August 2010

Improve Rehab to Make the Most of Your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation

August 31, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

In the struggle to collect North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits for injuries at work, occupational diseases, and repetitive stress injuries, employees often lose sight of their ultimate aim, which is to restore their health and get back to work as quickly as possible.

After all, workers’ comp aims to empower hurt employees to return to a life of productivity, happiness, and health. And while it’s certainly important (and often necessary) to understand how to fight battles against bad faith insurance companies and employers that unfairly refuse to discuss your North Carolina workers compensation claim – it’s equally crucial to explore methods to speed up and augment recovery from illnesses and injuries.

This post will address some “secret” ways to improve rehabilitation:

1. Watch Your Diet

The ingestion of processed vegetable oils, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and refined sugars has all been associated with aging, obesity, Type-2 diabetes, and immune system problems. By avoiding these foods and instead eating healthy protein and fats and fresh fruits and vegetables, you may be able to improve your body’s capacity to heal itself.

2. Improve Your Muscular Strength

In the wake of a debilitating injury, you may not have much time, energy, or motivation to hit the gym or even do basic physical activity. But the cultivation of muscular strength is essential for rehabilitation for many injuries – particularly injuries like sprains and soft tissue damage. Of course, always consult your physician and work with a professional physical therapist to make sure you don’t hurt yourself as you build your strength back.

3. Stress reduction

When you go through periods of excessive stress, your body produces the hormone cortisol. A little cortisol is okay, but so called “hypercortisolemia” – the over-production of cortisol – can cause a wide range of problems, including damage to your immune system. So try to fight back against stress by getting enough sleep, engaging in recreational activities, doing meditation and relaxation exercises, and spending time around people you love.

4. Rest

If you are a workaholic by nature, you may find it very difficult to stunt your urge to “get back out there” as soon as possible. To ensure your fastest recovery, ironically, you need to make sure that you don’t take on too much too soon.

If you need help responding to an urgent North Carolina workers’ compensation matter, a quality and experienced law firm can help you explore your rights and make sure that you don’t make any significant mistakes that would hamper your claim or delay your benefits.

More Web Resources

The Case against Sugar (Robert Lustig lecture)

The Case for Muscular Strength

Lessons from Connecticut Slayings? North Carolina Workers Compensation Analysts Mull Implications of Workplace Deaths

August 25, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

On August 3rd, the entire country (including the normally provincial North Carolina workers’ compensation community) was shocked by a series of brutal workplace slayings in Manchester, Connecticut. An employee of Hartford Distributors, who claimed that he had been racially discriminated against, opened fire on his co-workers and shot and killed eight of them before he committed suicide at the scene.

The tragedy shocked central Connecticut. The employees and owners of Hartford Distributors (along with the company’s insurer, Hanover Insurance) must still be reeling from the disaster. Since the eight deaths occurred at work, the families of the slain employees should be eligible to collect death benefits through workers’ compensation. The families will have until next August 3rd to file claims, and analysts believe they will likely be able to secure hefty settlements given the grisly and very public nature of the deaths.

Interestingly, some industry analysts believe that the implications of this workers’ comp case could go well beyond Manchester and reverberate throughout the entire beverage manufacturing industry. After all, insurance companies set their rates by calculating risk probabilities. And this Manchester shooting and the (likely) large workers’ comp settlements it will yield will put pressure on insurers to revise how they appraise the risk of insuring beverage companies. So, in a very indirect way, the shooting could have ultimate implications for North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance.

If you or a coworker or a family member has suffered serious injuries at work, you likely need savvy guidance about how to proceed. Often, injured workers who don’t understand this system wind up with inadequate compensation for their disabilities. This makes the process of getting rehabilitated and returning to work that much more difficult – particularly in today’s testing economy. For help now with your case, get in touch with a creditable and results-proven North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm.

More Web Resources

Hartford Distributors

More about the Manchester shootings

Avoid Having to File for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation – Be Alert to Warning Signs

August 23, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

The last thing most employees want to do is have to go on North Carolina workers’ compensation. No one wants to be injured. Few enjoy the hassle of filing claims and dealing with less than cooperative insurance companies and employers. Some on the job accidents and illnesses are unavoidable. For instance, say your delivery van gets sideswiped by a semi-truck, and the resulting accident gives you serious whiplash. There is no way you could possibly anticipate that kind of accident. But other at-work accidents can be more easily avoided:

1. Typing Injuries

Warning Signs: You feel numbness and tingling in your fingers, your arms ache or throb at the end of the day, you notice that you are adopting “crutches” such as typing with your non-dominant hand or intentionally “slacking off” so that you don’t have to type as much.

