Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How to Reduce Workplace Injuries

Always avoid problems with construction site accidents.

Since construction work involves physical labor you will be unable to perform any work if you are injured. This is why if you work on a construction site then you want to avoid unnecessary injuries. While it is impossible to develop any strategy to avoid injury (After all, no one can foretell the future), there is a two step process for safety: the employees must do their part and management must do its part.

The employee's part involves examine all equipment prior to use. Whether you are using a ladder or a nail gun, it is critical to examine such equipment for any flaws or potential problems. Often, when someone is in a rush to get a job completed there is a propensity to cut corners. Sometimes, this lack of foresight can occur without incident but in other situations cutting corners could lead to a number of problems. Sure, you might be able to save five minutes by not examining that ladder but that five minutes may prove very costly if it turns out to be defective. Really, do you really want a fall from a ladder? Always take the extra steps necessary to examine all equipment.

Management's part involves maintaining a safe work environment. Then, there are those unfortunate incidents where the management of the construction site has created a number of hazards. Management may feel that maintaining proper safety on a construction site is a needless cost. While it definitely does cost more money to maintain proper safety than it would to ignore workplace hazards, such diligence can save lives. This is why management of the site must maintain a safe working environment. If they do not and employees are injured then the employees would have a solid case for a construction site accident lawsuit. Of course, in order to file such a suit the employee(s) would need access to a solid attorney.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries

Concussions are major forms of brain injuries.

When you suffer impact to your head you may experience the most common traumatic brain injury in the form of a concussion. A concussion is a type of bruising on the brain that is often very serious. Yet, there are those who do not take concussions seriously. Depending upon the type of work they do they might assume that concussions are a part of the job. Boxers or stuntmen, for example, expect a certain number of concussions throughout the course of their career. Often, it will be the employer who will encourage further risky behavior. Obviously, this is most definitely not a good thing.

Suffering one concussion is bad enough. Suffering numerous concussions over a period of time can be downright devastating to a person's mental health. Anyone who has followed the news over the past year is probably familiar with the infamous Chris Benoit murder case. Benoit, a former professional wrestler, killed himself and his family in a fit of rage. An autopsy revealed that he had suffered multiple concussions over the years and this led to the degeneration of his mental faculties. If nothing else, the Benoit case shows the extreme danger inherent with not properly treating instances of repeated concussions. Also, the Benoit case shows the negligence inherent with his employer to encouraged activities that increase the potential for suffering further concussions.

If an employer has repeatedly places you in a situation where you suffer concussions then you may be able to seek civil damages against the employer. If the employer has threatened to fire you if you do not continue with the risky behavior this could even further strengthen a liability case. However, in order to ascertain whether or not the case has merit it becomes important to discuss the particulars of the traumatic brain injury case with a qualified attorney. A qualified attorney would be one who has a strong background in traumatic brain injury lawsuits. Such an attorney would understand the nuances associated with such litigation as well as the proper way to move forward with such a case.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What’s At Stake in La-Z-Boy Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

LawyersAndSettlements.com has an interview with attorney Lauren Scholnick, whose firm is representing former furniture plant employees in a wrongful termination suit against La-Z-Boy. They are seeking class action status. Scholnick’s clients have alleged that La-Z-Boy had a pattern of firing employees who filed workers’ compensation claims. In most states, such retaliation is prohibited by law, but in Utah, where the suit was filed, there’s no such protection. It’s also interesting to note that La-Z-Boy was self-insured and did not participate in the state workers’ compensation pool, giving the company additional incentive to reduce it workers’ compensation costs.

Scholnick outlines some of the facts of the La-Z-Boy wrongful termination lawsuit in her Q&A with the Web site:

    Scholnick describes the La-Z-Boy case, Touchard v La-Z-Boy, first filed in 2004, as "sort of monumental for Utah workers in a bunch of ways. It's a wrongful termination case; most employees are protected from retaliation under state statute—they can't be fired, treated badly or demoted for using workers' compensation. In Utah, we didn't have any such protections under state statute, and up until La-Z-Boy there hadn't been a tort case establishing a protection from retaliation under common law."

    The case centers on wrongful termination of workers at the La-Z-Boy recliner plant in Tremonton, Utah, who had filed for workers' compensation for work-related injuries. Scholnick says, "The plant had 1000 employees and almost all of them had had some sort of injury—the plant was not very mechanized, so there was a lot of heavy lifting of mattresses and so on, a lot of repetitive stapling and sewing, and a lot of repetitive stress injuries…

    "There are a few different aspects to the remedy we're seeking—the first is to reopen the workers' compensation claims for the people who were denied treatment, benefits, or payouts because they were discouraged or terminated. That's an equitable remedy that will require re-examination of the claims, and the judge could handle it in different ways.

    "Because it's a wrongful termination case, we're entitled to tort remedies, so we were seeking back pay, reinstatement and back pay, or reinstatement and front pay. However, we just found out that La-Z-Boy is closing the plant in June, which makes reinstatement and front pay both impossible. So since La-Z-Boy has cut off front pay and reinstatement, what they'd be entitled to is back pay damages and punitive damages, as well as attorneys' fees and costs."


You can read more of the interview at LawyersAndSettlements.com

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Massachusetts man denied workers’ comp after falling asleep at the wheel


Car accidents are the most common cause of workplace injuries, but sometimes these types of workers’ compensation claims aren’t as clear cut as they would seem, as a recent case in Massachusetts proves.


A Big Dig employee, driving home after a 27-hour shift, fell asleep at the wheel and was injured. He filed for workers’ compensation benefits, arguing that he had been ordered to work beyond his normal shift and therefore should be covered by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act. Normally, car accidents that happen when employees are going to or coming for work are not covered under workers’ compensation.

In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the employee had not proven that he was ordered to work his regular shift and was not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

"We need not decide in this case whether a requirement by an employer that an
employee work overtime to such an extent that the employee's trip home is made
substantially more hazardous can give rise to a compensable injury," Chief
Justice Margaret H. Marshall wrote for the court. "[H]ere the employee has not
met his burden to show that he was required by his employer to work beyond his
usual shift."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Returning to Work After a Back Injury

Can education efforts help injured workers return to their jobs quicker? A new study seems to indicate that.

