January 2012

Being a Spouse of Someone on North Carolina Workers’ Compensation: Part 2 – Solutions

January 31, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

In a post earlier this week, we discussed how spouses of North Carolina workers’ compensation beneficiaries (or want-to-be beneficiaries) are often subject to stress, overwhelm, and sudden surges of responsibility. Whether you’re a secondary family earner now charged with the burden of working more hours while simultaneously caring for your sick or injured spouse, or you are a partner who is confused about the sudden and dramatic negative changes in your sick/injured loved one’s behavior and attitude, you need actionable solutions.

Here are some principles to help you solve your problems and get the help you need.

1.    Behavior/attitudinal shifts are often just the tip of the iceberg.

Whether you notice that you are more moody, your spouse is more depressed, or your teenagers or even your family dog is acting “funny,” you’re probably only paying attention to the tip of the iceberg. You need to probe deeper to find out the root cause of what’s really troubling your family and what’s really pulling everyone’s chain.

One interesting way to get at the root cause is to use the theory of constraints. Basically, you take the most prominent issue at hand and you drill down to the root cause by asking “why?” multiple times. For instance, you may make an observation like: “My sick husband is staying in his room way too much and refusing to help with chores around the house, even though he is physically capable of doing so.” You then ask why this is the case. Your answer might be that he is depressed because he’s unable to provide for his family. You then ask WHY he might be depressed about being unable to provide for his family. Your second answer might be because he values being productive and contributing to his family’s welfare.

Drilling down this way helps you discover the root cause of your problems, and it can also be a wonderful way to get back in touch with your compassionate side, if you’ve been feeling exasperated. After all, take a look at our theoretical example. Just asking “why” two times has led us from a rather despicable-seeming behavior to a noble and valiant root cause of that behavior.

2.    Consider the fact that the problem might be medical/biochemical.

Especially if your injured spouse was hurt due to chemical exposure or a head injury, the shift in behavior or attitude might have nothing to do with the psychology and everything to do with physiology and neurology. If you suspect anything along those lines, seek immediate medical attention.

3.    Make your life simple by connecting with resources to solve your problems.

Now is the time to lean on friends and family members to help with the simple chores that are giving you stress. Now is the time to get in touch with financial planners to help you and your family reconcile with your new financial reality. If you’ve been having trouble with your benefits, now is the time to connect with a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm to identify best practices and protect your rights under the law.

More Web Resources:

Theory of Constraints – The Current Reality Tree

Is the Change in Behavior Psychological or Physical?

Depressed by the State of Your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Case?

January 28, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

You have been struggling long and mightily with your North Carolina workers’ compensation case.

•    Perhaps you suffered a slip and fall at a machining plant facility in Raleigh a year-and-a-half ago, and you’re still managing a “bum” leg and knee.
•    Maybe your spouse suffered a traumatic brain injury after he inhaled residue of an explosive fire in his North Carolina car crash.
•    As if the accident or event wasn’t disturbing enough, you have since had to deal with insurance company shenanigans, bureaucratic incompetence, and a totally uncooperative employer.
•    Meanwhile, you need to sustain your focus on getting adequate compensation while dealing with all of life’s other challenges, such as raising your family, managing your dwindling finances, and dealing with the personal drama in your life.

It’s not surprising that many people in the throes of North Carolina workers’ compensation struggle also suffer from depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

There is no easy fix. However, probably just hearing all of your problems laid out like this makes you feel a little bit relieved. In other words, now you know that that sense of depression and overwhelm has a real source: there are real-world, root causes of your discontent.

On the other hand, just labeling the problem is not going to dispatch it!

To that end, here are three tools useful for wrangling with life’s uncertainties, meeting financial and organizational challenges, and cultivating the inner resources necessary to see your case to a positive conclusion:

1. Check out David Allen’s book Getting Things Done

Widely hailed as the most respected “productivity guru” of the twenty-first century (by the likes of Time magazine, Wired, and other big publications), Allen teaches a philosophy of personal management that involves identifying “what’s true now” in your life. GTD uses sophisticated processes to help you manage everything from clearing your email inboxes to codifying and reviewing your purpose on the planet.

