Topic: Out Of State Workers Comp News

April Showers Bring … North Carolina Construction Accidents?

May 23, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

April showers don’t just nourish the sweet smelling flowers of May — they also can precipitate serious North Carolina construction injuries.

That sounds perhaps somewhat cynical, but it’s true. When inclement weather strikes, accident rates at workplaces often go up. Why? When it rains or snows or blows, the wooly weather creates extra hazards at construction sites. Even though professionals are trained to deal with wet and furious weather, when you aggregate these hazards, bad weather impacts accident rates.

Does this mean that you shouldn’t go to work when it rains?

No. Wild weather also causes more auto accidents. But that doesn’t mean that you should only drive when it’s sunny out. In fact, ironically, if you only worked (or drove, or did anything) during good weather, your ability to deal with bad weather would likely degrade.

For instance, let’s say you only decide to work on sunny days because you want to minimize your accident risks. But then you get caught out on a surprisingly wet day. Your ability to work safely during would be diminished because of your dearth of experience in those conditions.

The key to managing life’s dangers — and the dangers on construction sites — is to manage them systematically. You need to get educated and to understand your risks and options to protect yourself. You also need to develop habits and behaviors that are safety-focused.

Even more fundamentally, you want to make sure that you are working with a group of men (and/or women) who take safety seriously. Your construction company’s work culture, perhaps more than any other factor, will help you manage risk — or leave you exposed to excess risk.

What if you already got hurt in a scaffolding accident, ladder fall, burn, etc? The team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo has an extensive, highly successful record of helping workers’ compensation beneficiaries quality for benefits after construction accidents.

Please give us a call now at (877) 529-1222 for a thorough and free evaluation of your matter.

You do not need to fight your own case or work through intricacies of your legal situation on your own. In fact, right now, you should be concentrating 100% on your medical recovery, on taking care of your family, and on managing your own chores and errands and psychology.

Leave the legal work — the accident reconstruction, identifying liable parties, etc. — up to a solid, professional legal team. Call DeMayo law now at (877) 529-1222 to find out more.

Your Complex North Carolina Construction Accident: who should be held responsible?

May 20, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you fell off a ladder or sliced open your leg or suffered a burn at a North Carolina construction site, your gruesome injury may take months to heal, and you are still haunted by vivid recollections about the fateful afternoon when it all happened.

Unfortunately, your case seems complicated. Maybe you were working for a subcontractor on a bigger site, and some other subcontractor’s signage error precipitated an engineering miscalculation, which resulted in your falling off scaffolding.

Or maybe some wild concatenation of factors — a mislabeled bucket, surface slicked by rain, an inaccurate step by you –conspired to cause your injury. Perhaps multiple people got hurt in different ways. Given all the money at stake, many different parties that could be liable (e.g. subcontractor, the general contractor, the landlord, the municipality, any of these parties’ insurance companies, investors, on and on and on).

Untangling complex construction accidents is both an art and science.

Even in relatively simple cases (or seemingly simple cases) there is often more to accidents than meets the eye. For instance, maybe you stepped into a bucket that shouldn’t have been in your way, and as a result, slipped and plummeted 20 feet to the ground where you broke your legs.

Why was that bucket there? Short answer: a naïve subcontractor’s helper left it on your scaffolding by mistake. Your intuition might be to sue the subcontractor for hiring an inept worker. But perhaps different and/or larger elements played into the injury. For instance, perhaps the general contractor erred in hiring a subcontractor with a shoddy record for
screening his people. As a result, maybe the general contractor should be sued for liability as well.

You also need to anticipate how the various defendants might respond. For instance, maybe you were working on only four hours of sleep and made an error that contributed to the disaster.

In some cases, companies can protect themselves by filing for bankruptcy or engaging in legal defer and delay tactics. This is further complicated by the fact that personal injury law in North Carolina is constantly changing.

Is there a solution to the madness?

As complicated as these matters can seem — and your matter maybe astonishing complex, even if you think it’s already pretty scrambled — you can relax for two reasons:

You do not have to think through these contingencies and solve these problems yourself.

If you find the right North Carolina construction accident law firm, you can effectively detach from thinking about your case and focus instead just on healing, helping your family, and dealing with your financial and emotional stresses effectively.

DeMayo Law is an experienced North Carolina construction accident law firm. Please reach out to us at (877) 529-1222 for a free evaluation of your matter.

Keeping Strong and Motivated While on Charlotte Workers’ Compensation

May 18, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

How can you stay focused and ready while out on North Carolina workers’ compensation?

More specifically, how can you avoid “getting soft” and growing dependent on this
income? How can you maintain a sense of autonomy and feeling of usefulness? How
can you keep your job skills sharp? What common “traps” do Charlotte workers’
compensation beneficiaries fall into during their idle time?

If you even begun to have questions along those lines, first of all, congratulations.

Many beneficiaries (or would be beneficiaries) never take the time to consider the
potential downside to winning a workers’ compensation case. That’s dangerous because there are always downsides to achieving any objective. If you fail to surface those potential problems, you could subconsciously hold yourself back.

In other words, it’s good that you are already thinking along these lines. However, you now have a practical challenge. How DO you stay on course, once you have “won” fair benefits?

Here are some ideas:

Figure out what jobs skills you want to protect and keep in good shape, and then work with your spouse or friends–or outside counselors–to keep those skills in shipshape.

For instance, maybe you are an accountant, and you broke your leg falling down the stairs outside a Raleigh Bank. Your body may hurt, but your mind is still pretty sharp. So you might want to spend some time everyday playing word and number games to keep your brain functioning at a high level. If you are too hurt/fatigued to practice physical skills, you can try to do them in your head.

For instance, maybe you are a construction worker who needs to stay in bed for the next three months because of a back injury. Very well. You can still imagine doing your work. That may sound silly. But if you spend 15 minutes a day or so visualizing successfully implementing tasks at work or moving your body, your mental circuitry will remain intact, and you will find it easier to return to the job force.

With respect to the motivation issue … you absolutely must strive to meet your needs for autonomy and productivity.

Even if you are confined to your bed or so sick that you only really have two or three hours of “productive time” a day, you need to find some way to make use of that time in a way that you will find gratifying and, ideally, financially remunerative. (Be sure your pursuit does not violate terms of your North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits!)

Again, planning, visualizing, and goal setting can help. But recognize that the motivation needs to be intrinsic–in other words, don’t do an activity in hopes that you will be rewarded at the end. Instead, do something that you find rewarding “in the doing.”

For help with your workers’ compensation case, look to the DeMayo Law team today for a free consultation.

Winning Your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Case: A Top Priority?

May 17, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

Life is full of imbalances and unexpected (and often unpleasant) surprises. As someone who was recently hurt in a North Carolina work accident, you understand, firsthand, how quirky life can be.

No one goes into work expecting to suffer a massive injury that sends him to the hospital and creates permanent life changes. But that’s what happened to you. Some days are more fraught and fateful than other days. Life is full of imbalances.

When it comes to your recovery — medical recovery, financial recovery, and spiritual recovery — imbalances also exist. To the extent that you can identify useful imbalances and leverage them is to the extent that you can speed up, cheapen and soften the whole recovery process.

What does that all mean?

It means that certain activities or projects that you do now can give you tremendous leverage — leverage that the vast majority of other activities or projects will not afford you.

For instance — and this is a bad example to illustrate the point — but let’s say that you wrenched your knee. Your knee got thrown out of its socket. As a result of all that pain, you are feeling lethargic and nauseous. You are unable to walk. You are unable to work.
You can do a lot of “medical stuff” to treat your various symptoms. You can take Advil to relieve some of the pain. You can take a nap to sleep off fatigue. Etc. But your biggest point of medical leverage is obviously to treat the knee effectively — to get it back in the socket.
The big point of leverage is the “knee surgery/repair stuff” — all the other medical treatments will only glancingly deal with the problem.

Likewise, when it comes to your personal financial situation, only a small handful of projects will yield the best results for you. Your challenge is to identify what those projects are and to focus your limited attention/stamina/resources on those problems.

In all likelihood, one of those projects involves your quest for North Carolina workers’ compensation. If you can get workers’ comp benefits quickly, you can staunch your cash flow problems and buy yourself some time/sanity to recover and figure out your next steps.

So what’s a great “point of leverage” to deal with your workers’ comp problems?
Instead of trying to manage the situation by yourself — assuming that you’re not an expert in NC workers’ comp law or in how to make recalcitrant employers and insurance companies work for you — consider getting in touch with the team here at the law offices of Michael A. DeMayo for a free consultation.

Call us at (877) 529-1222, or find out more about our services and success rates online. Do the small, important things that are necessary to heal your body and heal your finances, and you’ll likely enjoy better odds of long-term success.

How to Fix the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation System — Surfacing Hidden Dangers at Our Workplaces, Part 2

May 5, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

One of the cheapest and most humane ways to lighten the burden on the North Carolina workers’ compensation system is to suss out hidden dangers at our workplaces. In a recent blog post, we discussed two surprising but potentially very effective ways to create safer workplaces.

1. Reduce the availability of sugary, refined junk food snacks and replace them with healthier alternatives.

2. Create better information sharing platforms so that safety conscious workers and employers can better disseminate their useful insights.

Today, we’re going to look at one more insight from the world of business process improvement.

 If you’re not a business owner, you may not be that familiar with the concept of Systems.

Basically, a system transforms input into output and thus provides value to clients. Top management thinkers often use business process improvement thinking to identify gaps in service or quality. Then they make incremental improvement (via process improvement) and/or major change-ups (via reengineering) to get better results and continually improve.

 Most business thinkers — at least the successful entrepreneurs — engage in systematic thinking, planning, refinement, improvement, etc.

 But although the North Carolina workers’ compensation system is, in fact, a System, very few thought leaders apply this business process improvement “kaizen-type” thinking to the dilemmas we all face.

That all sounds a bit abstract. So let’s break it down a bit.

 The workers’ compensation system has thousands of stakeholders, including insurance companies, employers, state bureaucrats, attorneys, taxpayers, and of course workers.

 The many moving parts of this system are dynamic. But the purpose of the system is well defined — to provide a financial help for hurt and injured workers and to resolve disputes that arise during the compensation process.

 When problems arise in this system, the conventional approach is to blame stakeholders:

     “The insurance company didn’t play fair”

     “The sick/injured worker wasn’t really that sick and/or trumped up his damages”

     “The employer was bad because he didn’t have insurances”

     “The bureaucrats took way too long with the case.”

         “The legislators are in the pockets of the corporations.”Etc.

We’re obviously not saying that these judgments aren’t important. If you’ve personally suffered because of an insurance company’s cruelty or employer’s narcissism, you know how damaging this kind of passing-of-the-buck can be.

 But in addition to calling out lame stakeholders, we also could benefit from finding/repairing problems with the system itself — instead of just blaming people or companies or whole classes of stakeholders.

 Of course, if you’ve personally been hurt, the last thing you care about is fixing this system as a whole. You want specific, actionable advice about your case. Call the DeMayo Law team today for a free consultation to help you maximize your results — 1.877.529.1222.

Solving the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Crisis by Eliminating Hidden Dangers at Work (Part One)

May 4, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

Ever since the Charlotte News & Observer blew the lid off the North Carolina workers’
compensation insurance scandal last spring, our blog and many other thought leaders in the North Carolina community have wrestled with how to refine our system to improve worker care and reduce burdens on insurance companies andemployers at the same time.

