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'm on short-term disability: should I switch to workers' comp?
Sometimes the world of employment law and the world of workers' compensation law get confused, and it doesn't help that employers (meaning, your human resources department) like to tell you that rather than filing a workers' compensation claim you should use your 1) sick leave; 2) FMLA leave; 3) PTO; 4): short-term disability and/or a combination of all of the above.
Why? Well, I'm so glad you asked.
Why do you think your employer might be hesitant to open a workers' comp claim? Because workers' comp is the only insurance and/or system out of those four options that is paid for 100% by the employer (through their workers compensation insurance). No co-insurances, monthly check deductions, or "time banks." Workers' compensation insurance is required by law for anyone with three or more employees and employees don't pay into it.
This is what makes it different than say, short-term disability (which the employee usually pays into themselves through paycheck deductions). Or sick leave, or FMLA leave, or PTO (which all end at some point when you've used up your bank or expired your federal time limit).
And many of those have exclusions for injuries that happen at work.
We hear all the time from clients "My employer said that I had to use my sick leave" or "I've been out on FMLA." If you were injured while working, this should absolutely not be the case. But because most workers don't know their rights they follow the instructions their company gives them. After all, they will take care of you, right?
We have also heard stories about how the worker was convinced the employer would take care of him, they have been working for them for 25 years, etc, etc. And your boss, your supervisor, even the owner of your company may want to do just that.
We hate to be the bearers of bad news but once you are injured at work, your employer is essentially turning you over to the insurance company and their entire team of nurses, doctors, attorneys, and claim administrators all trained to limit your benefits.
So, if you are on one of those other types of insurances, can you switch to workers' comp?
It all depends. If you have been on FMLA or Disability for a long time, you may have issues with bringing a workers' compensation case. One of the critical parts of a workers' comp claim in Washington, DC is that you have to have your treating physician connect the injury to your work, and another critical part is that you have to give timely notice to your employer of a work injury.
Do you want more information on how this works?
Call us today at 202-393-3320 and you will speak with a real person who wants to hear your story. Do that, and order a copy of our free book on workers' compensation that will give you the A-Z on workers' compensation in Washington, DC so you can learn about the process before you make case-ending mistakes.
What is the max workers comp benefit rate in DC?
DC Workers Comp Benefits
Pursuant to the District of Columbia Workers' Compensation Act of 1979, D.C. Official Code,§ 32-1505, effective January 1, 2019, the maximum weekly compensation payment for the District of Columbia private sector workers' compensation claims is $1,521.74 The minimum weekly compensation payment is $380.44.
That is a 2% increase from last year.
Looking for more info on Maximum Compensation Rates for DC Workers' Compensation over they years?
Are you wondering what type of compensation rates you might be entitled to for your work injury? Have you heard terms floating around like permanent partial disability PPD or permanent total disability PTD?
Don't wonder any more. Call us! We always make sure that our clients are getting paid the highest possible rate (if you have more than one job, check out this article on wage stacking).
Don't wait until you've already screwed up your case. It is possible to get too far down the line and the insurance adjuster will pull out their bag of tricks if you are unsuspecting.
Call us at 202-393-3320 today.
Is your insurance adjuster running away with hundreds of your dollars?
Is your DC workers' compensation insurance adjuster running away with hundreds of your dollars?
Know someone with a serious work injury who doesn’t know what to do next?
Have them check out a replay of our Webinar to learn the 5 Killer Mistakes of Workers Comp and how to avoid them. It’s got great information on what to do after you get hurt at work – and they can watch from the comfort of their own home – hopefully before they talk to the insurance company.
Here’s the site for the replay …..https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmXSLUBAaLIRlcXzSKPUytg
Or just have them call us and we’ll send them a link! Thanks for watching.
If I don't get a lawyer for my case, where will I be in five years?
Do You Really Need a Lawyer for Your Workers Comp Case?
People who have been through a major medical trauma, like a work injury, a case of medical malpractice or a serious auto accident tend to not be thinking very clearly. When you're in that space you're more thinking "what do I need to do, to get through just today," and not so much like "where is this going to take me five years down the road?"
And that is totally okay, and acceptable, and normal. However, we have watched many people go through the process of recovering from a serious accident, and many of them don't know that five years down the road their life could look radically different.
And they're unprepared when life hands them major changes.
You may be asking, like what?
Here is a "for-instance."
