When you are injured on the job, your first concern is recovering to the point where you can return to work. Recovery often includes time off from work, medical expenses, and a general disruption to your life. Injuries place a huge burden not only on you, but also on your family.
Workers Compensation covers most workplace injuries that require you to miss work, including those caused by you (although some exceptions apply). For example, if you bend over to pick up something heavy at work and you injure your back, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits even though nobody (including you) made a mistake or did anything wrong to cause the injury. The system is designed to quickly assess injuries, begin treatment, and offer compensation to the injured party in the form of medical coverage, lost wages, and retraining if needed. However, compensation is limited to actual treatment expenses incurred, while lost wages paid are typically two-thirds of your average gross weekly wage. In most cases, this payment can continue for up to 520 weeks but is limited by your capacity to return to work, even partially.
A Personal Injury claim differs from Workers Compensation in two important ways. First, it can only be applied if someone other than the injured person did something wrong, resulting in the injury. Second, in most instances the only limitations on compensation are defined by the award or settlement of the case. Recovery in personal injury cases can include compensation for “pain and suffering”, loss of enjoyment of life, as well as punitive damages if gross or intentional, wrongful conduct can be proven. Successful personal injury cases can result in compensation well above the million dollar range depending on the injury, as well as the level of wrongdoing.
When a person is injured on the job, and the injury is caused by someone other than a co-worker, a personal injury case can be filed concurrently (together) with a workers’ compensation claim. The workers’ compensation claim is filed against the employer, but the personal injury claim will not be filed against your employer. It will be filed against the person or company that caused the injury. For example, if you are driving a delivery truck while working and are hit by another vehicle that ran a red light, you may claim Workers Compensation from your employer and you may also file a personal injury case against the driver of the other vehicle. The difficulty with Personal Injury cases is that negligence or some other “mistake” or wrongful conduct by another person must be proven. Without such proof, a personal injury award cannot be given.
Talk with us at Irwin & Morris if you have been injured on the job and are unsure how to proceed in order to receive compensation. We will provide you with a free initial consultation to evaluate your case. We can help you to move your case forward regardless of which option that you should choose, so that your primary focus will be on your recovery.
After your injury, your employer or insurance company might tell you that you must see a specific doctor or other health care provider. Often they send you to their “company” health clinic because they hope their doctors will appreciate the business, and in turn cooperate with their efforts to keep worker’s compensation costs down.
What the employer or insurance representative usually do not tell you is that the workers’ compensation law in Maine only gives them control over your care for the first 10 days after you begin treatment for your injury. After that, you are entitled to select your medical providers without interference from your employer or the insurance company. Additionally, even during this 10-day period you may go to a doctor or provider you choose; however, you might be held responsible for the bills for that 10 days of treatment.
The employers and insurers use their control over the first 10 days of treatment as a way to start the process with doctors and clinics of their choosing, and often the injured worker simply keeps treating with those same providers. This is exactly one of the goals the employers or insurers are trying to achieve.
We at Irwin & Morris strongly advise our clients to be wary of such tactics. We encourage clients to seek care from your trusted primary care physician or other medical professionals that have no connection to your employer or the workers’ compensation insurer.
It is vital to both your workers’ compensation case and to your own recovery that you obtain excellent and unbiased medical care. To that end, often employer-directed care is not in your best interest.
All too often a worker is injured only to suffer the further insult of having their employer or supervisor bullying them in hopes that the worker will abandon their Workers’ Compensation claim. This bullying can take many forms including ignoring work restrictions, implying that the worker is “faking” or exaggerating the injury, suddenly changing work hours, spreading rumors, filing false disciplinary actions, or even firing the worker.
This harassment results in further stress, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorders. The bullied worker often feels helpless in the face of this onslaught by management. This bullying is a violation of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act and should not be allowed to go unchallenged. While discrimination is often difficult to demonstrate - you can greatly aid your case by following four steps.