Solution: Talk to your employer about a better ergonomic set-up. Improve your posture and muscular conditioning. Take frequent breaks. See a physical therapist to treat your “trigger points” with modalities like acupuncture, massage, and microstretching.

2. Slip and Falls Waiting to Happen

Warning Signs: “Near misses” in which you and or other employees “almost” get into serious injuries, jokes around the office that a piece of equipment is an “accident waiting to happen” or a “fire trap.”

Solution: As quickly as possible, bring the problem to the attention of your boss and/or manager. Document any or all attempts you make to get the problems fixed. If your immediate manager won’t help, consider going up the chain of command to complain.

3. Exposure to Chronic Toxins

Warning Signs: If you work with chemicals, and you come home with a headache or being unable to breathe; if you notice that you are getting a rash or other allergic reaction to chemicals, glass, plastics, or other materials used at your work; if you get dizzy or feel sick at work when you use a certain piece of equipment or a certain kind of chemical or material.

Solution: Report the problem to your manager as soon as possible. You might be able to solve this by wearing better safety equipment, such as a ventilator or mask. Alternatively, you may need to stop using whatever product or material is causing the allergic or toxic reaction.

If it’s too late – and you’ve already been injured or gotten an occupational disease – and you need assistance with a North Carolina workers’ compensation issue, it behooves you to consult with an experienced law firm that specializes in North Carolina workers’ compensation. The faster you get professional legal assistance, the easier it will likely be to start collecting benefits.

More Web Resources

All about trigger points

Common Workplace Toxins

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Experts Debate Implications of Study Showing Huge Pay Gap Between Private and Public Workers

August 19, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Policy wonks and analysts who seek to optimize the North Carolina workers’ compensation system often try to ground their arguments in statistics. With new studies and new information coming out all the time, it’s often difficult to come to any clear conclusions about what direction to take the states workers’ comp system. But a recent study reported in the August 2nd issue of the Raleigh Telegram highlights some very interesting numbers.

The Civitas Institute in Raleigh reported that the gap between the incomes of public and private sector workers in NC has doubled since 2000. Back at the turn of the century, state employees got paid approximately $32,800 annually; whereas private workers got around $30,977. This represented around a 6% gap. Nine years later, that gap rose to more than 12% – state employees received over $44,100 annually, while private employees averaged around $39,300. And these figures don’t take into account benefits packages, which could theoretically skew the gap between public and private incomes even wider.

So what do these new numbers mean for North Carolina workers’ compensation policy? The conservative Civitas Institute appears to be implying that state workers “have it too good.” But the survey doesn’t suggest an immediate fix to ensure fairness and to nurture and cultivate conditions that would reduce injuries at work and generally relieve the state system of financial stress.

Some experts argue that the ultimate key to resolving both the wage gap outlined here and the general stresses on the benefit system is to introduce more responsive and proactive policies to improve workplace safety. In particular, it may be helpful to strive to reduce chronic and preventable injuries like typing injuries by doing things like instituting mandatory break policies, standards for ergonomic desks and typewriters, and urging employers and employees alike to cut back on the amount of sugar they consume.

If you or someone you love – or a co-worker – has been hurt, and you have questions about hot to collect benefits, how to deal with an employer who refused to cooperative, or how to manage a bad faith insurer, look to an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm to lead you in a strategic direction.

More Web Resources

Civitas Institute

Study Shows Pay Gap Between NC Public And Private Workers Doubles

Silver Lining At Last? North Carolina Workers’ Compensation and Wage Experts Say NC Workers Earning More

August 17, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

There is no doubt about it – North Carolina has faced some seriously hard times over the past two years (called by some the “Great Recession”). But North Carolina workers’ compensation and wage analysts have some good news to report — finally. A new survey by the state’s Employment Security Commission has found that the average weekly wage has risen by $1.16 since 2009.

