Nevada Workers Compensation Law Videos

Recently I recorded some videos on the Nevada Workers' Compensation Law Hearings and Appeals Process. I take you inside the hearings and appeals court to show you what to expect and to describe what will take place.  When you have 15 minutes, click on the video playlist below to view and feel free to comment.  I love hearing from you.

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Excellent Information for Gun Owners

 My neighbor, Carey Colt Payne, was telling me about his new website on laws pertaining to the ownership and transfer of firearms.  Carey is a highly respected probate attorney in Las Vegas who is a descendant of the famous maker of Colt guns. He told me that as a gun collector he has amassed a wealth of knowledge about the various state and federal laws that apply to gun ownership.  As a probate attorney, he is particularly concerned for families who pass on valuable collector firearms from one generation to the next.  These families are often unaware of the laws that apply to them and don't know about gun trusts.   

  I know nothing about guns, but have many friends who hunt or who have strong feelings about their right to possess  firearms.  I visited his website at www.lasvegasarmstrust.com, and was truly impressed at how  comprehensive it was. It is an incredible resource for anyone who wants to learn about gun laws,  including possession of machine guns, what to do when you buy or sell a gun, transporting arms across state lines, child safety, liability issues, concealed weapons, and the creation of arms trusts.   I encourage all gun owners to visit Carey's site to make sure that you are complying with the law and to think about whether you should transfer ownership to a gun  trust.  Thank you, Carey, for making this valuable information available to everyone.  

--Written by Virginia Hunt, Hunt Law Office

Watch What You Post on Facebook When Injured

 Think twice about posting those photos of you playing softball at your family reunion last weekend if you have an open workers' compensation claim.  Your Facebook photos or Twitter posts about what you are doing could be ammunition gathered by an insurance  company investigator to be used to deny your  claim.  Illinois workers' compensation attorney Mike Hefland posted a good article about how adjusters are using social media to deny claims or to reduce benefits. Photos don't always tell the complete story, of course.  You may have a perfectly reasonable explanation for what you are doing in the posted photo that is consistent with your injury claim, but why post anything that could be misinterpreted?

  Be aware that when you file a claim, you have an insurance company on the other end whose job it is to reduce costs for their insured.  The insurance company doesn't know you, and they will not hesitate to have you followed, videotaped as you shop for groceries, or allege that you are fraudulently claiming benefits if you are creating evidence that could support those allegations. 

--Written by Virginia Hunt, Hunt Law Office

Representing Yourself at Hearings on Your Nevada Comp Claim

    For those people who want or who must represent themselves at the first level of hearings, you need to read the Rules of Practice.  These are the rules that the hearing officers expect attorneys and hearing advocates to know when they appear for a hearing.  Although the hearing officers do not expect unrepresented injured workers to be familiar with the Rules of Practice,  I suggest that you read them so that you have a fighting chance in an arena where you don't know how the game is played.  There really is a learning curve and a need for experience  when appealing an adverse determination by your adjuster.  Certainly anyone can read NRS Chapters 616 and 617 and the regulations and the hundreds of court cases over the years from the Nevada Supreme Court that interpret these laws.  But knowing how hearings and appeals officers  decide particular issues is gained only by making hundreds of appearances at hearings.    With that said, if you do intend to represent yourself at this initial appeal hearing, here's a few tips to help you:

1.   Stick to the issue when arguing your point

       If you are appealing the insurer's average monthly wage calculation, for example, the hearing officer won't let you talk about bad medical care or late compensation checks.  You would need to file a separate appeal for each adverse determination by the insurer. 

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Low Back Pain: Work-Related or Not?

Most people, excluding  lawyers, are likely to tell you that it is an obvious fact that strenuous activity involving load on the back in occupations with heavy lifting, twisting, bending, and carrying  will cause more back injuries.  Athletes and medical  professionals are less likely to make the injury causation assumption, and will respond that people who use their bodies correctly for physical work are actually in better physical condition, with fewer back injuries than workers with sedentary jobs sitting in front of a computer all day.  Add to the discussion that  back pain is prevalent in the general population, with 80% of Americans seeking treatment for low back pain at some time, and it is difficult to get a consensus as to what  back injuries are work-related. 

