Effective 2/1/15 through 1/31/16, the cost of a permanent partial disability evaluation on a Nevada workers’ compensation claim is $754.62. That is for two body parts. The cervical spine is considered one body part, the thoracic spine another body part, and the lumbar spine would be a separate body part. For each additional body part after two, the rating doctor may charge an additional $252.02. That means that if an injured worker disagrees with the first rating obtained by the insurer on a claim involving three body parts, the injured worker will have to pay $1006.64 to obtain a second rating evaluation to give to a hearing officer to try to obtain a higher percentage impairment. A rating doctor who is asked only to review records and give a report on impairment may charge $376.57. Keep in mind that a hearings or appeals officer may order the insurer to reimburse an injured worker who pays for a second rating (or a first rating when the insurer refuses to schedule a rating).
Nevada injured workers can do something about the current law that limits their choice of treating doctors to those on their industrial insurers’ provider lists. The Nevada Chiropractic Association has sponsored a bill, AB 187, that would amend current law and would allow injured workers to treat with a doctor who is willing to accept what other contracted physicians accept for payment for similar treatment. I urge you to come to the Grant Sawyer Building on E. Washington in Las Vegas on March 11, 2015, at 1:30 pm, to testify before the assembly sub-committee considering this legislation to tell them your experiences with having to treat with “their doctors”. Alternatively, you may write a letter, with your name, address, and phone number immediately, and email or fax it to me at (702) 731-9097 and I will enter it as an exhibit on Wednesday.
There was a lengthy article in the Las Vegas Review Journal today about the only peripheral nerve surgeon in Las Vegas, Nevada- Tim Tollestrup, M.D. I wrote about meeting him previously in a post in October 2012. Since then, I’ve had half a dozen workers compensation claimants treat with him, with excellent results. Additionally, he is genuinely concerned about his patients. He has personally called me several times on difficult cases to make sure that what he is writing in his reporting is likely to be understand correctly by the adjuster handling the claim.
Successfully diagnosing a complex work injury is a skill that depends on the physician’s schooling, life experiences, interaction with real patients, and sometimes his or her focused specialty training. Orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons in Las Vegas can be reluctant to consider involving a peripheral nerve specialist on claims where the injured worker isn’t improving. However, as they get to know Dr. Tollestrup and see the results of his work, I think that will change and we will need a second peripheral nerve specialist in the valley soon.
Click on this website to find out who your representatives are in state government so that you can voice your opinion on this important issue:
The Nevada legislature meets only once every other year, and this year doesn’t look good for the changes that could gut benefits for Nevada’s injured workers. The amendment so many of us committed work comp attorneys hoped would get out of the senate committee on commerce and labor and to the legislature for a vote on allowing workers to choose their own doctors might be dead already. Meanwhile, big business employers and insurers are having a field day trying to take advantage of a a Republican majority assembly and a Republican majority senate to try to pass so-called reforms that would seriously harm Nevada employees with legitimate work injuries.
Please look at AB 229 and all of the nasty changes in this proposed legislation. Then, please send a message to the assembly person for your district that you are opposed. No hearing is scheduled yet, and these hearings are scheduled with only a few days notice.
Meanwhile, other states are likewise doing major harm to their workers’ compensation systems. Here is a good article on the effect of these legislative changes: http://www.npr.org/2015/03/04/390441655/injured-workers-suffer-as-reforms-limit-workers-compensation-benefits
I asked Laurie Clemens, director of the Professional Institute of Technology & Accounting (PITA) here in Las Vegas, what keyboard options she has tried when retraining injured workers with hand or arm injuries that make typing difficult. While there are medical differences of opinion as to whether typing can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, there is no question that typing on a regular keyboard can aggravate the condition. Almost all occupations now require some input on a computer and typing, so workers with any kind of hand injury may need a special keyboard.
Often times, employers are willing to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who suffer such work-related injuries and will purchase a special keyboard. According to Laurie, PITA recommends three products when it comes to these accommodations.
One of the most popular options for accommodating injuries such as carpal tunnel is Lilly Walter’s one-handed keyboards. This is essentially a child-sized keyboard designed to make maneuvering around the keys with only one hand a lot easier than a full-sized keyboard. The best part is, it’s portable, and looks identical to ordinary keyboards apart from the size.
In some of the more severe cases of hand injuries, another option exists from BoundlessAT. They have developed the Maltron Single Hand Keyboard, for use when normal hand movement is not possible due to an injury or disability. This keyboard has a different layout from a normal keyboard, and may require additional training to use.