A union worker who didn't know his rights, and didn't realize he might need an attorney, literally threw away hundreds of dollars every single week because his "helpful" claims adjuster told him to file his workers' comp claim forms in the wrong state (the worker didn't know the workers comp benefit rate in Maryland was $400 less that in D.C. - but the insurance adjuster sure did).
5 years down the road he may be unable to return to work, unable to properly care for his family, and unable to fully recover his lost wages because of the limits in the state where his claim is filed.
There are a few other situations, which confidentiality prevents me from discussing, where people have quite possibly foregone large settlements because at the time they didn't think they needed an attorney.
The reality is that you may not need an attorney, especially if you have a relatively minor injury and can return to the same type of work. And you can't trust every attorney to be up front with you about that. But, we will be honest with you because we only take serious cases where we can make a big impact in someone's life. We make it a practice not to waste your time, or ours.
So give us a call today at 202-393-3320 for a free review of the facts of your case. If necessary, we will take a look at your medical records (confidentially with no cost associated) to help you determine whether or not you need a lawyer. And if you do need a lawyer for your serious injury case, you've come to the right place.
Here's to being happy, healthy, and free five years down the road!
(And for the right people - we help make that happen)
What if the doctors are recommending surgery, but I don't want it?
Can the insurance company force you to have surgery?
One of our clients recently asked me "can the insurance company force me to have surgery?" He has a serious injury, and both his treating physician and the insurance company doctors are recommending surgery. But he is a smart guy, and he knows that surgery doesn't always "take." There are well documented risks with any significant surgery and he and his doctor have discussed those. In fact, we currently have another client who is considering a second spinal fusion because his first one didn't "take," and his pain has progressively gotten back to pre-surgery levels.
These are great guys- fantastic workers who got seriously hurt at work - and who didn't deserve any of this.
Nobody wants to trade chronic pain for painful surgery recovery, only to be followed by more chronic pain. And although most qualified surgeons put the odds of a successful spinal fusion to improve pain in your favor, it's still a big decision for any patient.
And there is concern, according to US News and World Reports, that spinal fusions are over-utilized.
Have you been seriously injured at work and your doctor, or the insurance doctor is recommending surgery?
Call us today as 202-393-3320
So, back to the question.
Can the insurance company force you to have surgery?
The answer is no, so don't listen to the insurance company and the adjuster on this. They cannot force you to undergo an invasive surgical procedure in a D.C. workers comp case. But if surgery is being recommended by your treating physician and the independent (defense medical) exam, doctor, or any second opinion doctor you went to on your own (and we advise our clients to get a second opinion) it is something you should consider and determine what will be best for you and your family, both now and long term. Surgery can give relief and increase mobility, which is critical as you get older.
If the insurance adjuster is smart, he or she may recognize that ultimately surgery is a gamble for the insurance company as well (they are responsible for anything that goes wrong in the surgery, or if it makes your condition worse) plus it's more expensive for the workers comp insurance company than conservative treatment. So, it really depends on what you decide - what you think is best for your serious injury and how it will affect you.
The good news is, we have a strategy, for you.
For our clients, we know the details and risks of their medical treatment and we can give them all of the information they need, and options for their DC workers comp case so they can decide the best course of action. Let's face it - for some serious medical conditions and injuries, surgery is the treatment of choice. But we would never allow a workers comp insurance company to force a client into having surgery if he or she wasn't comfortable having surgery, so we would work hard to negotiate a different outcome for them, such as a settlement or long-term pain management and other types of conservative medical treatment. On the other hand if our client wants surgery and is aware of the risks, we will fight for that as well.
It's critical for you and your family to get all of the information you need about the workers comp system before making an important decision on surgery - call us today at (202) 393 - 3320 to get the information you need.
What is the maximum workers compensation benefit rate in DC?
In DC, the maximum workers comp benefit rate an injured worker receives when he cannot work changes from year to year.
In 2018, the max compensation rate is $1,491.90. Here's what that means and how it works:
If you're hurt at work in DC, or hurt working for a DC company, your workers comp benefits (the amount the workers comp insurance company pays you while you can't work due to your injuries) is 2/3 of your average weekly wages. The average weekly wage is averaged over the 26 weeks, or six months before you got hurt (so if your income varies because of overtime, bonuses, per diem, etc., save your pay stubs so you can verify the insurance company included all of your income).
