You Won’t Believe the Unusual Injuries Covered by Workers’ Comp

You Won’t Believe the Unusual Injuries Covered by Workers’ Comp

Denver Disability Denver Workers Compensation

Workers Compensation is an important employee benefit and right. It’s designed to pay for treatment associated with injuries and illnesses that occur as you perform duties associated with your job. However, it can cover eight unusual injuries you may have never considered before now.

Company Events

At the company picnic, you trip while playing volleyball and sprain your ankle. Your injuries could be covered by Workers Comp. File a claim if you’re injured or become ill during a company-sponsored picnic or party, business meeting held off-site, corporate ballgame or any special event you attend because of work.

Lunch Breaks

You walk into the lunch room for your break, slip on the wet floor and break your elbow. Your injuries could be covered by Workers Comp. You could also consider filing a claim if you’re injured while picking up lunch at the corner deli for your boss since technically you are working, but your injuries won’t be covered if you are injured while grabbing lunch for yourself or a co-worker.

Travel

You’re rear-ended while driving to work and suffer whiplash. If you’re in your personal car, you can’t file a Workers Comp claim, but if that same accident happens while you drive a company car, you could be eligible for Workers Comp. It can also cover injuries that occur as you travel to business meetings, to meet clients or while visiting potential and current customers.

Diseases and Illnesses

Your company decides to remodel the offices, and you work on the same floor as the repairs. Because of the asbestos in the old ceiling tiles, you develop black lung disease. File a Workers Comp claim for this and other diseases or illnesses that occur because of your work.

Hearing Loss

After working in a noisy environment for a few year, you notice that you can’t hear as well as you used to. File a Worker Comp claim, talk to your Denver disability attorney and receive compensation for your impairment if you can prove that the hearing loss happened while you were on the job.

Mental Health Conditions

Your boss micromanages every project and places so much pressure on you that you can’t even go to work. Consider filing a Workers Comp claim if you become chronically stressed, depressed or traumatized on the job. Be prepared to prove that your condition is caused 100 percent by your work, and ask a medical professional to help you prove your case.

Pre-existing Conditions

The ruptured disc in your back was repaired years ago and hasn’t bothered you until you started performing repetitive lifting tasks for your job. Now, you may be able to file a Workers Comp claim because your job aggravated your preexisting condition.

Misconduct

While showing off your muscles for a cute co-worker, you lift a chair and promptly drop it on your foot. Your injury could be covered by Workers Comp since it can cover injuries even if they occur as you break a company safety rule or perform a criminal act. Before you decide to embrace misconduct, though, remember that it does not usually cover self-inflicted injures and you give up your right to sue your employer if you file a Workers Comp claim.

These eight areas are unusual but could fall under Workers Comp. As with any Workers Compensation claim, you must prove that the illness or injury was caused by your job and is work-related. Contact your Denver workers compensation attorney today to learn more. We’re here to help you figure out if you can file a claim, and we’ll work with you to get you the benefits you deserve.

What a Difference An “AND” Makes In Colorado Work Injuries

What a Difference An “AND” Makes In Colorado Work Injuries

Denver Disability Denver Workers Compensation Greeley Workers Compensation Lawyer

THE Industrial Claims Appeals Office (ICAO) HIGHLIGHTS A MAJOR LIMITATION ON MAINTENANCE MEDICAL CARE

Intersection between a law with a later statute creates a major distinction for injured workers’ medical care rights.

Lola Chism injured her left shoulder in July 2009 in an admitted work injury.  Following what was described as “considerable” physical therapy, and two surgical procedures her treating physician placed her at Maximum Medical Improvement(MMI) in January 2011.  The treating physician recommended, and the insurance carrier admitted for, future maintenance medical benefits.