     The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Disease and Injury Causation by Melhorm and Ackerman, published in 2008 by the American Medical Association is a book dedicated primarily to assist health care providers when giving their opinion as to whether a condition is work-related or attributable to a specific event.  The authors use the catch phrase  "evidence-based' decision, and the book discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the available evidence considered reliable by experts in various medical specialties.  The book cautions that because each state establishes case precedents and has its own laws, what is considered acceptable evidence can vary widely.  A review of the Nevada Supreme Court decisions on low back injuries, does little to tell us where to neatly draw the line between a compensable low back injury and one that is not work-related. 

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Nevada Workers' Comp and Social Security Disability

     I asked attorney Gerald Welt, Esq., if he would provide me with a guest blog post on how workers' compensation interacts with the receipt of Social Security Disability benefits, and his office sent me the following general explanation.   Gerald is an excellent attorney who handles Social Security cases if you need one.: 

 You are entitled to Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits if you have physical or mental health problems or a combination of problems severe enough to keep you from working in a regular, paying job for at least 12 months.  It does not mean just your regular job but in general any job that exists in substantial numbers in the national economy including a sit-down or sedentary job.  As a practical matter it is not enough to just present medical records, you will need the support of a treating physician in the form of a written statement indicating your specific limitations . If you have been denied benefits by the Social Security Administration for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income you have the right to file for Reconsideration or a Hearing. You may be entitled to benefits and you have the right to legal representation to help you analyze your case file an Initial Application, Request for Reconsideration or a Request for Hearing and prepare for a Hearing. Fees are normally paid directly to the attorney out of past due benefits from the Federal government when your case is settled. There is no charge for your initial consultation.

 Those claimants that receive or may receive Workers' Compensation have other concerns as well.

 Nevada is an offset state meaning that any Workers' Compensation benefits that are received for compensation can offset Social Security Disability benefits.

 In simple terms Social Security Disability pays approximately 80% of your average monthly wage up to a maximum of approximately $2533.00 per month.  Workers' Compensation pays approximately 66 2/3% of  your average monthly wage up to a maximum of approximately $3527.00 per month.

 So a claimant receiving Workers' Compensation benefits at the same time as receiving Social Security Disability benefits would only be entitled to an additional 13 1/3% per month.

 It becomes more difficult if there is a Permanent Partial Disability settlement.  In that case Social Security Disability awards offset future disability benefits on a monthly basis until the complete settlement (minus attorney's fees) is offset.  Generally there is not an offset for vocational rehabilitation buyout or settlement amounts. If you are receiving only Supplemental Security Income benefits, the monthly amount of your SSI benefit will be directly reduced by the monthly amount of your worker’s compensation benefit. This usually means that there are no SSI benefits for the months you receive worker’s compensation benefits.

  by Tiffany G. Welt Doctors, ADR

Gerald M. Welt, Chtd.

703 S. Eighth Street

Las Vegas, NV  89101

(702) 382-2030 ph

(702) 684-5157 fax

tgd@weltlaw.com

 https://www.facebook.com/GeraldMWelt

https://twitter.com/geraldmwelt

http://www.linkedin.com/in/geraldmwelt

 

  

Can I Hire a Lawyer after I Get My PPD Offer on My Nevada Claim?

 

Can I Hire a Lawyer After I Get My PPD Rating?

 

Yes, you may.  Just make sure that you are getting experienced guidance and good value for paying an attorney fee at this late stage of the claim, and be aware that attorneys’ fees will differ from one attorney to the next on such cases. 

I often get phone calls from clients wanting to know whether the percentage offered by the insurer is fair after the rating exam, and whether the amount offered is correct.  I will review those rating evaluations free of charge to an injured worker in Nevada who faxes me a copy of the insurer’s offer with the rating report attached.  Just give me your contact phone number or email so that I may contact you after I review what you send me.   You may also tell me on the fax cover what you think may be wrong with the PPD.   If you don’t have any idea, but are just asking me to make sure, that’s fine, too.