Here’s more on it from the Compensation Advantage blog:

    A recent study in the February 2008 Physical Therapy Journal, “Effects of Education on Return-to-Work Status for People With Fear-Avoidance Beliefs and Acute Low Back Pain” examined two groups of workers who were unable to return to work following a work-related episode of low back pain and who exhibited fear-avoidance beliefs. Both groups received conventional physical therapy intervention. One group also was given education and counseling on pain management tactics and the value of physical activity and exercise.

    The effectiveness of the education and counseling was measured by the number of days it took people to return to work without restrictions. All participants in the education group returned to regular work duties within 45 days, whereas one-third of the other group were still off work at 45 days. The study concludes, “Education and counseling regarding pain management, physical activity, and exercise can reduce the number of days off work in people with fear-avoidance beliefs and acute low back pain.”

Friday, September 5, 2008

California Workers Try to Regain Lost Workers’ Comp Benefits

Workers’ compensation reform is on the agenda again in California as injured workers try to regain some of the rights and coverage they lost after the passage of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reform package in 2004. Injured workers in the state are asking lawmakers to increase the benefits available for people who are permanently disabled as the result of a workplace injury. California now has the fourth lowest payout rate for permanently disabled workers,

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, in his third attempt to help injured workers, is pushing legislation, Senate Bill 1717. While Schwarzenegger’s reform packaged reduced workers’ compensation insurance rates to $3 per $100 in payroll, it has done so at the expense of injured workers. Since 2004, disability benefits have plummeted by 50 percent to 70 percent.

The difference in benefits available to injured workers in California and to those in other states is dramatic:
In one example, taken from a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a
worker who lost an ear at work in California would have received an average of
$5,280, but a peer in Oregon would have gotten $100,310; in Arizona, $26,400;
and in Washington, $12,685.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Texas No Longer Requires Approved Doctors

Used to be that injured workers who were collecting workers’ compensation benefits in Texas had to be treated by doctors on a state-approved list or that had received training through the state. But that list is history and other states that have approved doctors lists ought to consider getting rid of theirs, too, to allow injured workers more control over their own healthcare.

The Texas Department of Insurance however still requires doctors to “disclose financial interest in other providers, practitioners, and facilities,” according to Albert Betts,

Commissioner of Workers' Compensation, a division of the Texas Department of Insurance.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Workers’ compensation denials in North Dakota Point To Systemic Problem

A consultant has recommended that the people who handle workers’ compensation claims in North Dakota should be allowed more discretion in deciding whether injured workers qualify for benefits. After reviewing workers’ compensation case files, Marsh USA determined that 14 percent of people who were denied workers’ comp benefits in North Dakota should have received them. A majority of those denied claims involved pre-existing conditions that became worse as a result of the employee’s job.

    “We felt those claims could have been accepted based on our opinion,” [consultant Anthony] Walker said.

    Several states have laws that give claims handlers more discretion in deciding claims involving pre-existing conditions, within certain parameters, he added…

    The discussion about how much discretion claims handlers should have came as injured workers testified about their experiences with what they portrayed as a bureaucracy that could be indifferent or even adversarial when dealing with their disability benefits. A common theme involved workers’ criticism of the agency’s reliance on so-called independent medical examiners who recommended denying their benefits based on incomplete medical information and cursory examinations that contradicted the advice of their treating physicians.


The consultant’s report is adding fuel to many workers’ assertion that the workers’ compensation system in North Dakota should be reformed.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Insurance Company Reverses Decision About Workers’ Comp Benefits for Sick Meatpacking Employees


A bit of good news from the world of workers’ compensation – an insurance company has switched its position on claims filed by employees of a Minnesota meatpacking plant and will now pay them benefits.

Here’s the story: At least 18 employees of Quality Pork Processors plant in Austin, Minn., came down with a mysterious neurological illness. Several employees who applied for workers’ compensation benefits were denied, and at least 11 employees, filed a lawsuit seeking medical care, lost wages and other workers’ compensation benefits. Now it seems that everyone who got sick, including those who were denied worker’s compensation, will be covered by after all.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Workers’ Comp Rates in Massachusetts Could Drop in September

Employers in Massachusetts, who were facing a 2.3 percent increase in their workers’ compensation insurance premiums, will actually be getting a price break in the fall. As in most states, employers in Massachusetts are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to provide medical care, coverage for lost wages and other benefits for workers who are injured on the job.

An insurance industry trade group had requested a rate hike, but the state’s attorney general intervened. If the state’s insurance commissioner approves the new rate, Massachusetts businesses will pay 1 percent less for workers’ compensation insurance in September. That’s a $30 million savings across the board.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Workers’ Comp for the Self-Employed?

What protections and insurance coverage are available to self-employed people who are injured on the job?

Karen E. Klein, who writes for Business Week, tackles that complicated subject in her Smart Answers column. The short answer is that workers’ compensation insurance is typically not available to sole proprietors and even if it were, most would find it too costly. A health or disability insurance policy, when written the right way, can provide protection for self-employed people who are injured at work.

    A self-employed person is more likely to find coverage for serious injuries by purchasing an individual insurance plan (BusinessWeek.com, 5/16/07) that includes both medical and disability insurance. However, there are a couple of wrinkles your members could face trying to get disability insurance.

    One is that both disability insurance and health insurance normally exclude work-related injuries and illnesses under the assumption those problems will be covered by workers' comp. "If a self-employed person was using this coverage for work injuries and illnesses, that exclusion would need to be removed, which will increase their cost," Klein says.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Many N.J. Workers’ Comp Judges Owe Their Jobs To Political Favors

In its excellent series on the problem-ridden workers’ compensation system in New Jersey, the Star-Ledger examines how the process of politically appointing workers’ comp judges creates conflicts of interest and puts unqualified people in these important jobs.

The system is populated by jurists whose résumés often include past political appointments or elected office but thin trial experience. It also includes attorneys and insurance consultants who rank among the state's prolific campaign donors.

