October 2012

Your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation End Game: How Carefully Have You Thought It Out?

October 30, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you just got sick or injured at work in Charlotte, and you’re still disoriented and unsure of how/whether you’ll be able to obtain benefits; or you are already months into the process, and you’re prepping for a hearing, you may be making a big mistake. It’s a mistake all too many North Carolina workers’ compensation beneficiaries (or would be beneficiaries) make.

You are failing to articulate an “end game.”

What does that mean?

It means that you’ve likely become so entangled in the minutiae of your workers’ comp case that you’ve given scant, if any, time to considering what you would like your life to look like, after everything has been successfully resolved. Don’t beat yourself up – this is a common problem. It’s not like you have nothing on your plate – you undoubtedly have a tremendous amount of work to do, and you’re likely facing numerous simultaneous stresses, medical, physical, emotional, and otherwise.

But without a positive vision anchoring your quest, you’re likely going to have trouble allocating your resources and sustaining necessary attention.

How do you go about solidifying such a vision?

You do it in multiple stages.

Stage 1: Brainstorming “good stuff” about your future.

Take 10 to 15 minutes – after you finish reading this blog post – to brainstorm positive “stuff” you’d like to see on your future. For instance, you might want your medical condition resolve. You might want to eliminate your financial problems. You might want to feel better about a certain relationship. You might want to be back at work – or at least back at a career that you find fulfilling. Don’t worry about making sense of these positive thoughts. Don’t censor yourself. Just get these thoughts down.

Stage 2 – Analyze and edit

At a separate point in time – give yourself at least an hour, preferably a day or longer – return to your brainstorming list, and start to pare it down to formulate a vision. Ultimately, you’re aiming for something along the lines of a paragraph or a page in length. During the editing stage, focus just on forming your brainstorming into something more tangible, specific, and doable.

Stage 3 – Rinse and repeat

Go through this process at least twice, if not more – and you can always revisit it, if you get stuck or cease to be inspired.

Stage 4 – Reflect on your positive vision statement often

Spend time during the morning and the evening reviewing your positive vision statement, and focus on what it will feel like when you’ve actually achieved success.

Of course, succeeding with a difficult workers’ comp case often requires a lot more than just positive thinking and changing your mindset. You also need tools, resources, and people with experience and expertise to help you. Look to the team here at the law offices of Michael A. DeMayo for essential assistance with your case.

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.

A More Methodical Approach to Your Most Pressing Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Problem

October 23, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

You live in Charlotte, and you need workers’ compensation because you hurt yourself at your job or while engaging in an employment activity.

In some sense, your quest is pretty simple: you just want your employer or your employer’s insurance company to compensate you, while you heal, go through rehab, and otherwise “right your ship.”

In another sense, your journey is exquisitely complicated and unclear.

Here’s the basic problem. Whether you got hurt in a one-time terrifying event – such as a construction accident mishap or a slip and fall on a factory floor – or you got injured slowly over time (e.g. as a result of working in a less than ergonomic position for 20+ years) – you can pretty clearly identify one or several “things” that went wrong and that need to be fixed ASAP.

For instance, maybe you shattered some vertebrae in your back. You need to repair and heal those vertebrae. Or maybe you developed carpel tunnel syndrome, and you need to fix your wrists and hands. From a certain perspective, it looks like your situation was caused by something simple and should be fixed by something simple.

On the other hand – and this is the subtle part! – simple accidents can lead to complex injures. And even if your injuries are simple, the solution to even a simple injury can be complex.

Consider the theoretical example of the shattered vertebrae. If your back is broken, not only must you deal with your back pain, but you also might need to take medicines, rest in a certain position for long periods of time, and undergo multiple surgeries. Every time you undergo a surgery, you may need to take other medications, some of which may have side effects which may require the use of even more medications, which can in turn change how your body regulates fat storage or change your biochemistry and other complex ways. You also will face logistical, financial, and relationship-based problems. If you have a shattered vertebrae, for instance, you may no longer be able to take care of your children. Thus, you may need to hire full time child support or call in a favor from an estranged brother or sister.

The end result is that your life becomes a lot messier and financially more difficult.