2. Practice mindfulness meditation

Powerful scientific research now shows that regular meditators (30 to 45 minutes a day) experience a profound reduction in stress, increase their general level of happiness, and enjoy other health and wellness improvements.

3. Connect with a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm.

Your workers’ comp case will almost certainly be less overwhelming and terrifying if you have the appropriate team to guide you, help you make the right choices, and avoid the mishaps and false beliefs that hamper so many hurt and sick workers out there.

More Web Resources:

Summary of Research on the Benefits of Meditation

How to Get Started with Getting Things Done

Being a Spouse of Someone on North Carolina Workers’ Compensation

January 24, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

This North Carolina workers’ compensation blog often focuses on the needs, concerns, and fears of hurt and sick workers, and we will continue to surface and address the obstacles that hold workers back.

But most workers don’t operate in a vacuum.

They rely on friends and family members to nurture them, guide them, administer medical care, and, occasionally, financially support them. Many family members of beneficiaries (or would-be beneficiaries) have powerful concerns of their own that may not be getting addressed effectively. In a two-part blog series, we’re going to talk about what it’s like to be the spouse or partner of someone on North Carolina workers’ compensation. We will provide tips, resources, and strategies for you to manage your family’s crisis more effectively and compassionately.

Examples of why being a spouse of someone on workers’ comp can be so difficult:

1.    Sudden temperament changes.

When someone gets hurt or sick at work, everything changes all at once. A confident, proud, and supportive husband can “turn on a dime” and start acting ungrateful and even abusive. The cause of this Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde transformation might be the injury itself, or it might be the psychological trauma of the injury. If your husband was exposed to a nasty chemical slurry at his factory, for instance, the chemicals might have had neurological effects that altered his brain.

2.    Sudden shift of family responsibilities.

Perhaps your wife was the major wage earner for your family. But she suffered severe chronic repetitive stress injury due to her office work. Now she is unable to provide a paycheck for the family. AND she is also unable to offer help with child care and chores around the house. The whirlwind shifting of family roles stresses everyone in the family, including the children.

3.    The chaos of the transition, in and of itself, creates family strife.

In the wake of a workplace injury or illness, you may be shocked and dismayed to discover that your children are fighting more or getting into more trouble at school. Perhaps you or your spouse is getting sick more often. Chaos and constant change can disrupt even the most capable and level-headed family members. Moreover, you may not know where all of these hazards are “coming from.” It may feel like you’ve just hit a jackpot of bad luck. But instability, in and of itself, is often enough to hamper immune systems, challenge even highly functional relationships, and even lead to biochemical and hormonal changes.

If you or someone in your family needs help with a workers’ comp issue – dealing with an insurance company that’s not playing fair, fighting back against a callous employer, etc. – you need stability, guidance, and a return to control. A North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm will help you put the pieces together and get back on track.

More Web Resources:

How Instability In and Of Itself, Creates Stress

Being a Spouse of Someone Who is Injured

All the Noise About North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Is Making Your Head Hurt

January 18, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Perhaps you are seeking workmen’s compensation in North Carolina because you burned your arms and hands during a factory explosion or fire. Or maybe you suffered a more mundane sickness or injury, such as broken bones and lacerations during a delivery truck accident.

Irrespective of how you got hurt and where you are in the North Carolina workers’ compensation process, you’re almost certainly suffering from information overload.

Truth be told, the web offers more information about how workers’ comp works, what you should and shouldn’t do as a potential claimant, etc., than you could possibly read in a month. During your research, you may stumble on free e-books about workmen’s compensation, free advice to the effect of “12 things you must do,” or “seven massive mistakes that can ruin your workers’ comp,” and other loud, garish, attention-grabbing headlines.