That political mix also casts a shadow in the Statehouse, where lawmakers routinely consider measures that would either boost workers' benefits or limit expenses for compensation carriers. Some of those same lawmakers run private law firms that earn tens of thousands of dollars representing insurers in comp court.

A Star-Ledger analysis of more than 117,000 workers' comp cases pending in 2007 found 469 cases in which insurance companies were represented by law firms whose principals were related to sitting compensation judges. And 606 more cases involved firms owned by county political chairs.

The article points out how much power workers’ compensation judges hold with relatively little oversight. Arguably, the rulings that they make are as important as those that any judge in any courtroom in the state makes, but much of what workers’ comp judges do occurs in closed-door mediations. What’s more, there are no juries in workers’ comp cases, though decisions, if appealed can be reviewed by a higher court.

They are asked to decide the truth, recommend a settlement or set a fair price for a severed limb or damaged spine.

The fact that workers’ comp judges in New Jersey are politically appointed isn’t in itself a cause for concerns. Many other judges in the state are appointed, but in every case, those candidates are vetted by the state bar to ensure that they are qualified. There’s no similar vetting process for workers’ comp judges.

This lack of screening was a concern as far back as 1974 when the State Commission of Investigation found that the selection process resulted too often in workers' comp judges who were "unoutstanding," appointed largely because of political pedigrees.

In a 300-page report, the SCI recommended the bar association review nominees and that its recommendations "be heavily considered in the interest of obtaining high quality and competence in the workers compensation judicuiary."
And while other states have checks and balances to ensure that workers’ compensation judges are qualified, competent and performing their jobs correctly, New Jersey has none.

As the Star-Ledger reporters revealed, New Jersey workers’ compensation judges often rule in cases where there’s a clear conflict of interest. The newspaper found hundreds of instances where judges heard cases in which their former law partners were representing the employer or insurance company. That seems a clear conflict of interest that would require the judge to recuse himself or herself, but that rarely, if ever, happens in New Jersey.

Florida law requires its comp court judges to have experience practicing workers' compensation law and to win approval from a statewide nominating commission. Then they face re-evaluation by the commission every four years. In Massachusetts, two advisory councils review and rate candidates for the workers' comp bench.

Nebraska residents vote to keep or remove their comp judges every six years. In Minnesota, a special commission compiles evaluations of judges on topics ranging from fairness to knowledge of the law, then publishes its results.

In Michigan, a Qualifications Advisory Committee comprised of workers and employers reviews comp judges every four years. Some fail to win reappointment. All are limited to no more than 12 years on the bench.

New Jersey's process is less complicated -- and less transparent.

Workers' comp judges in the Garden State get lifetime postings that now pay $140,000 a year. The appointees rarely are scrutinized, instead they typically end up as a line item awaiting approval by the Senate, one of many nominations the governor's office sends in batches.

As the Star-Ledger reporters revealed, New Jersey workers’ compensation judges often rule in cases where there’s a clear conflict of interest. The newspaper found hundreds of instances where judges heard cases in which their former law partners were representing the employer or insurance company. That seems a clear conflict of interest that would require the judge to recuse himself or herself, but that rarely, if ever, happens in New Jersey.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Improving Construction Safety in Illinois

The Illinois building industry is up in arms over proposed legislation that would allow construction workers who are injured during falls from scaffolding, ladders and other heights to sue other contractors on the job site for not doing anything to prevent their injuries.

Rep. John Fritchey has proposed an amendment to House Bill 2094 that would create the Construction Safety Act. If passed, the legislation would essentially reinstate the Structural Work Act (SWA), which held construction companies and contractors responsible for creating safe working environments on their job sites.

The SWA allowed injured construction workers to file suit “against each party involved in the project, including owners, suppliers, contractors, subcontractors and designers” and to recover damages for those injuries if they could prove that those other parties should have known dangerous or unsafe working conditions existed.

Speaking out against the proposed legislation, the Alliance to Help Employment and Development (AHEAD) has argued the Construction Safety Act is rife with problems. Among them:

  • Threatens Illinois jobs: Reinstating SWA will increase construction costs, including insurance rates, and stifle private investment and public works projects, costing the state tax revenue, jobs and economic growth.
  • Costs to consumers: According to a study prepared by the Watson-Wyatt Group in 1998, it was conservatively estimated that SWA cost Illinois employers approximately $170 million a year in insurance costs and the legal fees alone related to defending third-party suits. These costs are passed on to Illinois consumers.
  • Workers’ right to sue already exists: Injured workers under current law have adequate remedies to pursue through Illinois’ workers’ compensation system, a no-fault remedy for workplace injuries and through common law in which workers may sue contractors for negligence.
  • No increase in worker safety: The passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act by Congress in 1970 ushered in a new era of jobsite safety, with detailed standards and effective methods of enforcement. According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, Illinois’ overall worker-injury rate decreased 53 percent between 1991 and 2003. The state maintains the 10th-lowest injury rate in the country.

Illinois Deserves the Truth tells another side of the story:

  • Construction work is a dangerous job. Each year in Illinois significantly more construction workers die or get injured than policemen, firemen and other public safety employees combined. Between 2005 and 2006 there were 66 construction workers deaths in Illinois compared to nine deaths of police and fire department personnel.
  • Construction worker safety is further exacerbated by the lack of oversight by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • Notoriously understaffed and without enough resources, OSHA is utterly unable to stop even egregious violations. If OSHA were to inspect all of the Illinois construction sites at current inspection levels it would take them 121 years to complete. This statistic has not improved under the current administration as funding continues to be cut in areas like worker safety and health training and education programs.

It is important to note that injured construction workers in Illinois are still eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits when they’re hurt on the job, regardless of what happens with the proposed Construction Safety Act. Their right to sue third parties who had some fault in their injury also is protected, even if the Act doesn’t pass.

For more information on how the repeal of the Structural Work Act has impacted construction safety in Illinois, check out the Center for Justice & Democracy study on the issue.