It’s a tricky puzzle.

Obviously, no single entity can solve everything. But we might benefit, collectively, from surfacing and eliminating certain hidden dangers that lurk at many North Carolina workplaces.

For instance, anyone who studies North Carolina workers’ compensation issues readily acknowledges that chronic diseases, such as type II diabetes, obesity, cancer, and dementia, exact a horrific toll not only on the lives of the people in our state but also on our infrastructure.

The origins and treatments for so called metabolic syndrome (the cluster of diseases associated with obesity and diabetes) is surprisingly ambiguous. But many health authorities are beginning to rethink certain common dietary paradigms. For instance, according to the official USDA statistics, we are consuming less fat today (during this obesity epidemic) than we did during the 1960s (when there was no diabetes/obesity epidemic).

Conversely, we consume a LOT more sugar and refined carbohydrate.

In light of these and other observations, many health authorities have been recommending
that people worry less about fat consumption and more about sugar/refined carb consumption. If these authorities are right, one way we could make our workplaces healthier is by eliminating or reducing worker access to sugary sweet junk food.

Obviously, workers need to eat. But perhaps instead of vending machines stuffed with processed junk food and sodas, we should have more healthy snacks available, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, hard boiled eggs, and the like.

We can also benefit from better information sharing. Odds are that numerous workers and
employers have developed ad-hoc systems to reduce dangers at their workplaces. These systems just happen to work really well. Maybe a Raleigh construction team has developed particularly nifty way of preventing scaffolding accidents. If that solution could be shared broadly, it could help the entire scaffolding industry eliminate or at least reduce certain types of accidents.

Thanks to the Internet and mobile technologies, we now have a lot of ways to share
information better. If we can somehow collectively collaborate to exchange workplace safety lessons — in real time and across industries — we can almost certainly drive down rates of injury and thus, indirectly, relieve some burden on the North Carolina workers’ compensation system.

We’re going to talk more about this issue in a follow-up blog post. But if you or someone you know needs help with your Charlotte workman’s’ comp case, get in touch with the DeMayo Law team now at 1.877.529.1222 for a free case consultation.

Keeping Strong and Motivated While on Charlotte Workers’ Compensation

May 2, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

How can you stay focused and ready while out on North Carolina workers’ compensation?

More specifically, how can you avoid “getting soft” and growing dependent on this income? How can you maintain a sense of autonomy and feeling of usefulness? How can you keep your job skills sharp? What common “traps” do Charlotte workers’ compensation beneficiaries fall into during their idle time?

If you even begun to have questions along those lines, first of all, congratulations.

Many beneficiaries (or would be beneficiaries) never take the time to consider the potential downside to winning a workers’ compensation case. That’s dangerous because there are always downsides to achieving any objective. If you fail to surface those potential problems, you could subconsciously hold yourself back.

In other words, it’s good that you are already thinking along these lines. However, you now have a practical challenge. How DO you stay on course, once you have “won” fair benefits?

Here are some ideas:

Figure out what jobs skills you want to protect and keep in good shape, and then work with your spouse or friends–or outside counselors–to keep those skills in shipshape.

For instance, maybe you are an accountant, and you broke your leg falling down the stairs outside a Raleigh Bank. Your body may hurt, but your mind is still pretty sharp. So you might want to spend some time everyday playing word and number games to keep your brain functioning at a high level. If you are too hurt/fatigued to practice physical skills, you can try to do them in your head. For instance, maybe you are a construction worker who needs to stay in bed for the next three months because of a back injury. Very well. You can still imagine doing your work. That may sound silly. But if you spend 15 minutes a day or so visualizing successfully implementing tasks at work or moving your body, your mental circuitry will remain intact, and you will find it easier to return to the job force.

With respect to he motivation issue … you absolutely must strive to meet your needs for autonomy and productivity.

Even if you are confined to your bed or so sick that you only really have two or three hours of “productive time” a day, you need to find some way to make use of that time in a way that you will find gratifying and, ideally, financially remunerative. (Be sure your pursuit does not violate terms of your North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits!)

 Again, planning, visualizing, and goal setting can help. But recognize that the motivation needs to be intrinsic–in other words, don’t do an activity in hopes that you will be rewarded at the end. Instead, do something that you find rewarding “in the doing.”

 For help with your workers’ compensation case, look to the DeMayo Law team today for a free consultation.

How to Fix the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation System — Surfacing Hidden Dangers at Our Workplaces, Part 2

March 19, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

One of the cheapest and most humane ways to lighten the burden on the North Carolina workers’ compensation system is to suss out hidden dangers at our workplaces. In a recent blog post, we discussed two surprising but potentially very effective ways to create safer workplaces.

1. Reduce the availability of sugary, refined junk food snacks and replace them with healthier alternatives.

2. Create better information sharing platforms so that safety conscious workers and employers can better disseminate their useful insights.

Today, we’re going to look at one more insight from the world of business process improvement.

If you’re not a business owner, you may not be that familiar with the concept of Systems.

Basically, a system transforms input into output and thus provides value to clients. Top management thinkers often use business process improvement thinking to identify gaps in service or quality. Then they make incremental improvement (via process improvement) and/or major change-ups (via reengineering) to get better results and continually improve.

Most business thinkers — at least the successful entrepreneurs — engage in systematic thinking, planning, refinement, improvement, etc.

But although the North Carolina workers’ compensation system is, in fact, a System, very few thought leaders apply this business process improvement “kaizen-type” thinking to the dilemmas we all face.

That all sounds a bit abstract. So let’s break it down a bit.

The workers’ compensation system has thousands of stakeholders, including insurance companies, employers, state bureaucrats, attorneys, taxpayers, and of course workers.

The many moving parts of this system are dynamic. But the purpose of the system is well defined — to provide a financial help for hurt and injured workers and to resolve disputes that arise during the compensation process.

When problems arise in this system, the conventional approach is to blame stakeholders:

•    “The insurance company didn’t play fair”
•    “The sick/injured worker wasn’t really that sick and/or trumped up his damages”
•    “The employer was bad because he didn’t have insurance”
•    “The bureaucrats took way too long with the case.”
•    “The legislators are in the pockets of the corporations.”
•    Etc.

We’re obviously not saying that these judgments aren’t important. If you’ve personally suffered because of an insurance company’s cruelty or employer’s narcissism, you know how damaging this kind of passing-of-the-buck can be.

But in addition to calling out lame stakeholders, we also could benefit from finding/repairing problems with the system itself — instead of just blaming people or companies or whole classes of stakeholders.

Of course, if you’ve personally been hurt, the last thing you care about is fixing this system as a whole. You want specific, actionable advice about your case. Call the DeMayo Law team today for a free consultation to help you maximize your results — 1.877.529.1222.

There Is No Magic Way to Shortcut Your Way to a Successful North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claim

March 12, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you fell off a ladder at a Raleigh construction site and broke your ankle in several places; or you developed a wicked case of thoracic outlet syndrome after working in a very stressful bank job in Charlotte, you want someone to help you.

You want to fight and win your claim–to compel your former boss to treat you fairly and make the insurance company treat you like a human being.

Our Charlotte North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm is in the business of helping people like you get better outcomes and find new hope after everything seems lost. To that end, many of the articles we publish on this blog intend to galvanize positive, productive thinking — that is, to help would-be beneficiaries take a more positive and productive stance in how they approach their struggles.

Positive thinking is obviously important, as is goal setting, resilience, finding good people, etc.

But beware the “miracle solution” mentality.

No law firm, no matter how brilliant, well-credentialed, and resource rich can win every case. Even if you get a fair settlement amount, you will need to do a lot of work, by yourself, to repair your body, move forward with your career (if that’s even possible anymore), and fix your finances.

The moral here is that you want to embrace a paradoxical mentality.

On the one hand, stoke your faith that you can get through this experience, no matter what happens with the insurance company, your boss, the NCIC, etc.

Simultaneously, accept and even embrace the complicated state of your circumstances. Understand that you will NOT “solve everything at once.”

If you consciously inhabit this paradoxical mindset–accepting your complex fate but pushing relentlessly for positive results–you will likely get a far better outcome.

Make that first step by calling the team here at the law offices of Michael A. DeMayo at 1.877.529.1222 now for a free consultation.

Going Back to Work After a North Carolina Workplace Injury: It’s a Process, not a Project

February 14, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

Perhaps it’s too early to even consider what it would be like to go back to work after your North Carolina workplace injury. Perhaps you never want to go back to the construction site, engineering plant, or bank office again. Maybe your experience was so traumatic that you need to switch companies or change the nature of your work entirely.

But if you do plan on working again, you might benefit from thinking about the process of reentering the workforce in the following way.

Most people think about returning to work as a project. It’s something that you “do to be done with it.” You will adjust your workflow, schedule, habits, and ergonomics because of your new physical limitations post-accident. But eventually things will get “back to normal,” and the “project” will be completed.

This might not be an accurate or resourceful way to frame what’s in store for you, especially if you suffered a truly life-changing event, such as a metabolic problem or permanent physical injury.

For instance, you may discover, to your dismay, that you can only concentrate six hours a day (instead of the eight hours a day that you used to be able to conjure up effortlessly). Because of your reduced capacity, you might not get all your critical work done. Thus, you’ll find yourself scrambling to outsource or even accept a demotion to stay gainfully employed.

You will be living in a state of perpetual uncertainty, and the “project” of getting back to work may never ever feel complete.

On the other hand, if you view the situation as a PROCESS that can be continually tweaked and improved, then you will feel much better about the situation, almost instantly.

A process is a system that never really ends. It describes a way of doing or a way of being as opposed to a set of tasks that need to be completed.

For instance, let’s reconsider our theoretical example from the process point of view. If you no longer can work eight hours a day — only six hours a day — that’s fine. You just readjust the process per that reality and find new ways of doing things. Perhaps you stop or outsource certain sub-processes that don’t add value to your work.

The difference is subtle but ultimately very important. In the project mentality, you are living for the future — hoping to reach a place of closure in which you forever put the accident behind you. In the process case, you acknowledge and accept what you and your body have gone through, and you immediately start “living for now.” You adjust, as needed, based on the serendipitous opportunities and surprising challenges that you meet on the road.

For help developing an effective North Carolina workers’ compensation case, call the DeMayo Law team now at (877) 529-1222.

Could Your Whiplash, Headaches and Other Charlotte Workplace Injury-Induced Problems Be Caused (Or Even Worsened) By Anger?

February 7, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you fell off a scaffold at a Raleigh construction site, hurt your legs and spine in a delivery vehicle accident, or developed crippling thoracic outlet syndrome while working an office job at the Duke University campus, you likely believe that your physical problems are tied to physical causes.

And they just might be!

Physical insults to your body, such as serious falls or car crashes, obviously can have physical consequences. An alternative theory, however, suggests that many chronic musculoskeletal injuries are at least partially perpetuated by (and potentially even caused by) repressed emotions, especially anger.

This alternative theory is controversial and, there is not too much science to refute or confirm it. However, research suggests that many muscular-skeletal problems — at least the chronic ones — may be caused/worsened by knots of overworked muscle tissue known as trigger points. Treatment of these trigger points can relieve symptoms that appear only indirectly related to a problem area. For instance, if you experience numbness and tingling in your hands, perhaps you have a problem in your hands themselves. Alternatively, trigger points in your chest area, shoulders, and upper-back could be constraining your musculoskeletal system and thus making your hands feel numb and tingly and uncomfortable.

