D.C. Maryland and Virginia medical malpractice, accidents and work injuries questions answered by D.C. injury attorneys.
Here are some of the questions people have when they first contact us about D.C., Maryland and Virginia medical malpractice, serious car accidents or workers compensation.
We try to provide as much information as we can based on our experience as medical malpractice lawyers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia and based on representing many hundreds of people who have been injured in accidents or at work in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
Here are the basics:
Patients permanently injured by medical malpractice, or the families of patients killed because of medical negligence, when a hospital, HMO or healthcare corporation doesn't follow basic patient safety rules deserve justice - resources to help with the harms and losses due to the injuries or death of their loved one.
Drivers who don't follow the rules of the road, driving recklessly, driving drunk, speeding, and texting should be accountable for the harm they cause when their actions cause a car accident or wreck.
Workers hurt on the job deserve workers compensation benefits for lost wages, medical treatment and permanent injuries. If a worker is killed on the job, his family deserves workers compensation death benefits - to at least help with the financial loss of a loved one.
But since every person is unique, if you have questions or need information about an injury or death in your family, please contact us to talk it through. We'll talk to you, schedule a free initial meeting and give you all the information we can.
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I was hit by a car that ran a red light in D.C. delivering materials for my company. Can I Sue?
I was seriously injured at work when my work truck was hit by a car that ran a red light in D.C. I was delivering materials for my company. I'm getting workers comp benefits and the workers comp insurance company paid for my surgeries. Since the car accident was the other driver's fault, can I sue the other driver?
Yes. This is what we call a "third party case." You actually have two cases with different benefits and/or damages available. The workers compensation insurance company should be paying for your time off work (66 2/3 % of your salary) and for all of your medical treatment - surgeries, hospitalizations, office visits, MRIs, physical therapy, etc. as you need it, even though the accident was caused by another driver.
You also have a case against the other driver (sometimes this is called a third-party case because the other driver isn't your employer or a co-worker) for the harms and losses he caused when he ran the red light and hit you. These harms and losses can be the cost of your medical treatment (both now and in the future), lost income (again, now and in the future), pain, suffering, permanent injury, disfigurement and other things that have been taken from you.
And you can pursue both cases. The catch (there always is one) is that the workers comp insurance company gets paid back what it paid to you or on your behalf for medical treatment (it's a form of subrogation). So you have to do the analysis to find out if the third-party case is ultimately going to make you money.
As injury attorneys, we help you make that discernment.
There are a couple of traps to watch out for. For example, check out the question about time limits for filing a 3rd party case in D.C.
Give us a call at 202-393-3320 and we'll set you up with a free informational interview.
When should I hire a workers compensation lawyer for my workers comp injury?
As I say in my book, Protect Your Rights: The Ultimate Guide to D.C. Workers Compensation, Don't wait.
The insurance company already has a team of lawyers, adjusters, nurse case managers and investigators working against you - sometimes before you even get to the hospital.
You need to be prepared for what is coming.
If its a serious injury and you will be out of work or need surgery, you need to act to protect yourself and your family.
Don't delay in getting the best workers compensation lawyer for your case. As I say in my book, the insurance company's duty is to its shareholders - not you! No matter how nice they are or how smoothly everything went at first, there comes a time when that all changes.
In fact, I just spoke to a nurse I couldn't help because her injury lifting a patient happened so long ago. If she had called shortly after the injury, she would be much better off today.
Get the information you need to help yourself and your family by calling 202-393-3320.
The insurance company or your employer won't do it for you.
I'm not getting better - can I switch doctors?
THE SHORT ANSWER IS...IT DEPENDS.
After being injured in D.C. on my job, I started medical treatment with an orthopedic surgeon for my back injury and the workers compensation insurance company approved my doctor. They have been paying the medical bills. But now the doctor doesn't seem to be helping my back injury, which is not getting any better and could be a herniated disk. Can I change my treating doctor if I was hurt at work in D.C.?
The insurance company tried to "assign" me a doctor. Can they do that?
First of all, every worker hurt on the job in D.C. has the right to choose their own physician. The workers' comp insurance company can't just send you to some doctor or clinic. But once you have made the choice of a treating physician, it may be difficult to change doctors (or at least difficult to do so quickly). If you would like more aggressive treatment than your treating orthopedic surgeon is recommending, you can request a hearing with the Office of Workers Compensation to get the change in physician approved, but this can take several months. If the workers comp insurance company agrees to the requested change, you can begin treatment with the new orthopedic doctor.
