Workplace Injuries

Workplace Safety in Louisiana Gets Better

On behalf of Craig Mitchell, Mitchell & Associates, A Professional Law Corporation posted in Mitchell APLC News on Sunday, January 11, 2015.

There is good news for Louisiana workplace safety. According to a recent press release by the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC), in 2013 Louisiana private sector employees experienced the lowest rate of non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses in the past twelve years. Louisiana’s private sector improvement was in line with the national trend towards increased workplace safety and a lower incidence rate, for both private and public employees. Detailed and state-specific data was recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and is available on their website.

Increased Workplace Safety Across Industries

As a result of this increase in workplace safety, Louisiana qualified as the second safest state in the nation, among the 41 states (and the District of Columbia) surveyed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report upon which the LWC’s press release was based. Only the District of Columbia experienced safer rates. The voluntary workplace safety survey found that the national average for non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses was 3.3 incidents per 100 full-time workers, but that Louisiana’s average was only 2.2, which had decreased from 2.3 in the previous year.

Louisiana’s continued decrease in workplace injury did not apply equally to all industries. Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation improved the most (2.4 incidents less, per 100 employees, than in 2012), and Utilities also saw a significant decrease in incidents (down 0.9 incidents). Transportation and warehousing (-0.7), Construction (-0.5), Manufacturing (-0.4), and Leisure and Hospitality (-0.3) also saw decreases in workplace injuries. This data demonstrates that while improvements in Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation contributed the most to Louisiana’s excellent rating, many industries saw at least some improvement in workplace safety.

Potential Results of Increased Safety

Safer workplaces can mean lower workers’ compensation insurance rates and, potentially, a less contentious claims process. In the past, Louisiana’s nationally low rates of injury and illness led the National Council of Compensation Insurance (NCCI) to recommend a 2.4% reduction in rates in 2015. The Louisiana Department of Insurance, which already reduced rates for 2014 by 5.1% at NCCI’s recommendation, is expected to announce its decision on the recommendation sometime in December.

The LWC concluded its press release by terming Louisiana as “one of the safest states in the nation to work.” These improvements may come as a result of the LWC’s own efforts, as the LWC provides confidential and comprehensive consultation to businesses of all sizes. The LWC’s SHARP program specifically provides tailored worksite safety programs to qualified small businesses. As we noted in a recent post, the LWC recently helped prepare retail employees for Black Friday.

Despite these improvements, the number of workplace injuries remains significant. Given that an estimated 2.1 million civilians are employed in Louisiana, even a 2.2% injury rate per year amounts in a significant number of injuries. Notably, 114 workers died as a result of fatal workplace incidents in 2013.

Under Reporting Is Always a Concern

Any improvement in workplace safety is important. Unfortunately some employers chose not to properly report on the job injuries. As you can see, this can ultimately help keep the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance premiums lower. If you are hurt on the job it is important that you get the treatment and benefits you are entitled to under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act. If your job doesn’t report the accident so they can keep their workplace safety record clean for lowered premiums, you may be sold short.

If you are injured at your workplace, you should immediately report the incident to your supervisor and employer and, especially if the claim is contested by your employer, seek the assistance of your experienced Louisiana workers’ compensation attorney.

Injured Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Must Sue BP for Compensation

On behalf of Craig Mitchell, Mitchell & Associates, A Professional Law Corporation posted in Workplace Injuries on Friday, December 5, 2014.

If you were injured while working, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under the law.  These benefits can include indemnity benefits, disability payments, vocational rehabilitation, and medical care for either acute, one-time injuries, or long-term chronic injuries.  BP employees who assisted the cleanup of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill reported both types of injuries, but under a judge’s interpretation of a recent settlement, employees who suffer from chronic conditions may have to file a separate lawsuit.

A New Interpretation

Although a class-action lawsuit led to a settlement that was anticipated to provide roughly $9.7 billion in payouts for injured employees, a recent U.S. District appellate decision may cut nearly 95% of injured employees out of the settlement.  The settlement was initially expected to provide up to $60,700 for any worker with a “Specified Physical Condition” which appeared within 72 hours and continued persisting.

However, under the court’s recent decision, which affirmed an interpretation of the settlement first considered in July, any injury diagnosed after April 16, 2012 does not qualify under the settlement, even if it manifested before that date.  The settlement agreement excludes payment for “Later-Manifested Physical Conditions” that were “first diagnosed” after April 2012.  The court insisted that this was an “unambiguous” interpretation.