1. Keep a notebook that documents every instance of bullying - for example write down every conversation or action taken by your boss that discriminates against you. (Be sure to list the date, time and anyone else who heard or saw the discriminatory act.)
2. Clearly present to your boss or Human Resource person your work restrictions - these should be provided to you by your doctor and are on a one page “M-1 form.”
3. Get a copy of your personnel file - you are legally entitled to your file and having a copy will help assure that your employer does not add false complaints or disciplinary actions.
4. If the bullying does not end, or if you suspect that you could be fired or let go from your job, you need to contact a lawyer immediately.
The Workers’ Compensation Board can award you back wages, reinstate fringe benefits, help you get your job back, and gain payment of your attorney fees if your case is successful.
Maine law prohibits texting while driving. This means that the driver of a vehicle cannot use their cell phone for text communication (text messages, email) while they are behind the wheel. The reason for this law is to improve traffic safety – texting while driving has been cited by Maine State Troopers as being a preventable cause of accidents and distracted driving.
“Texting” has become one of the largest uses of cell phones in the last few years, especially among the younger population. Beyond the physical distractions of texting, the instant nature of responding to or writing a text message can take away from the alertness of a driver. A driver 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident while texting.
The imposed fine is $250. Subsequent violations could result in increased fines and penalties as well as license suspension. Signals that a driver is texting while driving include:
• Head bobbing
• Delayed reaction to traffic signals
• Eye gaze looking down
• Body position
Similarly, if you receive a text message and are trying to read it while you are driving, you could be fined for it. All of these efforts are designed to remove distractions that drivers in Maine are facing. With the popularity of cell phones, particularly smart phones, it is easier for drivers to think that they can just quickly check. All digital devices fall under the umbrella of this law – iPads, Blackberries, Kindles, etc.
When technology brought us the cell phone, we marveled at how innovative it was going to make our lives. It seemed as if life couldn’t get any better- until texting was invented. But now, all of the convenience is lost on the fact that people are being injured and killed at an alarming rate from texting while driving. Does this make talking on a cellphone while driving safer? Not really.
Whether you are talking while driving or texting, it still falls under the category of being a “distracted driver”. What does this category mean? Distracted drivers are made up of different types including those who text or talk on cell phones, eat or commit any other action that diverts attention away from the road.
According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were almost 33,000 automobile fatalities last year- not to mention injuries. Each day, more than 15 people are killed and another 1,200 injured on our highways because of a distracted driver.
Statistic show that people who text while driving take their eyes off of the road 400 times more than a driver who is not using a cell phone. That means that during drive time, their eyes are off of the road for 4.6 out of every 6 seconds. But drivers are not only texting, but dialing numbers, answering phone calls, checking voicemail and searching on the Internet.
Anything that take your eyes off of the road is a distraction. Science shows us that there are three main forms of distraction:
• Manual distraction, which means that you physically remove your hands from the wheel for various reasons
• Visual distraction, which involves taking your eyes off of the road
• Cognitive distraction, which means that you are not concentrating on what you are currently doing. In this case, it refers to driving.
Any time you practice one of these forms of distraction, you are creating a dangerous situation for yourself, anyone else who is in the car with you and anyone on the road near you. Your action is putting all of those lives in jeopardy.
Now, consider texting while driving. This is the most dangerous of scenarios because it incorporates all three forms of distraction. But so does talking on a cell phone. This is why talking and texting are no different. Each takes your hands away from the wheel, takes your eyes off of the road and focuses your attention onto something other than driving.
While talking on a phone might not take your eyes from the road for as long as texting, it is still as dangerous since an accident only needs a split second in order to occur. Traveling at 60 miles per hour means that for every second your eyes are off of the road, you travel an extra 88 feet. A lot can happen in 88 feet.
Since texting while driving takes your eyes off the road 400 times as much as an undistracted driver, even if cell phones were only one-fourth as bad, that’s still 100 times more than it should occur.