Even without having your complete claims file and medical records, I can often spot obvious errors by the rating doctor, like those involving apportionment.  I can also tell you whether or not you should have me obtain your medical records to explore the rating in greater depth. Again, I don’t charge for this service, and the only cost involved will be the 60 cents per page that medical providers charge me for obtaining your medical records.  Be sure to contact me before the 70-day appeal time runs to contest the percentage in the PPD offer.

Deciding whether to contest a rating is a multi-step process that I can usually do rather quickly.  I may want to get the name of a second rating doctor from the Division of Industrial Relation’s rotating list before advising you whether I think it is worth your spending $718 to get a second rating.  Or, I may tell you that I think we can spend just $283 to have a rating doctor review the rating without another exam.  Or, I may think that the original rating doctor may revise his rating after I send a letter advising him of an error I’ve found.  The client remains in control each step, and is usually free to accept the amount offered by the insurer without risk of losing what was offered initially. 

If I think there is a good chance of my improving the percentage offered, I typically suggest an attorney fee that is a contingency percentage of the difference between what was offered by the insurer and what we ultimately obtain.   For example, if the injured worker is offered a 7% PPD, and I am able to increase that to a 10%, my fee would be a percentage of the difference between the 7% and 10%.  In other words, the fee would be a percentage of the extra 3% only.  If I am not successful in increasing the 7% PPD, no fee would be owed.   Whether we proceed with trying to obtain something greater than the 7% would of course involve my careful analysis of any risk of losing the original 7% offered.

What the contingency fee I charge on these types of cases varies depending on what work I think will be involved on my part.  Do you also  have issues pertaining to vocational rehabilitation that will need my help?  Are you likely to want to reopen your case for more medical care in the future, and need my help with that? Or, do we anticipate that your case will only be about the PPD award?   I think you will find that I charge fair and reasonable fees.  My business depends on satisfied clients who find my services to be valuable and worth the attorneys’ fees I charge for helping you. 

--Written by Virginia Hunt, Hunt Law Office

Quiz on Nevada Work Comp PPD Awards

 

Test your knowledge of permanent partial disability awards on Nevada workers' compensation claims with the following quiz.  I will post the answers next week with explanations. Have fun!

 Quiz Time-  How Much Do You Know About PPD’s in Nevada?

1.   1.  True  or  False?

         Even if an injured worker has a surgery for a hernia caused by work activity, he is not entitled to a permanent partial disability award.

2.   2.  True  or  False?

 A  persistent low back strain does not entitle an injured worker to a permanent partial disability award if the MRI does not show a herniated disc greater than 3mm.

3. True   or  False?

If the injured worker failed to contest the insurer’s average monthly wage determination used to pay compensation benefits when the injured worker was off work following surgery, it is probably too late to argue that the average monthly wage should be calculated higher when the permanent partial disability award is offered.  

4.     4.  True  or False?

A cervical fusion done for a work injury will always result in a ratable impairment even if the injured worker has no pain and work restrictions following the successful surgery.

5. True  or False?

 Iinsurers and their third-party administrators may have contractual arrangements with particular rating doctors to pay them less than the usual, state-approved fee for a rating in exchange for the physician or chiropractor remaining on their provider list.

 6.   6.  True  or  False?

If the rating doctors appointed by DIR to review rating evaluations find an error in the rating, the third-party administrator will be required to notify the injured worker of the mistake and offer the corrected PPD award if it is higher.  

 

--Written by Virginia Hunt, Hunt Law Office

Recommended Criminal Attorney

Here is my recommendation for an excellent criminal attorney if you ever need one in Las Vegas:

Mace Yampolsky.

Physical Therapist Karen Crawford Knows Nevada's Injured Workers (And She Cares!)