Injured Colorado workers are entitled to medical benefits following an on-the-job injury “to cure and relieve effects of the injury.”  CRS §8-42-101(1)(a).  In 1988 the Colorado Supreme Court interpreted that law as requiring Colorado Workers Compensation Insurance carriers to pay for all medical care “to relieve the worker from the effects of the industrial injury” based upon the rationale that it “is an obvious fact of industrial life, however, that an injured worker can reach maximum medical improvement from an injury and yet require periodic medical care to prevent further deterioration in his or her physical condition.”  Grover v. Industrial Commission, 759 P.2d 705, 710 (Colo. 1988).

However the Colorado Legislature added a formal, statuotry definition of MMI as the “point when any physical impairment is stable and “no further treatment is reasonably expected to improve the condition.” That definition excluded from ‘further treatment’ any “future medical maintenance.”  CRS § 8-40-201 (11.5).

Ms. Chism continued to have ongoing physical therapy for her shoulder after MMI as maintenance care.  In December of 2015 the treating physician referred her to a surgeon who recommended a reverse total arthroplasty   The employer challenged the proposed treatment, however an ALJ ruled that the surgery should be approved, finding it reasonable and necessary to “cure and relieve” the effects of the injury. The employer appealed.

The ICAO determined the obligation to “cure” the effects of the injury ends at MMI because of the later 1991 statutory definition of MMI that declares “no further treatment is reasonably expected to improve” the injured worker’s condition.  Thus, ICAO reasons, only treatment that will relieve but not cure the work injury can qualify as maintenance care.

The ICAO remanded the case back to the Administrative Law Judge for further consideration if the proposed treatment would just “relieve” the injury, noting that there was no “bright line” test to distinguish between those treatments.  Because six years had passed after the injury, Ms. Chism cannot reopen her work injury claim, she is limited to maintenance care.  If this surgery is curative – it has to be denied under the ICAO’s parsing of the statute.

 

CITE:  Chism v. Walmart, WC No. 4-809-103-03, (January 9, 2017).

Appeals Office Shifts the Burden to Injured Workers in Responsible for Termination Claims

Appeals Office Shifts the Burden to Injured Workers in Responsible for Termination Claims

Denver Disability Denver Workers Compensation Greeley Workers Compensation Lawyer

Injured Workers must now be ready to provide evidence explaining that work absences weren’t their fault.

Injured workers who lose their job while treating for a work injury are entitled to lost wage benefits, called Temporary Total Disability.  However the Colorado Legislature changed the law allowing employers to avoid paying lost wages to injured workers when they are “responsible” for their termination.

Until now, the burden to prove this allegation has rested squarely upon the employer.  The employer must not only prove that the injured worker did – or failed to do – something that led to his or her termination – but that that it is was volitional on the part of the injured worker.  For example if a worker is fired for being late to work three times in one week, the employee could show that the absences were caused by circumstances outside his or her control.

Nicholas Coleman worked as a housekeeper and suffered a low back injury in late 2014.  However in February 2015 he was incarcerated for violating his parole and as a result stopped coming to work and was terminated.  After his release in August 2015 he sought lost wage benefits.  The employer denied claiming that Mr. Coleman was responsible for his termination.

At hearing, although the employer did introduce evidence that Mr. Coleman stopped coming to work, and that Mr. Coleman had been incarcerated for violating his parole – there apparently was no evidence why or how Mr. Coleman violated his parole.  Reasoning that the employer had failed to show proof as to whether the parole violation was volitional, the Administrative Law Judge was unwilling to assume that it was and awarded benefits.

The Industrial Claims Appeals Office (ICAO) remanded the case back for a further hearing and testimony.  The ICAO imposed the burden not on the employer, but the injured worker.  “Typically, when an employer introduces evidence that a claimant has failed to show up for work when scheduled, this amounts to a prima facie case satisfying the employer’s burden of demonstrating the claimant was at fault for the job separation. See Lucero v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, 812 P.2d 1191 (Colo. App. 1991)(employer’s initial burden to show claimant was discharged for disqualifying reasons). The claimant must then introduce exculpatory evidence or evidence showing that his failure to show up for work when scheduled was non-volitional. See Gonzales v. Industrial Commission, supra (disqualification for failure to meet defined standards, unless the claimant is not at fault in the circumstances).”