Thus, simple accidents – and even simple injuries stemming from simple accidents – can lead to a lot of complex “stuff” in your life that you need deal with effectively. Most remedies for workers’ comp are overly simplistic, in that fail to address all or even most of these secondary and tertiary issues.

The team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo in Charlotte can help you with the big, important legal issues – compelling an insurance company to treat you with respect, e.g.. But just understand that anyone who promises you overly simplistic, speedy solutions is just not being honest with you.

$31.8 Million Settlement from GlaxoSmithKline: Implications for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation

October 18, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

GlaxoSmithKline recently earned the dubious achievement of being on the losing end of the biggest healthcare fraud settlement in the history of the United States. As part of that settlement, the behemoth drug maker will pay North Carolina $31.8 million. These funds will be disbursed to various programs, including Medicaid and our public school system, which will receive nearly $4 million. If you have been waylaid with a workplace injury or illness, and you need North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits, what should you make of this story? How will it affect you, personally, if at all?

There are lessons to be learned here, but they are subtle:

1. The wheels of justice can take time to turn, but they can work.

State and federal investigators spent a tremendous amount of time, money, and energy to bring GlaxoSmithKline to heel, legally speaking. Surely, the job wasn’t easy. But at the end of the day, the drug manufacturer did have to pay for making untrue statements about the efficacy and safety of certain drugs, providing kickback to physicians, and failing to fully pay rebates to Medicaid and similar benefits programs. If you currently feel like you are up against ìinsurmountable oddsî – e.g. a big insurance company refuses to pay you – you may have more options at your disposal than you realize.

2. Elements of the system are just fundamentally unfair.

In an ideal world, patients could trust drug companies to provide effective safety warnings, equitable reimbursement, etc. They could rely on honest physicians to guide them, too. But alas, in the real world, our situations can get more fraught and complex. Fortunately, you can turn to respected advocates, like the DeMayo Law team, to even things up.

3. You are not in this alone.

If you feel alone, isolated, and overwhelmed due to your workplace injury or illness – isolated even from friends and family who want to help – you can easily spiral into a mentality of “no one knows what this is like.” But the GSK story illustrates that the problems that we all face with respect to workers’ compensation are, in some sense, universal.

That’s tragic, in a sense. But it’s also a relief; we can see our own story in context and thereby blunt the isolation effect. The team at DeMayo Law has helped many people in very similar situations to yours; we can help you, too.

Getting Over Chronic Injury: Could Managing Repressed Rage Be a Key to Dealing with Your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Situation?

October 16, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Like thousands of North Carolinians every year, you sustained a chronic injury at work. Now, you require Charlotte workers’ compensation benefits to help pay for your medical care, lost wages and other costs.

You may simultaneously want to “dial-in” to listen to your emotions.

Whether you work in manufacturing, computing, medical, dental, or any other type of labor, you likely subject your body to repeated and potentially unnatural physical stresses on a daily basis. Many ergonomic professionals believe that these physical strains can, over time, create damage to bones, muscles, tendons, and connective tissue called fascia. And that may be true. Indeed, a substantial part of your recovery might involve physical therapy – working on the damaged muscles, joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, etc. to rehabilitate them.

At the same time, ample evidence suggest that stress and repressed emotions – specifically, anger – may exacerbate or even cause some of the pain and debilitation.

An alternative hypothesis about why back pain often persists — even among people who show few, if any, signs of structural damage — suggests that stress/anger/and other hard to express negative emotions can lead us to physically embody stress in the form of muscle knots, tension and myofascial trigger points.

Thus, to completely heal from your injury, you may need to focus not only on rectifying the physical stressors – both acute and long-term. You also might need to examine and deal with emotional stresses in your life. For instance, if you hate your boss, your day-to-day work life may lead you to clench up and develop tightness in your upper back and chest and jaw. You may secrete a lot of potentially damaging hormones, such as a superabundance of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

The mental factors, in other words, might precipitate physical factors, which then precipitate damage or at least increase vulnerability to structural damage.

Obviously, you need to speak to your physician about the best course of action. But the point is that many workplace injuries are actually far deeper and more diverse than victims realize at first.