Building Illinois has more information on the other side of the argument – that the Construction Safety Act is a bad idea.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Workers’ Compensation for Work-Related Depression and Anxiety?

A United Airlines employee who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety as a result of her job was not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, according to a recent ruling by the California Court of Appeals. Essentially, “her own behavior invited the problems she encountered,” the court ruled

The case of Verga v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board is quite interesting:
    [The plaintiff] had some friction with her co-workers and asked her supervisor to hold a staff meeting to discuss the issues. She believed that the employees were resisting her directives and her objective at the meeting was to have her supervisor explain her authority and be harsh and direct with the others. The meeting, though, didn't go as she had planned. When the issue of respect came up, she grabbed a dictionary to look up the definition. The employees reacted …by airing their feelings that she was rude, inflexible, and a perfectionist. [The woman] later described the meeting as "the worst trial in the history of America." Shortly afterwards, she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression resulting from the trauma of negative interactions with her co-workers and supervisor--and she filed a workers' comp claim for psychiatric injury.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Understanding How Workers’ Compensation Works

What is workers’ compensation? How did the system begin? And how does it work?

The Star-Ledger in New Jersey provides an excellent basic explanation of workers’ compensation as part of its series on how the system works and often fails injured workers.

The newspaper primer is reprinted here:

WHAT IT IS: Workers' compensation is a no-fault insurance program that pays
benefits to employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses.

WHO IS COVERED: Workers' comp covers every employee in New Jersey,
including those who are in the country illegally. Every state but Texas mandates
that employers provide some form of compensation insurance for their workers.

HOW IT WORKS: An injured worker files a claim and, with input or
direction from his employer or its insurer, receives medical treatment and
salary replacement until he can return to the job. If the injury is permanent,
the insurer compensates the worker for the loss.

If both sides disagree on the facts of the injury, terms of treatment or the amount of compensation, the case goes to workers' compensation court, where a judge mediates a settlement or presides over a trial and determines an award. In exchange for these benefits, the worker cannot bring a civil action against the employer for pain and
suffering or other damages, except in cases of intentional acts. Each state
devises and administers its own workers' compensation program.

CLAIMS: About 120,000 claims are filed each year by New Jersey
workers. Most are resolved quickly, but those that aren't -- roughly 40,000 a
year -- end up in comp court.

AMOUNT OF PAYMENT: Workers who are disabled, whether temporarily or permanently, receive 70 percent of the state average weekly wage for their profession, or a maximum of $732, according to 2008 rates. For partial disability, the amount depends on the type and severity of the injury.

WHO RUNS IT: The New Jersey Division of Workers'
Compensation, which is part of the state Department of Labor and Workforce
Development. Cases are heard by about 45 judges in 15 locations around the
state. Overall, the division employs 170 people with an annual budget of $23.7
million.

HISTORY: Workers' compensation traces its roots to the
Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s in the United States. As factories
multiplied, so too did the number of plant accidents and lawsuits. Cases clogged
the civil courts, and neither side benefited. Injured laborers languished
without income; employers battled costly litigation and uneven justice.
Comp systems were designed to bring both sides to a quick resolution, giving workers a stream of money, establishing uniformity in settlements and arbitration. New Jersey set up its framework in 1911. By the late 1940s, every state had workers' compensation laws.

THE BIG PLAYERS: New Jersey Manufacturers,
created by industrialists in 1913, remains the state's largest workers'
compensation insurer, with nearly a quarter of the market. Six companies follow:
Liberty Mutual, Travelers, Hartford, AIG, Zurich and Selective. Together they
represent more than half the market. About 385 other companies make up the rest.

PREMIUMS: Insurers in New Jersey collected $1.8 billion in
premiums in 2006, or $500 million more than they took in five years earlier,
according to state records.

WHO SETS THE RATES: Insurers help set their industry's premiums each year through a state agency called the Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau. Each October, the bureau's governing committee, elected by the insurers, votes on a recommended premium rate, which must be approved by the state insurance commissioner.

Please note that workers’ compensation benefits and rules vary from state to state. But the New Jersey example provides a good overview of how things work. Consult your state’s workers’ comp board or Industrial Commission or a workers’ comp attorney to find out how things work where you live.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

People Don’t Know Much About Disability, Workers’ Comp Benefits

Most people think that workers’ compensation and Social Security disability will protect them and provide for them if they are injured at work or become unable to work because of a disability. But that faith may be misplaced.

A new poll conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) reveals that “most baby boomers overestimate the breadth and depth of the public safety net available for workers who suffer a disability. Baby boomers believe public programs provide disability benefits to more people than they actually do and most overestimate the amount of benefits available.”

AHIP is using these survey results to pitch disability insurance. But that’s beside the point. This survey does highlight the difference between perceived and actual benefits available to disabled workers and injured workers under the various state workers’ compensation programs and the federal Social Security Disability system.

Among the survey findings:

  • Nearly half of baby boomers believe incorrectly that a working adult would qualify for SSDI benefits if he or she were unable to work at their current job, but could still work at another job that pays less money.
  • More than a third of baby boomers believe a worker is qualified if he or she can work no more than twenty hours a week
  • One in four say they do not know what the qualifications are. (In reality, workers are only eligible for SSDI benefits if they are unable to do any work for which they would earn $1,000 or more per month.)
  • Only one in five baby boomers correctly estimated the average monthly SSDI benefit for a disabled worker to be about $1,000 a month.
  • Eighteen percent overestimated the benefit and a significant number of baby boomers (43 percent) said they did not know how much the average monthly SSDI benefit was.
  • Many baby boomers believe people can qualify for workers' comp benefits if they suffer a disability that prevents them from working at their previous job (26 percent), forces them to work at a job that pays less than their current job (10 percent), or if they can only work part-time (9 percent).
  • 36 percent did not know how much of their current income Workers' Compensation benefits would replace and one in five surveyed overestimated benefits. (Workers’ comp generally pays about two-thirds of an injured worker's wages.)
  • 34 percent underestimated how long it takes to begin receiving Social Security disability benefits. (The current wait is about 500 days or 17 months, and many people are denied benefits repeatedly and must wait much longer before receiving any disability payments.)