One of the benefits of being self-employed  and writing my own blog is that I can express my opinion  on what is right with Nevada's workers' compensation system, and what needs improvement or overhauling.  I accept no "favors" from medical providers I mention as providing superior service to injured workers.  I like to let hurt employees know which doctors and facilities I like in the hope that it may benefit my readers.  Obviously, people will disagree with my opinion, and they may have different experiences.  I am always happy to hear about your particular experiences, and encourage you to write to me about which medical providers have been helpful, and who haven't been.

I've known physical therapist Karen Crawford, owner of MML Physical Therapy, for as long as I've been practicing workers' comp law, and she is the real deal.  When you first meet Karen, you are immediately impressed by her passion for helping injured people get well.  She genuinely cares about her patients, and she is forthright and direct in her opinions.  Her obvious commitment to her patients sets her apart from the many physical therapy options in the Vegas Valley where the patient may or may not have just a few minutes of the actual therapist's time.  Karen's integrity is exceptional, and you can count on getting an honest opinion from her, whether you agree with her or not.

Karen offers more than her experiences as a certified physical therapist licensed in Nevada and Texas.  She is a board certified pain management specialist, and is affiliated with the national associations that research chronic pain, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, fibromyalgia, and sports medicine.  She has a reputation among both the more experienced claims managers and claimants' attorneys as a therapist who can evaluate and treat the most difficult chronic pain patients.   Her triple Masters of Science in Psychology, Mental Health Counseling, and Physical Therapy allow her to gain insight into treating the patient as a  whole person. She consequently gets  phenomenal results in restoring miserable patients to better health and happiness. 

Karen understands the politics of the workers' compensation system better than most.  She tells me that she knows her business has taken  a hit financially because she doesn't bend to pressure from adjusters who want to tell her how to treat her patients.  She spends time listening to each patient, and refuses to sacrifice quality treatment in order to obtain a quantify of referrals from insurers.

Like a few of the other larger, established physical therapy providers in Las Vegas, she is asked to perform Functional Capacity Evaluations.  FCE's are used by doctors to determine what an injured worker's permanent work restrictions should be.  Only, Karen goes one step further.  She has seen a disturbing  increase in the number of invalid FCE's by other therapists.  An invalid FCE occurs when the therapist conducting the test does not think the patient has passed over 70% of the validity criteria built into the test.  Validity criteria supposedly reveals whether the patient is trying their best to physically perform  the test.  Most doctors release the patient with a full duty work release if the FCE is invalid.  However, the doctor gets the ultimate say on whether the patient should have work restrictions or not. 

 Karen  has observed an increasing number of invalid FCE's done  by other therapists. She doesn't think that all of of those injured workers are deliberately trying to appear more disabled when taking the test.  She therefore has graciously agreed to re-test injured workers on a FCE for the reduced price of $500.  (A FCE normally takes several hours of the therapist's time, and they cost over $750.)  Karen understands that  injured workers who are released full duty based on an invalid FCE are out of work, don't have any money to challenge their insurer, and will not get any retraining benefits until they can obtain a valid FCE to present at a hearing.   This is truly a humanitarian service that Karen  offers injured workers who need a second FCE.  There is no guarantee that the injured worker will pass a second FCE, but at least Karen offers a second chance at a reduced price.

MML Physical Therapy is located at 1701 Bearden Drive, Suite 201, Las Vegas, NV 89106.  The business phone is (702) 384-6330; Fax (702) 384-2668; email  Crawfordpainpt@gmail.com.   

--Written by Virginia Hunt, Hunt Law Office

Hiring a Lawyer: Things to Consider

 Here's a rather lengthy article by the staff writer for Lexis Nexis Workers' Comp. Communities, a website for workers' comp lawyers, about a conference I spoke at on the topic of why injured workers hire lawyers.   it was an interesting panel discussion with both defense lawyers and claimants' attorneys.  My bottom line message was that all injured workers need reliable information on the claims process, what to expect, and what their rights are under the law.  I also emphasized that only about 10% of all injured workers need a lawyer.   Clients who do hire an attorney  should come away from an initial consultation feeling that hiring the lawyer will be a valuable experience; valuable in the sense that the attorney will provide useful knowledge about your medical care, your compensation benefits, an award, and how to guide you through retraining.  It's rarely  just about money with my clients.    Virginia 

 My Big Fat Annual Conference: Why Injured Workers Lawyer Up

by Karen C. Yotis, Esq., a Feature Resident Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, provides insights into workplace issues and the nuts and bolts of the workers’ comp world.