This burden-shifting is a major departure from traditional litigation when a a party must prove each and every statutory requirement.  Now, employers may simply be able show that a worker was fired in accordance to policy without showing that the worker acted volitionally.  Then if the employee doesn’t provide an explanation, the employer will win.  This case highlights another reason why injured workers need experienced and dedicated attorneys.  Workers Compensation Law Changes weekly and you or your loved one needs an attorney who keeps up with these changes.

 

Source Citation:  Coleman v. Starmark Holdings, WC No. 4-969-560-02, (January 9, 2017)

 

Federal Workers Question Whether OWC Choice of Referee Physicians is Truly Impartial

Denver Workers Compensation Greeley Workers Compensation Lawyer

A group of former federal workers have called into question the impartiality of the Office of Workers Compensation (OWC) when choosing referee doctors. Seven former government employees, led by Blake Brown, filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in an attempt to uncover bias in the actions of the OWC. The suit seeks the past 10 years of statistics for Colorado orthopedic doctors who were selected as referees in contested workers’ compensation claims.

Referee Doctors

Under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), injured federal workers must provide proof of their injury via a doctor’s opinion. Many workers opt for treatment by their own physician or a doctor of their choosing. The worker must also submit to examination by a doctor designated by the OWC. When these two physicians cannot agree on the injury or cause, the OWC must resolve the dispute with impartiality. This is meant to be accomplished with a “randomly” chosen referee physician.

The OWC uses software that searches for doctors within 25 miles of the zip code of the injured employee. If the doctors on the generated list are unable or unwilling to provide the needed service, the software then expands the search radius to include physicians in an ever increasing geographical area until a willing and available physician is located. In theory, this method should tap a revolving panel of doctors with no bias in selection. Brown and his fellow plaintiffs believe that this system has been compromised.

Suspected Bias

Brown, et al. suspect that the OWC has actually been referring the same small pool of referee doctors over and over on purpose. They allege that by using this “select pool” of physicians, these doctors become financially reliant upon the assignments. This then influences their decisions in favor of the OWC. The federal workers cite a specific orthopedic doctor that has been used in a referee capacity for the OWC repeatedly. They argue that this physician has weighed in on numerous workers’ compensation cases where the zip codes of the injured employees have been far outside of the initial 25-mile radius, despite the presence of other orthopedic doctors within a closer range.

FOIA Request

The federal workers requested OWC records for the referee selection process under FOIA, to investigate their suspicions. The focus was predominantly on orthopedice doctors and the previous 10-year period. They also specifically asked for screenshots of the scheduling software menus. They received redacted records in response, obliterating physician names and addresses, and no screenshots.

The missing information led to the filing of a suit to received partially un-redacted records. Brown, et al. don’t challenge redacting of employee information. They simply challenge removal of the physician info. The district court denied their requests, and they appealed.

Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling

The 10th Circuit Court has now weighed in on the case. They disagreed with the lower court and reversed that court’s decision on August 29, 2016. Because some of the redacted data at issue are the physicians’ business addresses, the expectation of personal privacy is impacted. They remanded the case for additional proceedings.

With this turn of events, it’s likely that the plaintiffs in this case may finally receive the information they need to truly investigate their claims, and determine if there is a showing of bias in the OWC’s selection of orthopedic doctors. If this is the case, the situation will likely become far more complicated.

If your rights have been violated in a Colorado Workers’ Compensation claim, don’t hesitate to contact Kaplan Morrell for skilled legal guidance. We have been championing the rights of injured Colorado workers for nearly two decades. Call (866) 356-9898 to schedule a free consultation.