Since inflation is not a factor, this implies that the wage increase is real – much needed relief for the state’s beleaguered workforce. Analysts found that the average weekly wage in August 2009 was $758.44 – this year, the wage was $759.60. That may not sound much – and indeed it’s only a 0.15% increase – but it does augur well, particularly if you see the rise in the context of the state’s slowly improving unemployment numbers. Back in February, NC had double-digit unemployment topping out at over 11%. The latest statistics show that the unemployment rate has fallen for four months in a row and finally dropped back into single-digits.

While these numbers may be encouraging, they should by no means cause for celebration. Predicting the long-term success of the state’s economy is notoriously a tricky business. However, for workers who have been surviving on North Carolina workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits, this news may help to kindle a renewed sense of industry, entrepreneurial activity, and general hope.

All that said, if you or someone you care for has been waylaid by an injury or occupational disease, and you are struggling to make ends meet while battling your employer or/and an insurance company, all of these positive signs may be beside the point. What you need is actionable strategic help with your case. To that end, it almost certainly makes sense for you to consult with a result-proven and highly credentialed North Carolina workers’ compensation firm to protect your rights and benefits.

More Web Resources

Great Recession

Employment Security Commission survey

Depressing PA Case Attracts Attention from North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Experts

August 12, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

A few months ago, this North Carolina workers’ compensation blog reported about the case of Christina Gamble, a 43-year-old woman who got arrested on charges of workers’ comp fraud, after insurance investigators found that she had been stripping while collecting disability benefits, ostensibly because she had trouble “standing and changing positions.”

The 43-year-old Gamble waitressed at Red Robin Restaurant in 2007. She allegedly hurt her back at work. In 2008, a judge granted her disability benefits of $360 a week. All told, she collected $4,000+ in expenses and $23,000+ in disability payments. However, the restaurant’s insurance representatives hired private investigators to track down Ms. Gamble. They found her working as an exotic dancer at CR Fanny’s Gentleman’s Club in nearby Wilson. The PIs taped her stripping and used this evidence to prove that her workers’ comp claim was fraudulent.

Obviously, any North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud case hurts everyone else in the system. When people fake disabilities or play up injuries to get benefits, this not only drains resources that could otherwise be used to help people who really are injured – but it also creates a sense of mutual distrust. When insurers and employers lose trust, they tend to crack down by making the process more difficult and the investigations more probing, personal, and annoying.

All that said, in the case of Ms. Gamble, you have to feel some sympathy for this woman. It sounds like she has had a very hard go of it. It’s obviously impossible to know her full story just from a news report. But it is important to remember that North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud comes in many flavors – some people purposely bilk the system to take advantage of loopholes; other people just get into desperate straits and do desperate and stupid things.

If you or a family member faces problems collecting benefits, your focus is 100% on getting these issues resolved ASAP. To that end, you might be well advised to set up a free consultation with a local North Carolina workers’ compensation firm to explore your rights, build a strategy to get your benefits and to resolve any agita associated with your claim, and work towards building a sustainable financial future for you and your family.

More Web Resources

CR Fanny’s Gentleman’s Club

Bucks woman to stand trial in workers’ comp case

Another Fraud Case – This One Involves Goats! – Has the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Community Talking

August 10, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

North Carolina workers’ compensation experts have been following a bizarre breaking story out of Chenango County, NY.

According to the Associated Press, a 53-year-old New York woman named Susan Tansosch has been ordered to pay over $60,000 in restitution to the United States Postal Service for workers’ comp fraud, pursuant to charges that she falsely claimed that she had no additional income streams – when she had been making significant money selling goats.

Last Wednesday, Judge Thomas McAvoy sentenced Tansosch to four years probation and forced restitution to the USPS for making untrue statements to collect workers’ comp benefits from the federal government. The Department of Labor abruptly ended Tansosch’s benefits – all because she sold goats on the side.

This story drives home a point that many North Carolina workers’ compensation claimants often forget. Namely, that you need to read and understand the fine print of your benefits arrangement. If you fail to abide by the terms stipulated, you could wind up in court, in trouble, and in debt to the agency or insurer that provided the benefits to you.

There is no way to tell from this AP story whether or not Ms. Tansosch knew that selling goats would violate her workers’ comp arrangement. But don’t think that, just because you settle your North Carolina workers’ compensation case, that the situation will be permanently resolved. Insurance carriers are businesses. They investigate claims — even after they have settled! — to make sure that claimants are/were telling the truth about their injuries.