 MAKING RAIN AT BIG FAT CONFERENCES

Legal, insurance, and business professionals go to conferences to learn about the cutting edge new stuff, to attend the meet-and-greet events where the booze (and the blarney) flows free, and perhaps to be inspired by the energy that invariably builds throughout a good conference venue over the course of days. But when you come right down to it, people endure the travel and lost time away from the office, and cough up some pretty hefty registration dollars in most cases, because conference attendance can create—especially for the well-initiated—the kind of solid new business potential that can have a noticeable effect on a company’s bottom line.

Since conferences are like El Yunque when it comes to making rain, it should come as no surprise that the conference planners for the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo, which has been running for over 22 years, catered to the crowd by including a session called Top Reasons Why Injured Workers Get Attorneys in their 2013 program repertoire. Attendees who stayed for Friday sessions rather than deciding to beat the rain out of Vegas were treated to a panel discussion about the mindset, motivations, and foibles of the workers’ compensation client from both sides of the injured worker/liable employer fence.

Presenters Martin Klug (a defense lawyer), Virginia Hunt, (a former Nevada industrial case appeals officer who now exclusively represents injured workers), Alan S. Pierce (an employee attorney) and Kevin Connors (a defense lawyer), did not disappoint. They explained how to pinpoint injury cases where attorney representation is basically unavoidable, how to recognize the profiles of injured workers who are most likely to litigate their workers’ compensation claim, and how to recognize why some states have higher attorney involvement than others. But they also delved into the aspects of frictional relationships—and the permutations of the legal process—that drive workers and their employers to seek legal help. In short, they provided precisely the type of valuable insight that is offered at NWCDC conferences, year after big fat year.

Now let’s be perfectly clear—this was not a discussion about the foibles of representing malingering claimants, a group whose motivations for engaging an attorney are quite particular—and quite different—from the group the presenters focused on. This session was about the type of injured worker for whom a blown out disc is the last thing to expect when he or she goes to work on a Friday morning. Concentrating solely on the mindset and motivations of people that have a new temporary or permanent medical condition that is unexpected by both themselves and their employers, the panelists delved into the various common and perhaps not so obvious reasons why these generally non-litigious (and typically long-term) employees engage an attorney to represent them in their workers’ compensation claims.

One more qualifier: the expertise shared in this session in no way resembles what Martin Klug referred to as the “silly form of paternalism” that underscores the recent list published by the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations of reasons why a workers’ compensation claimant should engage an attorney. Klug pointed out that a pro se claimant is not a per se incompetent claimant and that there are certain injured workers who can solve some legal problems on their own without (gasp) the benefit of anylegal representation. As long as the pro se claimant: (1) knows the procedure that is involved and (2) can use those procedural mechanisms to maximize results, that claimant will most likely remain pro se. It’s when these two criteria are not met that the workers’ compensation case begins to fall apart and the pro se claimant becomes a client.

Having eschewed the Missouri DOL’s hand-holding approach to protect injured workers from the employers’ (or the comp carrier’s) so-called “seduction of the innocent,” and giving full credit to the claimant who has the chops to do things the pro se way, Klug depicted a more updated reality of a workers’ compensation claims process that is very much changed from the days when a claimant went to a doctor two or three times, a carrier paid some money, and the claim file was closed. There are too many competing interests and too many issues on the table today, particularly with matters relating to liens, subrogation, medical creditor claims, Medicare Secondary Payer Act matters, social security, and death/dependency issues, that even the most determined pro se claimant may be forced to abandon any plan of going it alone.

GO AHEAD, JUST SEND THE CARD

All members of the panel agreed that certain scenarios or situations that occur at the beginning of a workers’ compensation claim will almost invariably create red flags that result in a claimant making a call to an attorney. The way that an employer reacts after an injury, the information an employer imparts to the injured employee after the occurrence, and the manner in which the employer treats the employee post-accident are all critical factors in maintaining a good relationship with the injured employee right from the start.