It’s all very confusing and very difficult to filter.

Marketers are getting better at adapting their persuasive techniques to the Internet. This, it’s becoming more and more difficult to discriminate between materials created by a reputable North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm and materials created by a slick marketer who doesn’t understand the relevant laws or processes.

Why is this a problem?

It’s a problem because hurt and sick workers may put their trust in firms or people who lack the expertise necessary to get the powerful results they need. Unfortunately, there is no easy rule of thumb you can use to filter out irrelevant information and filter in important information.

Take heart in knowing that the info overload problem affects every person in every station of life – not just hurt and sick workers in North Carolina. Everyone online has a microphone – a blog, a YouTube channel, a website, etc. – so the web has gotten almost deafeningly loud.

So, while there may not be a quick fix, if you just simply recognize that you are operating in this chaotic, noisy environment, you might begin to take notice of the chaos and develop your own systems and processes to filter information.

Chances are you already have these systems in place, but you probably have yet to name them. For instance, perhaps you always trust one friend with great restaurant recommendations. Or perhaps you trust another friend with awesome book recommendations. The key is to develop your network and your ability – your “spidey sense,” if you will – to navigate the massive information hive that is the 2012 web.

With enhanced screening abilities, you will make better, more accurate use of information about workmen’s comp in North Carolina.

More Web Resources:

The State of the Web: 2012

Info Overload Solutions

Is the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation System Fundamentally Fair?

January 16, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Perhaps you have been on workers compensation in North Carolina due to a back injury, car accident, or explosive disaster at a Raleigh manufacturing company. Or maybe you and your spouse are just starting to explore programs like workmen’s comp in North Carolina. In any event, you are likely less concerned with how this system came to be — and whether or not it’s structured fairly or appropriately — than you are with getting results and rebuilding your life.

Fair enough.

However, if you operate unaware of the structural flaws in the system, you could be at a disadvantage. The workers’ comp system is, in many ways, an historical artifact. Workmen’s comp arose as a kind of “grand bargain” between employers and business owners in the late 1900s and early twentieth century. Basically, workers hurt on the job surrendered their right to sue employers in exchange for guaranteed benefits. Many of the original governing principles remain intact today. But the artifacts in the system are neither perfect, nor perfectly designed for the modern era.

For instance, legal issues aside, are the rules regarding mandatory workers’ comp really fair for employers – and for employees? Are the evaluations of injuries appropriate or not? Basically, you can examine any facet of the system, and you might come away thinking that the system is archaic and based on tradition instead of on logic.

Many of the rules, regulations, and laws are, indeed, arbitrary. They may have emerged as political compromises. Or they may stem from bureaucratic decisions made decades ago. The North Carolina workers’ compensation system is certainly not alone in this regard. Practically every government benefits program suffers from the same kind “arbitrariness” corrupting its structure.

The question for beneficiaries (or people who want to become beneficiaries) is: Given the uneven playing field and potential “unfairness” built into the system, how can you make the best decisions to protect your rights, speed up your recovery, and prevent more powerful players (e.g. an insurance company or your employer) from manipulating the system?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Every claimant has different needs and constraints.

That’s why it’s very helpful for claimants to work with an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm – to understand what you need to pay attention to and, perhaps more importantly, to understand what you can safely ignore. You need to appreciate these distinctions as you rehabilitate, apply for and utilize your compensation, and redesign your life so you can get back to work and back to better health.

More Web Resources:

Life is Unfair: Examples

Dealing with Life’s Inherent Unfairness

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lessons: Getting over the Fear of Asking for Help

January 14, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you are crippled by a welding injury, hurt in a car accident, or tormented by a chronic musculoskeletal problem, you’ve come to recognize you need North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits to pay for your care and time off of work.

