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Worker's Comp

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Common Types of Personal Injury Cases

Thousands of individuals are injured in accidents in the United States every year. When injuries are caused by the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of others, it is possible to obtain compensation by pursuing a personal injury claim. Some of the more common types of injury cases include:


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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What is soft tissue damage and how is it treated?

Soft tissue damage refers to damage done to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons throughout the body.  Often referred to as sprains, strains, contusions and tendonitis, soft tissue damage is usually caused by a traumatic event such as a slip and fall or a traffic accident.  It can result in swelling, bruising, and loss of function.   Immediately after an injury, the area affected by soft tissue damage should be protected, rested from any strenuous activity, kept cool with ice to regulate swelling, compressed and elevated.  If pain continues after 72 hours, it is likely that the injury is more than a simple sprain or strain.  When the soft tissue is inflamed for a long period of time it could result in serious, long-term damage.

When soft tissue damage exists in the back and the spinal column is compressed, it may result in what is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve.  Each vertebrae is separated by a gel filled sac that acts as a cushion between the bones.  When the muscles surrounding and supporting the spine are inflamed, it pushes the bones together, squeezing the sac and causing it to bulge, called a bulging disc.  In more serious cases, the sac actually ruptures.  This is called a herniated disc.  Besides being incredibly painful, these conditions can result in weakness or numbness in the extremities, known as radiculopathy.

MRI can confirm the existence of a bulging or herniated disc.  Treatment varies depending on the severity of the case.  For some, physical therapy and chiropractic manipulation will be enough to heal the damaged area.  This is considered conservative treatment.  There is the possibility that an epidural injection to the affected area could help reduce inflammation and give the injury an opportunity to heal.  If nothing else is successful, spinal fusion or decompression may be an option to reduce pain. A doctor should be consulted before engaging in any sort of treatment.  


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Choosing a Litigation Attorney

If circumstances have required you to get involved in litigation, you may find the process of selecting an attorney to be overwhelming.  There are, however, some steps you can take to make the selection process a bit easier.

First, you should consider hiring someone who specializes in your type of case. If you had an automobile accident, consider hiring an attorney who exclusively practices personal injury law and preferably one with a track record of success in car accident cases. If you were wrongfully fired, hire a litigator with experience in employment rights.

Since you and the attorney you choose will be working very closely together, it’s important to choose someone with whom you feel comfortable.   How long has the attorney been practicing law? Has the attorney ever handled a case like yours before? What was the outcome? How much are fees and how are they paid? Does the attorney seem like he or she is concerned about your case? Does the attorney seem knowledgeable about the area of law?   Does the attorney articulate himself clearly and effectively?  Does he have a credible and trustworthy demeanor?  Remember, a judge or jury may be making the same assessments down the line.   

With respect to fees, most attorneys will take a personal injury case on a contingency basis, meaning that you only pay if they succeed, typically about one-third of the judgment or settlement amount.  You may be able to negotiate the percentage, especially if your damages are significant and your case against the potential defendant strong.  In addition to contingency fee structure, you should also be aware that many attorneys will bill for “out of pocket expenses” such as $0.25 per page for photocopies, $1.00 per page for faxes and cost of hiring experts and consultants.  Again, depending on the strength of your case, you may be able to negotiate these terms.  If you’re involved in a commercial or contract dispute, most such cases are billed on an hourly basis.  If you’re a plaintiff, a hybrid fee structure whereby you would pay a lower hourly fee but provide the lawyer with a percentage of the settlement may be an interesting option.

It’s also a good idea to find out how long the attorney believes the case will take. Obviously, many factors are beyond your attorney’s control, but you should be able to determine a general timeline and what type of resources the attorney will commit to your case.   It’s also important to know how you will be kept updated throughout the proceeding. It can be very frustrating if your attorney does not keep you informed on the status of your case. Ask the attorney how he or she plans to communicate with you and how often you can expect a status report.

Choosing an attorney is a big decision. Before you decide to choose one based on the number of television commercials he or she runs, or the size of the yellow pages ad the firm maintains, it’s important to sit down with the attorney to make sure the relationship is the right fit for your case.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Expert Witnesses Can Be the Key to a Lawsuit

In civil cases, plaintiffs have the burden of proving defendants are to blame for their injuries or economic losses by a preponderance of the evidence, which essentially means, that based on the evidence, the defendants were more likely than not responsible for the injuries.  That can be a lot more complicated than it sounds  Expert witnesses can be a critical key to success in winning over the jury and winning these complex matters.

 
Take the case of Margaret Wellinghorst.  In November 2007, she was walking her dog when she tripped on the edge of a trench that had been dug in the road.  She fell and injured her left hand.   With the help of her attorney, to get compensation for her injuries, she sued the companies responsible for creating and filling in the trench and repairing the road.
 
