Articles Posted in Workers Compensation

workers_construction_worker_work-1-scaledUnfortunately, accidents at the workplace are not uncommon occurrences. What happens, however, when you are injured while traveling? Will you still receive workers’ compensation if you are not physically on the jobsite? The answers to these questions will depend on the facts of the case and whether you were acting within the scope of your employment. The following Caddo Parish case outlines this predicament.  

It is undisputed that Mitchell Stringer was hired at Hand Construction, LLC, sometime after September 30, 2014, and that he was asked to attend a meeting at the company office by John Provost, Vice President for the company, in early October. However, the parties disagree on whether Stringer was terminated at the meeting, as testified by Provost and Adam Hubble, CEO for the company, or was told there would not be any more work for him, but that he would receive two weeks’ severance pay, as testified by Stringer. Stringer’s final paycheck included the date “October 9, 2015.” He was issued a check with “severance” in the ledger for the week ending in October 16, 2015. 

It was also disputed as to whether or not the parties agreed that Stringer would fly to North Dakota to retrieve his vehicle and the company’s GPS equipment. Regardless, on October 8, 2015, Stringer flew to North Dakota to obtain his vehicle and company equipment. Two days later, while traveling from North Dakota to Louisiana, Stringer was involved and injured in a motor vehicle accident in Arkansas.

alzheimer_s_man_portrait_0-scaledEmployees are often exposed to stressful situations while at work, whether from unhelpful coworkers or understaffing. Under what circumstances are resulting mental injuries entitled to workers’ compensation? 

Diedre Emerson worked for Willis Knighton Medical Center as a certified nurse assistant on the cancer floor. One day, she arrived at work for her regular night shift. She found the prior shift had not completed a lot of their work, so she would have to do additional work. When she learned this, she became upset and mad. She said this was more of the same old behavior.

While working that day, she indicated that she felt something pop in her head but admitted nothing physically happened to cause the pop. After completing her shift, she went to the emergency room. The medical records from the visit did not show she complained about weakness on one side of her body or other neurological symptoms. Her primary complaint was hyperventilation and nervousness. Emerson was subsequently late in calling Willis Knighton to tell them she would not be able to work her shift. She was fired. 

feet_girl_fingers_parts-scaledMedical testimony is an essential part of determining whether an injured worker has a valid claim. What happens if the doctors’ diagnoses conflict and they reach different conclusions about whether an injured worker can return to work?

Maxine Hall worked as a housekeeper for Global Solution Services. While working for Global at a hotel, a door closed on her foot. She went to the emergency room, where a doctor told her she did not have any broken bones. However, another doctor subsequently diagnosed her with a fractured toe. 

Despite receiving medical treatment, Hall continue to suffer from pain in her foot. Hall received workers’ compensation benefits, but the benefits terminated approximately two years after the accident occurred. She then filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation against Global and Illinois National Insurance Company, its insurer. Hall sought to get her benefits reinstated. The Workers’ Compensation Judge dismissed Hall’s claims. Hall filed an appeal. 

marriage_rings_wedding_hands-scaledIt is always tragic when a loved one passes away, especially when there are children are involved. Death benefits are part of the workers’ compensation system intended to help the surviving family members when someone passes away as a result of an on-the-job accident. However, with the evolving definition of a family, there can sometimes be complicated legal issues about who is entitled to recover death benefits. This case involves a claim from a supposedly unmarried romantic partner who had a child with the worker who died in an accident at work. 

Travis Chiokai died as a result of an accident at work. When he died, Chiokai was unmarried. However, Chiokai had been in a romantic relationship with Latashia Perez. Perez filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation against Chiokai’s employer, Irby Construction, as well as their insurer, Old Republic. Perez sought death benefits for herself, as well as for her unborn child. Once the child was born, DNA testing was conducted that confirmed the child’s father was Chiokai. The child subsequently received death benefits. 

Irby Construction and its insurer argued Perez should not received benefits under La. R.S. 23:1253, which defines dependents who are entitled to receive death benefits. The statute explicitly states that a concubine, such as Perez, is not entitled to receive death benefits. Irby Construction and its insurer filed an exception of no right or cause of action. The Workers’ Compensation Judge denied the motion. 

photo_old_old_recording_0-scaledWhile workers’ compensation is intended to compensate injured workers, there are a number of procedural requirements with which an injured worker must comply in order for his or her company to cover the medical treatments. This case illustrates the importance of complying with procedural requirements and submitting all required paperwork.

While working for Circle K Stores, Melody Smith went to a Capitol One bank located in Lafayette, Louisiana. Before Smith reached the bank to make the night deposit, she was robbed by a person who crashed his truck into the rear end of Smith’s car and shot at her two times. He then smashed her window and took the deposit bag from her. 

Smith injured her knee, back, and neck in the incident. Circle K paid Smith workers’ compensation benefits following the incident. However, the parties disagreed about treatment for Smith’s injured knee. Smith filed a Form 1008 under La. R.S. 23:1034.2(F)(1) against Circle K, claiming it had failed to pre-authorize her evaluation for her knee injury with her selected physician. 

emergency_rescue_stretcher_injured-scaledIf you are injured on the job, it is best practice to inform your employer and supervisor about your injuries. They will likely inform you about possible workers’ compensation to which you might be entitled. Are you still eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits if you tried to hide your injury from your employer?