The science of trigger points is relatively unexplored and poorly understood. But at least some anecdotal evidence indicates that repressed emotions, diet, as well as the more obvious physical “stuff” can all impact the formation of and resolution of these trigger points.

Perhaps, one day, researchers will understand the mind-body connection better, and physicians can treat workplace injury victims on a more holistic level — help them develop a catalogue of physical therapies, dietary changes, and psychological insight to deal more effectively with their chronic musculoskeletal problems.

The moral here is that, if you’ve been struggling to recover from a seemingly minor workplace injury, appreciate that the human body is incredibly complex and dynamic. Be compassionate and maintain faith while you and your medical team work through your specific medical puzzle.

Of course, while you’re engaging in rehabilitation, consider getting the ball rolling on your North Carolina workers’ compensation case. The team here at DeMayo Law can help identify a powerful way forward with your claim. Call us now for a consultation at (877) 529-1222.

Legislators Propose New Tools to Stop North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Fraud

February 5, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

The Charlotte News & Observer is reporting important breaking news on North Carolina workers’ compensation. Journalist Mandy Locke reports that several state legislators are piecing together a bill to detect and punish employers who fail to purchase appropriate workers’ compensation insurance.

The special committee aims to take several key actions, including:

•    Putting employers’ workers’ comp insurance coverage on the public record;
•    Forcing NC agencies to hand over information for analysis to ensure that companies abide by their insurance and tax requirements;
•    Calling for new strategies to limit the frequency and cost of workers’ comp claims (any legislators reading this should peruse the back-issues of this blog, which are chock full of creative ideas to reform the system!)

Per the News & Observer’s article “already, the [state] controller’s office is helping the Industrial Commission identify the tens of thousands of businesses failing to carry insurance…eventually, the hope is to use the data to catch businesses that may be misrepresenting the scope of their business…to avoid certain taxes and insurance.”

But not all the news is good news, at least from injured workers’ point of view. Thanks to last year’s legislative changes, the North Carolina Industrial Commission will be reducing reimbursement rates in April: “in-patient costs will drop 10%, outpatient and ambulatory center surgeries will be cut 15%, and implant costs will not exceed 20% above cost.”

So what might this flurry of legislative action mean for your case? What do you need to pay attention to?

To understand best practices for workers’ comp in North Carolina, based on the new rules and changes to the law, look to the team here at DeMayo Law for steady, intelligent, and up-to-date guidance. Call our offices at (877) 529-1222 to schedule your free workers’ comp case consultation.

Worst Case Scenario North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Case: Man Whose Feet Were Smashed in a Roofing Accident Gets Only $75 out of $70,000 Owed!

January 29, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

This is one of those North Carolina workers’ compensation cases that boils your blood and makes you want to stop whatever you’re doing and rededicate your life to reforming the system.

The case concerns the fate of a man named John Ashworth, who worked for Statewide Roofing in Franklin County. In 2008, Ashworth fell off a roof and shattered both feet. His boss, Robert Wayne House, lacked North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance — a sadly not uncommon turn of events these days. As the Charlotte News & Observer exposed last year, tens of thousands of businesses in North Carolina have been (and still are) failing to meet their workers’ comp insurance obligations.

In any event, House owes Ashworth over $70,000 in lost wages. He also owes another hurt worker over $100,000.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission has pressured House to pay off his debts. But, so far, he has paid just $75 to Ashworth. The 53-year-old calls that pittance payment “not even worth my time” and says he spent nearly a third of that money ($25) just on parking and gas while traveling to his hearings out in Raleigh.

For now, the injured roofer gets by on Medicaid, Social Security Disability payments and food stamps. But Ashworth and others fume about the lack of safety net for hurt workers whose employers lack insurance.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission is well aware of the problem.

Over the past few years, the NCIC has heard from around 500 hurt workers (annually!) whose situations “rhyme” with Ashworth’s. The NCIC can award payments. But ensuring that those compulsory payments actually get paid can be an onerous, if not impossible, chore.

When the News & Observer broke the big story last year — that 30,000 plus employers lacked workers’ comp insurance — the NCIC did act, somewhat. It threatened several employers with prison time and massive penalties if they failed to remunerate injured workers. This prompted some employers to pay, but some analysts believe that this process is akin to trying to get blood from a stone.

Many employers, including House, Ashworth’s old boss, are broke themselves. They have no means to provide the funds. That means that Ashworth and others must rely on complicated and frustratingly inconsistent strategies to pay bills and simply survive.

If you or someone you care about has been hurt in a North Carolina workplace, maybe you’re missing out on surprising strategies and legal options that you can leverage to get better results. Call or email the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo right now to schedule a free case evaluation.

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: Reading Real Life North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Success Stories

January 3, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

On this North Carolina workers’ compensation blog, we speak a lot in the abstract about tactics and techniques potential beneficiaries can use to succeed: to bring back a sense of order; to compel insurance companies and recalcitrant bosses to play fairly; to develop better behaviors to handle the diverse problems caused by injury/illness.

However, you may wish to supplement this information with “lessons from the real world.”

What have other workers’ comp beneficiaries in North Carolina done to identify their hurdles, overcome their obstacles, and gain financial stability and clarity? You don’t need to guess at these answers! You can find loads of success stories for free on the Internet.

You will be stimulated by the “blow-by-blow” stories of those who have overcome similar challenges, but you do need to be careful. Not all the stories you’ll read will be “legit.” Moreover, what works for one person in a similar situation might not work for you. Intangible factors about your case or injury could create new issues… and even new opportunities.

Reading success stories can help you motivate to get out of a slump, enjoy empathy (only a very few who’ve never been through the workers’ comp rigmarole understand what the process feels like), and find curious resources to help with various aspects of the journey.

Nevertheless, you really need to take great care. Following bad or inept advice can make your situation infinitely worse and potentially destroy and otherwise sound case. The “medical guidance” of a random yahoo should never substitute for the advice of an experienced, licensed physician. Likewise, you can’t “substitute around” what a focused workers’ compensation law firm, like DeMayo Law, can do for you, even if your case seems simple right now.

The bottom line: too many hurt workers find themselves isolated, alone, and bereft of critical empathy. Even though your family members and colleagues may nominally offer support, they may not be able to appreciate what you’re going through. So dedicate some time to connect with others who have successfully emerged from similar crises.

For help understanding your legal rights and potential tools, get in touch with the DeMayo Law team now for a consultation.

Learning to View the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Process as a Process (Not as a Single Event)

December 13, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

In today’s post, we’re going to try to shift your mindset about workmen’s compensation in North Carolina.

Most injured workers and their families picture the quest to get adequate, ongoing benefits as the equivalent of a quest to hike Mount Kilimanjaro or swim across the English Channel – a challenging project which can be conquered with enough vim, perseverance and luck.

That type of metaphor misleads – big time!

There is a reason why we call the North Carolina workers’ compensation system a “system.” A system is a repeatable process, something that gets done over and over again. A “project” is a one-time event, akin to climbing a big mountain or swimming across the sea.

This difference may seem fuzzy to you right now, but try to appreciate the distinction.

The way you optimize a process is very different from the way you optimize a project. Since you only “do” a project once, for instance, you just want to figure out the fastest, most efficient solution. If that means “burning your bridges,” so be it. Not so when it comes to tweaking a process! If you plan to cycle through a system again and again, you must avoid “burning your bridges” and also document what you do in detail. It’s not about crossing the river or reaching the peak – it’s about creating a sustainable, comfortable, repeatable method.

Switching from the project-based to the process-based mindset is not easy or intuitive. But it’s crucial. For instance, a setback on a project might be devastating. A setback during a process can actually HELP you because it gives you insight into how that obstacle can be met next time. Those who are stuck in the “project mentality” may view their workers’ comp obstacles in a purely negative light. Those who make the leap into the “system mentality” will see obstacles as learning opportunities to be leveraged to improve future passes through the process.

Of course, doing this all on your own – especially if you’re sick, tired, financially overwhelmed, and unfamiliar with even these basic paradigms for understanding North Carolina workers’ compensation – is kind of a recipe for disaster.

The team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo has an established track record for helping people exactly like you discover what works, avoid what doesn’t work, and generate results and clarity. Get in touch with us now for a free consultation.

What Oklahoma Congressman’s Workers Comp Success Story Says About Your Chances For Collecting Workers’ Compensation in Charlotte

November 22, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Mike Christian, an Oklahoma Congressman who was injured in a car crash in 2009 while driving to the state capital, was recently awarded over $51,000 in workers’ compensation.

This ‘under the radar’ story could have interesting lessons for you, if you’re struggling to figure out whether you’ll be able to collect workers’ comp to pay for your injuries.

According to the story in AP, the Oklahoma City Republican hit a truck on February 26, 2009, while he was driving to work. The accident led to back and neck injuries. Representative Christian was driving in his personal car, but he was commuting to work. Legislators in Oklahoma can get reimbursed for one day of driving every week. As a result of that little subtle fact, the trial judge ruled in his favor, and the liable insurance company elected to pay the check instead of appeal.

Even without diving deeper into the case — or into the travails that Representative Christian had to endure during his quest — we can still extract very useful lessons here:

1. Just because you are a powerful figure – e.g. a famous person, political representative, or a wealthy CEO – does not mean that your journey to collect workers’ compensation in North Carolina (or elsewhere) will be easy.

Here was a state legislator – someone who was literally running the government – who had to fight tooth-and-nail to collect money from an insurance company. If you’re having difficulty navigating the system — figuring out what to do and how to do it — hopefully this tale can give you some emotional relief and help you be less hard on yourself. Getting compensated can be tough!

2. Extremely minor details can have massive impacts on your chances to collect a claim.

Imagine if Representative Christian had not been officially reimbursed for driving once a week to his job. He might still have prevailed, but his road to victory would have been more challenging. What are the small distinctions about your case that will make it harder (or easier) for you to prevail?

3. We all need help sometime, and there’s no shame in asking for assistance when you need it.

Representative Christian is a Republican legislator in one of the most conservative-leaning states in the union. Yet he availed himself of a critical resource — i.e. workers’ compensation.

The point is that asking for help – or for even government assistance – does not mean that you lack industry, persistence, or self-starter-ship. If you have reservations about seeking government assistance based on political ideology, let go of them. Instead, focus on what’s best for you and your family.

The team at the law office of Michael A. DeMayo can help you make smart, sound, and strategic decisions about your workers’ comp case. Get in touch with us now for a free evaluation of your claim.

What’s Thwarting Your Quest for Workmen’s Compensation in North Carolina? [Not What You Think!]

November 20, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

You’ve been struggling to collect workmen’s compensation benefits in North Carolina for a while. You feel agitated and practically ready to scream in frustration.

Why you are having such a hard time?

You may not have asked yourself this question before. Or maybe you have asked it, and you answered it by claiming to be helpless. For instance:

•    ”My employer just turned on me for no reason, and he’s not supporting my claim”;
•    ”The North Carolina workers’ compensation bureaucracy is too complicated, and I get a headache every time I try to understand even my basic rights”;
•    ”The insurance company is screwing me over”;
•    ”The accident made me too sick/depressed to take effective action.”