Finally, if your doctor refers you to another orthopedic surgeon or other specialist, that treatment will be covered.
Does that help? In summary, if you were hurt in DC you do get to choose your treating physician, even if your work "assigns" you a doctor. In Maryland you also are permitted to choose your own doctor. In Virginia, you can choose from a panel of three physicians.
Have more questions? Don't you worry --we have answers!
Give us a call at 202-393-3320 today and you will speak to a real person who wants to hear your story.
If you have a doctor's restrictions after a work injury does your job have to give you light duty?
Light Duty When You're on Workman's Comp. If you're hurt at work and can't go back to your regular job because of the injury, your doctor may put you on light duty, or give you work restrictions.
For example, if you injured your back at work, the doctor may say no lifting over 10 pounds. After recovering from knee surgery, the restrictions may be no climbing ladders, no standing more than 10 minutes, etc. And a shoulder injury could restrict you from using that arm.
So once your doctor gives you work restrictions, what do you do?
What if you can't do your regular job because of doctor's restrictions?
There are a lot of complicating factors to consider, but our law firm sets aside time every week to answer questions like this (confidentially and for free) so if you have questions after reading this, or want more information, call us now at (202) 393-3320.
In workers' compensation cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, its up to your employer to provide light duty - in other words, its the employer's choice to offer light duty work. Some companies do but others don't.
Some employers have true light duty jobs available that they can move an injured worker to - and if so, that injured worker would receive his regular salary instead of workers comp benefits for the time he is on light duty (as long as the light duty job pays as much as he was making before).
A lot of union contractors just don't have any light duty - and union workers can read more about a free guide to workers compensation for union members by clicking here.
Other companies may create a light duty job or have a light duty program. Sometimes a construction company will have a construction worker with a shoulder injury sit in the trailer, or stand on the jobsite and make sure everyone is wearing a hard hat. A transit employer could have injured workers watch a parking lot. Again, the injured employee would be paid his regular salary instead of workers compensation benefits.
One thing to keep in mind is that even if you are receiving your standard hourly rate in a light duty job, you may be owed additional workers compensation benefits (called temporary partial disability). This is because your average weekly wage (which includes overtime, bonuses and may include income from a second job) could be more than your standard hourly rate, or you may be working fewer hours on light duty.
What if your company doesn't have light duty or won't accommodate your restrictions?
They have to pay your full workers compensation benefits, also called temporary total disability, or TTD, just as if your doctor said you could not do any work at all because of the injury.
If you have a question about light duty with your employer, just call us at (202) 393 - 3320 and we'll tell you how our clients do it.
But the key to any light duty job is to make sure it is within your doctor's restrictions - you don't want to do anything to risk further injury or delay the recovery from your injury.
And be careful here - not accepting a light duty job or getting fired from it can really hurt your case.
And not only do the laws vary in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, every employer does something different and every case depends on specific factors. So if you have questions, or need more information on light duty rules, call us at (202) 393-3320 and order your FREE copy of Protect Your Rights: The Ultimate Guide to Workers Compensation.
What should I do? I’m Not Sure if I Should Get Workers Comp, FMLA or What.
We’re getting this one a lot lately.
Q: I can’t work because I’m sick or hurt and my job sent me paperwork to apply for FMLA. I’m not sure if I should get workers comp, FMLA or what. What should I do?
A: A couple of things here are important. Usually when people tell us they’ve applied for FMLA or their company is putting their benefits under FMLA, they mean they have applied for short term or long term disability.
So what is that?
Many companies have short term and long term disability plans – disability insurance policies usually governed by a federal law called ERISA that should provide benefits if you are disabled because of an injury or medical condition and you can’t work. There are a few key things to keep in mind – first there are strict timelines to appeal if your claim is denied. Second, there are a lot of conditions and exclusions in these policies – you may be required to file for social security disability benefits, you may be excluded if you can get workers comp benefits instead, and certain medical conditions may be excluded.
Workers comp is a different system altogether for injuries at work (it has its own requirements under the law, but it’s much different than short or long-term disability If you're on long-term disability or think you might get on it, we can help you with that, too).
But the #1 key thing to remember is that your HR department at your job doesn’t know all the differences or what will be best for you – even though they like you and mean well.
