Workers' Comp and Related Topics
"As one speaker put it at a Sacto demo I attended a number of years ago -- in language I'll never forget -- "I'm living on $140 a week for permanent disability benefits and my employer's lawyer is getting more than that in an hour!" Kinda puts things in perspective."|
-- Joan Lichterman, founder of the East Bay RSI Support Group
Workers' Comp & Legal ConcernsURGENT! If you're in Calfornia and currently have, or have had, a Workers' Comp case, please visit the RAND Institute for Civil Justice website. There is something YOU can do to make things better for injured workers in CA. Please see the letter which we received from them.
Please visit our new FIGHT BACK! page to learn of some ways that YOU can get involved in changing the CA workers comp system to more adequately serve the injured worker. Don't feel helpless - FIGHT BACK!
You feel terrible; you're in pain and you're worried because your ability to do your job is threatened by your injuries. All the other problems that come about as the result of having an RSI are bothering you also. But wait - you've just begun to suffer! You're about to enter Workers' Comp Hell, for that's where many of us end up. Read these words from Trina on the subject. Pick up some tips from someone who has been there. If you are just getting into the system, here is information on obtaining care (dated September 2004) and a predestination form.
More from Trina - You and Your QME
"This is also a pertinent moment to remind Sorehanders that going alone to a medical exam for an insurance carrier is to walk through quicksand. If possible, take someone with you, who clearly and blatantly takes notes (because your hands are too sore) of what occurs and who serves as a witness to what is said (docs always have more "legitimacy" (read power) than injured workers).
If you cannot take someone w/you, take a tape recorder. Take it out of your bag and place it in clear view, stating that you are taping the exam because in pain and under stress, you cannot always remember clearly what is said.
While the exam takes place, describe for the tape any activities which are nonverbal (e.g., he tapped on my wrists, etc.). This will discourage the tendency to write false records (purchased opinions) for the carriers because there IS A RECORD of what occurred, and they may then be prosecuted for fraud."
[NOTE from another member: Some doctors will forbid you to have a witness present during the exam. If you have an attorney, consult with your attorney about what to do in this situation. Of note is that the CA Labor Code has a provision that you have the right to bring a "doctor" (which includes physicians, psychologists, chiropractors, and others) to observe the exam. You could hire a doctor to be present or bring a friend who happens to be a doctor. Also, you could call the QME doctor's office in advance and ask if your friend/spouse can be present to take notes for you during the exam. If they refuse, ask them if they would prefer have your friend/spouse there or Doctor X. They will sometimes capitulate and let your friend be present. Under no circumstances should you allow the QME to have a witness present, including his staff or a nurse case manager (who is paid by and works for the insurance company). Politely ask them to leave the room.]
LA County Bar Association Attorney Referral ServiceThe LA County Bar Association offers a low cost (is possibly free now) attorney referral service, (213) 243-1525. You describe your legal matter, and they give you the name of an attorney in your area and set up a free 30-minute consulation for you. You meet with that attorney. If you don't like them and would like another referral, you call the referral service and they give you another name. In 2000, the cost was $35, and you could get up to 3 attorney referrals for one legal matter.
Workers' Comp LawyersWe have a short list of WC lawyers. Hopefully you can find a lawyer who will, at the very least, return your phone calls (no small matter). By law, there is no charge for your initial appointment with an applicant attorney in CA so interview lawyers until you find one you think you can trust and with whom you feel comfortable.
And here's something to mull over....what is good for you may not be in the best interests of your lawyer. The amount an applicant attorney may earn in CA for handling your workers' comp case is capped at 15% of your settlement. The larger your settlement, the more $ your attorney makes. The sooner you're P&S'd (declared permanent and stationery - a medical determination that additional therapy is unlikely to produce improvement of your condition), the sooner your attorney gets her/his $. And if you opt out of continuing medical for a larger settlement, your attorney also receives a larger $ amount, so think carefully when making these critical decisions.
You may have realized by now that the insurance company wants you on the fast track. Their idea of how much PT you need may be very much at variance with what you think you need to get better. Now ponder this: The more you're able to get over your injury, the more your disability rating will drop. If your attorney is not entirely scrupulous, it may be that they too would just as soon see you settle quickly because the higher your disability rating, the higher your settlement and the more your lawyer earns. Think about all this for a minute. This is your chance to get well and the healing process with repetitive strain injuries is a VERY slow one. You will make gradual progress and it may not be occuring quickly enough for your insurance company - or your lawyer! If your lawyer is a little selfish, she or he may be in a hurry for you to settle your claim also. Tilt!