Nevertheless, despite terming the interpretation “unambiguous,” the court itself acknowledged that the results were “unexpected.”  Plaintiffs’ attorneys had argued that the term “Specified Physical Condition” did not require a diagnosis by any certain date, and that the April 2012 cut-off date should only apply to injuries that manifested after that date.  In other words, injuries that appeared earlier, but that were diagnosed later, should not be considered Later-Manifested Physical Conditions.  Nevertheless, the court held that individuals with chronic conditions that manifested before April 2012, but whose injuries were not diagnosed until after the cut-off, must file separate lawsuits.

Continuing Chronic Injuries

More than 170,000 workers participated in the cleanup of the 2010 environmental disaster, and many were exposed to oil and the toxic carcinogen benzene.  Many employees immediately reported acute injuries such as dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, and even coughing up blood.  In the long term, however, one study has concluded that workers who participated in the cleanup may suffer an increased risk of cancer, kidney and liver damage, and decreased levels of blood-clotting platelets.

Despite their initial injuries, many workers did not get diagnosed until much later out of fear of losing the work or because the injuries had not yet developed into more serious conditions.  Given that the settlement was not approved until November of 2012, long after the cut-off date, many workers did not realize the need for an early diagnosis.

Despite BP’s implication that many claimants seek medical compensation and “money they don’t deserve”, a third-party audit has demonstrated that levels of fraud and error are unusually low for BP employees injured in the 2010 spill.  If you or a loved one was injured as part of the oil spill cleanup and is no longer covered by the class-action settlement, contact your local workers’ compensation attorney.

Former New Orleans Saints Safety Not Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

On behalf of Craig Mitchell, Mitchell & Associates, A Professional Law Corporation posted in Workplace Injuries on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

If you are injured at your workplace, it is essential to understand how long you have to report a workers’ compensation injury.  An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you ensure that your claim is filed as soon as practicable.  Delays in filing a workers’ compensation claim seem to have cost former New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper his workers’ compensation claim.

Knee Injury Led to Workers’ Compensation Claim

Sharper joined the Saints in 2009 and achieved several interceptions before a knee injury during a game in November of that year, which was similarly aggravated in December.  Following the Saints’ Super Bowl victory, Sharper confirmed, on a signed form, that he was not injured in a way that would prevent him from continuing his career.  After the knee injury, Sharper would go on to play an additional 18 games for the Saints.  Sharper attempted to claim that he sustained another knee injury in February of 2011, but could not substantiate the claim.  Following a stint as a free agent, Sharper retired in 2011 and subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim against the New Orleans Saints.

Workers’ compensation for NFL players has been a contentious issue in the Louisiana legislature this past year.  The New Orleans Saints recently supported a bill which would change NFL workers’ compensation in Louisiana to bring it in line with how most employees’ workers’ compensation benefits are calculated.  The law would calculate workers’ compensation based on earnings at the time of the injury, rather than projected annual earnings.  Under the current scheme, supporters noted, six of the last seven appellate cases resulted in unfavorable rulings for players.  The NFL Players Association heavily contested the bill, noting that it would significantly decrease the workers’ compensation benefits for players injured in the off-season, when players receive a much smaller stipend.  As a result of the contentious nature of the debate, no result was reached and the bill was quashed this past May.  However, the bill is expected to be re-introduced in 2015.

Other Facts Surrounding the Case

The pending legislation was not the only extrajudicial information on the court’s mind when considering Sharper’s workers’ compensation claim.  Sharper is currently incarcerated in California pending the resolution of seven claims of rape.  In spite of these distractions, a Louisiana state appeals court decided that Sharper’s workers’ compensation claim should be denied because he waited more than a year after his most recent injury to file a claim.  Sharper attempted to convince the court that the deadline to file a claim was extended by the Saints’ recognition of the injury, because the Saints continued to pay Sharper even when he was sidelined.  However, the court decided that those payments constituted salary, not workers’ compensation benefits, and that Sharper’s claim was untimely.

Despite Sharper’s delay in filing and activity after his injury, Sharper’s attorneys nevertheless obtained a small payout against the Saints for their failure to authorize follow-up treatment on knee, which Sharper requested.  Sharper has filed similar suits against his other former teams, the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.

If you or a loved one is injured at the workplace, whether a football field or an office, you should be aware that waiting to file a workers’ compensation claim can cost you an opportunity to have a court consider your claim.  An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you assess your claim and ensure that your claim is filed in a timely manner.

Sending us information about your potential case does not mean we will automatically represent you – you are telling us about your situation in order for us to evaluate whether we believe you have a case which we may choose to handle on your behalf. We will review your circumstances and let you know as soon as possible whether we can discuss your potential case with you further. The information you give us is confidential and can’t be shared with anyone outside of our office.