A summary of survey results is available here and the survey questionnaire is also online.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Injured Workers Aren’t Bilking the System

The bloggers at Compensation Advantage address the issue of workers’ compensation fraud and the long-perpetuated “Myth of the Bad Employee.”

They make the argument that we’ve made before that employees who are collecting workers’ compensation are not “faking it” or “milking the system.” Most importantly, they argue that injured workers aren’t the ones driving up the cost of workers’ compensation insurance. It’s good to hear another perspective on this issue.

The bloggers also argue that employers who make injured workers out to be “villains” may be responsible for longer absences from work.

Harboring feelings that injured employees are the “villains,” the employer focuses on resolving the resulting production issues and has little or no contact with them. The injured workers’ sense of self worth and identity spirals downward and animosity and distrust build. Litigation begins to look like the only available alternative.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Workers’ Comp Costs Rising is Pennsylvania

Another study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) shows that workers’ compensation costs per claim in Pennsylvania grew rapidly in 2005 and 2006.

The average total cost of claims filed by employees who missed more than seven days of work grew at a rate of 6 percent to 10 percent. The study compared Pennsylvania to 14 other states.

Total costs per claim in Pennsylvania were fairly typical of the 14 study states. This result, however, masked several offsetting factors. On the one hand, medical payments per claim with more than seven days of lost time were lower than the 14-state median and more workers returned to work in a week or less than in many other study states. On the other hand, compared to the median study state, Pennsylvania had higher indemnity benefits per claim with more than seven days of lost time and higher litigation-related expenses.

The study reported that medical payments per claim with more than seven days of lost time in Pennsylvania were 12 percent lower than the median of the study states for 2003 claims evaluated in 2006.

Another WCRI study found that the main reasons for the lower medical costs per claim were lower-than-typical prices paid for some services, physician visits that were less resource intensive, and hospital inpatient and outpatient costs per claim that were much lower than typical.

However, the average indemnity benefit per claim with more than seven days of lost time in Pennsylvania was 19 percent higher than the median of the 14 study states in 2003/2006 claims. This result, in part, reflects some characteristics of the Pennsylvania wage-loss benefit system.

The average expense of delivering indemnity and medical benefits to injured workers in Pennsylvania rose 10 percent in 2005/2006. During the whole study period, benefit delivery expenses per claim grew rapidly (9-15 percent per year), driven primarily by increases in medical cost containment expenses per claim.

The average benefit delivery expense per claim in Pennsylvania was 22 percent higher than the typical study state for 2003/2006 claims with more than seven days of lost time and expenses, a result driven mainly by higher litigation-related expenses per claim.

The study noted that Pennsylvania was not among the most litigious states. However, defense attorney payments per claim were 34 percent higher than the 14-state median for 2003/2006 claims, suggesting a somewhat more expensive and perhaps more complex dispute resolution process.

The study also found there was little recent change in Pennsylvania workers compensation in the speed of the first indemnity payment. The percentage of claims with more than seven days of lost time that were paid within 21 days of injury remained stable in 2005/2006.

For more information on the other states studied by the WCRI, visit www.wcrinet.org

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Protecting Vegas Construction Workers is Government’s Business, NY Mayor Says

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a call to action to government officials in Las Vegas and in the state of Nevada that they’re responsible for ensuring that workers remain safe on the job.

In the past 17 months, 10 construction workers have died while working on projects along the famed Las Vegas strip.

Two months ago, after a string of tragic construction fatalities shook New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave an address to the city’s building inspectors.

“Your job is to save lives,” Bloomberg said. “That means that it’s your duty to make sure that anyone reporting to any construction job ... shouldn’t have to worry about going home safely that night.

“And let me make it as clear as I can: Simply shrugging your shoulders and saying, ‘Well, after all, construction work is a dangerous occupation,’ is behavior that will not be tolerated from anyone.”

In Clark County, where 10 construction workers have died in accidents on the Las Vegas Strip in the past 17 months, no one has uttered words as forceful as Bloomberg’s. But last week, local officials did begin to question whether government could do more to protect workers. New York City is one place they can look for answers.

Nail Technicians are Employees, Not Independent Contractors

A group of nail salons in Sacramento, Calif., were fined recently for not carrying workers’ compensation insurance on nail technicians. The salons classified the manicurists as independent contractors, but under state law they are clearly employees.

I’d venture that this is happening in states other state in nail salons, hair salons and other service-related industries.

Here’s the low-down on the situation in California, from the Sacramento Bee:

In recent sweeps of 17 beauty and nail salons in Sacramento, the state Division
of Labor Standards and Enforcement issued 16 citations to shop owners for
illegally classifying workers as independent contractors.

The DLSE
fined employers $1,000 for each employee not covered by workers' compensation
insurance and additional penalties for cash payment of wages without proper
documentation of withheld taxes and other deductions. In Sacramento County, the
fines totaled $61,000.

The DLSE carried out the two-day enforcement
raids in nine other counties in Northern California and the Bay Area, including
Placer County.

Labor Commissioner Angela Bradstreet said labeling
workers independent contractors allows employers to avoid payroll
taxes.

"It goes directly to the underground economy, and it gives
employers who are not complying with the law an unfair competitive advantage
over someone who is complying with the law," Bradstreet said.

In
addition, workers do not receive the benefits and labor protections that they
would be entitled to under state laws, she said.

Workers classified
as "employees" are protected by minimum wage law and laws mandating breaks,
workers' compensation, unemployment insurance, disability insurance and Social
Security.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Workers’ Comp Costs Rising is Pennsylvania

Another study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) shows that workers’ compensation costs per claim in Pennsylvania grew rapidly in 2005 and 2006.

The average total cost of claims filed by employees who missed more than seven days of work grew at a rate of 6 percent to 10 percent. The study compared Pennsylvania to 14 other states.