To illustrate, the panelists told the story of the get well card that workers’ comp maven Rebecca Shafer, author of the guidebook Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%,recommends employers send to every worker injured on the job. Klug reiterated the critical value of that small gesture in setting the tone that is necessary to build a more amicable (and less expensive) negotiating atmosphere throughout the life of a claim. In fact, during the question period at the conclusion of the presentation, an audience member who implemented one year ago a program in which the company’s in-house workers’ comp person sent all injured workers a greeting card along with her business card, a list of providers, whatever adjuster information was available at the time, and a list of responsibilities and expectations for both parties, reported 50 percent less litigation. That behaviors which fall under the “careless communication” category constitute the top reasons that injured workers seek attorneys is no particular mystery; what stymies is that so many employers ignore the efficacy of a simple wish you well.

WHY DO I REPRESENT THEE? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS

In addition to these types of frictional relationship issues, the panelists pointed to a number of additional reasons that can drive injured workers to a comp attorney’s office door.

Some claimants will retain counsel after the initial inquiry from an HR representative or a claims examiner. All four panelists were surprised to find that the initial investigation was inexplicably not a huge driver for business though. Perhaps it is because—as clients repeatedly report—the adjusters are very nice . . .

Neither reader nor conference attendee should be shocked to learn that injured workers flock to workers’ comp attorneys in droves when the money stops. When funds run out that had previously been coming in from salary or through disability, daily living expenses can no longer be paid, and the claimant becomes a client in an effort to have benefits restored. Implicit in these war stories is the admonition that the workers’ comp attorney be conversant in various ways at restarting and continuing the flow of benefits.

A change in employment status also prompts inquiries to attorneys. Injured employees who are fired, transferred, or reassigned often prompts a call to counsel. Particular problems occur on light duty reassignments, which do not accommodate child care or a spouse’s schedule the way the injured worker’s former position did, and post-injury repositioning that involves previously untraveled long distances or that undesirable third shift. Underlying this lesson is a new understanding of the importance and necessity of strategies to fight employers who play hard ball while remaining just inside the technical line of compliance with applicable statutes

The panelists also talked about claimants that seek legal advice because of what they perceive as enforced bad medical care. When injured workers are made to see doctors they may not want to go to, or are forced to receive surgery such as a fusion for a herniated disc (rather than a preferred—and considerably longer—course of physical therapy treatment) and find themselves fused, on drugs, and with ruined lives, they call a lawyer.

The panelists spoke about an entire class of client that go to lawyers because they had a prior good experience in the legal market and want to ensure the same sense of justice the second time around. These formerly satisfied and returning claimants were juxtaposed with the claimant victims, who have gone through the process before, did not get a satisfactory income or result, and get a lawyer to ensure somesense of justice the second time around. These are very different types of clients with very different motivations and expectations that come from two sides of the same coin.

The panelists took special care to take note of an entire client population that is driven by television ads, the internet, and social media. Klug cautioned the audience against the client who thinks a 30-second spot on the morning news is going to guide something like a workers’ compensation claim to a quick resolution. Rather, the sad truth is that the former quick and efficient system envisioned by the 20th century’s “grand bargain” has become a behemoth that takes an interminable amount of time.

There is often a good deal of family prodding. If a spouse, or a parent, or an uncle or a friend thinks an injured worker should see a lawyer, he or she usually does. This kind of a grassroots network can be invaluable to a comp attorney’s client base.

A more complex—and surprising—situation which motivates a visit to an attorney is the injured worker who simply wants to get back to work. According to the panelists, these are the cases that most often get litigated because the employee is being driven toward a settlement where the employer does not have work that will accommodate whatever the restrictions might be. Often a combination of factors—denial of a claim, confusion about what the process is, and some level of dissatisfaction with how someone is being treated—leads to a Gordian Knot of problems and issues that can only be picked apart when workers (and employers) let attorneys handle their case.