Rose, Klein and Marias in LA on Grand by 8th, 213/626-0571. This is a big firm of WC lawyers but we are told they are "principled, honest, and have integrity." Marvin Shapiro specializes in RSI cases in the LA office. This firm also has offices in other Southern California cities.
Dabbah and Haddad at 215 N. Marengo in Pasadena, (626) 431-2950 was recommended to us by a group member.
The California Applicants' Attorneys Organization (CAAA) says it is "...the most powerful, most effective, and most knowledgeable legal voice for the injured workers of California." This site is definitely worth a visit. The CAAA has now set up an injured worker info-line: 1-800-459-1400. Callers will receive a pamphlet about injured workers' rights and a list of applicants attorneys who are CAAA members in their geographic area. The service is free. Callers will not be given specific legal advice.
And this info from a member of LA RSI:
Disability Rights LawThe Western Law Center for Disability Rights is a good organization to know about. They're located at 919 S. Albany St., Los Angeles 90015, (213) 736-1031. This non-profit provides legal assistance to persons with all types of disabilities. "With a small staff, law student externs and volunteer attorneys, the Center fields requests for assistance from a large number of persons with disabilities and provides much needed assistance through litigation, mediation and meaningful referrals to other agencies."
If you have a workers' comp. case pending, you'll find it immensely helpful to learn as much as you can about the ins and outs of the system. These books may be able to assist you in informed decision-making when dealing with the complexities of your legal situation.
Take Charge of Your Worker?s Compensation Claim: An A to Z Guide for Injured Employees (California), Christopher Ball, Nolo Press, Feb. '00, 2nd ed. (California Edition), ISBN #0-87337-393-6. The author is a California attorney. This is THE CA wc book, with more information about wc than most of us will ever want (or hopefully need) to know. The LA Public Library System has multiple copies of this title. If your local branch library doesn't have this book in their collection, they can get it for you within the system. The book runs around $25 so, if you're currently off work due to injury, the library is a great alternative to purchase. The very helpful Nolo Press employment law page is at www.nolopress.com/category/emp_home.html
California Workers' Compensation, Basic Stuff, A Survival Guide, Dorsey Hamilton, 1991. This title is nine years old but, though some of the information in this book is dated, Hamilton's overall approach is not. Unlike Ball's book, mentioned above, this book is very readable and, at 124pp, can be finished in an evening. The book is written by someone who went through the workers' comp system and lived to tell the tale. Hamilton quotes the state's answers to your questions, which he calls BS (Basic Stuff). Then he gives you his answers, which he calls NO-BS (New Observations on Basic Stuff). Hamilton covers when to get a lawyer, medical evaluations, settling your claim, vocational rehab, uninsured employers, other benefit programs, dispute arbitration, and more. This book is $9.95 + state tax and $2 shipping. Orders may be sent to: Paupers Publishing, P.O. Box 506, Novato, CA 94948. Delivery takes three or four weeks. We found out about Basic Stuff through A.R.M.S.
And from another angle, Workers' Comp for Employers, James Walsh, Nolo Press, 1994, 2nd ed., ISBN # 1-56343-073-8.
The Evaluation of Industrial Disabilities, 2nd ed., Packard Thurber, Oxford University Press, ISBN # 0-19-501143-0.
The Schedule For Rating Permanent Disabilities, Southern California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Workers' Compensation.
Workers' Compensation Laws of California, Matthew Bender, 1996, ISBN # 0-256-18647-2. This title is available at your local Workers' Comp. office and you'll probably be allowed to photocopy needed information.
The California Workers' Compensation Handbook, Stanford D. Herlick, Parker's, 15th ed., ISBN # 1-55834-294-X. This book pulls heavily from the labor code but in a readable format for the layperson.
California Workers Rights: A Manual of Job Rights, Protections, and Remedies, 2nd ed., is "a 250 page, easy-to-use guide to the special and distinctive rights of California employees." It "covers hiring, job-related privacy rights, pay, benefits, safety and health in the workplace, workers' compensation," etc. and is published by the Center for Labor Research and Education at the Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
Job Damaged People: How to Survive and Change the Workers' Comp System Information about ordering this book can be found on the NYU Health and Safety Committee site. This book is "*national* in its approach." It's "put out by the Louisiana Injured Workers Union" and "has some good info about forming injured worker groups which will also work for support groups."
The specialty bookshops below carry legal books which might not be readily available at other bookstores, though Crown and Barnes and Noble carry several of these. Also check with your local library. If they don't have a title in their collection, they may be able to get it for you through interlibrary loan. You can search for titles and reserve books from home on your computer at the Los Angeles Public Library website. Or you can purchase books online from Amazon Books and several other vendors.
