the total recovery allowed by Wisconsin law.

The article explains how “damages caps” and other laws that limit tort recoveries have had Read more →

10 Tips to improve your negotiation skills

Categories: Safe Practices, Vermont LawAuthor:

At Shoup Evers  & Green, we are prepared to try our cases before a judge or jury; but the vast majority of our cases end with a negotiated settlement. We are committed to negotiating the best settlement for our clients. John Schraven has extensive experience negotiating for over 25 years. John also applies his skills in his day to day life. While we all want our negotiations, whether for a legal claim or a car purchase, to be successful, few of us have the skills and experience to achieve that. We hope you will find John’s pointers helpful in your next negotiation.

1. Prepare.

Do not go in unprepared with the expectation Read more →

Michael Green Wins Lung Disease Workers’ Compensation Case

Categories: Vermont Law, Workers' Compensation Hearing DecisionAuthor:

On February 19, 2010, the Commissioner of Labor decided that our client, a long term employee of General Electric in Rutland, was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits because her work at GE caused her to develop Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD). OKG partner Michael Green tried the case at the Department of Labor. GE hired two doctors to testify in its favor. Green relied on the testimony of a recognized expert in Beryllium Disease from Yale University School of Medicine. In this case, our client had been misdiagnosed with sarcoidosis, which is often confused wtith CBD. It is possible that other past or current GE employees have been diagnosed with sarcoidosis, but actually have CBD.

Navigating Medicare and Medicaid

Categories: Medical Malpractice, Workers' Compensation Hearing DecisionAuthor:

SEG Claims Analyst John Schraven was a moderator and presenter at a continuing legal education seminar sponsored by the Vermont Association for Justice entitled “Navigating Medicare and Medicaid for Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Lawyers.” A personal injury or workers’ compensation settlement can effect your eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid. John has had a lot of experience helping our clients deal with Medicare and Medicaid when their cases settle. If you are facing this issue, contact John Schraven for a free consultation.

Workers’ Compensation Claim for Beryllium Disease Caused by Exposure at Rutland GE Plant

Categories: Health and Safety, Safe Practices, Workers' Compensation Hearing DecisionAuthor:

We are awaiting a decision from the Vermont Department of Labor in a workers’ compensation claim in which our client developed chronic beryllium disease (CBD) as a result of her exposure to beryllium while working as a machinist at General Electric in Rutland, Vermont. GE claims our client has sarcoidosis, not CBD. At the hearing, OKG attorney Michael Green presented testimony from Carrie Redlich, MD, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine and an internationally recognized expert on CBD. Dr. Redlich explained that CBD is often misdiagnosed as sarcoidosis. Dr. Redlich determined our client had CBD because of her history of exposure to beryllium at GE, as well as the results of a lung biopsy and beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT).

Drug Company Advertising

Categories: Vermont Law, Workers' Compensation Hearing DecisionAuthor:

We all see them every day, drug company ads for prescription drugs that are aimed at us as consumers.

For years, drug company advertising for prescription drugs was aimed directed at doctors, trying to get doctors to prescribe particular drugs to consumers. In the recent time, however, the drug companies have decided that going directly to the consumer is the way to go, with the idea that consumers then will ask their physicians for the particular drugs.

Is drug company advertising something that is safe to rely on? A recent episode suggests that caution is important.

Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a huge drug company. One of its products is YAZ, which, in the words of the Food & Drug Administration is “indicated for the prevention of pregnancy in women who elect to use an oral conceptive.” In other words, it is a birth control pill.

YAZ also is indicated for the treatment of symptoms of a condition called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), as well as for the treatment of acne in women at least 14 years old.

The Food & Drug Administration requires drug companies to disclose risks and other information about drugs. Bayer advertised YAZ as “Prevents Pregnancy, May Help Moderate Acne and PMDD.” Bayer did this through the most modern means, as sponsored links on the web. However, in doing so, it did not communicate any risk information about YAZ. The FDA was very concerned about this because YAZ has what is known as a boxed warning, and this information was not included.

The FDA concluded that Bayer provided an incomplete and misleading statement about YAZ when it suggested that YAZ was useful in a broader range of conditions for patients than had been demonstrated by supporting evidence.

Bayer settled claims brought by the Food & Drug Administration and 26 States that included requiring Bayer to conduct a national $20,000,000 corrective ad campaign for misleading consumers about the use of YAZ. In addition, Bayer agreed to submit future television ads promoting YAZ to federal regulators.

Why is all of this important? Because this reminds us that when we see drug ads we should be very skeptical of the claims and at least go back to the company’s website to get the full information about the drug before talking to our physician about it.