On the other hand, you detest the idea of becoming dependent on the North Carolina workers’ compensation system. You’re proud of your ability to provide for your family and for yourself. And you suddenly vowed to do whatever it takes to beat this injury or illness and get back to earning a living ASAP.

This is an admirable goal. However, you might want to reconsider your attitude toward asking for and getting help. So many North Carolinians are trained to believe that they need to fix their own problems. This attitude, in many ways, is of American culture. Individualism is one of the founding ideals of our nation. Many workers actually hurt themselves because they are so focused on being the best – and providing standout contributions – that they pushed themselves over the edge and into injury or illness.

Obviously, the fighting spirit has its place. But it’s a double-edge sword. And there are times when team work is essential, where support is vital, and where “going it alone” is the metaphorical equivalent of walking off a cliff.

Of course, the question of whether to get help (or how to get help) is not an either/or proposition. It’s not as if you have to choose between “helping yourself” and getting help from others. Indeed, the most effective people seem to be those who do both simultaneously – who demonstrate a tremendous amount of self-reliance and initiative, but also look to a trusted advisor for help and insight.

There is another lesson here: You want to be choosy about your advisors, and you want to be purposeful about how you leverage their input. For instance, if you are sick with a rare musculoskeletal disorder, you want to find a physician who has excellent experience – and a demonstrable track record – of treating that particular type of injury. Likewise, if you were hurt in an accident or made sick at work, you may find it extraordinarily useful to talk to a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm about what options you might be able to leverage, what resources are out there for you, and what your ultimate outcome may look like.

The bottom line: If you’re in pain, or if you’re confused, understand that you don’t have to struggle alone with these complicated, emotionally difficult issues. Dedicate yourself to finding and utilizing reputable, trusted resources to get you to your goals and help you solve your problems.

More Web Resources:

Why Is It Difficult for Some People to Ask for Help?

The Power of Mentorship

Strategy for Avoiding Re-injury after Return from North Carolina Workers’ Compensation

January 11, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you got sick or injured at work – whether you typed your way to carpal tunnel syndrome working an executive job in Raleigh’s Research Triangle or you screwed up your lower back engaging in agricultural work out in the far west of the state – you likely need North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits to pay for your damages and medical expenses (and possibly more) while you get treated and go through rehab.

The process of obtaining these benefits can be complicated and – it’s easy to get struck in red tape, tripped up by insurance company nonsense, and even challenged by your company. This is why many claimants often benefit greatly from talking with North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm.

But irrespective of your legal and medical struggles, the time will come (hopefully) when you will heal well enough to return to work in some capacity.

This can be a dangerous time, indeed.

After all, stereotypes of North Carolina workers’ compensation beneficiaries to the contrary, most injured workers desperately want to get back to being productive. You might be tempted (or even pressured) to stretch beyond your physical capacity. If you push yourself too hard after your injury, you risk re-injury, new injuries, and other setbacks – physical, emotional, and financial – which may make your journey infinitely harder.

How do you know, if you are on the verge of re-injury?

This is an important question, and many hurt and injured workers don’t pay enough attention to it. After all, when we “push ourselves” we often do subconsciously. To catch overexertion in the process requires tremendous concentration and mindfulness.

But there is a shortcut. You could journal your work experience. Every day after you come home from work, discuss your work day in detail in your journal. Pay attention to how you felt before, during, and after a particularly strenuous task. Did the tasks stress your injury? Did you “feel it” hours or days after exertion? The more you analyze how specific actions impact your healing, the more effectively you “catch” and prevent problem activities. As any successful doctor or healer will tell you, the best healing comes with the most accurate knowledge. Take the time – it could be only 5 to 10 minutes a day – to jot down your work and pain experiences. You might find it invaluable not only as a tool to prevent re-injury, but also as a means to solve other nagging problems in your life.

For help with a specific claims issue, connect with a North Carolina Workers’ Compensation law firm.

More Web Resources:

Becoming More Mindful of Unconscious Habits

The Perils of Re-Injury

Lessons in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation: What Can We Learn from Jay-Z’s $18,000 Fiasco?