Employees Get a Bad Rap for Workers’ Compensation Fraud

Employees Get a Bad Rap for Workers’ Compensation Fraud

Denver Disability Denver Workers Compensation Greeley Workers Compensation Lawyer Workers Compensation Blog

Workers’ Compensation fraud. Quick! What immediately comes to mind? Is it some guy playing golf, shooting baskets or mowing the lawn while a PI looks on covertly with a video camera, or some other similar scenario?  It’s no surprise if that’s the case. Injured employees get a pretty bad rap when it comes to public perception of workers’ comp claims.

“Gotcha” videos and concerted efforts by workers’ compensation insurance companies through the 1990’s and early 2000’s firmly planted a seed in the public’s mind about injured workers. In a bid for reform to lower the costs in workers’ compensation state systems, legislators and insurance companies furthered the myth of the injured worker who’s faking his illness or injury in order to get benefits without working.

For those people who have never suffered a devastating work injury or know someone personally who has, it’s often easy for them to believe that the whole situation can be easily faked. Of course, to workers and family members who have gone through this experience, and are still dealing with the aftermath, the idea of perpetuating a long-term fraud seems ridiculous, if not impossible.  Moreover, what the facts actually bear out is that a large amount of workers’ compensation fraud is perpetrated by employers or insurers, and that this type of fraud is far more costly.

Workers’ Compensation Fraud Facts

Overall, only 1 to 2 percent of workers’ compensation claims are found to be fraudulent. The Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act defines fraud as willfully making false statements or misrepresentations that are material to a claim in order to collect payments, compensation, awards or benefits. It breaks down this fraud by the following types:

  • Claimant/Applicant – Includes false claims, fake and exaggerated injuries, unreported income, and claiming injuries that happened outside of work.
  • Provider/Biller – Over-billing or inflated bills and non-rendered services.
  • Lawyer – Helping to file a false claim or sending claims to clinics who conspire in the fraud.
  • Insurance Adjuster – Changing a claim to substantiate a denial and accepting bribes and kickbacks for patient referrals.
  • Premium – Submitting false information to get a lower workers’ comp rate.
  • Employer – Misrepresenting facts to avoid claim acceptance and payment, lying to prevent or discourage their workers from pursuing claims, and misclassifying workers and under-reporting their injured workers’ wages.

By the Numbers

Note that Colorado identifies one form of fraud that involves wrongdoing by the worker versus five types that are perpetrated by some party other than the employee. Claimant fraud is typically the least costly, since it’s perpetrated by individuals. Each case usually averages around $2,000 or $3,000 obtained fraudulently. A common type of claimant fraud is when the employee double-dips by receiving workers’ comp benefits while earning work income on the side that he doesn’t report.

By contrast, Employer and Insurer workers’ comp fraud runs much higher in cost. In Texas, 2012 saw a loss of approximately $523,451 to claimant fraud versus $2.7 million due to premium fraud. In North Carolina, the state’s 2014-2015 Industrial Commission’s annual report revealed that the form of workers’ comp fraud most heavily investigated was employer fraud, accounting for 90.64 percent of the suspected fraud cases. Alleged employee fraud cases only represented 8.75 percent.

Employer fraud involves misclassifying workers as independent contractors instead of employees, and identifying workers in high-risk jobs as holding low-risk jobs. In June 2015, the Economic Policy Institute revealed that between 10 and 20 percent of employers misclassify at least one employee as an independent contractor. Clearly, the picture of the employee as the “face of workers’ compensation fraud” is wrong and costly.

If you have suffered a work injury in Colorado, it’s important that you substantiate your claim. A Denver workers’ compensation lawyer can help you with this. He understands what is required to prove your claim and to overcome the negative perception that many employees are faking their injury or illness. Contact a Denver or Greeley workers’ comp lawyer for legal guidance and counsel for your Colorado Workers’ Compensation claim.