Total costs per claim in Pennsylvania were fairly typical of the 14 study states. This result, however, masked several offsetting factors. On the one hand, medical payments per claim with more than seven days of lost time were lower than the 14-state median and more workers returned to work in a week or less than in many other study states. On the other hand, compared to the median study state, Pennsylvania had higher indemnity benefits per claim with more than seven days of lost time and higher litigation-related expenses.

The study reported that medical payments per claim with more than seven days of lost time in Pennsylvania were 12 percent lower than the median of the study states for 2003 claims evaluated in 2006.

Another WCRI study found that the main reasons for the lower medical costs per claim were lower-than-typical prices paid for some services, physician visits that were less resource intensive, and hospital inpatient and outpatient costs per claim
that were much lower than typical.

However, the average indemnity benefit per claim with more than seven days of lost time in Pennsylvania was 19 percent higher than the median of the 14 study states in 2003/2006 claims. This result, in part, reflects some characteristics of the Pennsylvania wage-loss benefit system.

The average expense of delivering indemnity and medical benefits to injured workers in Pennsylvania rose 10 percent in 2005/2006. During the whole study period, benefit delivery expenses per claim grew rapidly (9-15 percent per year), driven primarily by increases in medical cost containment expenses per claim.

The average benefit delivery expense per claim in Pennsylvania was 22 percent higher than the typical study state for 2003/2006 claims with more than seven days of lost time and expenses, a result driven mainly by higher litigation-related expenses per claim.

The study noted that Pennsylvania was not among the most litigious states. However, defense attorney payments per claim were 34 percent higher than the 14-state median for 2003/2006 claims, suggesting a somewhat more expensive and perhaps more complex dispute resolution process.

The study also found there was little recent change in Pennsylvania in the speed of the first indemnity payment. The percentage of claims with more than seven days of lost time that were paid within 21 days of injury remained stable in 2005/2006.

For more information on the other states studied by the WCRI, visit http://www.wcrinet.org/.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Jersey to Address Workers’ Compensation Backlog

In response to a series of newspaper articles from the Star-Ledger in New Jersey that revealed many injured workers are waiting years for their workers’ compensation benefits because of delays, politics and poor state oversight, the state Senate will take up the issue. A special hearing is scheduled in May before the New Jersey Senate Labor Committee.

"It's appropriate to take a close look at the workers' compensation system to see whether it can be made more efficient," said State Sen. Paul Sarlo. "The recent media focus on the system gives us a chance to see if we can make it a better, fairer program so nobody falls through the cracks."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Workplace Deaths Among Hispanics Reach All-Time High

In 2006, 937 Hispanic workers died on the job.

Hispanics are more likely to be killed on the job than workers of any other ethnic group, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hispanic worker fatalities accounted for 16 percent of the 5,703 total fatal work injuries. That equates to 4.7 fatalities per 100,000 Hispanic workers, a death rate that is 21 percent higher than for all workers.

According to a recent New York Times article:

Often hired for low-end jobs like construction labor and meatpacking, Hispanic immigrants in the United States die from workplace injuries at a far higher rate than other workers.

In recent years the rate of on-the-job deaths for all Hispanics has been 20 percent higher than for whites or blacks, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found. The death rate for Hispanics in construction, an industry that has hired many immigrants in recent years, is even higher, occupational experts say.

Job safety officials say that Hispanic immigrants, often unskilled and often here illegally, are hired disproportionately into many of the most dangerous jobs, like roofing, fruit picking and taxi driving.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reported carpal tunnel cases on the decline

The number of workers reporting carpal tunnel injuries has declined steeply in recent years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the reasons aren't entirely clear, the number of reported carpal tunnel cases dropped 21 percent in 2006 alone. The number of professional and business service workers reporting a carpal tunnel diagnosis fell by nearly half between 2005 and 2006.

Such numbers have led many doctors to believe that typing and keyboarding aren't as significant factors in carpal tunnel as originally believed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The (Back) Pain of Being a Nurse

Nurses are at high risk for developing back pain or suffering a back injury on the job.

Many people are surprised to learn the nursing is the riskiest occupation for back injuries! In fact, nursing has the second highest incidence of all types of non-fatal work-related injuries in the U.S.A.

Some simple safety measures could reverse this trend:

  • an ergonomic evaluation of patient handling - identification of ergonomic risk factors
  • pilot testing of equipment designed to reduce injury risks, especially in patient transferring activities
  • purchase of new equipment identified as being most effective by the testing
  • train-the-trainer program - in this way trainers can impart their knowledge to others and so on
  • training of 374 nurses and other patient handling staff (approximately one-half of the nursing staff at the hospital).

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Better Option for Disability Benefits?

The National Center for Policy Analysis proposes an alternative to Social Security Disability, which would preserve benefits when disabled people return to work.

Under their proposed plan, instead of paying payroll taxes, workers and their employers would make deposits into a personal account. These accounts would earn interest and could be used to provide disability benefits or retirement benefits.

Researchers ask the question:

What would happen to a 42-year-old American worker if both the employer and employee disability taxes were instead deposited into an individual disability account?

For the answer, check out the NCPA Web site.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kansas Woman Has Been Waiting 8 Years for Disability Benefits

Publicity over the Social Security Disability backlog continues to mount.

It’s no wonder that reporters are attracted to this story because there are so many heartbreaking cases of really sick, disabled people struggling financially while they play the waiting game for Social Security Disability benefits.

If you get sick or hurt so badly that you may never work again, your last, desperate wisp of a safety net — Social Security disability benefits — is horribly tattered.

Apply for benefits now and, if statistical averages hold for the Kansas City area, it may be December 2009 before you see a check. That is if you are among the estimated one in three applicants who gets any money at all.

Vicki Kindred’s story is particularly shocking. The 51-year-old Missouri woman has been trying since May 2000 to win disability benefits after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and other ailments. She made some mistakes in her initial claim, which served to further prolong the process.

Now, Kindred’s husband, Larry, who had a stroke in 2004, is applying for Social Security disability benefits, as well.

You have to wonder whether either of them will ever receive a check.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lack of Insurance, Medical Care May Have Contributed to MS Patient’s Decline

The headline on a recent Wall Street Journal article says it all:

How Government Adds To Ranks of Uninsured

Providing coverage for the uninsured has became a key issue in the presidential race. But as the article explains, the federal government, which outsources service jobs, is adding to the numbers of uninsured in this country.