There is a strong likelihood that you have been struck by unfortunate circumstances. Perhaps you have had the displeasure of discovering that your boss is not the kind of boss that thought he or she was.  Perhaps a seemingly trustworthy insurer has turned out to be anything but. And those things may all be true. Nevertheless, in your rush to figure your situation out, you may have misdiagnosed your problem – or at least failed to address certain key aspects of your frustrations.

What seems to be holding you back may be a phantom constraint.

So what’s the real problem? How can you find out?

Here’s a really neat, fun, and insightful exercise. Pick one aspect of your workmen’s compensation problem. For instance, maybe you’re feeling pain in your wrist after a typing injury. Ask yourself why it happened. Your answer might be ‘because I worked myself to the bone and never really took breaks.’ Now, ask yourself what’s the root cause of that problem — why did you work so hard? You might come back with an answer along the lines of ‘I wanted to do a really good job to impress my superior and earn more money.’

Then drill down yet again! Ask yourself why it was so important to show off to your superiors and make money. You might then realize that you did so because you felt a strong sense of duty to provide for your family. Why? Because your family is incredibly important to you.

Your passion and desire to support your family sparked your “overwork,” which sparked your injury.

With that insight in your pocket, you can think about how you might be able to meet your needs  to support your family without struggling so much or putting yourself at risk.

It’s very difficult for us to understand the subtle, often subconscious forces that motivate us to take actions (or fail to take actions). It can be tremendously useful to work with an experienced person – or a team of good people – to make progress.

Get in touch with the team at the Law Offices of Michael DeMayo for assistance with your claim now.

Are the Stresses on the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation All (Or Mostly) Due to Our “Diet Troubles”?

November 6, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

A new “Be Active NC” report from 2012 has profound implication for the North Carolina workers’ compensation program. New research suggests that healthcare costs – in particular, healthcare costs related to the diseases of civilization, such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and so forth – may be nearly singlehandedly creating profound and potentially fatal stresses on the system.

Consider: nearly two out of every three adults in North Carolina is now obese. More than 40% of teenagers or kids are obese or overweight. One report estimates that over 20% of prescription and medical bills (from 2010) can be tied into obesity and overweight.

The question before us all is: what can we do to deal with our obesity problem better?

Clearly, the past methods have not been working. Over the past several years, Americans – and North Carolinians included – have been getting more and more obese. Twinned with this obesity epidemic has been an epidemic of other diseases, most notably Type 2 diabetes, but also including Alzheimer’s disease, certain types of cancer, hypertension, “bad cholesterol levels,” gout, and literally dozens of other health issues.

Physicians and policy experts who are trying to understand and deal with this problem begin from a certain assumption about what causes obesity and overweight and build from there.

We all assume that people who eat too much and don’t exercise enough become fat; and that the solution for overweight/obesity thus must be to put obese people on starvation diets – cajole or force them to eat less and exercise more.

An alternative hypothesis suggests that this fundamental description of the problem – and description of a potential cure – may be misguided.

According to Dr. Peter Attia and science journalist Gary Taubes, founders of the new non-profit, Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI), obesity should be considered to be a disease of poorly regulated fat tissue driven, perhaps primarily, by a “bad diet” in the form of excess sugars and refined grains and carbohydrates.

Dr. Attia and Taubes’ organization was recently ceded with over $5 million in money from a private hedge fund; they and several high-profile scientists are setting to work to test this alternative hypothesis. If it’s correct, it may offer us new hope and new ideas for how to counter not only the obesity/diabetes epidemics but also how to indirectly solve related problems, such as the financial difficulties of the North Carolina workers’ compensation system.

For help understanding what you can do to fight your case more successfully, connect with the team here at DeMayo Law.

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation and the Quest for Perfection

October 25, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Contrary to the stereotype of the typical North Carolina workers’ compensation beneficiary, most out-of-work injured employees are both desperate to get back to work and also passionate about reclaiming control over their own lives. While it’s true that a certain very small segment of the workers’ comp population does want to “take it easy” – and there will always be people who will abuse benefits programs – odds are enormous that you belong to the first category.

Perfectionism – the big, hidden enemy of so many hurt/injured employees

Critics of the Charlotte workers’ compensation system will disagree with the first paragraph of this blog entry. They will cite statistics and anecdotal evidence suggesting that hurt/injured workers tend to get mired by their disability. Far too many people blow off their rehab/therapies, waste time surfing the web and watching TV, and otherwise avoid the tough but critical work needed for success.

But this problem of “slackerdom” is really often a reaction to inner perfectionism. It’s almost like many think: “if I can’t succeed totally with my life, why bother trying at all?” If you believe that the system is stacked against you – that your employer, an insurance company, or some other party will almost assuredly “win” any legal battle with you – you might figure “what’s the point in fighting hard for my rights?”

Imagine playing high stakes blackjack against the house, knowing that the deck was literally stacked against you. What would be the point in investing time, energy, and focus into making your blackjack game better, when you already know the outcome already? It’s easier to “tune out.”

So when the critics look at the facts on the ground – see hurt and injured workers “slacking off” and not pursuing rehab best practices – they may just be seeing the residue of a broken system.

Who wants to play a game when you don’t know the rules and you don’t believe you can win?

Obviously, your workplace injury and fraught financial situation are not “games.” However, there are aspects of your situation that are “game-like,” in that you’re striving to reach certain metrics (e.g. dollars per week in benefits). But you probably don’t know the rules that well, and you probably feel like you are playing against a “better opponent.”

Evening the playing field is possible, even if you are in a weakened state, physically, emotionally, and financially. The team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo can help you understand what steps to take, what processes to follow, and what else to do, legally speaking, to set yourself up for better results.

Preparing for a Life without North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits (a Paradoxical Success Tool!)

September 25, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

You might fail in your quest to obtain Charlotte workers’ compensation benefits.

And that’s scary.

After all, you’re likely in desperate financial need, and you also have a burning sense of justice about your situation: you believe that your employer and/or an insurance company should provide at least some remuneration for your therapies, medical treatments, lost wages, et cetera.

You may, indeed, have a case; and if you think you might, then definitely connect with the tested and aggressive legal team here at the law offices of Michael A. DeMayo.

All that said, when you operate from the mentality that you “have to” get benefits or else your life will be a wreck, you lose some control over your life and destiny. And that loss of control can actually harm not only your spirit, but also your quest for benefits.

It’s a paradoxical situation. The more psychologically dependent you become on a “good” outcome, the less in control you feel over your situation, and the more difficult it might be for you to take the steps needed to get a successful resolution. It’s a bit like how a suitor’s desperation can make him unappealing to the object of his desire.

So how can you inoculate yourself against the desperation? After all, you really do have needs that must be met, and you might not have any a Plan B if the benefits don’t work out. You don’t want to live in fantasyland and ignore real dangers.

It is possible to embrace this paradox: to see the reality of your unmet needs AND simultaneously strive to retain control over your destiny as much as possible.

Here’s how to shore up your situation.

1. “Game out” your worst case scenarios.

What “bad stuff” might happen to you, if you fail to collect North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits?

For instance, say the proceedings get delayed for months or years beyond what you’d like. What would happen to you? Write down your fears. Write down what you might do. How might you cope? Whom might you turn to for help?

Often, our fears are most debilitating when they lurk inside us. When we surface them – write them down – they become more tractable. We can figure out solutions around them. We can nullify their psychological effect by thinking them through.

2. Exercise what business guru Jim Collins calls “Leading Above the Death Line”

In his landmark analysis of businesses that thrive in chaotic environments, Jim Collins documents a concept called “leading above the death line.” If you went bankrupt, that would be a major setback. But at least you could ultimately reboot your finances, all things being equal. If you lost your life, however, there is no “reboot.” So try to identify the “lines in the sand” that you think that cannot be crossed, and then use judicious “pre-thinking” to figure out how to stay as far away from that “death line” as possible.

Businesses Look Out: Governor Perdue Creates North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Scofflaw Task Force

September 13, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Two weeks ago, Governor Beverly Perdue shook up the world of North Carolina workers’ compensation when she created a “Scofflaw Task Force” to punish state employers who misclassify workers for the purpose of avoiding expenses and gaining competitive advantage.

Wayne Goodwyn, the NC Insurance Commissioner, will head up the force, which will help workers report employers who violate NC workers’ compensation rules and also promote legislation to try to compel businesses to come into line. Governor Perdue’s orders follow on the heels of powerful series of articles reported by the Raleigh News & Observer. The series exposed how many state trucking, healthcare, and construction companies have bent or broken workers’ comp rules. Shockingly, 30,000 + companies in the state that should carry workers’ comp insurance have none – or have inadequate insurance, according to the News & Observer. Some companies also use so-called “ghost policies” to try to get around regulations. Unfortunately, when hurt employees try to activate these ghost policies, they cannot get money to pay for time off of work, lost wages, and so forth.

Goodwyn’s task force will aim to rally various agencies and helps violators voluntarily come into compliance. The team must report its progress twice a year and suggest reforms, propose legislation, and surface roadblocks that might impede progress.

Don’t expect fast action from the Scofflaw Task Force – the first report is not due until next year, just around the time when Governor Perdue is set to leave office. But many workers’ comp advocates are at least tentatively hopeful that the state government is taking steps in the right direction. We’re fortunate to have independent media organs, like the News & Observer, to point out the inefficiencies of the system and to spur real reform in Raleigh.

“Big picture” news notwithstanding, if you or someone you care about has a worker’s comp issue – for instance, you just found out that your employer does not have enough (or any) insurance – the team at the Law Offices of Michael DeMayo can give you powerful, effective guidance to collect benefits and regain control over your situation.

What Are the 3 Most Important Tasks to Get North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits ASAP?

August 30, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Here’s a cool exercise for you. Ask yourself this question every morning, right after you get up, and every evening, before you retire: “What are the three most important projects I need to do to maximize my North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits?”

If you asked yourself that question every night and every day for 30 days — and you journaled the answers and reviewed them as appropriate – can you even imagine how much progress you would make?

Unfortunately, hurt and injured workers are rarely encouraged to think through their problems and develop inner resourcefulness. Yes, it’s often crucial for people who are struggling with a less than compassionate boss or difficult insurance company to leverage outside resources, like the Charlotte workers’ compensation firm of DeMayo Law.

But even the best legal team is not going to be able to right every wrong in your life or solve every indirect issue pertaining to your workers’ comp quest.

To learn how to think more resourcefully, you need to adopt smarter, success oriented habits.

One of those habits is learning to focus on what’s important as opposed to what’s urgent.

In other words, you likely have a basket of projects and challenges associated with your workers’ comp situation. In addition to locking down your benefits, you also need to figure out what to do next with respect to employer, your rehab schedule, what to do with the kids while you’re recovering, etc, etc. Some of these projects are both important and urgent. For instance, if you rent an apartment, paying the rent every month is an important and urgent task. It comes with a built-in timer.

On the other hand, we can all too easily get sucked into busy work — the unimportant but urgent stuff, such as a frantic e-mail from your cousin about her “baby mama drama” — at the expense of the important but not so urgent stuff, such as questions about how to rejigger your retirement plan now that you’ve been knocked off of work for several months or possibly several years.