Gary Jeansonne worked as a maintenance worker at a youth center located in Bunkie, Louisiana. Over two months after Jeansonne stopped working at the center, he filed a claim for workers’ compensation, claiming he had hurt his back while working at the center. He claimed the accident had occurred while he was working in the kitchen. Jeansonne claimed to have called his supervisor the next morning to tell him he would not be able to come in to work due to his back, but he did not tell his supervisor his back issues were from an injury at work. 

Jeansonne started receiving medical treatment for his back injuries. His medical records indicate he told his doctor the accident that hurt his back occurred at home. Jeansonne subsequently claimed the report was not accurate and he had just said the incident occurred at home because he wanted to be able to go back to work. 

prison_alcatraz_prison_wing-scaledEven while an inmate, you are still entitled to damages if you are injured on the job. If you are injured while working in a release program, are you entitled to compensation through the workers’ compensation scheme? 

Lindsey French was serving a sentence for drug and firearm charges at the detention center in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana. Inmates at the detention center could be released to work for the police as part of the highway maintenance crew. French volunteered to join the crew. While on the crew, French was responsible for operating a tractor.

One day, the tractor French was using hit a tree stump. French was not wearing his seat belt. He fell through an opening in the tractor and fractured his pelvis.

labor_farmer_village_workThe distinction between independent contractors and employees has always been something of a balancing test. This distinction becomes vital in workers’ compensation issues, where employees generally enjoy peace of mind with workers’ compensation in the event of an injury, whereas independent contractors usually do not. But are there some cases where an independent contractor can collect workers’ compensation benefits? The answer to this question is illustrated in the following appeal from the New Orleans Office of Workers’ Compensation.

Federico Espinoza Martinez and four others were hired by Jaroslov Rames to lower a washer/dryer combination unit to the first floor of an apartment building. During the lowering of the unit, Mr. Martinez received a laceration on his hand when one of the ropes used snapped. Despite a broken rope and cut hand, Mr. Martinez and the others completed the job. Afterward, Mr. Rames drove Mr. Martinez to the emergency room, paying five hundred dollars to ensure proper treatment was administered. Mr. Martinez later attempted to collect his pay from Mr. Rames. Mr. Rames informed him that he had deducted the five-hundred-dollar emergency room fee from Mr. Martinez’s check and planned to deduct the remainder of the hospital fee from his future earnings.

Mr. Martinez filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits he believed Mr. Rames owed him. The issue was heard by the Office of Workers’ Compensation (henceforth “OWC”), and it was found that Mr. Martinez was not an employe of Mr. Rames, but rather an independent contractor. Benefits were denied based on this finding. Mr. Martinez appealed, maintaining that the OWC failed to apply the manual labor exception outlined in La. R.S. 23:1021(7). The OWC found the manual labor exception did not apply to the set of facts, denying benefits again for Mr. Martinez.

worker_shoes_shoes_work-1-scaledIf you have been injured on the job, you might be entitled to workers’ compensation. In order to receive compensation, there are a number of procedural requirements with which you must comply. 

Elaine Rodrigue worked as a paralegal for the school board in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. While working, she tripped over a rug and had to have surgery. When she returned to work from her surgery, she was transferred to work at a metal building. While working there, Rodrigue was exposed to noxious odors and forms. After she left her job, her symptoms from the exposure continued to get worse. 

Rodrigue filed a workers’ compensation claim against the school board. The Workers’ Compensation Judge ruled in favor of Rodrigue, finding her exposure to the noxious odors and fumes at work had caused her medical issues, so she could recover for her related medical expenses. The judgment included twenty items from Rodrigue’s doctor’s prescriptions that were a reasonable and necessary part of her treatment. 

workers_construction_worker_work-scaledIf you are injured on the job, one of your primary concerns is likely finding competent medical care. Under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act, injured workers can select one physician of any specialty without their employer’s approval. What happens if your employer refuses to pay for your selected physician? 

Marvin Ray Scott brought a workers’ compensation claim against his employer, Packaging Corporation of America (“PCA.”) Scott claimed he had lost his hearing because of his work at the Boise Paper Mill in DeRidder, Louisiana. Scott then filed a motion to have an expedited hearing under La. R.S. 23:1121. Scott claimed PCA had not authorized his initial visit to his selected physician. PCA responded, claiming Scott had improperly used summary proceedings because he was not just trying to get approval for his selected physician, but he was also seeking attorney’s fees and penalties. At the hearing, the workers’ compensation judge ruled in favor of Scott and ordered PCA to pay Scott’s relevant medical bills and pay separate penalties and attorney’s fees, totaling $7,000. PCA filed an appeal.

Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act sets forth rights and remedies for injured workers. Under La. R.S. 23:1121, an employee is permitted to select one physician of any specialty without their employer’s approval. If the employer denies that, the employee is entitled to an expedited proceeding. Under La. R.S. 23:1201(F), the employer can also be required to pay penalties and attorneys’ fees if it does not comply with its statutory obligations to an injured worker. 

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