Medical Malpractice

Categories: Medical Malpractice, Workers' Compensation Hearing DecisionAuthor:

Every year, thousands of Americans are injured or killed by medical mistakes, and studies have concluded that medical errors pose a major public health hazard. A medical mistake can often have devastating consequences for a patient or their family.

In Vermont, as in most states, the law gives a patient who is injured or killed by a medical mistake the right to pursue a medical malpractice claim. In reality, it is very difficult to win such claims, and lawyers who represent patients are very careful to take only the strongest and most meritorious cases. Even when presented with strong claims, many hospitals, doctors and their insurance companies put up a fight, often refusing to make reasonable settlement offers and requiring the patient to file time-consuming and expensive lawsuits.

For these reasons, someone considering bringing a medical malpractice case should think long and hard before filing a claim, and should find an attorney who specializes in these kinds of cases, who can give them honest advice about whether it would make sense to pursue a claim.

If you think you have been the victim of medical negligence, please click here for more information.

Lead Paint Poisoning in Vermont

Categories: Health and Safety, Vermont Law, Workers' Compensation Hearing DecisionAuthor:

Lead paint poisoning poses a major health threat to Vermont children. Many children are injured each year by ingesting lead dust or lead in paint chips. Lead that is absorbed in the blood and transferred through the body can seriously poison a young child whose brain and nervous system are still developing. Even a small chip of old lead paint, or inhaling lead in dust, can poison a child. It is well-documented, and medically accepted, that lead poisoning can cause a child to suffer permanent brain damage, loss of IQ, learning problems, developmental and behavioral disabilities, hyperactivity and other injuries.

Most Vermont children get tested for lead by their pediatricians. If the child tests positive, with a lead level higher than is allowed by Vermont law, the Vermont Department of Health takes action to protect the child’s health, and to make the property safe.

Vermont property owners and landlords are legally required to adequately maintain their properties so that children are not lead poisoned. In fact, Vermont has one of the strongest laws in the country protecting children in rental units from the hazards of lead paint poisoning. Vermont law requires owners of rental units (especially those built before 1978) to take reasonable steps to prevent children from being exposed to lead paint. Property owners who fail to meet their responsibilities can be sued by the parents or guardians of young children who have been severely lead poisoned. Those children can recover money damages from the landlords for all injuries they prove they suffered because of the lead poisoning.

Vermont Hunting Safety

Categories: Health and Safety, Vermont Law, Workers' Compensation Hearing DecisionAuthor:

Hunting is a cherished and time-honored tradition in Vermont. Generations of hunters have taken to the woods and fields in search of large game and small. In order to obtain a hunting license, Vermonters must take and pass a rigorous hunter safety course.

Most Vermont hunters are extremely safe, and take their responsibilities seriously. Despite this, and unfortunately, every year several hunters are injured, or even killed, in hunting accidents. Most of these accidents occur when a hunter fails to make certain that they know what they are shooting at, or fails to make sure what lies beyond their target.

If someone is injured or killed by a hunter, not only can the hunter be criminally prosecuted by the State of Vermont; the injured victim or their family can bring a civil claim against the hunter who shot them, seeking money damages. These claims are often covered by the at-fault hunter’s homeowner’s insurance policy.

The bottom line is that it pays to be safe when enjoying one of Vermont’s favorite past-times.

Seat Belt Safety in Vermont

Categories: Health and Safety, Safe Practices, Vermont Law, Workers' Compensation Hearing DecisionAuthor:

Seat belt usage in Vermont, according to the most recent numbers, runs at 87%. This is about a twenty point improvement over the last seven years or so. So what would happen if Vermonters were to increase their seat belt usage to 90%? The Vermont Department of Public Safety believes that it would save at least one life every year. Backing this up is another number: as of 2006, the latest data available, over 50% of fatal crashes in Vermont involved unrestrained drivers or passengers.

What does all this mean. Yes, air bags are great, but they do not replace seat belts. The combination of seat belts and air bags is the best combination to stay alive in a crash.

While the incentive to stay alive should be enough cause for most people to use their seat belts, there is another, reason: Vermont law requires it. Everyone in a motor vehicle must wear a seat belt or sit in a car seat or a booster seat.

Children under one year old and those weighing less than 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing car seat. Children over one year old and weighing more than 20 pounds should ride in a federally approved seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old. Once a child reaches the age of eight, they should ride in a properly fitted seat belt.

As it relates to children, there is an important fact to remember. A very high percentage of children’s seat are not properly fitted. However, Vermont law enforcement agencies routinely hold clinics where, at no charge, they will check out child car seat installations and help owners correctly fit their car seat for the car.  As well, this Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator can help you find  an inspection stations near you.

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