Using the rule of identifying and working on your three most important tasks per day is a great way to keep your focus on the important/non-urgent tasks.

Principles for Assembling the Best North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Team Possible

July 19, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

In a recent post, we built a case for why you need a properly vetted North Carolina workers’ compensation team to help you through your various financial, medical, and legal issues.

In all likelihood, you’re currently trying to wrangle a basket of challenges in diverse areas of your life. And even if you are in relatively stout health after the accident/event that rendered you incapable of working, there is a very low likelihood that you can deal with all of these diverse challenges on your own efficiently and successfully.

How do you pick the right team for your needs?

Here’s a thought exercise to help you. It is an exercise designed to help you surface the underlying principles and values that you hold… the ones you haven’t yet made conscious and concrete yet. Here’s what you do. Imagine that you have a friend, Mr. X, who is going to build your entire North Carolina workers’ compensation “dream team” for you.

What instructions would you give Mr. X?

Spend about 10 minutes writing down all the possible primary instructions you would give Mr. X. Don’t censor yourself or worry about being too silly or persnickety. You can edit this list later. But the point is to get the most prominent ideas out of your head onto paper. For instance, you might say:

•    I want my doctors and any professionals involved to be licensed and credentialed – no black marks per the Better Business Bureau or other regulatory or licensing agency;
•    I want any rehab specialist to be located within 10 miles of my home or to be willing to drive to me;
•    I want this process to be wrapped up as quickly as possible – I don’t mind sacrificing some of my benefits in order to “be done with this” ASAP;
•    And so forth.

In working through this imaginary conversation with Mr. X, what you’re doing is you’re coming up with the values and principles that you want to govern the team building process. It’s so important to get these cleared up early on in the process; if your values and principles are lurking in your head – not on paper and not communicated to people who might be helping you – you will end up stressed out and overwhelmed.

After you’ve made your big list, take the time to “snip out” values that are really not that important to you – distill the list down to no more than 10 or 12 points. And then share that list with whomever you invite on board to assist you. Doing this one exercise will improve your North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits process tremendously.

For help analyzing your situation and a free case evaluation, connect with the team here at the law offices of Michael A. DeMayo.

How Clear Are You on Your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Goals?

July 12, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you’re struggling to collect North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits, or you’re in the beginning stages of researching your options after an injury or illness, odds are you are suffering from a significant clarity problem – and you may not even realize it.

Many people act without a thorough and highly specific ideal outcome in mind. To the extent we do so is the extent to which we set ourselves up for frustration, lag time, and failure.

Getting clear about a desired outcome is actually a lot harder than many people realize. The skills required to attain this high level of clarity, consistently, are typically not taught in school; and they require diligence and practice to perfect.

Here’s one sure-fire way to gain at least a little clarity during an ambiguous situation. The idea is going to sound simple, but don’t dismiss it!

Here it is: Measure.

That’s all? Measure?

That’s all. According to Peter Drucker, one of the greatest management thinkers of all time, “what gets measured gets managed.” In other words, if can come up with a metric for the result that you want, you are far more likely to manage your way to get better results with it.

The key is to pick an appropriate metric for your situation. Ideally, you want to choose one or two numbers that you can track over the next weeks or months to ensure that you are moving slowly, tangibly, in an appropriate direction.

For instance, you can choose a metric to grade your physical recovery. Say you have a serious knee injury, and you are going through a rehab. You might grade your knee pain daily or even twice daily on a 1 to 10 scale; then work on getting that pain number down over time. In terms of your financial situation, maybe you can grade the degree of ambiguity over your budget on a 1 to 10 scale – or use whatever metric is appropriate – and then work on making that number more favorable.

The key point is, by grasping onto some benchmark you can work against, you can not only move yourself incrementally towards a desired end state, but you can also regain a sense of control that you might have lost since the injury/illness.

For help with your case, connect with the team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo.

Putting HB 237 in Context: Beyond the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Headlines

July 5, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

The big news of 2012, at least as far as North Carolina workers’ compensation is concerned, is obviously the passage of HB 237, a bill signed into law last week by Governor Beverly Perdue.

As we have covered in previous posts, the law is designed to encourage businesses to comply with insurance regulations. It comes in the wake of a high profile news series in the News & Observer, which documented how thousands of in-state businesses lack North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance coverage.

The measure fell far short of some advocates’ expectations. The Executive Editor of the News & Observer said “if the data from the NC Rate Bureau was made private, we would not have been able to publish [the landmark] story.” John Bussian, a representative of the North Carolina Press Association, also had problems with the bill – specifically the provision that made employer information proprietary: “the fact is, neither the media nor the government can gauge whether employers are complying with the workers’ compensation law with that database.”

Beyond the Headlines

How much will HB 237 change the North Carolina workers’ compensation system?

Are we collectively focusing on the right “stuff” to reform workers’ comp, make it fairer, encourage employers to be more compliant with insurance requirements, and so forth? Perhaps. But in all likelihood, the Sturm und Drang surrounding the News & Observer story — and the subsequent battle over legislation — may be overblown.

Here is the reality: Given the will and economic incentives, there are dozens, possibly hundreds, of strategies that we can collectively deploy to improve the system. For instance, and these are speculative, but they are potentially useful to consider:

•    Consider a statewide ban on sodas and other sugary beverages, similar to the proposed and much ballyhooed New York city ban. This could reduce obesity and diabetes rates in the state, which would in turn reduce pressure on the healthcare system and possibly reduce injuries at the workplace;
•    Launch a campaign to encourage North Carolinians to get more sleep, thereby theoretically reducing the number of fatigue-related accidents and workers’ comp claims;
•    Create a conference to bring together insurers, attorneys, regulators, employee groups, and employer groups to search for mutually beneficial strategies and tactics to improve the system’s efficiency, utility, costs, etc.

This speculation is not intended to downplay the debate over HB 237 – it could turn out to be an important and useful law. But we generally need to think “bigger picture” and see the context in which laws like HB 237 are debated and passed.

On a more practical front, if you or a loved one needs help dealing with your benefits situation, the team at DeMayo Law is here to help.

Counterintuitive Findings of North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Study Highlight Dangers of Simple “Policy Solutions”

June 19, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Fixing the North Carolina workers’ compensation system is a top priority, not only for policymakers but also for insurers, employers, employees, and everyone else concerned about the quality of care delivered in our state.

Good intentions are one thing. Hard data is another.

To that end, a recent study conducted by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) is pretty telling. Let’s dive into the details and try to extract lessons that might be meaningful, if you or somebody you care about has been recently injured in a workplace accident, and if you might need help from a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm, like DeMayo Law.

The WCRI looked at the initial impact of something called an outpatient fee schedule reduction — a policy attempt to reduce the hospital costs of outpatient stays. Prior to summer 2009, the reimbursement rate was around 95% for most NC hospitals – that fee schedule changed dramatically down to 79%. The study looked at eight months after that fee schedule reduction.

Unsurprisingly, the payment to charge ratio went down (from 82% to 72%). But surprisingly – shockingly, even – the average charge for outpatient services spiked by 17% over the rate for a controlled period prior to the enactment of the new fee schedule.

To summarize: the overall percentage of reimbursement was lower, but the costs of services on average was higher – possibly negating the savings.

If you or somebody you love is struggling to make a claim, deal with an unfair employer, or battle your way through the thicket of an insurance company’s bureaucracy, these findings may not seem like much to you. But the lessons here are pretty broad. They suggest that “quick fixes” to problems at the level of NC policy – or even at the level of your own life – can often backfire… or at least lead to very different outcomes.

In other words, it confirms the hypothesis we proposed in another recent blog post – that the trajectory towards a workers’ comp “win” is often far from straightforward, even if your claim is simple, and even if you know precisely what you want and how you want to get it.

False Beliefs about Charlotte Workers Compensation – Part II: “My Benefits Will Make Me or Break Me”

May 24, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you or a family member got hurt in a workplace accident in or around Charlotte, and you have serious bills and medical expenses to dispatch, an urgent priority is to try to secure North Carolina Workers’ Compensation benefits.

This money can be a godsend to help you pay for bills, produce the cash flow necessary to fund your life, and release stress. Given how important the money might be to you, you might be tempted to overinflate its potential importance to you, long term. Now, obviously, you do need benefits. And if you deserve them and can get them, the team here at the law offices of Michael A. DeMayo can fight as hard as possible, using all of our resources and experience, to get you the fairest and most efficient resolution.

On the other hand, you also need to understand that recovery from an injury or from a tough financial situation is a process. There is no “one-time” fix for your health or your financial dire straits. If you broke your arm, there is no pill or surgery that you can buy that’s going to magically make your arm “all better” by next week. Sure, there are surgeries and techniques and drugs that can help with the process — that can deliver more certainty in terms of results. But healing ultimately takes time. The same thing is true with respect to your finances.

Why is this discussion important?

It’s important because the mindset that you carry with you as you manage your personal injury can have an enormous impact on your potential for success and healing. If you operate under false beliefs – e.g. that getting benefits will “fix everything” or that not getting them will “ruin your life” – then you are not really seeing reality clearly. And you could make inaccurate or desperate decisions that could complicate your situation. Moreover, by searching for the equivalent of “magic pills” instead of trying to find great people, great resources, great systems, and great processes –– you are going to set yourself up for disappointment. The key is your mindset, more than any single decision. And the key to a great mindset is understanding that recovery is a process, not a pill.

Employers Who Fail to Buy North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Insurance – What Should Be Done? Part 1

April 9, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

A recent piece in the Charlotte Observer, “When NC employers dodge workers’ comp costs, employees pay the price,” has raised a huge conversation among professionals in the North Carolina workers’ compensation community.

Whether you’re a worker who got hurt on a roofing job, a family member of someone hurt in a work-related driving accident, or simply a curious citizen, we hope that you will enjoy this two-part series reviewing and analyzing the Charlotte Observer’s editorial.

According to the News and Observer, as many as 32,000 businesses in North Carolina that should carry workers’ comp do not. Dun & Bradstreet found that there are approximately 172,000 companies based in NC that employ more than three or more people. This means these companies must purchase insurance or certify that they have money to self insure. Meanwhile, insurers only wrote about 140,500 policies for businesses in 2011.

That’s a big gap!

And that gap is important because, as the Charlotte Observer piece points out, non-compliant companies put hurt workers at risk. An employer who fails to carry workers’ comp insurance can be charged with a Class H felony. Not exactly an armed robbery count — but it’s still a felony. Nevertheless, the enforcement of this law is pretty lenient. As the Charlotte Observer’s piece pointed out, two construction company owners were recently excused of this fraud charge after an investigation revealed that they let their workers’ comp policy lapse because of financial pressure.

In other words, yes, the employers did something wrong – committed a Class H felony, perhaps. But they weren’t trying to skirt the law or cheat the law as much as they were trying to keep their business afloat. That would be all well and good, except for the fact that — in this particular case — a 59-year-old employee got crushed by a load of gravel and suffered a permanent disability. The hurt worker is now out $60,000 in lost wages, and his hospital bills total $40,000.

So that’s $100,000. Where does that money come from, if his employer lacks assets and insurance?

Questions like these are far more than theoretical: they are practical and scary, especially if you or a loved one suffered a serious injury.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Industrial Commission appears to be kicking the can on this issue. As Observer points out: “The Commission makes no effort to figure out which employers don’t have protection. It only learns of noncompliant companies when a worker has been hurt and appeals for help.”