THE LEGAL BEAT

Everyone also talked about the legal beat—those procedural, court-related, officially stamped events that invariably confuse and overwhelm injured workers (even the ones who want nothing to do with any kind of a lawsuit against their employer) and send them to attorneys. Whenever someone goes to court, whenever there is any procedural activity within the division, if a claim is in litigation, there is a settlement offer, someone receives a notice of a court hearing, there is a problem with the appeals process, or a plethora of other similar events . . . all of these will have the effect of driving a formerly unrepresented injured worker to an attorney’s office for advice.

Voicing the defense point of view, Kevin Connors was especially sensitive to the issue of time and the excessive amounts of it that must be expended to bring a workers’ compensation case—even one with a low dollar amount—to conclusion. His employer/carrier clients have their eyes not only on the bottom line but on the clock. He encourages the unrepresented to engage an attorney, because counsel will know the process, will have—and be able to impart—reasonable expectations about an outcome, and is best situated to cut through whatever psychological reasons stand between the injured worker and a fair outcome in a case. With defense clients constantly inquiring about when a decision is coming down, when litigation is going to end, or other pending events over which defense counsel has absolutely no control, Connors fell squarely on the side of preferring that a claimant engage counsel to facilitate the process. He has even gone so far as to circle names in the phone book for claimants to call.

BRINGING VALUE TO THE TABLE

The panelists really got down to brass tacks when they began discussing the issue of how people view the value of attorneys, and whether the plaintiff’s bar in particular is marketing itself properly to show that an attorney adds value to the system in terms of understanding the procedure and in terms of maximizing recovery and in dealing with secondary relationship issues. There is a good deal of value add going on, at least in Pennsylvania, where, according to Connors, a well-muscled, well-staffed, highly specialized bar exists for both sides of personal injury and workers’ compensation cases, which refers cases back and forth to take full advantage of the third-party implications in a claim.

Virginia Hunt took the issue of attorney value one step further when she revealed her rain making secret of providing her potential client base—as well as existing clients—with the reliable information that they all seek. The number one reason people contact Hunt is for information, and she provides it to them through a variety of channels, by authoring a blog with original content on her state’s workers’ comp law, writing a booklet for injured workers that she gives away for free and sends to unions and similar groups, as well as publishing articles on recent cases, updates on facts and figures, and what the state’s regulatory agency is doing as far as policing insurers. She provides information in spades with the idea that it will attract those people who will come to her for the information they are not getting from their adjuster, their employer, or from the host of other attorneys that fail to distinguish themselves by providing value in creative ways during the regular course of doing business.

In addition to providing a fresh perspective on the getting and keeping of workers’ comp business, Hunt had helpful advice to share on when to send a potential client packing. She usually spends an hour with each person to determine whether they have suffered a legitimate injury. She also tries to determine if there are other issues, such as whether they like their job, of they see the workers’ comp claim as a way to get out of what they are doing at the moment or perhaps as a way to get some type of retraining, whether they have had multiple injuries in the past, or if they are trying to work the system. She attempts to ferret out these types of potentially problematic facts, along with whatever psychological issues may be lurking, and she always listens to her secretary who can apparently spot a crazy from a mile away.

PLAYING NICE IN THE SANDBOX

The panelists continued to return to the theme that the workers’ compensation system imposes a moral obligation on all stakeholders to be fair with one another, which they had all heard throughout the NWCDC conference, particularly with the conference bloggers. (Stop here to consider the value of a national conference that promotes themes that resonate throughout an entire week, not to mention the value add that comes from formally collaborating and engaging with bloggers). Panel moderator Alan Pierce fashioned his introductory remarks and also closed the session around this theme, stating,

“to be an effective advocate, whether representing an employer or insurer in any capacity, whether legal or claims professional or human resource or risk management or whether you are on the claimant side, we have an obligation to work together.”

Although Pierce may be correct, he would also do well to recall what a powerful driver necessity can be. In a system that started simple and has evolved into a complicated, expensive, time-consuming process, the players must work together not only because it’s the right thing to do; they need to work together so that the system upon which they all depend can survive.

