July 2012

Don’t Irresponsibly Waste Your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Money

July 31, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you struggled long and hard to acquire North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits – or whether your employer or liable insurance company cooperated and gave you everything you wanted right out of the gate – you may soon find yourself flush with funds.

What you do with that North Carolina workers’ compensation money can have a profound effect, not only on your lifestyle and your ability to get therapy, medicine, rehab and medication, but also on your long term financial trajectory.

It’s human nature to indulge in outsized and irrational reactions to situations.

When bad “stuff” happens to us – such as an accident at work, a typing injury or other soft tissue problem, etc. – it’s easy to visit “worst case scenario” places.

Likewise, when things go well, it’s easy to celebrate and imagine that things will always be this good from hereon out. We need to modulate our emotions and expectations. Specifically, once you collect Charlotte workers’ comp benefits, you need to be savvy about how to make those benefits last – and how to integrate them into an overall smart financial plan.

If you treat the money as a windfall — and use it to purchase expensive electronic equipment, services you don’t really need, vacations, etc. — you could ultimately suffer major, even catastrophic, consequences.

First off, depending on what you do with your money, you could inadvertently commit North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud, which is a crime punishable by, among other things, jail time. Secondly, if you fail to put in place structures and systems that help you achieve your financial goals, no injection of money – be it cash benefits, salary money, money from a passive income source, etc. – will “make things better” for you.

Unfortunately, bad financial habits can be devilishly difficult to change and repair.

There is no reason to get overwhelmed, however. Your financial problems have likely been building up for some time now. Likewise, you will not solve everything in a day. The key is to take incremental, positive steps in the right direction. For instance, the team at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo can help you understand your Charlotte workers’ compensation situation much better and put you on a track towards success.

Enjoying a More Productive Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Experience: A.K.A “Turn Off CNN!”

July 26, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

You never expected to be injured at work, waylaid by significant illness, or suddenly “far behind” your plotted career trajectory. But life happened, and now you need North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits to tide you over as you recover and try to rebuild your career.

The challenge for you is pretty straight forward: how can you be productive and maximize the minimal amount of energy you have to build your career and get things done? It’s a simple question with a complex answer.

When we are healthy, and we have a lot of free time in our hands, we tend to be relatively lax about what commitments we allow to enter our world. We take time to answer emails to old friends. We take long leisurely lunches. We sleep in. Etcetera. As any North Carolina workers’ compensation beneficiary – or new parent – understands, when your energy/time gets reduced, you need to be far more choosy about your commitments.

One easy way to “lop off” unnecessary commitments is to apply something called the 80:20 rule – a.k.a the Pareto Principle. Take a look at all the “stuff” that you committed to doing right now, and rank those activities in terms of how important they are for your happiness. Now take the bottom 20% of the activities that leads to your happiness, well being and productivity (e.g. watching CNN) and lop them off. They are gone. You are not going to do those anymore.

Similarly, find the 20% of activities that give you the most joy and monetary return, and figure out how you can spend more of your time and energy doing those things.

Another cool concept is to apply something called zero based thinking – a concept developed by productivity guru Brian Tracy. The idea is simple. Take a scan of every commitment in your life right now. Ask yourself a basic question: if you had to start over with the commitment – that is, if you had no obligation to do it – would you?

The beauty of exercises like the Pareto Principle and “zero based thinking” is that they compel you to make choices about your commitments that you might otherwise delay or defer making. And part of being a more productive North Carolina workers’ compensation beneficiary is changing your habits and behaviors.

Final note: If you need help managing your various commitments and struggles, the team at the law offices of Michael A. DeMayo is on your side and here to help. Connect with us for a complementary and thorough consultation regarding your case.

Books to Read While Well Laid Up on North Carolina Workers’ Compensation

July 24, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Many people who want or need North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits find themselves enormously challenged by a variety of subtle sources of stress in their lives.

On this blog, we try to surface some of these and give you tools and strategies to deal with them. But this blog can by no means give you the complete education you need to face various contingencies and difficult situations. Aside from booking a free and confidential consultation with the experienced pros here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, you might also avail yourself of a series of excellent books to get familiar with basic strategies for how to cope with diverse problems of being off work. Here are a few key books:

1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This book is one of the classic “self help” books – it’s in the public domain, so you should be able to get it for free. Napoleon Hill spent a great deal of time with some of the early 20th Century magnates, like Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. He studied their methodologies and philosophies and boiled down their lessons into his book, Think and Grow Rich. While Hill’s philosophy is generally celebrated as a means for “manifesting” prosperity, the steps and thought process he lays out should be useful for people on workers’ comp in Charlotte who want to equalize their finances, set goals, and regain a general sense of control.

2. A great series of novels (e.g. Piers Anthony’s Xanth series).

When you are off work and/or otherwise incapacitated, you can easily fall into the trap of letting your mind fall idle – that is, surfing the web mindlessly, watching way too much reality television, or just simply “vegging out” and not really moving your mental life forward. Now might be the perfect opportunity to dive into a fictional universe – not just to pass the time but also to keep yourself intellectually engaged and thinking creatively. Pick up a series that’s outside your normal reading “comfort zone”. For instance, if you’re a fan of historical fiction, take a break and delve into some science fiction; or vice versa.

3. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Ferriss’s book is essentially a study on outsourcing. Considering that you have a diminished capacity to work and be productive, you might find some of Ferriss’s tips and “hacks” useful and inspiring.

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.

Choosing Your Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Team: Getting “A” Players

July 17, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

To make serious progress with your Charlotte workers’ compensation case, you almost certainly need the help of a team of people who have the proper skill sets to get you results.