Heart Disease and Variable Night Shifts: Compensation for Women Who Work Nights

Heart Disease and Variable Night Shifts: Compensation for Women Who Work Nights

Denver Disability Denver Workers Compensation

The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published an article about new research tracking the association between night shift work and heart disease. Denver workers’ compensation attorneys and Greeley workers’ compensation lawyers generally work with people who suffer sudden injuries, where a process that worked for years suddenly goes wrong. Sometimes, lax employer standards or industry standards are at fault.

Construction cases, factory cases, and even driving cases are normal for the workers’ compensation lawyers that call Colorado home. However, while many workers know that sudden injuries aren’t the only risks they face in the workplace, not much substantial research had been done prior to this study’s publication. Many women take on rotating night shift work as nurses in the medical field.

Hospitals and clinics are open late because accidents don’t have a limited time frame. Many hospitals or clinics that aren’t open 24-hours risk patients seeking care elsewhere simply because of convenience. This means there is a huge demand for a workforce that by nature has flexible, long hours. Many nurses work through the night certain days then the day shift different days of the week, which alters sleep schedules and leads to a general confusion for the body. With more research being done about the real importance of sleep—and it is vital for a healthy lifestyle—Greeley workers’ compensation lawyers must answer more questions about long-term illness as a result of work history than ever.

This research was done on rotating night shift work, which means 3 or more night shifts per month plus day and evening shifts, and started in 1988. This research tracked by questionnaire how many rotating night shifts were worked by each participant as well as doctor-diagnosed events that qualify for coronary heart disease. The study allowed for variables such as diet and physical activity because poor nutrition and lack of physical exercise are also strongly linked to heart disease. The study also allowed for age variance because as we age, our bodies naturally become more susceptible to heart disease and related episodes. These data were weighed against women in the same approximate age ranges, activity levels, who made similar nutritional choices, but had no history of night shift work.

The study also looked at family history of heart problems, cigarette and alcohol intake, race, and vitamin use, among other factors. This study was done over 24 years and excluded women who did not answer questions for 2 consecutive cycles. Generally, the study found that younger women with lower alcoholic consumption and less smoking had fewer cardiac episodes and took less medications and vitamins. However, as night shift work went up, so did cardiac episodes, even in the relatively young and healthy women. In fact, across the board, night shift work had a general positive statistically-significant correlation with heart disease over time.

Any nurse who works rotating night and day shifts could tell you that rotating shifts are exhausting and difficult to recover from. No one ever claimed it was healthy. However, the more studies that are done about potential health risks of particular medical fields, the more likely it is that long-term conditions like heart disease as a result of rotating shift work will become recognizable in the eyes of the law. Like lung trouble and mine work, there may come a day heart disease and rotating shift work for women become obviously linked and women who experience symptoms brought on by their work can get the medical treatment they need for work-related illnesses. The law constantly changes as new science emerges about the dangers of particular workplaces. However, as Denver workers’ compensation lawyers argue every day, workers who become sick as a result of work conditions should receive compensation. It’s only fair.

Workers’ Compensation can be difficult, confusing, and very complex. Kaplan Morrell has helped thousands of injured workers since 1997 get the benefits they deserve. Contact us here or call us at (866) 356-9898 for your free consultation.

Life Care Planning: An essential component in your Workers’ Compensation Settlement

Life Care Planning: An essential component in your Workers’ Compensation Settlement

Denver Disability Denver Workers Compensation Greeley Workers Compensation Lawyer

Workers’ Compensation legal representation involves a great many moving parts, and if you are injured on the job in Colorado, a Greeley or Denver workers’ compensation lawyer is invaluable. Your attorney can ensure that important issues are thoroughly addressed during settlement negotiations. In the event of long-term disability from a work injury, it’s essential that your settlement includes a comprehensive life care plan. This vital component is necessary to cover and address issues that you will face in the future. Many injured workers are extremely concerned with the here and now. How will you pay bills, support your family, receive medical care and replace lost income? This is completely understandable. Your life is in upheaval and you are dealing with urgent issues that need to be addressed quickly. But once the dust settles, what then? Your long-term care is an important factor. How you will pay for rehabilitation, continue to provide for yourself and your family, and take advantage of medical advancements is key. These are the things that a life care plan deals with.