They are people like Fay Derricotte, a cashier in the cafeteria at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington. She worked for a private contractor that didn’t provide health insurance coverage, and her annual salary – only about $14,500, wasn’t enough for her to buy insurance on her one.

Derricotte, who was laid off from her job, has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and is now confined to a wheelchair. She is unable to work and is collecting Social Security disability benefits and other public assistance.

Her condition is dire, and doctors say that the rapid progression of her disease and the onset of her disability might have been slowed had Derricotte received earlier medical intervention and treatment.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Workers’ Comp Recipients Sometimes First to Go in Layoffs

It’s patently illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who have filed workers’ compensation claims.

But career expert and best-selling author Cynthia Shapiro says companies considering layoffs often target employees who have cost them money or caused an inconvenience.

In fact, that’s number 3 on her list of “danger signs” that employees should consider when trying to figure out if they’ll be among the next round of layoffs.
Are you expensive? Have you cost the company money or created an inconvenience? if you've filed a workers’ compensation claim, reported a sexual harassment issue, made a costly mistake, or went out on maternity or medical leave, you could be at the top of the list when layoffs come calling. Yes, this may be illegal, but it still
happens more often than we'd like to think. Layoffs provide what is often
perceived as a safe opportunity to remove employees who have cost the company
money or inconvenience. Some companies just can't pass up that opportunity.

Shapiro, the author Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You To Know - And What To Do About Them, gives more tips on predicting a layoff before it happens and preparing yourself in a blog at CollegeRecruiter.com.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

8 Workers’ Comp Mistakes That Employers Make

We couldn’t agree more with the writers over at the Workers’ Comp Insider, the blog of Lynch Ryan, who say that workers’ compensation is a people issue, not a financial one.

That sentiment was in response to an American Printer article about the eight mistakes that many companies make when it comes to workers’ compensation.

1) Confusing lower premium rates with cost reductions
2) Becoming complacent
3) Focusing on direct costs only
4) Separating workers compensation from employee retention
5) Measuring the wrong thing
6) Thinking rates will stay low
7) Viewing workers’ comp as an expense
8) Devaluing your relationship with your insurance company or agency

The full article about workers’ compensation mistakes is available online.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Filing Suit For a Workplace Injury

Workers’ compensation provides for lost wages and medical care for injured workers.

But do people who are hurt at work have any other legal recourse?

In some cases, yes.

Even if an injured worker is collecting workers’ comp benefits, he or she may be able to file suit against a third party who is liable for the workplace injury or illness.

Say for example a worker is hurt while operating a piece of manufacturing equipment that malfunctions. That worker may be able to file a lawsuit against the maker of the faulty equipment.

Ditto if a person is injured while working offsite, say on a construction site owned by someone other than his employer. If there were unsafe working conditions, the property owner could be held liable.

In fact, such legal actions are quite common.

A Texas construction worker who was hurt after a safety lanyard failed is suing the maker of the safety gear, as well as the owner of the property where he was injured.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Kansas Gets Two New Administrative Law Judges

The Social Security Administration has hired two new Administrative Law Judges to decide Social Security disability cases in Kansas.

Over the past several years, the number of Kansans waiting for the Social Security Administration to issue a decision grew to more than 14,000, in part due to a lack of judges. The hiring of new judges is one aspect of the organization’s plan to reduce the backlog.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Social Security Administration Seeks to Hire New Administrative Law Judges to Meet Backlog

The Social Security Administration has made job offers to 144 new Administrative Law Judges in an effort to meet the severe backlog of Social security disability cases.

“The hiring of these new ALJs is a critical step in our plan to reduce the backlog of disability cases,” Commissioner of Social Security Michael J. Astrue said. “They represent one of the largest investments in ALJs this agency has ever made. When these ALJs are fully-trained, and combined with the other steps we are taking, we will be able for the first time in this decade to reduce the number of cases waiting for a disability hearing. I can hardly wait for them to start.”

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that the number of backlogged disability claims doubled to about 576,000 cases between the 1997 and 2006 fiscal years.

Tags: Social Security disability, backlog, Government Accountability Office, Michael Astrue


Indiana, Michigan Residents See Lengthy Backlogs in Collecting Disability Payments

Tens of thousands of residents in Indiana and Michigan are seeing delays of nearly two years in collecting their Social Security Disability payments.

In Indiana, the average processing time to collect Social Security Disability is 694 days. In Michigan it's 698 days.

Indiana resident John Treash was diagnosed with cancer in 2004. He’s in remission now and willing and able to work. But employers won’t give him a job because of his health history.

"You can't find work because of your sickness, or people don't hire you because they hear you've got cancer. They don't want all your medical bills," he said.

However, Treash also has waited four years and still hasn’t received his Social Security disability payments.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

GAO Study Finds Significant Backlog In Social Security Disability Cases

A Government Accountability Office study recently confirmed what many in the legal profession already knew—the Social Security Administration has gotten much slower in processing Social Security disability claims.

Between the 1997 and 2006 fiscal years, backlogged disability claims doubled to about 576,000 cases. The number of backlogged cases increased at almost every stage of the process; only the Appeals Council process processed cases more efficiently. Nearly three-quarters of the backlog is at the hearing level stage. The GAO blames substantial growth in the numbers of disability claims, staff losses and turnover, and management weaknesses for the increased in backlogged cases.

Monday, April 14, 2008

America’s Safest Companies Emphasize Safety, Injury Prevention Over All Else

While some companies think that on-the-job injuries are just a cost of doing business – Who would want to work at such a place? – others are committed to keeping their workplaces safe and their employees protected from harm.

Occupational Hazards, a publication about workplace safety, health and prevention, each year recognizes America's Safest Companies.