Another option exists that can allow an injured worker to dramatically cut down on the required amount of typing during a normal work day. Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional is a talk-to-text system that is also available through BoundlessAT.
I would like to give a special thanks to Laurie Clemens for this useful information.
Neurosurgeon Randal Peoples, M.D. spoke to a dozen claimants’ attorneys and interested health care providers recently about his philosophy in treating spinal injuries. He acknowledged that he has a reputation for being conservative about recommending surgery and stated that being a good surgeon is knowing when not to operate.
Dr. Peoples emphasized that the patient’s history about an injury is the most important information to him in diagnosing a spinal injury. About one third of the population has a disc herniation on a MRI, but most don’t know it and don’t have pain or disability. Continue Reading
If you work for an employer who employs more than 50 employees and you have worked sufficient hours to qualify for FMLA time (29 U.S.C.2601), you may want to ask that any time you are off work for your work injury be designated as FMLA time, particularly if you expect to be released full duty before your full 12 weeks of FMLA time is up. Many employers require that any time off for a work injury be designated as FMLA time so as to reduce your 12 weeks of FMLA. A recent 9th Circuit case (Escriba v. Foster Poultry Farms) appears to question that, but the Department of Labor website still states that an employer may legally deplete FMLA time for a work injury, even if the employee doesn’t want FMLA time to be used. However, if an employer forgets or doesn’t require that FMLA time be reduced for a work injury, then the employee will still have FMLA time (unpaid leave time) available for your later use.
Why then would you ever want to use your FMLA time while you are being compensated for your time off work under an accepted workers’ compensation claim? One reason would be if you think your employer may intend to replace you while you are off work and will not offer you employment after you return from your work injury. Under workers’ compensation law, your employer does not have to hold your job open for you. If you are released full duty without any permanent work restrictions, your employer can tell you that it was necessary to find someone else to do your job, or that they decided to downsize while you were gone. Under those circumstances, workers’ compensation will terminate your benefits, and your only recourse is to file for unemployment benefits while you search for a new job. However, if you properly requested FMLA time while you were out for the work injury, and if haven’t used all your FMLA time, your employer must return you to your pre-accident job. Just make sure that you follow all company policies and follow the steps to ask for FMLA protection when you are off work.
Virginia Hunt, Hunt
For more information about FMLA, click here for the US. Dept of Labor info.
I believe that people are responsible for their actions in life, particularly decisions they make that affect their own personal health. Although I represent injured people, I may personally disagree with a sensational jury verdict against a deep-pocket corporation where it doesn’t appear that the plaintiff (person suing) was looking out for their own health either. For example, despite the highly addictive properties of nicotine, I admit I don’t feel a lot of sympathy for smokers who sue tobacco companies for emphysema or heart disease when they continued to smoke after warnings were placed about risks on cigarette packages. However, I haven’t read the evidence or testimony in those cases. I mention this example because it shows that we all have our opinions and prejudices when it comes to judging others’ behavior, even when we have limited information.
In the workers’ compensation arena, employees have an expectation that their employer will be looking out for their safety, and it comes as an unpleasant surprise when a severely injured employee cannot sue an employer for a clear-cut safety hazard that causes injury. Neither the fault of the employer, nor the fault of the employee in causing a work accident is supposed to increase or decrease benefits unless the law specifically allows it. For example, Nevada has a specific law that specifically denies benefits to employees who are injured because they are intoxicated. However, employees who are injured through their own lack of due care (contributory negligence), are entitled to benefits the same as other injured workers.
I am seeing a trend though where employers and insurers are trying to bring fault into play to reduce benefits to employees who haven’t maintained healthy lifestyles. Continue Reading
Yesterday I met with Amie Pellegrini, the Nevada business manager for IW Pharmacy, an online prescription company that services injured workers. My staff and I have been having such difficulty getting prescriptions filled timely for clients, with many administrators using intermediary drug companies that only confuse and delay medication fills. This company promises to quickly fill prescriptions for my clients, even those prescriptions that are denied and in the appeals process, so long as an attorney is on the case and advocating for the injured worker. This company handles any pre-authorizations that might be required, billing the adjuster, and has staff that knows how to properly handle workers’ comp claims. Additionally, they don’t have the out-of-stock problem that many of my clients have encountered with local pharmacies not having sufficient quantities of medication. Prescriptions are delivered to your home. In order to enroll, you must fax your prescription to 1-800-497-4276. I look forward to working with them.