Key Differences Between Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Personal Injury Awards

If at Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), you are determined to be permanently and totally disabled due to a work-related injury, you are no longer able to earn a living through gainful employment. Your workers’ compensation Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits provide income to replace this wage loss. Experts assess your life expectancy, how long you would have been able to work and the amount of income you would have earned over this time span. This amount should be reflected in your settlement. But, that’s not the end of the story. Your injury has likely left you with a number of medical, physical, emotional and rehabilitative needs. A comprehensive settlement should allow for these needs as well. This is where a well-designed life care plan comes into play.

Establishing and Proving Your Long-Term Needs

The input and testimony of qualified life care planning experts is essential to your workers’ compensation settlement. They are skilled in reviewing the evidence to determine your future personal and medical needs, and any remaining earning capacity. These forensic consultants delve into your medical reports and your prognosis. They examine how similar injuries have affected other workers, the associated costs they have accrued, the previous settlement amounts that have been awarded in these cases and a number of other contributing factors to determine what you need to provide for you over the long-term. Important factors for consideration include:

Coverage for medical advancements that can help your recovery

  • Financial compensation for your income loss
  • Funds availability for technological and medical apparatuses that help you live a fuller life
  • Home care and assistance to replace the duties you are no longer able to perform
  • Travel expenses related to your medical and psychological care
  • Various other costs related to your care and disability

Retaining Qualified Experts for Life Care Planning

Naturally, you cannot rely upon your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance carrier to provide extensive research for your life care plan. They don’t work for you. Their goal is to take care of your claim as expediently as possible at the minimum of expense. Your Denver or Greeley workers’ compensation attorney is the professional that you can count on to ensure that all of your long-term care needs are accounted for in your settlement. An accomplished legal professional in this field understands what is at stake and has the necessary resources to establish the necessity of each and every requirement in a comprehensive life care plan. He retains a skilled life care planner and collaborates with this professional to negotiate a settlement that covers all of your long-term needs.

Leading Denver Workers’ Compensation Attorney Makes Headway Against Work Injuries With Prestigious Awards

Leading Denver Workers’ Compensation Attorney Makes Headway Against Work Injuries With Prestigious Awards

News

Denver Work Injury Law Firm Helps Pave The Way For Injured Workers In Colorado

DENVER, June 9, 2016  —  Long time Denver Workers’ Compensation attorney Michael H. Kaplan has been honored by the Colorado Bar Association Workers’ Compensation Section to receive the Lance Butler Award. The Lance Butler award, one of the most prestigious awards given in the Workers’ Compensation field, is given to outstanding attorneys in Colorado for excellent service, dedication, and commitment to the field of Colorado Workers’ Compensation Law. This celebrated honor is bestowed after nomination from within the Workers’ Compensation Executive Council and workers’ compensation community and is based upon an attorney’s contribution to the workers’ compensation system. Michael will receive the award and be honored today, June 9th, in Denver, Colorado.

In addition to the Lance Butler Award, Michael has been recently chosen by the Professionals in Workers Compensation organization as Outstanding Claimant Attorney of the Year for 2015. Michael was honored with that award in 2007 and 2009 as well. The PWC is one of the most visible, dynamic, and progressive group of professionals in the field of workers’ compensation in Colorado.

Michael continues to contribute to the workers’ compensation legal community by teaching Continuing Legal Education courses (CLE) to other workers’ compensation attorneys throughout both Colorado and the US as well as mentoring young attorneys in the workers’ compensation community.