In other words, we’re closing the proverbial barn door after the horses have all run away.

Fortunately, there are resources out there that can help you understand what to do, how to navigate North Carolina’s complicated workers’ comp laws, and how to get benefits sooner, easier and with more certainty. Connect with a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm to learn more about your potential case.

More Web Resources:

When NC Employers Dodge Workers’ Comp Costs, Employees Pay the Price

North Carolina Industrial Commission

Using Sentence Completions to Help With Your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Problem

April 3, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you got sick or injured at work, and you need North Carolina workmen’s compensation to pay your bills and deal with your other issues, you may be unaware of just how many different and diverse problems have stemmed from your workplace mishap. It’s not just that you have a medical problem now. You also have a financial problem. You also have a “when will I go back to work” problem. You also have a “which North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm should I choose” problem. You also have a “how am I going to deal with my anger about this accident” problem. And so on and so forth.

If you took the time to write down all these different problems – the large and small stresses in your life that flow from your injury – you could probably fill at least a page or two out of a notebook.

The question is: Even if you did write down all of these issues, what could you do, strategically, to tackle them?

One very curious method – developed by a protégé of the objectivist thinker, Ayn Rand, is called sentence stems. Here is what you do. Take any problem out of the basket of problems we talked about earlier and write it down on a piece of paper or a word document. For instance: “I need to figure out what I am going to do with my career now that I have been temporarily/permanently hurt.” Now you phrase that problem in terms of an objective. For instance: “To figure out how I’m going to deal with my post injury career transition, I will…”

Make sure you leave the end of that statement blank – something you can fill in. Now, over the course of the next 14 days or so, spend five minutes brainstorming answers to this question. Try to come up with five to ten answers every time you do this exercise – if you do ten answers a day for 14 days, you will get 140 different answers. Your goal is not to try to think through whether one answer is “right” or “wrong” – rather, it’s to go for volume to try to access the wisdom of your subconscious. If you do this enough, and you actively avoid trying to repeat yourself, by the end of the exercise, you will have a really diverse perspective on what’s going on in your thinking – both on the surface level and deep underneath. And once you’ve surfaced that thinking, you make more resourceful decisions based on the more complete portrait you have of your inner dialogue.

To get started, just pick the one issue in your life regarding North Carolina workers’ comp that’s giving you the most agitation and most stress and work on that first. You might be surprised by the profound liberation just this exercise will provide for you.

More Web Resources:

more about sentence stems

The inventor of sentence stems

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation System: Not Perfect, But Better Than the Middle Ages

March 30, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Let’s be frank: The North Carolina workers’ compensation system has a lot of problems, despite legislators’ attempts last year to tweak the laws, make them more equitable for businesses and employees, and streamline some aspects of the bureaucracy.

At the end of the day, legitimately hurt would-be beneficiaries still get mistreated by insurance companies, harassed by employers, and forced to jump through hoops to get money that, by all rights, should be theirs without any question. Likewise, unscrupulous people still take advantage of the system by committing North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud.

When you look at any of the interested parties involved – employees, employers, insurance companies, rating agencies, the state, etc – you can probably find ways for us all to improve how we approach the problem of workers’ comp.

On the other hand, we’ve come a pretty long way in terms of worker’s rights, especially when you look at the past several centuries of human history.

Back in Medieval Europe, for instance, serfs labored under ghastly condition to scrape out a living. You can be sure that a serf who got whatever the equivalent of “carpal tunnel syndrome” was — after spending too much time threshing wheat (or whatever) — did not have a grievance system that was anything close to the North Carolina legal system.

Does our progress mean that we can or should excuse the inefficiencies in our current system? Absolutely not. But it’s at least useful to start looking at our problems in historical context. Not only because it will make us feel better – at least we are not serfs, and we have some control and power over our legal destinies – but also because it can make us hopeful for the future. Who knows? In 30 or 50 or 100 years, we may look back on the current way workers’ comp works in horror. Our descendants will wonder: how could we have let so many inequalities and inefficiencies linger for so long?

If someone you care about needs help with a tricky insurance company situation or an unpleasant employer, connect immediately with a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm.

More Web Resources:

How serfs were treated in the middle ages

The art of getting better over time

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

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

What Can Chaotic Fraud Charges out of West VA Teach Us about North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Fraud?

November 30, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud is a profound and seemingly indelible problem that saps much needed resources, degrades trust in the system, and leads to hardship and chaos for dependants. Why, then, do so many people continue to perpetrate this crime?

For example, let’s look just over the border to West Virginia, where last week, owners of an Apple Dumplin in Oak Glen, West VA, Keith McBride and Lois Ventura, got hit with three charges of workers’ comp fraud. Investigators with the workers’ compensation fraud prosecution unit tracked the couple since July. Here’s the scoop. The 51-year-old Ventura was hurt last August at her former job at Big Cheese Pizza. She collected workers’ comp benefits as a result of that claim. All good. But then, in violation of the benefits arrangement, she started running an Apple Dumplin with her boyfriend, Mr. McBride, and continued to “receive cash and medical benefits through the workers’ compensation program.”

When questioned about his girlfriend’s allegedly fraudulent activities, McBride “reportedly misrepresented the facts of the case by stating that he was the sole owner of the business and had no knowledge of the workers’ compensation benefits Ventura was receiving.” Not a good move. Now both Ventura and her boyfriend face counts. On November 3, at their arraignment, they both pled not guilty. A court date has been set for January 10.

Obviously, based simply on news reports, you should avoid leaping to judgment. Unless you probe the back story, evidence, and other relevant details, it’s probably wise to withhold “convicting people in your mind,” if only to hone your ability to see life objectively.

For the sake of a discussion, let’s assume the charges are correct. What lessons can we extract?

First of all, the story suggests that a significant number of North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud cases probably result from unplanned errors and inappropriate innovations. In other words, while some people plan workers’ comp fraud far in advance, many people simply “stumble into it” because fraud is easier and faster than operating ethically.

Often, people who are simply trying to “scrape by” come to believe that somehow they have been wronged by the system and that they “deserve” to break the rules.

The story also suggests that many workers’ comp beneficiaries do not receive enough training to understand the limits of what they can and cannot do. People might know that violating workers’ comp rules is somehow “wrong” in the abstract, but they may not know the specific punishments that are likely to meet them if they commit a crime.

For excellent guidance, no matter what your situation, connect immediately with a qualified and compassionate North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm.

More Web Resources:


Apple Dumplin couple hit with workers’ comp fraud charges.

A North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Case that will get you Sitting Up Straight in your Chair

November 28, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Often, North Carolina workers’ compensation cases discussed on the blogosphere and elsewhere revolve around relatively “dry” issues, such as the minute, discrete meanings of definitions or jurisdictions. A hot-button case out of Las Vegas, however, will almost definitely have you sitting up in your chair:

Here is the scoop, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in the case of Gary Mogg, an employee for Fitzgeralds Casino Hotel assigned to monitor over three dozen television screens, acting in the capacity of “eye in the sky.” One day, in January 2008, Mogg made the seemingly innocuous decision to put his feet up on his desk. Lo and behold, he lost his balance and tipped over and severely hurt himself. Mogg claimed that the chair was defective and that he should be entitled to workers’ comp. The Casino, however, suggested that there was “implied prohibition” that prevented him from doing things like putting his feet up on his desk.

The courts have gone back and forth over whether this implied prohibition existed or not. Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court actually weighed in on the matter, ruling that “there was insufficient evidence for Gary Mogg…to qualify for industrial insurance payments.”

Reaction from the blogosphere was a bit sarcastic. One commenter, writing under the handle of BChap, wrote: “I am not of the opinion that this man should be compensated for this accident. However, if the resort is going to allow this individual to return to work, the employer should be sensitive to his medical needs and workplace safety. Maybe one of those apparatus’ that women utilize at the doctor’s office where the patient puts her feet up in the stirrups [should be installed for him.]”

If you or someone you care about has recently been hurt or made ill at work, you likely worry about having to endure this kind of sarcasm at your expense. To protect yourself and to ensure that you are treated justly not only by your employer and insurance companies but also by the system as a whole, connect immediately with a qualified North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm.

More Resources:

Nevada Supreme Court rules in “feet up on the desk” case

Curious Case Out of Virginia May Have Bearing for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation

October 12, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

The Washington Times has reported on a relatively minor workers’ comp case in Virginia that may ultimately have bearing – perhaps substantial bearing – on North Carolina workers’ compensation law.

Why would a struggle over a mere $4,000 workers’ comp award have national implications?

Simply put, because the case pertains to whether professionals injured in cell phone related automobile accidents should be reimbursed by workers’ comp. The debate is controversial, emotionally charged, and interesting. Before we examine the broader implications, let’s take a look at the specifics of this case.

Donna Turpin was a hospice nurse on call late one night in November 2009, when she received a call on her cell phone, which was tucked into her uniform. Distracted by the call, Ms. Turpin drove off the road and hit an embankment. She suffered some injuries and damage to her vehicle, but it was otherwise a minor incident.

Should Ms. Turpin be entitled to workers’ comp, since her employer knew to contact her via her cell phone if the employer-provided pager did not work? According to testimony, she had responded to 12 pages or calls earlier that same day. Ms. Turpin testified that she was “programmed” to tune into her beeper and cell phone to answer medical or hospice emergencies. Did it matter whether the message was work related or not? The judge decided that, in this case, it did not.


However, the judge’s ruling had some nuance: “the mere possibility that a call on a cell phone might originate from an employer does not make any injury that occurs while the employee attempts to respond to the call, or received call, one that arises out of employment.”

So what are the broader implications? The Washington Times report suggests that the unpublished opinion “could contribute to debates in cases involving doctors, reporters, food delivery drivers, and others whose work is tied to urgent cell phone calls.”

No doubt, in the following years, we will see a spate of circumstances similar to Ms. Turpin’s. In this case, the costs were low. Ms. Turpin only asked for $4,000 to treat her whiplash and pay for an ambulance and an emergency room visit. Fortunately, she returned to work that very weekend. But what might happen if and when a worker stops to answer a cell phone or pager and causes a catastrophic accident – perhaps one with fatalities – and seeks damages on the order of six or seven figures? We will likely see bigger headlines then, and the implications could stir up even more debate in the blogosphere.

The takeaway is that hurt workers need to examine and understand their legal rights. A North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm can help you make sense of what happened to you and determine how and whether to pursue a case against an insurer or other entity.

More Web Resources:

Workers’ Comp Case Upheld in Cell Phone Related Crash

Nurse Injured While Glancing at Cell Phone Due Workers’ Comp

Colorado Fraud Case Piques Interest of North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Community

June 25, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

A workers’ comp case way out in Aurora, Colorado has caught the attention of the North Carolina workers’ compensation community because of the heart breaking realities at the center of it all.

Martin Lobatos and his wife Belen Lobatos were indicted on 18-counts last Friday, after Colorado investigators alleged that the couple collected $140,000 worth of workers’ comp claims from Pinnacol Assurance. Lobatos worked as a roofer until September 8, 2008, when he sustained a terrible fall off of a ladder. He went back to work a month later but started complaining of ongoing vertigo and dizziness from his accident. Six months later, in April 2009, Lobatos’ doctors maintained that he had fully recovered.