So call us and let us walk you through it and get it straight – we handle all types of insurance and injury cases, so we understand how one type of case may affect the other.
Order Our Free Book to Get the Skinny on Light Duty.
Light duty in workers compensation is confusing. Every workers compensation insurance company seems to handle light duty differently, and sometimes it depends on the adjuster as well.
Once you're hurt on the job and can't do your regular work because of the injury, but your doctor says you can return to work on restricted duty, light duty or with some restrictions, in D.C. your company can either accommodate those restrictions or continue to pay your workers compensation benefits in the form of temporary total disability.
Some companies will "make up" a light duty job for you and others are adamant that they don't have light duty. and if you're working light duty you should be paid your regular wages or salary, or they need to make up any difference by paying workers comp benefits in the form of temporary partial disability.
You also need to make sure the light duty job is actually within your doctor's restrictions.
There is a lot to know and do to protect yourself with any serious injury. Don't guess or hope you do the right thing. Get the answers you need by ordering a free copy of the only book written just for workers hurt on the job in the D.C. area - its the Ultimate Guide to D.C. workers compensation.
Have an immediate need or pressing question? Call us today at (202) 393-3320 and we'll do our best to answer it on the spot or set up a time to talk to you about it.
What is Vocational Rehabilitation and how can it affect my workers’ compensation benefits?
Vocational Rehabilitation in DC Workers Compensation
When you can't return to your regular job after a serious injury, but you can work some type of light duty within your doctor's restrictions, the workers comp insurance company can start vocational rehabilitation. Generally, the insurance company will assign a vocational counselor to work with you - and who do you think the vocational counselor works for?
The overall goal of vocational rehabilitation is supposed to be to return you to a job that pays as much as you were making at the time you got hurt. In theory, that's the idea.
This usually doesn't happen, for lots of reasons.
First of all, if you were working in construction or another field with a physically demanding job - any building trade, security, nursing, delivery driver, rigger for concerts, school teacher for at risk kids - you name it, you may not have the transferrable skills to be employed at a high wage in some other field. You probably don't have the experience, training, education and background to compete for high level jobs in another field. And if you were at the top of your field when you got hurt, will your past salary scare away potential employers?
Are you now competing against people half your age for entry level jobs in a totally new field?
You see, in theory, vocational rehabilitation sounds great. It sounds like re-training for something you want to do. A true career change.
But it's not.
The reality (like many things with the workers comp system and all workers comp insurance companies) is a lot different than what you would expect.
Workers Comp Insurance Companies Use Vocational Rehabilitation to Stop Your Benefits.
Keep in mind, all of the vocational counselors work for the workers comp insurance companies - that is where they get all of their business. They don't work for you. And the insurance company's job is to deny or limit the amount of money and medical treatment they have to pay for.
Things may start off just fine, but there will probably come a time when the insurance company is tired of paying for these services. They have been paying her for a long time to meet with you and she hasn't found you a job yet. And this can pressure a vocational counselor to say you are not cooperating with their services because by doing so, the insurance company can cut off your benefits (this is technically a suspension of benefits, but really they just stop them cold).
We've seen benefits stopped for trivial issues - not calling the counselor back on time, or missing just one meeting.
If you are on vocational rehabilitation and are working with a vocational counselor, you never want to get to this point - so make sure you document all of your job search efforts and keep notes of your meetings and conversations with the counselor.
Save and print all of your text messages, phone records and emails so you have these if you need them at a Formal Hearing.
By keeping record of all your job search efforts (telephone calls you have made, computer searches, jobs applications, interviews/meetings, etc.), you can use them at the hearing some day if the insurance company claims you did not cooperate with the vocational counselor. The more evidence you have of your good-faith cooperation with vocational rehabilitation, the better your chances.
The vocational counselor will probably testify against you at the hearing, so you need to be prepared to not only prove you were cooperating with her, but cross examine her as well.
Call us today at (202) 393-3320 to make sure this doesn't happen to you. Don’t let the insurance company and their vocational counselor set you up to stop your hard earned workers comp benefits.
Want more? Visit us at www.donahoekearney.com/reports for more information on DC Workers' Compensation.
What's the Difference Between Workers' Compensation and a Lawsuit?
I was hurt at work in D.C. Can I sue my employer and recover damages for my back injury caused by my company's negligence?