Through their firm, Kaplan Morrell, LLC, Michael H. Kaplan and partner Britton J. Morrell are rethinking how injured workers are treated in Colorado, and what can be done to help these injured and disabled workers resume as normal a life as possible after their injuries. Kaplan and Morrell seek ways to help injured workers gain employment, cover living expenses, get necessary medication and recuperate after work injuries, as well as help injured workers fight against insurance companies looking to take advantage of these injured workers.

Kaplan Morrell is proud to be involved with the communities in not just Denver and Greeley, but all of Colorado.  Kaplan Morrell works with several national non-profits like the Wounded Warrior Project and the National Association of Injured & Disabled Workers (NAIDW) to continue the fight for the rights of injured workers.

More About The Firm

Kaplan Morrell is a leading Northern Colorado Workers’ Compensation and Disability Law Firm helping injured workers obtain benefits like lost wages, medical bill reimbursement and more. With offices in both Denver and Greeley, Colorado, Kaplan Morrell helps fight for injured and disabled workers throughout Colorado.

Virtual Job Site Safety: Virtual Reality Technology and Worker Safety

Virtual Job Site Safety: Virtual Reality Technology and Worker Safety

Denver Disability Denver Workers Compensation Greeley Workers Compensation Lawyer

Technology constantly changes as a result of innovation. As new technologies emerge, their applications spread across fields wider than people can imagine. Virtual reality, for example, is the inevitable destination of many video game consoles, allowing players to almost fully integrate into their fantasy worlds created by designers. Even Denver workers’ compensation lawyers wouldn’t have been able to predict that the newest use for virtual reality is workers’ compensation.

An Austin, Texas-based workers’ compensation insurance company named Texas Mutual is presenting a new virtual reality application this week to teach workers at construction sites about construction safety. Especially in the construction industry, where Greeley workers’ compensation attorneys and Denver work comp lawyers know many accidents happen, workplace safety is the best and first line against workplace injury. Safety videos are important and should be universally applied to teach employees about the very real risks they face when they walk into the workplace.

There are many ways to get into an accident on a construction site. Texas Mutual’s application, called “Safety in a Box,” shows four very real construction workplace scenarios that could cause death. These scenarios include an electrocution, a trench collapse, a fall from a high site, and—like Wile-E-Coyote—a cinder block falling from above.

The application is different from Loony Toons and it’s not a “Faces of Death” video, either. The videos aren’t graphic and there is no blood. However, the virtual reality technology allows for a full view of the site, which gives a viewer the sense of actually being in the situation. This would be impossible earlier without actually being involved in the accident. Such use for virtual reality software isn’t intuitive but such a creative solution to a real problem goes to show how much insurance companies devote to workplace safety. After all, it’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid workplace injury altogether.

Texas Mutual plans on showing the app at the Texas workers’ compensation summit, where it’ll let people interact with the virtual reality headsets and get the sense of actually being in the workplace accident scenario. This is especially important for younger workers, who aren’t necessarily accustomed to the workplace and might not have a full idea of what kind of safety practices are necessary to avoid workplace injury.

This year, Google says it’s shipped over five million of its virtual reality headsets as of January. Industry estimates for the next decade indicate that the industry will grow exponentially, if not predictably. As more industries learn about the full capabilities of virtual reality technology, new applications will emerge that were not obvious to anyone at the time of the invention of the technology.

Texas Mutual wanted the project to appeal to younger workers and instruct them in best practices in the eventual reality of workplace accidents. After all, there are better ways to avoid danger and worse ways. The more exposure younger and older workers have to the variety of situations that may arise, the better. Texas Mutual included a Spanish version of the application, with the intent of providing instruction to workers regardless of language barrier.

Each video shows a particular type of accident that would be possible at a work site and illustrates actors shouting out instructions for best practices. The protagonist’s refusal to follow their advice leads to the workplace accident, which is hopefully the first and only time the viewer experiences such an incident. The instruction is invaluable and much more visceral than a safety video recorded decades ago. Construction and technology are changing and evolving by leaps and bounds with each new innovation. Workplace safety and best practices generally stay the same. Companies finding new ways of delivering the same information is in everyone’s best interest because it keeps workers healthy and able to continue their lives on their terms.