Lobatos was fired and later collected a $20,000 settlement from Pinnacol Assurance. In the fall of 2009, however, Lobatos began experiencing more symptoms, such as memory loss, having trouble recognizing his children, dizziness, and a host of other frustrating problems. His doctors agreed. In March 2010, Lobatos claimed to be “fully catatonic.” And he allegedly acted catatonic in medical exams. But witnesses later saw him driving around, shopping, engaging in activities in a decidedly non-catatonic state. This evidence allegedly led to the investigation and ultimately to the allegations and 18 count indictment against Lobatos and his wife. If convicted of the crime, the Lobatoses could face fines of $750,000 each and a dozen years in prison.

Obviously, North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud (and such fraud elsewhere in the country) is an enormous problem, and perpetrators should be held to account. But is it really fair to slap these people with $1.5 million in fines and over 10 years in prison? Many homicide cases don’t get punished that severely. Again, this is not to say fraud shouldn’t be punished appropriately. But the punishment must fit the crime, and the context of the crime should also deeply inform the legal remedies.

What’s frustrating here is that many injuries that ultimately send people to seek the services of a North Carolina workers’ compensation firm don’t manifest immediately after an accident. A fall off of a ladder, for instance, may lead to a temporary concussion that seems to resolve after few weeks or months…only to give way to longer term, chronic, and confusing injuries months or even years after the fact.

Again, it’s impossible to weigh in on the Lobatos’ case without far more information. But victims of workplace accidents or illnesses should understand that they may go through a similar kind of rollercoaster – feeling bad after the accident, then feeling better again for a while, then feeling suddenly worse for no apparent reason. This is why it’s so important to contact professionals, like experienced law firms and good doctors, to build evidence, stay within the bounds of the law, and maximize your chances for getting the money and support you need to get back to work and support your family.

More Web Resources:

Pinnacol Assurance

Martin Lobatos fraud

What Do North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Pros Think About Ohio’s Plan to Lower State's Workers’ Comp Rates?

May 20, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Ohio Governor John Kasich is seeking to lower that state’s workers’ comp rates – if the Governor succeeds, what will that mean for Ohio, and what will it mean in general for the programs of other states, like North Carolina workers’ compensation?

First, the basics, courtesy an April 29 story from the AP: “Ohio’s Governor wants to lower premiums employers pay for workers’ compensation by 4% for a total cut of about $65 million a year.”

Governor Kasich submitted his proposal last Thursday to the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation – his goal is to encourage businesses to work in Ohio and “make the state more competitive.” If the BWC adopts his plan this month, employers would not see changes in their premiums until February 2012. Steve Beuhrer, the CEO of the BWC’s Board of Directors had the following comments regarding the proposal (courtesy www.business-journal.com) “our goal is to increase premium stability and lower costs for all Ohio employers… rates are a critical part of job growth decisions made by Ohio employers, but will also continue to focus on other aspects, such as containing medical costs and helping injured workers return to leading healthy productive lives sooner.”

Beuhrer’s comments here are germane to discussions about how to renovate and streamline the North Carolina workers’ compensation system. It’s NOT just about slashing rates and limiting benefits. Our solutions must also focus on “continuing medical costs” – and perhaps even more importantly “helping injured workers return to leading healthy productive life sooner.” After all, this is the raison d’etre of workers’ comp – it’s to help return us to productivity ASAP.

Unfortunately, the political discussion about workers’ comp reform often revolves around costs: whether to spend or not; on what; and for how long. This inevitably leads to political calculations.

But what if the most relevant parts of the equation are those two factors that Beuhrer named – containing costs and helping people recover?

Perhaps we are giving short shrift to these questions. Maybe we’re not thinking “out of the box” enough. For instance, cost control measures tend to focus on measurable, direct contributing factors. We aim to reduce the severity and number of workplace injuries, for instance. But we don’t take time to look at long-term exacerbating factors. For instance, are workers getting enough rest? Are workers too distracted by things like the internet and social media to concentrate effectively on their tasks? These indirect factors – such as how much sleep we get, how distracted we are, how much sugar we eat, et cetera – must be addressed if we want to lower injury rates and reduce hospital bills.

Backing away from the philosophical discussion… you may have more practical concerns about how to collect benefits and how to deal with insurance companies and employers. A North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm can answer your questions and put you on a good track.

More Web Resources:

Ohio Governor John Kasich


Steve Beuhrer, the CEO of the BWC’s Board of Directors

RSI Claim Approved for Ice Cream Scooper in Canada — North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Analysts Look at Controversial Case

November 24, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

While most North Carolina workers’ compensation analysts probe the local news for instructive stories, sometimes blogs look to international sources to find the most compelling news. And a case out of Toronto – reported by the Vancouver Sun – has many in the North Carolina workers’ compensation community talking. An Alberta tribunal has ordered workers’ comp payments for a convenient store worker who suffered serious shoulder injuries from scooping hard ice cream. According to the Sun’s report, the woman had to serve up an enormous quantity of orders in a short period of time during a heat spell in April 2009. The Appeal Board noted that “the activity required considerable force with her right hand and arm in a twisting motion because the ice cream was frozen hard…the total sale of ice cream cones [for a 2 day period] was $1,500.”

The woman had been treated for a shoulder injury prior to working at the ice cream store and had rectified that injury through the use of cortisone shots. But the ice cream scooping reinjured her shoulder so badly that she needed surgery on her rotator cuff to deal with the flare up. The Sun’s article quoted an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Stephen Reed, who argued that ice cream scooping is indeed a dangerous activity. Dr. Reed said “they are forced to do this basically at arm’s length, reaching into a large cabinet…it’s basically poor ergonomics, and they are doing it repetitively.”

Repetitive strain injuries due to manual labor, such as ice cream scooping, typing, or repetitive lifting, can cause lasting damage to muscles, fascia, ligaments, and other soft tissue. More frustratingly, the full extent of the damage may take weeks or months to reveal itself. By the time an injured employee notices what’s been happening, it may be too late to reverse the problems easily.

If you or someone you love or work with has been sidelined with a repetitive stress injury or other workplace injury, either chronic or acute, you can benefit tremendously from consulting with a qualified North Carolina workers’ compensation firm. By exploring your rights as a potential claimant, you can collect compensation for things like your lost wages and medical bills. Moreover, you can simplify the process, focus your limited resources on healing from your injuries and getting back to work (or finding new work), and holding reluctant employers or insurance companies fully accountable.

More Web Resources:

Scooping hard ice cream can be hazardous to your health

RSI resources

Former Chicago Bears Tight End Gets $300,000+ in Comp Case: North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Analysts Debate Implications

July 22, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Gabe Reid, a former tight end for the Chicago Bears, got an award of $325,000 for a knee injury from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission this week. North Carolina workers’ compensation experts have been closely following NFL related workers’ comp cases like Reid’s – this blog reported last month about California’s dilemma over how and whether to compensate injured athletes who played for teams outside of California but who got hurt in games played in the Golden State.

Reid played for the Bears from 2003 to 2006. The team released him in 2006 to be an unrestricted free agent. His settlement was the biggest settlement for a pro athlete in Illinois history; although another ex-Bear, Mike Brown, recently collected $140,000 for injuries he suffered to his foot and leg while he played for the Bears. More ex-Bears may be eligible to collect additional funds, according to state sports reporters.

How will Reid’s settlement impact similar North Carolina workers’ compensation cases, if at all? Will ex-Panthers be eligible for similarly large payouts? Truth be told, the states individually are in the process of working out how to compensate NFL athletes (and athletes in other sports). And it will likely be several years before policy analysts have enough data to draw any clear conclusions. However, with all the financial pressure on state workers’ compensation agencies to tighten their budgets – and the new POWER initiative launched by the Obama administration, which this blog reported on earlier in the week – it may be more difficult for claimants to win relevant arguments.

Irrespective of what happens to ex-NFLers like Reid and Brown, what can you personally do to improve the likelihood of collecting fair and flexible benefits for your injury or workplace illness?

If you suffered a chronic, debilitating injury at work such as a knee problem or typing injury – or if you got hurt in some kind of acute accident – such as a slip and fall or work-related car accident – you must simultaneously struggle under a number of burdens. First, you must deal with the medical recuperation, which can be exhausting and emotionally draining in and of itself. Then, you need to figure out how to rehabilitate yourself and get back to work in some fashion ASAP – and/or how to deal with your financial situation. And lastly, under certain circumstances, you might have to fight back against unwilling employers, recalcitrant insurance companies, and bureaucratic red tape to get benefits paid out in a timely fashion.

With all these stresses on your shoulders, it may behoove you to discuss your problems with a qualified North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney. A good lawyer can simplify your strategy, relieve you of logistical and emotional stresses, and help you collect appropriate payments without hassle or frustration.

More Web Resources:

Gabe Reid case

Mike Brown case

Washington Ballot Initiative Stokes Debate among North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Policy Analysts

July 12, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Initiative 1082 — way up in Washington State — has sparked a firestorm of debate and controversy among North Carolina workers’ compensation analysts. Ordinarily, a statewide initiative in a far off part of the country would not rile up insurers, business owners, injured workers, and state bureaucrats. But the vocal debate out of Washington has served as a touchtone for a number of issues hotly being discussed right here in NC.

Facts about the Initiative, and Implications for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Politics

The Building Industry Association of Washington – regarded as a politically conservative group – sponsored I-1082 to crack the state monopoly on workers’ comp. To qualify for the ballot, the measure needed 241,000 signatures – allegedly, it got nearly 100,000 signatures above that mark. Clearly, many Washingtonians are fired up. Sponsors argue that the current system sticks business owners with high insurance premiums and allows injured workers to enjoy overly-plump benefits. Opponents of I-1082 say that introducing a for-profit component into the workers’ comp system could degrade benefits and lead to claims being delayed or denied.

Both opponents and proponents of the initiative claim that the implications of I-1082’s passage for the state could be profound. Currently, Washington is one of only four states that does not allow companies to privately compete with a state-run workers’ comp system.

The North Carolina workers’ compensation system allows private insurers to compete – so the WA debate can be relevant only indirectly. However, the growing frustration among business owners regarding workers’ comp costs – and the simultaneous growing health problems among workers, including chronic occupational diseases and medical conditions like obesity and diabetes – may well portend a sea-change in the next few years, economically speaking.

Can small businesses survive a clunky economy and potentially a double dip recession? Can hurt employees – many of whom may soon start to lose their unemployment benefits – survive if their benefits get curtailed or restricted?

If you or a coworker or a family member has been experiencing difficulties collecting your benefits, connect ASAP with an attorney to advise you. A free and confidential consultation with a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer can help protect your rights and ensure your family’s financial stability.

More Web Resources:

Initiative 1082

Workers comp initiative steps closer to ballot

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Analysts React to Rate Drop in South Carolina

June 23, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

On June 15th, regulators announced that South Carolina workers’ compensation rates would fall to 9.8% — news that has sent ripples of interest and concern across the North Carolina workers’ compensation community. According to SC Insurance Director, Scott Richardson, 2009 marked the second year in a row in which regulators approved a decrease. He argued that “this trend [implies] an improved economic climate, and [we] hope to see this continue into next year.”