Legal Book Store
Some Legal LinksLook up Workers' Compensation Information Sources For All 50 States on the N.C. Industrial Commission's site.
The Law Guru site provides a list of FAQs relating to law and legal issues, a database of 4000 prior reader inquiries and answers, and the capability to ask your own question, circulated to over 300 volunteer law firms. FAQs include workers' comp, state disability and social security disability.
The Prairielaw site has a section on Work Life which encompasses Workers Comp information - an excellent site.
At Work With Julie is provided by The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), a regional planning agency owned and operated by the cities and counties of the San Francisco Bay Area. ABAG offers a Workers' Compensation Administration Program designed for public employers who already self-insure for workers' compensation. The program manager and all claims examiners are state-certified workers' compensation administrators and one of the program's stated aims is to "control clients' costs." Keeping that in mind, there's a lot of useful information to be found here. Julie Carroll is the manager/director of the ABAG Workers' Compensation Administration Program and she addresses "your questions regarding the California workers' compensation system" on this page. Though many questions don't deal with RSI specifically, most answers give insights into the workings of the system.
The California State Compensation Insurance Fund "State Fund is California's largest provider of workers' compensation insurance and has served California employers since 1914."
LAW OFFICES OF RICHARD H. JORDAN HOME PAGE Mr. Jordan "advises California employers on how to successfully manage their workers' compensation injury claims, and defends them before California's workers' compensation court, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board", and he's got a lot of interesting info available on his site. Get an employer's view of WC here at Important Information for Employers. And see the links at Important Internet Sites for "useful and up to date information on legislation, administrative agency action, and court decisions."
David J. DePaolo, Inc. is a California Law Corporation specializing in small business general counsel. Mr. DePaolo has a background in "Workers' Compensation defense for insurance companies and employers." These pages have a web version of Mr. DePaolo's California Workers' Compensation Flowchart. With this flowchart, DePaolo says you can "instantly access all Labor Code and Regulation sections, and forms at a single place." He claims, "The theory behind the Flowchart is that Workers' Compensation IS A PROCESS and as such can be systemized. Despite illogical construction of the Labor Code, there IS A PATTERN! The Flowchart taps this pattern to make Workers' Compensation law logical and easy." It's also searchable and it works on all platforms. Sounds like just what we need! Have a look. It's what the opposing lawyer in your case may be using.
Jeff DeMarco, a workers' comp lawyer in Monterey who represents injured workers, has an informative page on WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW.
The Nolo Press site has a good page devoted to general information about Workers' Comp - The Workers' Compensation FAQ. Relevant books can be purchased on the site.
Applicant attorney Edward Singer has a new, informative website, The Work Injury Help-Site.
The firm of Goldberger & Associates has a big website devoted to California Workers Comp. This firm also represents workers.
The Center for Office Technology (COT) is an association of employers and manufacturers "dedicated to improving the office working environment and promoting informed approaches to safety and health issues associated with computers and office technology." COT would have us believe that the numbers of RSI cases as a result of working on computers are vastly overstated. These folks strenuously opposed California Assembly Bill 1127. Their site has information on RSI litigation and features COT's self-serving slant on RSI. We give you the opposition.
The Electronic Activist: An email address directory of congresspeople, state governments, and media entities
Related LinksWorkers' Compensation Insurance is a super site with a wealth of information and a lengthy list of links for the injured worker from every state and Canada. This site is definitely a MUST VISIT. If you're in California, don't miss the page reproducing the LA Times articles (there are two and both are excellent - related editorials and letters to the editor are included) on Workers' Comp on this site and the insurance industry's response.
"WORKSAFE! is a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to promoting safety and health in the workplace in order to preserve the health of all Californians.
The Americans With Work Related Injuries site has information on workers' compensation laws across the country. The group was originally founded by an injured worker in Texas (a very bad state in which to suffer an RSI) as "a Political Action/Injured Worker help organization to increase the awareness of computer related injuries and help the injured worker through the Workers' Compensation process." The group's operations are currently suspended but we hope to see them up and running again soon.
Visit the Canadian Injured Workers Alliance, a national network of injured workers groups, which exists "to support and strengthen the work of local, provincial, and territorial injured workers groups by providing a forum for exchanging information and sharing experiences."
BraveNewWorkWorld and NewWork News NewWork News features headlines from around the world concerning workers' issues.
GLOBALCIRCLE.NET provides "Networking and support for all injured workers." They write:
16 Sep 2004
Site updated 16 Sep 2004