Workers’ Compensation can be difficult, confusing, and very complex. Kaplan Morrell has helped thousands of injured workers since 1997 get the benefits they deserve. Contact us here or call us at (866) 356-9898 for your free consultation.

A Drivers’ Union for Uber?: What the Uber Settlement Means for Workers’ Compensation Rights

A Drivers’ Union for Uber?: What the Uber Settlement Means for Workers’ Compensation Rights

Denver Workers Compensation News Social Security Blog Workers Compensation Blog

As driving applications like Uber and Lyft gain popularity, so do pressing legal questions about their drivers and passengers. Increasingly, Denver workers’ compensation lawyers and Greeley workers’ compensation attorneys find that professionals have multiple jobs. With the certification process for Uber being so intuitive, many people find themselves ferrying intoxicated passengers as a weekend or extra-part-time job. As previous blog posts have noted, Uber and Lyft drivers have had multiple injuries on the job. Uber drivers have to worry about everything from run-of-the-mill car accidents to full-on assault by passengers, as some drivers in California have noted.

Workers’ compensation lawyers in Denver don’t necessarily have automatic clients in Uber drivers, however. Since the company classifies its drivers as independent contractors, Uber and Lyft drivers aren’t immediately able to claim workers’ compensation benefits for injuries they sustain on the job.

Just last week, however, Uber announced it was settling two huge class-action lawsuits Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts brought against the company. The drivers argued, among other things, that Uber was misclassifying the drivers as independent contractors. An independent contractor, for example, brings his or her own equipment to a job site and may choose which jobs to take and which to leave. Uber drivers and their lawyers argued that Uber is clearly an employer since the driver app notifies drivers about potential fares and drivers generally can’t pick and choose their clients. This key difference makes Uber significantly different from a taxi service.

As part of the agreement in the class action lawsuit, Uber will continue its habit of classifying its drivers as independent contractors, which means drivers still won’t get unemployment or workers’ compensation insurance. However, the drivers did receive a settlement as part of the agreement–$100 million in total. Also, Uber will allow drivers to accept tips from their passengers and the deactivation policy will become less strict. These changes seem to push Uber more toward a taxi cab model.

The most significant step this settlement takes in changing the way Uber works, however, is the formation of a new drivers’ association for Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts. This association is a little like a union, in that it takes the first step toward allowing collective action between Uber drivers to advocate for their interests from the company.

The association is different from a traditional labor union because it will not grant rights to capacity or collective bargaining from Uber. But drivers will elect representatives for the association and meet with Uber four times per year to address drivers’ issues. Uber will also fund the association, which raises questions about how objective and useful it will actually be from an objective perspective. After all, if Uber is footing the bill, wouldn’t a union with teeth be against its own interests?

Additionally, if the union gains real power to affect a difference in drivers’ work, there might be some legal issues. If the association is more like a suggestion box, it probably wouldn’t face any major challenges from the National Labor Relations Board. However, if the association begins to look more like a union, the National Labor Relations Board might conclude that the association is a union controlled by the company, and that has been illegal since the Great Depression.

If Uber really wanted the drivers’ association to have the power to make changes to drivers’ workplaces and put into effect drivers’ suggestions, the best route would probably be to allow an outside union to help the drivers. However, any kind of driver organization for what are ostensibly independent contractors would probably run against Uber’s interests as a company.

Either way, with the settlement of the class action suits against Uber, the drivers that work for the company will probably not be considered anything other than independent contractors for a long time. This means workers’ compensation for Uber drivers, unfortunately, remains a highly-contested topic.

Workers’ Compensation can be difficult, confusing, and very complex. Kaplan Morrell has helped thousands of injured workers since 1997 get the benefits they deserve. Contact us here or call us at (866) 356-9898 for your free consultation.