January 6, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Most serious North Carolina workers’ compensation cases are far below the radar of the average citizen. This makes sense. Unless you are somehow keyed into the North Carolina workers’ compensation system – a would-be or current beneficiary, an insurance company representative, an employer, an entrepreneur, a lawyer, or a worker in the NC government bureaucracy – the issues are arcane and complex. Even if there is some important North Carolina workers’ compensation news that you’d like to pay attention to, you’re likely distracted by your iPod, your iPad, your TV, your Twitter feed, your Facebook friends, etc. But there are important lessons to be learned, particularly if you are a beneficiary who is confused about your rights.

So let’s tie things into a breaking celebrity story involving workers’ compensation – musical artist Jay-Z’s recent encounter with the Workers’ Compensation Board of New York. According to a report from tmz.com, the government agency sued the rapper for $18,000 pursuant to his failure to have proper workers’ comp insurance for domestic employees (e.g. “cooks, maids, drivers…that sort of thing”). The story is not particularly scandalous. Apparently, the $18,000 lapse all stemmed from a clerical error that his manager made back in 2009 – and the problem was corrected relatively quickly. Jay-Z’s situation highlights a reality that many less famous employers face: Often, employers do not have adequate workers’ comp insurance to fill legal obligations. What happens then?

The answer obviously depends on the circumstances of the case, the severity of worker’s injury, the flagrancy of the violation, the intentionality of the violation, etc.

If you need help with your case – perhaps assistance compelling a recalcitrant or obstinate employer to make good on payments to you – connect with a reputable North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm.

More Web Resources:

Jay-Z Faces $18,000 Bill in Workers’ Comp Case

Workers’ Compensation Board of New York

More Lessons in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation: Senator’s Company Shut Down for Lack of Insurance

January 3, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you are an employee, you expect your boss to carry North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance. This coverage helps pay for damages and disability costs if/when you (or your co-workers) get hurt on the job. State law compels most employers to carry this coverage. So you would expect that most business owners would comply.

However, that’s often not the case!

As we saw in a recent blog post about Jay-Z’s fracas with the Workers’ Compensation Board of New York (the rapper was hit with an $18,000 bill for failing to have workers’ comp for his domestic employees over a two-month period in 2009), even the most wealthy and well-educated business owners often do not understand their obligations under North Carolina workers’ compensation law.

You might be tempted to give Jay-Z a pass on this. After all, he is a rapper and musician – not a lawyer. But you might be shocked to know that even lawmakers themselves often violate the laws they create.

Consider, for instance, Vermont State Senator Bobby Starr, whose company, E. Starr Trucking, was shut down on December 20 pursuant to its failure to acquire adequate workers’ compensation insurance. Judge Robert Bent granted a permanent injunction against the firm, sparking much chatter among citizens and state labor officials. On paper, the situation is not particularly huge, especially when you consider it in light of some of the more flagrant North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud cases that we’ve talked about in this blog.

On the other hand, quotes like this from the Burlington Free Press are kind of disturbing: “Starr said he didn’t know whether he and his son would get the insurance or ‘just switch everything to the other company’ that carries the insurance.”

Obviously, business owners must make complicated decisions in a fluid environment. Hurt and injured workers should be mindful of the complexities that entrepreneurs face. On the other hand, if you’re a lawmaker, shouldn’t you have a grasp of your company’s legal obligations? Shouldn’t you be able to prevent problems like this from occurring? A permanent injunction against your business is, by most accounts, a black eye.

Of course, lawmakers, like all of us, are often all too human. This system is complicated. Opportunities for error abound. This is why it is so critical for hurt and injured workers to team up with a reputable North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm to identify best practices and protect their rights using every tool and strategy the law allows.

More Web Resources:

Permanent Injunction against Starr’s United, Inc.

E. Starr Trucking Website