Benefit Penalties: Updated Info from DIR

 I received a letter from Charles Verre, Chief Administrative Officer of the Workers' Compensation Section of the Division of Industrial Relations responding to my request for more information about the number of benefit penalties against insurers and third-party administrators by DIR.  (DIR investigates complaints by injured workers that insurers and/or their third-party administrators are violating Nevada's workers' compensation laws.  If a violation is found, DIR may also assess a benefit penalty that is payable to the injured worker.)  I previously wrote in a blog post that after DIR gave me statistics, Mr. Verre told me during the DIR conference that DIR didn't have good statistics to give me because they had an old computer system and DIR couldn't properly track this information.

Mr. Verre wrote to me on January 23, 2014, that for fiscal year 2013 (7/1/2012 through 6/30/2013), they issued 13 benefit penalties against insurers and third-party administrators, and that $20,625 was paid in benefit penalties to injured workers during that time period.  Mr. Verre also stated that DIR does not collect benefit penalties on behalf of the injured worker.  He didn't tell me the amount that was assessed against insurers and administrators.   

--Written by Virginia Hunt, Hunt Law Office

Child Support Deduction from Nevada Work Comp Benefits

Workers' compensation benefits, including final settlement awards, called permanent partial disability awards, are generally not subject to assignments or garnishments, and are not subject to attorneys liens or medical provider liens.  See NRS 616C.205.   The one major exception to that general rule is that the statute does allow for payment of past due child support obligations under NRS 31A.150 and 31A.330.    If a claimant is subject to a court order for the a payment of past due amounts, the adjuster must without an amount equal to 25% of the amount to be paid.  An adjuster who is served with an out-of-state child supp port judgment will honor an order.  

Most attorneys ask at the time you retain the attorney whether you have any outstanding child support judgments against  you, because the contingency attorney fee charged by the attorney will be based on what the award should have been without the child support payment.  

--Written by Virginia Hunt, Hunt Law Office

Permanent Work Restrictions Aren't Always Permanent for Nevada Work Injuries

Here's an excellent question by someone posting a comment to my post about the difference between temporary light duty and permanent light duty: 

Do Permanent Work Restrictions (light duty) follow me once my case is closed and a settlement has been granted? What happens if (5-10 years later) I take a job that is completely opposite from my restrictions?

      The word permanent in the Nevada workers' compensation world doesn't really mean something that will never change or can't be changed. When it is determined whether an injured worker is entitled to a permanent partial disability award, for example, we are really just looking at the physical condition of the injured worker on the date he or she is examined by a rating doctor. It doesn't mean that if a different rating physician were to examine the same injured worker six months later that the second rating doctor couldn't legitimately find that the percentage of permanent impairement had increased or decreased over time. 

     The same is true for permanent work restrictions. Your injury might get better, or it might get worse over time. If your prior workers' compensation doctor were to examine you 5 or 10 years later, your doctor might not give you the same permanent work restrictions, or any restrictions at all.  It is essentially a question of documenting that there has been a change in the injury to support any change in work restrictions in the future.

    The injured worker would need to have a doctor examine the work injury and justify why there is a change in the work restrictions.  Otherwise, the injured worker could be accused of lying about his physical capabilites when hired by a new employer. If the injured worker has a worsening of the injury the original employer might also question whether the employee was working beyond his permanent work restrictions. Make sure you have a new physician report that clears you to do work beyond the old restrictions before accepting employment outside your old permanent work restrictions.  

Thanks for a great question.

--Written by Virginia Hunt, Hunt Law Office

Nevada Hearings and Appeals:What to Expect

 I put together a series of videos on hearings and appeals to show injured workers the physical location of the two offices where hearings and appeals are held on contested Nevada workers' compensation claims, and what to expect at each hearing.  The address for the Hearings Division and Appeals Division is 2200 S. Rancho Drive, Las Vegas.  http://www.youtube.com/channel/UChg0l0T-Nq2LFS_1iWQGf8A/videos?view=1.  

--Written by Virginia Hunt, Hunt Law Office