To connect with excellent resources and develop a plan to ensure that your employer and/or insurance company plays fair, get in touch with the team here at the Law Offices of Michael DeMayo today.

Setting Expectations After a Workplace Injury in Charlotte

October 11, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

A workplace injury in Charlotte has completely upset your financial and life plans.

Whether you and your spouse have been planning to start a family; or whether you have been dealing with crushing credit card debt or a burdensome mortgage, you were barely holding it together even before you got hurt. Now, you must reevaluate in light of new and unpleasant realities, such as:

•    You have no idea how serious the injury might be;
•    You don’t know when you can go back to work;
•    You don’t know whether you will be able to quality for North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits or, if so, how and when you will get those benefits;
•    You may have critical bills to pay or creditors to deal with, and you are not sure how to handle the avalanche of financial obligations and other commitments;
•    You may have obligations to take care of other people, including small children, a spouse, an elderly parent, etc.;
•    You are worried about your own mental health and stress level.

There is obviously no silver bullet that’s going to relieve all of these stresses in one fell swoop. But the team here at the Law Offices of Michael DeMayo can help you at least begin to understand how to make life after your Charlotte workplace injury more manageable.

The process begins by completing two critical steps. The first step is to acknowledge where you are now in rich, honest detail. Forget about your past. Forget about what your plans were. Your reality has shifted. Your ability to respond effectively will depend in large part on how honest you can be with yourself about what you face, what resources you retain, and what potential real challenges you face.

The second step – equally critical – is to define what an ideal outcome would look like, given your honest assessment of the present circumstances. To make this cognitive leap, however, you do need to “let go” (in some sense) of your present reality and just imagine things in an ideal state. In other words, if you had no constraints, what would your life look like? How would you act? What would you be doing? The more specifically you can answer the questions like this, the easier it will be for you to find strategies and resources to help you navigate from your present reality to your preferred future.

Let the team here at DeMayo Law help you get a handle on your challenges. We can provide a free and fair evaluation of your legal options.

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation: A Brilliant New News & Observer Piece Takes Us Beyond Superficial Numbers

October 9, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

You might be surprised by how many people talk and think about North Carolina workers’ compensation issues knowing little more than ìboilerplateî statistics and tired talking points.

It’s fine to have an opinion – even an ill-informed one – about what ìshould be doneî to repair the system, make it more equitable, and ensure that beneficiaries access the care they need. But it’s also trickier to sort truth from fiction, since most popular articles and websites on the subject miss the mark.

One of the best sources for ìcutting through the clutterî about North Carolina workers’ compensation is the investigative team at Charlotte’s News & Observer – available online and in print. One recent article by Michael L. Walden highlights why. Walden analyzed why North Carolina economic forecasts tend to be shortsighted and based on overly simplistic interpretations of economic indicators. For instance: the total number of jobs in North Carolina has essentially stayed static between 2000 and 2011. Many economy gurus use this statistic and ones like it to ìdemonstrateî that our state’s economy is sinking or stagnating.

But, as Walden points out, North Carolina has a generally ìbouncyî economy – at least when you compare our state with the other 49 – due in part to our reliance on manufacturing jobs. We tend to lose more jobs during downtimes and gain more jobs during uptimes. As Walden points out, ìaggregate production in North Carolina is now 2% higher than prior to the recession (in 2007) versus no improvement to the nation.î

The moral here is: When you read editorials, you may not be getting the full story.

These insights may all be well and good, at least from an intellectual ìlet’s debate how to fix the systemî perspective. But what if you or someone is hurt and sick? What if you are a spouse or caregiver of someone who’s hurt and sick? What might these news stories imply for your quest for ìbest practicesî?

The curious reality is: not much!

In other words, if you’re dealing with a specific benefits question, you can essentially tune out the news, especially if you’re working with a creditable, highly qualified North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm, like the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo. Our team can help guide you and give you the necessary strategic advice to make better decisions and maximize your quest for benefits.