SC insurers will be able to use the new 9.8% rate in just 30 days. Richardson cited multiple reasons for the decline in rates, including enhanced employee safety programs, a reduction in the frequency of claims, and changes to the nature of claims themselves. In South Carolina, more than 40% of benefit costs can be directly attributed to payments for medical services. Most SC workers’ comp costs go to indemnity payments – that is, benefits to replace wages lost. As Richardson and others have noted, the extent to which the rate change will impact policy regarding medical costs in the state remains to be seen. Richardson noted that the state “will continue to monitor and assess the impact these reforms have on workers’ compensation rates…as it will take several years to realize the full impact.”

Meanwhile, north of the border, North Carolina workers’ compensation experts have been feverishly debating whether and how these rate changes might influence the playing field up here. So many unbalancing factors are at play – both at the state level (see our earlier blog entry about the ongoing devastation at the last year’s Slim Jim plant in the town of Garner, for instance) and at the national level (see our past blog entries on the local implications of the Gulf oil spill, for instance).

It’s important to recognize the limits of our collective power to influence the interactions of the dynamic elements that comprise the ecology of the North Carolina workers’ compensation system. Even among key players — who include but are not limited to insurance adjusters, attorneys, judges, economists, employers, employees, and their families — debate about how to set rates rages.

Getting away from generalities and down to brass tacks… if you or a loved one has a clear and present concern about North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits, insurance, or coverage, consider connecting today with a top caliber attorney to discuss your needs and responsibilities.

More Web Resources:

South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Rates to Drop 9.8%

South Carolina Regulators Approve 9.8% Cut in Workers’ Comp Rates

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Bloggers Weigh in on Octomom’s Lawsuit Settlement

June 16, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Although her saga does not technically pertain directly to North Carolina workers’ compensation matters, Octomom Nadya Suleman quest for workers’ comp has riveted the attention of the nation. According to breaking reports, the Southern California mom of 8 has finally settled a long standing lawsuit for workers comp for just a little over $23,000.

Background

In 1999, Suleman sustained an injury at the Metropolitan State Hospital while working as a psychiatric technician (hurt her back). For this, she subsequently received around $170,000, which she used in part to fund the in vitro fertilization that led to her becoming the mother of octuplets last January. The California Division of Workers’ Compensation reported that her original settlement of $40,000 was diminished by nearly half because of attorney’s fees and advance payments.

Suleman has been roasted widely in the press for feeding her children with food stamps, selling pictures of herself clad in a bikini to the tabloids, and taking $5,000 from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in exchange for putting a sign in her window that reads “don’t let your dog or cat become an Octomom – Always spay or neuter.”

The workers’ comp drama may not be over for Ms. Suleman, given that some of her medical providers have a lien against her, claiming that she owes them around $800.

Are there lessons here for would be North Carolina workers’ compensation claimants? Likely not. Ms. Suleman’s case is fairly unique, and not just because she has octuplets and has behaved in fairly idiosyncratic manner. California has special laws in place that may not be applicable to North Carolina workers’ compensation cases.

For instance as this blog recently reported, an NFL player who hurts himself in a game in California can theoretically claim workers’ comp benefits from the state for the rest of his life – CA is unique in the nation regarding this kind of liberal policy.

If you or a family member faces difficulties collecting benefits, wrangling with insurance companies, or even processing paperwork to meet critical deadlines, it may behoove you to speak with a reputable and battle proven North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney. As the case of Octomom illustrates, workers’ comp – whether you succeed in getting appropriate payments or not – may not be a complete solution for your financial woes.

Speak with a financial planner to draw up a battle plan for you and your family to get on a more even financial keel.

More Web Resources

Octuplets mom Nadya Suleman settles her workers’ comp case

Octuplet mom settles disability claim for $23,000

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Experts Debate Wells Fargo Ruling Out of Minnesota

June 14, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Last Wednesday, the multinational bank Wells Fargo was ordered to pay out $30 million to four non-profit entities, pursuant to a jury’s verdict that the bank participated in fraud. North Carolina workers’ compensation policy analysts have been reviewing the case to see whether it may have interstate implications.

The four non-profit entities — the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Reinsurance Association, the Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi Foundation for Children, the Minnesota Medical Foundation, and the Minneapolis Foundation — all alleged that Wells Fargo essentially tricked them into believing that they were investing in low risk options, when in actuality the bank had been funneling their money into risky investments which blew up during the recent credit collapse. The jury found that the bank violated the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act (and other laws). Punitive damages have yet to be assessed against Wells Fargo.

Representatives for the bank expressed disappointment about the decision, although it could have been worse for Wells Fargo. The non-profits asked for $400 million — more than ten times what the jury returned.

The litigation over punitive damages (and the potential Wells Fargo appeal) could stretch on for years – a not uncommon phenomenon in North Carolina workers’ compensation cases in which millions of dollars hang in the balance.

Most individual workers’ comp cases involving occupational diseases, injuries at work, and conflicts with insurers do not take as long to resolve and do not get nearly as complicated as the Wells Fargo case. Nevertheless, if you or a loved one faces friction getting benefits, dealing with an insurer, or managing the deadlines associated with your claim, connect at once with a reputable and experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to review your strategic options and make sure that you’ve dotted all your I’s and crossed all your T’s.

More Web Resources

Wells Fargo vs the non-profits

Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Reinsurance Association

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Watchers Captivated by Bizarre Marijuana/Grizzly Bear Case Out of Montana

June 7, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Many North Carolina workers’ compensation cases wind up being dry and technical, requiring attorneys to develop nuanced arguments based on subtle interpretations of the law. But a new case out of Montana has engendered lots of laughs and some raised eyebrows. Below are the deets.

On June 7, a judge found in favor of a 23-year old plaintiff, Brock Hopkins, who was mauled by a bear he had been feeding while high on marijuana. Brock had been volunteering at Great Bear Adventures in Montana. One day, he smoked a pipe of marijuana and came in to do his job when the bear attacked him, dislocating his knee cap, and leading to $70,000 in medical expenses.

The park’s owner, Russell Kilpatrick, argued that Hopkins’ marijuana use was the major cause of the attack – had he not been high, the bear would not have attacked. But although the judge found Hopkins behavior to be “ill advised to say the least and mind bogglingly stupid to say the most,” he also found that Kilpatrick’s testimony that he paid Hopkins “out of my heart” to be laughably disingenuous. Since Hopkins should have been considered an employee of the park, he deserved workers comp benefits.

We have to throw in this pretty amazing quote from Kilpatrick about the event: “Brock could not resist one last time of harassing the bear with his habit of blowing smoke in their faces for God only knows what reason in direct defiance of my telling him not to disturb them!!!”

Hopkins is clearly lucky to have survived the encounter and hopefully has learned his lesson. If you or another family member has been hurt at work (even if you don’t work at a Grizzly Park), your employer or the state could be liable for your medical bills, time off work and other costs. Filing out a North Carolina workers’ compensation claim is not easy. You can find more information about how to do so at the official North Carolina Industrial Commission website.

If you encounter any problems with your insurer, employer, or any other party, it may make sense to connect ASAP with a top caliber North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to review your rights and make sure the legal system treats you fairly.

More Web Resources

Bear Attack Victim Eligible for Workers’ Comp Despite Marijuana Use

Pot not to blame for bear mauling, judge rules

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Experts Debate New Workers’ Comp Fraud Case out of Quakertown, PA

May 18, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

A sad and disturbing fraud case out of Pennsylvania has North Carolina workers’ compensation policy makers and analysts furiously debating a number of moral and ethical quandaries.

Background

On April 29, authorities arrested 43-year-old Christina Gamble for workers’ comp and insurance fraud stemming from a claim she made in November 2007 that she allegedly made under false pretences.

The PA Attorney General’s office alleges the following:

Gamble had been working for the restaurant Red Robin, when she fell on November 9, 2007 and hurt her back. The restaurant alerted its insurance carrier. In November 2008, a judge awarded her benefits for workers’ compensation. She collected over $22,700 in disability benefits and $4,100 in medical expenses before being caught working in a new capacity – as an exotic dancer for C.R. Fanny’s Gentlemen’s Club and Sports Bar. A private investigator tipped off an agent of Highmark Insurance, which had been representing Red Robin. Since Gamble made her claim on the basis that she could barely move her back, her work as a dancer for hire obviously completely undermined her claim.

Gamble is due in court on May 7. If she is convicted of both accounts of insurance fraud and theft, she could face 14 years in jail and $30,000 in fines.

Workers’ comp and insurance fraud are obviously reprehensible. Enforcement of North Carolina workers’ compensation laws must be strict to ensure that people who do play by the rules get treated fairly and that system-wide costs don’t get out of control. Nevertheless, this case illustrates – or at least implies – how difficult it can be for some people to recover from bad injuries or occupational diseases. Here is a story of a waitress who presumably hurt herself and then did a wrong thing by stealing from her employer’s insurance carrier. But (likely) the news story does not give us the full human dimensions of Gamble’s struggle. As anyone who has personally dealt with North Carolina workers’ compensation issues can tell you, it’s not easy to handle insurance companies or to figure out how to correctly and efficiently get your life back on financially solid ground.

To that end, before you or a family member does something dumb like try to defraud an insurance company or misreport numbers on your workers’ compensation form, connect with an ethical, reliable, and results-proven North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your situation in confidence. A free consultation can give you the strategic guidance you need to make wise and ethical decisions about how to move forward and recover from an injury, both medically and financially.

More Web Resources:

Christina Gamble fraud saga

Strip club no cure for her bad back

Case Out of Australia has Interesting Implications for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Matters

April 1, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Most North Carolina workers’ compensation matters that this blog covers are local or national. But today we turn our attention to a fascinating case out of Australia involving a pilot for the airline Qantas. This story’s applicability to North Carolina workers’ compensation concerns may be somewhat indirect, but it’s a gripping one, so we had to include it!

Background

A pilot named Bryan Arthur Griffin flew for Qantas in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. During that time, he developed a mental illness related to obsessive compulsion and anxiety. Mr. Griffin felt a tremendous urge to crash the airplanes he was flying. He heard a voice inside of him telling him to turn off the engines, to cry and scream, to intentionally ignore crew instructions, and so forth. On one flight to Singapore, he developed an urge to crash the plane that was so strong that he had to physically immobilize his arm to avoid killing a whole plane full of people.

Throughout his ordeal, Mr. Griffin was repeatedly looked at by doctors and evaluated by Qantas. Amazingly, the doctors and the airline allowed him to continue to fly for over three years. Not only did allowing Mr. Griffin to fly potentially endanger passengers and crew, but doing so also caused health problems for Mr. Griffin, who became more anxious, depressed, and compulsive as his stint as a pilot wore on.

Eventually, an Australian Commissioner in charge of adjudicating workers’ compensation matters won a judgment for Mr. Griffin for $160,000 for all of his pain, anxiety, and compulsive problems. Qantas also had to pay for his legal and medical fees.

Have you or a family member ever been forced to work at a job that’s caused you anxiety, depression, or compulsion? Your on-the-job injuries and occupational diseases may be covered by North Carolina workers’ compensation.

Take the first step to filing a claim today by connecting with a reputable North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney for a confidential and free consultation. Understand your rights – and your employer’s responsibilities – so you don’t endanger yourself or others at work.

More Web Resources:

Qantas

Bryan Arthur Griffin

 
 

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