This isn’t to say that you absolutely must use a Charlotte workers’ compensation law firm, such as DeMayo Law, to succeed. The system is designed so that, at least theoretically, individuals can get results themselves. But in practical situations – especially situations involving complex insurance “stuff”, employers who don’t play by the rules, and long-term medical situations — you’re likely going to need help.

The question is: Where do you get the right help, and how do you coordinate that help to best effect?

Even in the best of times – that is, if you were completely healthy and you had a lot of money and leisure time to put together your workers’ comp “dream team” – you might be hard pressed to design and follow best practices. This is because team building is not necessarily intuitive to most people. Recruiting truly top level individuals can be a daunting task. You might stumble upon a great person by accident. But odds are, you’re going to have to work at assembling the right kind of help.

Getting there means being choosy. It means interviewing prospective team members extensively. But that’s not the way many people operate. Most people respond to the “the latest and loudest” – the most aggressively marketed messages. You need to engage in a thorough recruiting process – just like you might if you were hiring a key person for your company. This will involve interviewing the prospective team member extensively, checking references – calling old clients (not just simply looking at reviews on yelp or whatever). It means that really getting to know that the person or company’s values and mission, and determining whether it matches with your own.

Now, if you’re facing an imminent and urgent legal situation – such as a possible lawsuit against a negligent employer or duplicitous insurer – you may not have the luxury to do a long recruiting process. Indeed, one of the things we often come back to here on this North Carolina workers’ compensation blog is the theme of acting and then course correcting down the line.

In other words, you’re going to have to operate in an environment in which you don’t know all the answers. That can be scary. But embrace this methodology. People can and probably should help you with your workers’ comp struggles. But your doctors, rehab specialists, attorneys, etc should be carefully screened; and if you don’t have the best people on your team, then have the courage to get those people off the team and find better people.

We’ll discuss principles for finding good people in our next post, so stay tuned.

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.

Introducing: The Joint Legislative Committee on North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage and Compliance and Fraud Prevention

July 10, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Another key provision to the latest North Carolina workers’ compensation law, HB 237, created an 8-member commission to examine the government’s capacity to deal with non-compliant employers — and to enforce relevant laws regarding mandatory insurance coverage.

The bill created this group because the North Carolina Industrial Commission actually has done very little to punish non-compliant employers.

Per the law, employers can be hit by fines of up to $100/day and beyond – on top of medical bills and benefits owed to any hurt employee. But since January of last year, the NCIC had only collected a little more than $30,000 in fines against 225 employers.

Another small change is certain to get a LOT of attention from recalcitrant employers: the commission can now send employers to jail.

To-date, that’s never happened, but now that scenario appears to be more likely – or least more plausible. An advocate for North Carolina employers, Lonnie Albright, told a local paper that the Commission’s actions have encouraged several employers to take out bank loans to make their workers’ comp insurance obligations, and that the action “certainly has got employers concerned…you either buy workers’ comp coverage or be exposed to being incarcerated.”

Is the threat of jail too much?

At what point does the law get too draconian? How much enforcement is too much enforcement? Is punitive action against recalcitrant employers even useful, from the standpoint of “let’s make the workers’ comp system more equitable and ensure that hurt/injured workers are protected?”

These are some very deep issues being worked out here!

They speak to the very essence of the workers’ comp bargain, which has worked out over a century ago, in the wake of terrible worker abuses during the early industrial era. What is an employer’s moral and ethical obligation to his/her workers? What’s the state’s role in enforcing this moral/ethical code? On a practical level, what’s the ultimate strategy for maximum fairness?

If you are personally struggling with a workers’ comp issue, these theoretical questions are probably not that relevant. For actionable advice, please connect immediately with the team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo for a free and thorough consultation.

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.

Big North Carolina Workers’ Compensation News as Governor Perdue Signs HB 237

July 3, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Unless you’ve been living under a rock – and/or you’re not that concerned about North Carolina workers’ compensation – you have probably been reading a lot about Republican Nelson Dollar’s sponsored bill, HB 237 – a measure designed to compel lax employers to get appropriate North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance coverage or risk the opprobrium of the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Governor Beverly Perdue signed HB 237 into law last week…but not everyone is happy about her decision!

In fact, both the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters and the North Carolina Press Association – as well as state editorial boards – asked Perdue to veto the bill.

Why are so many people so unhappy with it?

Before we get into that question, let’s step back to the source of the drama. The News & Observer (a paper based in Raleigh) broke a pretty amazing story last month – revealing that potentially tens of thousands of employers lack appropriate workers’ comp coverage.

Why is this a problem? It’s a problem because, if/when workers get hurt on the job, and their bosses lack coverage, the cost of care gets passed down to the taxpayer and/or the worker does not get full and fair treatment or reimbursement.

It’s a big deal.

Indeed, the News & Observer piece is probably the reason why lawmakers acted in such haste to deal with the issue. The problem is that HB 237 comes with a provision designed to keep certain information private – that is, information passed from the NC Rate Bureau to the NCIC. This could be problematic because if the Rate Bureau chooses, it can bar injured workers, for instance, from learning whether or not an employer has workers’ comp coverage.

Groups opposed to the bill argued that HB 237 will reduce the transparency of the North Carolina workers’ compensation system; supporters countered that half a loaf is better than none – that the law will help hurt workers get proper repayment for lost wages and medical bills.

What will happen because of HB 237?

•    Will the new law encourage employers to play more by the book?
•    Will the media groups ultimately be convinced that the provision is relatively innocuous?
•    Will hurt and injured workers (and their families) ultimately get better treatment?

These questions may have profound implications if you or someone you love needs good care – and reimbursement for any harm suffered. Connect with the team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo for a free and fair consultation.