Ms. Wellinghorst had the burden of proving that the defendants owed her a duty of care, defendants breached that duty and as a result, she suffered injuries.  The fact that she tripped over the edge of a trench created by defendants and was injured, simply wasn’t enough to win her case.  She had to prove negligence by defendants.  To do that, an expert witness was introduced to show defendants did something wrong which consequently injured the plaintiff.   
 
Expert witnesses are used to introduce evidence that’s scientific, technical or specialized in nature.  It’s the kind of evidence that the average person isn’t qualified to introduce, or to render a judgment upon, given the facts of the situation.
 
Ms. Wellinghorst’s expert witness was William Poznak, a civil engineer with over 30 years of professional experience.  He examined the roadway, took measurements, took photographs and created a report.  He observed that the section of trench under the road sunk uniformly over the years, while the rest of the road did not.  In a deposition, Mr. Poznak gave the opinion the trench was backfilled improperly, which lead to the surface sinking and Ms. Wellinghorst’s injury.  
 
Mr. Poznak’s opinion was that the defendants did their work negligently.  But all he had was his opinion and that’s not enough.  He couldn’t say why that area of road sank, thus had no facts to back up his opinion.  Defendants’ attorneys brought up two possible tests that he could’ve done to help determine what happened.  Mr. Poznak admitted he had performed neither.  
 
The expert was unable to perform the key role he was hired to do.  He couldn’t explain why the area of the trench sank into the roadway.  If he couldn’t do that, he had no factual basis for his opinion that the defendants did something wrong or did something negligently which resulted in plaintiff’s injuries. Since the plaintiff had no other experts, and Mr. Poznak’s testimony was the best the plaintiff could do, Ms. Wellinghorst’s case was dismissed.
 
A legal case is like a chain in that it is only as strong as its weakest link.  Competent attorneys will test every link to its limits.  In this case, the weak link that broke the case was the expert testimony.  In our cases, we hire the right experts who are knowledgeable and experienced, and are able to communicate effectively in a courtroom.
 

Monday, June 30, 2014

On-the-Job Injuries, Worker’s Compensation and Third-Party Claims

Worker’s Compensation Benefits Only Go So Far

Workers’ compensation laws have two primary objectives:  The first is to ensure that injured workers receive the compensation they need following an on-the-job injury and the second is to ensure that injured workers received the compensation they need quickly and easily, and without anxiety as to whether the funds will actually be available.

Millions of injured workers have received funds dispersed by the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP), which compensates workers for lost wages, medical expenses and other expenses directly related to their injuries and losses. There is another loss for which the OWCP cannot reimburse workers: pain and suffering. This means that, despite injuries that are severe, injured workers are barred from OWCP compensation for:

  • Mental trauma associated with a serious injury or disability
  • The inability to accomplish the activities of daily living
  • A diminishment in quality of life
  • Loss of consortium on the part of a spouse or family member (in the event of the death of a worker)
  • Loss of mobility (except in relation to diminished earning capacity and other direct financial loss)

Fortunately, there is often a way for workers and their families to obtain additional, high-value, lump sum compensation following an injury on the job – a third-party claim.

What Is a Third-Party Claim?

To understand third-party claims, it’s important to understand that Worker’s Compensation claims are paid via the employer’s Worker’s Compensation insurance. Federal law limits what the insurance covers, leaving injured workers uncompensated for a range of losses.

Successful third-party claims result in compensation paid to an injured worker, or his or her family, not by Workman’s Compensation insurance but by a third party. A third party can be the insurer of a contractor, subcontractor, vendor or other party on a work site that was responsible for the accident and subsequent injuries.

A third-party claim could look, generally like this:

While working for a roofing company, a roofing assistant sustains a concussion when a can of paint, owned by the house-painting contractor, falls on him from above. In the wake of the injury, the employee requires a great deal of medical care resulting in high medical bills and a month of missed work. The worker files for and receives compensation from the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs through his roofing company employer but this compensation only covers medical expenses and lost wages. In order to recover damages for the pain and suffering associated with the injury, the assistant hires a personal injury attorney and receives a high-value award for the other losses resulting from the injury. The award is not paid by the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs but instead by the insurer of the painting company whose negligence caused the injury. 

If you or a family member endured the pain, shock and loss of a serious on-the-job injury, you should investigate the possibility of a third-party claim. A third-party claim can result in compensation that covers your whole loss, not just the losses directly related to medical and wage expense. To learn more about third-party claims, contact a personal injury lawyer. 


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Richard F. Silber is admitted to practice in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. From his office in Georgetown, he and his legal team assist clients throughout the Washington metropolitan area.



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| Phone: 202-338-0687

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