If you have a second job in DC, and worked at the second job during the six months before the injury, you should add that to the calculation as well - your workers comp benefits will be based on combining the income from both jobs (a lot of people don't know this).
How does the maximum compensation rate work? It's basically the top cut off of what workers comp insurance companies have to pay you if your average weekly wage is high enough.
So if you were hurt at work in 2018, if your average weekly wage is $2,237.85 or higher, you would receive the max compensation rate.
It's also important to get the average weekly wage right - making sure it includes bonuses, overtime, raises, combining income from your second job, etc. - because that will determine the benefit rate for other DC workers comp benefits you may get in the future.
Here are 2 examples of workers comp benefits you may get in the future:
If you return to light duty work (can't do your regular job because of the injury, you have medical restrictions, or the doctor says you can't work as many hours) and you're now earning less money than before your injury, you should get temporary partial disability benefits.
If your injury is permanent and causes permanent damage to an arm, leg, hand, foot , etc. (not the neck or back - but that could be the cause of the original injury) you should get permanent partial disability benefits.
Both types of benefits can be paid at the maximum compensation rate for 2018.
Most people have questions - and you don't want to make a mistake and lose money on this. So don't let your adjuster, as nice as she may seem to be, take advantage of you on this (that is her job after all...)
Call us today at (202) 393 - 3320 for the free resources you need to make sure you don't make a mistake and get taken advantage of.
Can a construction worker in DC sue another contractor for injuries even if he gets workers comp?
When a construction worker is hurt in DC, he can sue the contractor that caused the injuries even if he gets workers comp for being hurt on the job.
In DC, a construction worker hurt on the job because another company or contractor was negligent can sue that contractor. We call that a "third party case" because the other company isn't his employer. He can hold the other contractor responsible for his damages even though he gets workers comp benefits for being hurt on the job.
Here's a real life example of how it works:
A concrete finisher was working at a construction site in DC where they were building a parking garage. They were preparing the foundation of the garage, so had dug the holes to fill with concrete and serve as the footers. The holes were 4 feet deep and had to be filled with rebar that was tied off to strengthen the concrete.
After the concrete workers completed the rebar phase, and everything was inspected, it was time to pour the concrete. Concrete trucks were ordered and lined up at the construction site, ready to go, because the concrete has to be poured relatively quickly.
The concrete workers or finishers, have to smooth the concrete and vibrate it as it is poured. The concrete or cement truck driver begins the pour and raises and lowers the chute by controls on his truck.
For this job, the holes for the footings were so big that the concrete workers had to lay a walk board across the hole so they could get to the middle and vibrate the concrete. When one of them was on the walk board, over the exposed rebar, the cement mixer driver activated the controls on his truck and the chute where the concrete came out, knocking the walk board and the man on it, into the rebar.
The rebar broke several bones in the concrete workers leg and tore tendons when he fell into it. He was in surgery to repair the damage later that day.
Since he got hurt on the job in DC, he received workers comp benefits. But under DC law, he could also sue the company that delivered the concrete (that's who the cement mixer driver worked for) for all the harm they caused him because of their driver's negligence (and OSHA safety violations).
And the DC law that allows this applies to any worker injured by someone else - a worker who is in a car accident at work, a construction site accident caused by another company, a fall at a building you go to for a meeting.
It is complicated when you get hurt at work and it's someone else's fault - and there are critical mistakes to avoid - but don't limit yourself and your family to just getting workers comp benefits. You owe it to yourself to investigate what else can be done (before it's too late).
Need more info about third party cases, negligence and workers comp? Call us at (202) 393 - 3320 or order one of our free books, guides and reports. But don't wait - these cases all have time limits that will close the door forever on your ability to hold the other company responsible for what they did, and prevent it from happening in the future.
What is an "injury diary" and why should I keep one?
So, you've been hurt at work and you are the kind of person who relies on their physical abilities for employment. You do heavy lifting, bending, rotating your shoulders, squatting, and all manner of physical labor. Suddenly you have been placed on work restrictions, and been referred to physical therapy to teach your body, once again, how to operate. You may be frustrated, confused, and wondering how you are going to provide for your family with a torn rotator cuff, or an injured cervical spine.
With DC workers' comp it can be so easy to screw up your case simply because you don't know what your rights are, and you assume that the employer and the insurance company are going to take care of you. While this may, in some cases (not all) be true of your employer, they actually have very little influence over the insurance company.