Taking to Your Spouse about Your North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Dilemmas

October 4, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Contrary to the stereotype, most people who apply for workers’ compensation in North Carolina are proud, hard working, almost stubborn individuals who, in an ideal world, would much prefer to fend for themselves than to accept help from the government.

But there are times in everyone’s life where you need help – you need to have the courage to go beyond your stubbornness and pride and ask help from those who can offer it.

Along those lines, counterintuitively, asking for help from total strangers can sometimes be a LOT easier than asking for help from the people that we care about most.

For instance, it probably wouldn’t take much encouragement for you to call or otherwise connect with a high profile Charlotte workers’ compensation law firm (such as DeMayo Law) to discuss what happened to you and strategize your potential options. But if you have certain new needs or vulnerabilities that you want to discuss with your spouse or children, even the thought of having “that conversation” can overwhelm you.

For instance:

•    Perhaps you need to ask your spouse to go back to work or take a second job to help support the family;
•    Perhaps you want to ask your spouse to treat you more kindly and respectfully regarding the accident/injury itself or your rehabilitation;
•    Perhaps the event – and your frustrating quest for benefits (so far) – has stirred up deep seated issues with the relationship, and you need a larger, more free ranging conversation.

Spontaneous Conversations Versus “Planned” Conversations

In modern America, we think nothing of planning at length for big business meetings or big school presentations. For instance, before a major sales event, you would likely want to review what you plan to say in detail – ideally, getting feedback from your team. Sire, there is a time to be extemporaneous. But when you enter an important negotiation, you need to take time to plan.

Unfortunately, while we all recognize the need for planning in our professional lives, we often don’t plan enough for our important personal conversations. As a result, these conversations tend to go “all over the place.” More often than not, the result is hurt feelings, tears, and anger as opposed to a solid plan and a “win win” resolution.

To prevent that outcome, take time now to plan out what you will say, how you will say it, and how you would ideally like to behave during the conversation. Be as compassionate as possible – both with yourself and with your partner – and focus on a positive vision for the outcome of the discussion. What would it look like and/or feel like, if the talk succeeded beyond your wildest imagination? That’s always a nice question to dwell on when you’re trying to solve a tricky issue.

Dealing with Hypochondria as a North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Beneficiary

October 2, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Perhaps you suffered a Charlotte workplace accident or illness that left you severely sick or otherwise physically incapacitated. Or maybe you endured a “chronic” injury, such as a typing injury you sustained while working as a secretary of a bank in the Research Triangle.

In any event, you crave a return to good health. When you don’t feel good, nothing else really matters. You can have a billion dollars, a castle in Spain, and fame and glory; but if you can’t get out of bed because your spine hurts, all of that fame and fortune is worth a hill of beans.

North Carolina workers’ compensation beneficiaries (or people who want said benefits) often go through a period of becoming far more aware of their bodies following the illness/accident/event. Speculation abounds about why this takes place. Some people argue that the injury/illness increases the salience of the physical body. Others suggest that people who are forced to take time off of work have less to preoccupy themselves with – so they find new “stuff” – like an obsession with their bodies – to fixate on.

Psychology aside, hypochondria can be a real problem for this population.

After all, if you’re legitimately hurt/ill, you have a real medical problem. You might also be waiting for test results or waiting to see how rehab or medication will impact your health. These uncertainties can create a kind of mental tension, which your mind naturally “works on” by hypothesizing both catastrophic outcomes (e.g. “what if it’s terminal cancer?”) as well as grandiose hypotheses (e.g. “if this rehab tech works, I’ll be back to work in two months, rather than 12!”)

It would be glib to suggest that hurt workers moderate their expectations.

Easier said than done!

But it may behoove you to test the reality (or lack thereof) of your thoughts. You may also find it hugely helpful to keep a health journal, so you can objectively identify whether your hypochondriacal musings have any merit. If they don’t, you can use “the facts” that you’ve recorded in your journal to assuage yourself when the anxiety/depression starts.

Of course, your own insights should never be substituted for the ongoing guidance of a wise, licensed physician. Likewise, your own intuition about how/whether you might be able to recover benefits should not be considered a substitute for a consultation with experienced and well recognized Charlotte workers’ compensation law firm.