Managing the legal complications of a debate over your benefits can be a draining chore – one that you likely do not have the training to handle adroitly. That’s why, even if your case is relatively simple-seeming now, you might benefit from a consultation with a reputable and proven North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is equal to a pound of cure. Smart planning can mean the world for your workers’ comp case.

More Web Resources

NY goat-seller must pay back workers’ comp

Woman sentenced after conviction

Theft Case Out of the Aloha State Piques Interest among North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Experts

August 5, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

North Carolina workers’ compensation experts are all talking about the case of an Ewa Beach man, who got convicted in Honolulu last week for workers’ comp theft.

Jacob Belaski allegedly hurt himself while operating his Teixeira Trucking business. He fought for benefits from his insurance company, HEMIC. At the same time, he continued (on the sly) hauling materials to and from a cement factory. In the process, he earned over $100,000 – all while collecting benefits compensating him from being unable to work.

Investigators from the Honolulu Police Department’s White Collar Crime Unit discovered the scam and realized that Belaski had misrepresented his injury to his physicians, insurance company, and others. Mr. Belaski even testified under oath to being hurt. Mr. Belaski’s conviction of theft and perjury charges may dissuade others in the Aloha State from similarly trying to take advantage of the claims process to collect benefits illegally.

This blog has investigated a number of cases of workers’ comp fraud lately to try to highlight the shades and nuances of the law – and of the individuals who commit these crimes. It’s important not to paint these defendants with a broad brush. As we have seen recently, practically anyone can wind up as a defendant in a North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud case – from strippers to goat sellers to truckers.

If you cannot collect benefits, cannot deal efficiently with your employer or insurance company, or cannot figure out how to put your life and budget back together again after a significant injury or illness, you need good help. In particular, a qualified North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm can guide you towards good resources and ensure that you stay within the bounds of your benefits arrangement. A good attorney can also help you deal with uncooperative bosses or insurance companies.

More Web Resources

Case of Jacob Belaski

Honolulu Man Convicted in Hawaii’s First Workers’ Compensation Theft Related Case

Steps to Avoid Having to Make a North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claim

August 3, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you work at a potentially dangerous job, such as a construction site, welding factory, or farm; or you face dangers due to occupational diseases and/or repetitive stress injuries at a white collar job, you don’t want to have to go on North Carolina workers’ compensation, if you can help it. Ideally, you want to work pain-free and accident-free. So here are a few tips to help you stay safe at work:

1. Take Breaks, Particularly When You Engage in Repetitive Work

Whether you are doing data entry, computer programming, sewing, or hair styling, or any other kind of repetitive work, ergonomic professionals will urge you to take regular breaks to avoid injuries to your hands, arms, shoulders, and back. Repetitive stress injuries typically result from long-term abuse of muscles, bad posture, and “Type A” enthusiastic work habits. This may sound silly, but one thing you can do is – every 30 minutes or so, or whatever your employer will allow – take two to three minutes to lie down on the ground and let your spine and back relax before you start doing your repetitive activity.

2. Cut Back on Sugar and Processed Foods

More and more studies have linked excess sugar and high fructose corn syrup consumption with diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes. Although these aren’t occupational diseases, when you get obese and pre-diabetic, you stand at a much greater risk of injury. And some evidence also suggests that excess sugar consumption can decrease your stamina, make you tired, and damage muscle and organ health – which will put you at greater risk of on-the-job injury.

3. Increase Your Strength

Strength training helps with muscular flexibility, improves bone density, leads to innumerable other health benefits, according to abundant medical literature. Many employees neglect effective strength training. But as we age, we will see a natural deterioration of our muscular strength (particularly in places like our lower backs) unless we actively work to improve strength in those areas.

4. Don’t Wait Until a Problem Gets “Too Big”

If you feel like you are getting hurt or you could potentially get hurt at work, tell your employer at once. Don’t keep your concerns to yourself. Your employer can and should want to help you solve the problem. For instance, say you type at an ergonomically dysfunctional workstation. Tell your boss, so he or she can help you solve your ergonomic problems and thus help you prevent injury. Speak up!

Do you need help with a North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits case? Don’t let bad faith insurers, uncooperative bosses, or confusion beat you down – get help from a qualified and well-credentialed NC workers’ comp law firm today.

More Web Resources

Sugar and Obesity and Diabetes

Learn to Take Breaks at Work