The idea that your employer is in charge of your workers' comp case is a very common mistaken belief, so I will say it again. They actually have very little influence over the insurance company. The insurance company is a third-party company, and their job is administrate your claim.
If you are just getting started on your claim, it's best to heed this advice from the very start. If you have been working on your claim for awhile, it's never too late to get organized and be in charge of your case.
The first thing I would recommend is to:
1). Keep track of your benefits checks. The insurance company will try and do try regularly to trip you up with respect to your benefits. If you don't know exactly how much you are expecting to receive on your check and when you are expecting to receive it, you run the risk of falling directly into their trap because they will use the lack of careful records as an opportunity to skip your payment. Your workers' comp rate (benefits rate) is calculated by the last 26 weeks you got paid (the average) and multiplied by 2/3. In other words, your benefits rate is 2/3 of what you were getting paid before.
You can ask me for a sample of a payment tracking spreadsheet. I'm happy to send it to you - just email [email protected] with the subject line "Payment Tracking." You should be recording which dates are covered by the check, which day you expect to receive your check, and how much it should be. Also, keep your pay stubs in a file.
If you are a client of ours and your check comes more than three days late, let us know right away. Three days late is an inconvenience but three weeks late is a crisis. Don't wait to let us know.
If your check is more than 3 days late call us now to find out what we do about it.
The second thing I would recommend is to:
2). Keep a diary of your appointments with your treating physician. Nobody knows better than you what your treating physician told you, and most times medical records don't tell the whole story. Do not let the nurse case manager into the room with you and your doctor.
Every time you see your treating physician write down a)what he/she told you about your condition; b) what he/she told you about your prognosis; and c) how long he/she took you out of work.
Next, you should:
3). Make sure you have a disability note if you are out of work and requesting your office visit notes from the front desk at the doctor's office.
There is a significant difference between your disability note and your office visit notes, and you need both. The disability note (and all of your orders and referrals) tells how long you are out of work and what your doctor is requesting next for your treatment plan. The office visit notes, or progress notes, give a summary and overview of your visit and your treatment plan.
If you have been keeping an appointment diary, we want to see that too. The more we know about your medical treatment, the better job we can do at being your advocate. Clients of ours have the benefit of our twenty years of experience in handling workers' comp claims. If you have a serious work injury, call us today at 202-393-3320.
The last thing I would recommend, whether you are handling this on your own or have a workers comp attorney, is to draft a job description from the very beginning and bring it in to show your treating physician and remind him of the physical aspects of your job. Treating physicians see many patients during the day and may not remember the physicality of your job from month to month. Bring your job description with you every month, so that he or she can properly and accurately give you restrictions.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, and have a significant work injury give us a call today. All we do is help people with serious, life changing injuries, and if you call us today at 202-393-3320 you will speak with a real person who wants to hear your story.
And don't forget to order your FREE book on DC workers' compensation: Protect Your Rights, the Ultimate Guide to DC Workers' Compensation. Get the benefit of twenty years of our experience for no cost or obligation at all!
I've been scheduled for a formal hearing. What should I expect?
At Donahoe Kearney we go to bat for our workers' comp clients: which means if they are not getting the treatment and/or benefits they deserve, we will file for a formal hearing on their behalf.
The difference between an informal conference and a formal hearing is pretty simple: for an informal conference we are just meeting with a claims examiner who will help us to resolve our conflict with the other side. The claims examiner will issue a recommendation that is nonbinding, but may become final if both sides agree. This is unlikely, because the insurance company can reject the recommendation of the claims examiner for any reason and request a formal hearing instead.
There are very few situations we request informal conferences for - and never if our client is not getting paid.
A formal hearing is a condensed, on the record trial where you file exhibits, call witnesses and make opening statements and closing arguments. The decision from the formal hearing is binding, but can be appealed. If handling a case yourself, you'll also have to understand all the ins and the outs of the process (discovery, medical records, exhibits, procedure) but we take care of all of the legal issues for our injured worker clients and we DO communicate with our clients on what to expect. Here's an example of a letter that we send to our clients when we have filed for formal hearing:
I just wanted to let you know we requested a Formal Hearing in your case to get you the workers' comp benefits the insurance company has denied (or delayed). We take this seriously and are aggressive about this approach - if the insurance company isn't doing what we think they should for you, we take them to court.