If you're hurt (or killed) at work while you're on the job, you are entitled to workers compensation benefits whether your employer or one of your co-workers caused your injury, whether the accident was your fault, or no matter what caused the accident or injury. Remember - if someone else caused the accident who didn't work for your company, you can sue that person or the company he worked for. That's a separate case and we handle those all the time for construction workers, delivery drivers and other workers.
But the law doesn't allow you to sue your employer for damages (as you would in a car accident or pedestrian accident case for example).
Instead, your case is governed by the D.C. Workers Compensation Act (even though your employer was negligent) and you are entitled to the various benefits and protections of the Act.
I'll warn you up front though - no large employer or insurance company will tell you all the benefits you may be entitled to, so if its a serious injury, call us for more information. 202-393-3320.
What is an FCE? The workers comp adjuster scheduled a functional capacity evaluation for me.
After an injury in D.C. when I was hurt on the job, the workers comp adjuster scheduled an
FCE or functional capacity evaluation.
After an on the job injury in D.C., many times the workers compensation insurance adjuster or nurse case manager will schedule the injured worker for a functional capacity evaluation, or FCE.
This is basically a test used to clarify the injured worker's limitations or work restrictions. Sometimes a treating physician or IME doctor (insurance company doctor) will recommend it.
Usually the test lasts for several hours and consists of lifting, moving, walking up stairs - somewhat like work hardening or certain types of physical therapy. It is usually done under the direction of a physical therapist.
An unbiased physical therapist will accurately record how much or how often the injured worker can lift, carry, or climb stairs or ladders. As with all things involving workers compensation insurance companies, you have to be careful.
There are certain companies conduction FCEs that market themselves to insurance companies and get all of their business from them. They are more likely to have physical therapists try to say that the injured worker has "pain behaviors" or "symptom magnification" and attempt to document this on their official-looking forms.
These are physical therapists - they can show someone with an injury how to exercise, show them good form, count the reps, etc. but they can't give an opinion as to supposed psychological factors. Unfortunately, some do, because that's what the workers comp insurance companies pay them for. So they try to say you're faking, or malingering, or not trying (and the workers comp insurance company could then use this to stop or deny your benefits).
Have you been scheduled for a Functional Capacity Exam (FCE) or Independent Medical Exam (IME) and don't know what to expect?
Give us a call at 202-393-3320 for more information on how you can advocate for yourself during an IME or FCE. It's a free, no obligation, confidential call and we'll let you know your next steps and get you a lot of good info on the whole workers comp system you're in.
What's an Injury Work Clinic and Should I Go There?
These Workers Comp Clinics are a Sham. You Can Get a Real Doctor for Your Work Injury.
You get hurt on the job and you report it to your supervisor. You are then told that there’s a company doctor (or a workers' comp doctor, or a workers’ clinic). They tell you that everyone who gets hurt on the job goes to this clinic. It’s convenient. The "doctor" can see you right away (first of all, you're probably not even seeing a doctor, or if you are, it is not a doctor who is a specialist, and it's probably one who can't find any other job, but don't get me started on these "Workers Clinics" - I wouldn't let them treat my dog, and I don't even like my dog!).
They'll tell you it’s free. So is all of your medical treatment under DC workers compensation.
You are entitled to proper medical care from an appropriate specialist if you are injured at work. In D.C., and Maryland, you have the right to choose your own physician. In Virginia, you can choose one of a panel of three qualified physicians.
In D.C. and Maryland, workers’ compensation insurance companies try to trick you into going to a “work injury clinic," which they probably fund or subsidize. Who do you think the work injury clinic doctor would prioritize—you, or the insurance companies and employers that he/she works with? And that send the clinic all of its patients?
Make sure you choose a physician who has his or her patient’s best interests at heart—not one who relies on insurance companies to send them patients or is bullied by insurance company nurses and adjusters into limiting expensive medical tests and treatment or rushing you back to work before your injury has healed.
As workers’ compensation attorneys in D.C., we hear about a lot of these types of tricks insurance companies and employers try to use. And we’re tired of seeing insurance companies using these traps to delay workers' comp benefits to hard workers after an injury at work.
That is why we wrote 5 Common Mistakes that will Absolutely Kill Your Workers Compensation Case: a report that lists five of the most common tricks, tactics and traps insurance companies use to deny, delay and pay less to workers and their families for medical treatment and workers' compensation benefits after an injury at work.
And we’re giving this report to injured workers and their families for free. Call today at (202) 393-3320 or click here to order your copy today.