There is nothing you need to do right now, but here's what you can expect:
- You will receive a Scheduling Order in a few weeks with the date of the Formal Hearing and a lot of other dates leading up to it. Put the Formal Hearing date on your calendar and plan to be there, but don't worry about the other dates in the Scheduling Order - we take care of all of that.
- We get the Scheduling Order as well, and we'll call or email you to make sure you got it.
- We will thoroughly prepare you for the hearing and contact you to schedule meetings with Mr. Kearney as we get closer to the hearing date.
- Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to move up the hearing date - these are being set about 4 months from the time we request the hearing. Sometimes these are re-scheduled because of conflicts with the lawyers' schedules, the judge, etc., but only by a week or so.
- We keep talking to the insurance company lawyers, to try to get them to provide the benefits before we ever have to go to the hearing, so rest assured we are doing everything we can to speed up the process.
- We'll be working on your case a lot between now and the hearing - be sure to keep us updated on your condition and medical treatment, like always, becasue we will probably need more frequent updates.
And if anything changes, we will let you know as soon as we hear.
Finally, hang in there - we know it is a difficult and unfair system that favors insurance companies. But we will do everything we can for you.
Have you been given the run-around by the insurance company? Have they stopped, or delayed paying your workers comp benefits or medical treatment? You may need to file a formal hearing and for most people we don't recommend doing this one your own (some can, if the case is small and/or straightforward). Give us a call today at 202-393-3320 to see if we might be the right firm for you. The call is free and confidential, so you have nothing to lose. Give us a call today to speak to a real person who wants to hear your story.
What's Different About Getting Medical Treatment on Workers' Comp?
If you were injured at work and are receving benefits, you may be getting treatment for the first time and feel confused about all of the differences between just getting medical care and getting medical care when you're on workers comp.
Here are some basics about getting medical treatment after a work injury.
First of all, your treatment requires authorizations and all of your providers (there may be one or several) will need to have the authorizations to treat you in their records. They have to carry the authorizations so they have the authority to bill workers' 'comp. When scheduling your treatment, you may need to be prepared for extra administrative measures, evaluations, and paperwork that you might not have to deal with when using your regular insurance. Give yourself a little extra time before your first appointment wth a new provider to make space for these types of tasks. And call ahead of time to make sure that the office has indeed received the auhorizations from your workers' comp adjuster.
Second, when you are seeing your treating physician (not your physical therapist or occupational therapist) you will need to get a disability note from him or her whenever you see them. This disability note, which says whether or not you can return to work (or return to work with restrictions) will be the piece of paper that triggers whether or not you keep receiving financial benefits while you are out of work.
Look at your slip before you leave the office and make sure it says what the doctor said to you. Doctor's offices sometimes make clerical errors so you want to make sure that the paperwork matches what you discussed with your doctor. And don't leave the office without it in your hand!
You also need to make sure that you have received all of your referrals from your treating physican to see other doctors related to your treatment. Typically the doctor will give you an order that states that type of treatment he would like you to seek - like physical therapy, and MRI, or a referral to a specialist..
The referrals have to match the type of treatment exactly. For example, if the referral says "physical therapy" and you want to get "aqua therapy," you will have to get an order specifically for aqua therapy.
Third, you need to make sure you have all of your office visit notes from your treating physician, and reports from any surgeries and special treatment. We recommend that you keep a copy of all of your own records, but for our clients we order and keep track of all of the records associated with their treatment and we seek authorizations on their behalf.
These records, especially from your treating physician, are the trail of paperwork that we use to show continuity of care and continuation of treatment, so you will also want to make sure that your visit notes reflect everything that you talked about with your doctor. Sometimes doctors offices inadvertently leave in visit notes things that don't correspond with the doctor's orders, such as "claimant can go back to work," when the doctor actually put you out of work for another month. These mistakes are not fatal, you just need to call the doctor and ask them to correct the visit notes. Sometimes your adjuster will want to see your visit reports, so you want to make sure they are accurate.
If you have a new workers' comp claim and are just getting started, you will absolutely need to order our free book "Protect Your Rights - the Ultimate Guide to DC Workers' Compensation." This book, written by premier workers' comp attorney Frank R. Kearney, gives you insight into what you need to know about DC workers' comp. And if you have further questions don't hesitate to give us a call at 202-393-3320. You will speak with a real person today who can get you started.