The most recent winners are:
BWXT Pantex
CH2M Hill
E. J. Ajax and Sons
Kroger Manufacturing
Louisiana-Pacific Corp.
M.B. Herzog Electric Inc.
Parker Drilling Co.
Rea Magnet Wire
Southern Ohio Medical Center
W.W. Grainger

How does a business make the list?
They emphasize safety always and they make it clear to all employees that injury-prevention is the number one goal. In every case, safety is part of the corporate culture. In fact, one of the safe companies follows four tenets: 1) nothing is worth getting injured over; 2) all injuries can be prevented; 3) safety will be managed; and 4) safe behavior is a condition of employment for all employees.

"Some companies still believe that on-the-job injuries and illnesses are a cost of doing business. Our honorees see things quite differently," said Stephen G. Minter, editorial director and publisher of Occupational Hazards. "They understand that work-related injuries and fatalities are a cost – in human and financial terms – that no company should expect to incur!"

"Although we are willing to place safety above the bottom line, the fact is that safety and profitability are not the polar opposites that some companies perceive them to be," says Erick Ajax, vice president, E.J. Ajax & Sons Inc. "E.J. Ajax has outlasted many competitors in a challenging manufacturing environment in part because of a workers’ compensation rate that saves the company more than $1,000 per year per employee in insurance premiums."

Companies such as these, which make safety a priority, save money on workers’ compensation claims and insurance costs. And they also save lives.

Reporter Bob Woodruff Plagued by Aphasia After Suffering Brain Injury in Iraq

Former ABC News Anchor Bob Woodruff, who suffered a head injury in a roadside bombing in Iraq, still struggles with the effects of his traumatic brain injury.

Though Woodruff has been able to return to work as a reporter for ABC, he sometimes still struggles to come up with words for everyday objects, like "remote control." Other times, he might use the wrong word or a made-up one. It’s like a roadblock in his brain.

That’s just one of the scars left by the shrapnel that ripped into his skull caused.

The disorder that makes Woodruff forget words he once knew is "aphasia," and it affects about 1 million people in the United Sates, according to the National Aphasia Association. It happens when a stroke or brain injury affects the left side of the brain, which controls language.

Minnesota Lawmakers Push for Better Workers’ Comp for Cops, Public Servants

Here’s another story about how workers’ compensation and Social Security disability rules affect public employers, like police officers and government employees. This story takes place in Minnesota.

Police officer Dan Wulff suffered a traumatic brain injury during a training exercise, and it left him permanently disabled. However, because of the way the law is applied, he is only eligible for temporary disability payments.

Dan Wulff is literally caught in the middle. Had he been killed, his widow would be getting 100 percent of his salary. Had he been partially disabled, he'd still be getting 100 percent. However, because he's fully and permanently disabled, he gets only about two-thirds.

The problem is a quirk in federal and state law known as the windfall elimination provision. Originally intended to curb fraud, it caps permanent total disability at 66 percent of the workers’ wage at the time of injury.

The law affects not only cops, but firefighters, school teachers and millions of other federal, state and city workers. Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan says almost no one knows about the provision until it’s too late.

Wulff isn’t collecting workers’ compensation and obviously Social Security Disability isn’t providing him the coverage or benefits he deserves.

Some state and national lawmakers are trying to correct this loophole, which penalizes public servants like Wulff.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Philadelphia Lawyers and Experience

There may come a time when the choice of selecting a Philadelphia lawyer needs to be made. This choice, however, may prove difficult. After all, there are a multitude of excellent lawyers in the Philadelphia area and deciding which one is best for you might prove difficult. There are a number of different criteria you could use for your election but probably the one that trumps all would be experience. If a lawyer has extensive time in the field then they will have a leg up on an inexperienced lawyer. This is not a knock on "newbie" lawyers but experience is a quality that is irreplaceable and very valuable as it indicates a track record of success.

OSHA Warns Companies to Improve Safety, Reduce Injuries and Illnesses

More than 14,000 businesses nationwide are on notice from the federal government that their workplace injury and illness rates are too high.

The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health sent warning letters that encouraged companies to take steps to improve safety and health conditions.

"A high injury and illness rate is costly to employees and employers in both personal and financial terms," said Assistant Secretary Edwin G. Foulke. "Our goal is to make them aware of their high injury and illness rates and to get them to focus on eliminating hazards in their workplace. To help them in this regard, OSHA offers free assistance programs to help employers better protect the safety and health of their employees."

According to OSHA surveys, the average U.S. workplace had 2.3 injuries resulting in days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer (DART) for every 100 full-time employees. But those that received the warning letters had at least 5.4 DART injuries for every 100 workers.

OSHA doesn’t include the names of these companies in its press release on the warning letters.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Did Eli Lilly Drug Co. Conceal Dangerous Diabetic Zyprexa Side Effects?

Once again a mega million dollar drug company is on the line. A trial lawyer in Alaska says that the manufacturer of Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa, a drug that treats schizophrenia and causes diabetes, knew that Zyprexa caused diabetes while the Zyprexa clinical trials were happening in 1996 but failed to disclose that fact.

The Zyprexa lawsuit is asked Lilly to pay for the medical expenses of Medicaid patients who patients who have contracted diabetes or other diseases after taking Zyprexa. The company claims to have done nothing wrong. Alaska’s Medicaid program continues to pay for the drug zyprexa.

The trial is divided into two parts. First the jury will determine if Lilly is liable for concealing Zyprexa’s diabetes causing risks. If the jury finds Lily liable, a second jury will determine if Zyprexa caused the illnesses and how much the company must pay in restitution.

Zyprexa is among the world’s top-selling medicines, with sales of $4.8 billion in 2007. About 23 million people have taken the drug since it was introduced. Lilly has already spent about $1.2 billion to settle about 30,000 claims from people who say that Zyprexa caused them to develop diabetes or other diseases.

Eli Lilly also faces suits from many states that want to be reimbursed for the cost of providing medical care to Medicaid patients who took Zyprexa. Most schizophrenia patients are unemployed and receive medical coverage through Medicaid. In all, states and the federal government spent about $1.5 billion on Zyprexa last year.

Lilly and Pennsylvania prosecutors are discussing an overall settlement of the state and federal investigations and lawsuits that would require Lilly to pay $1 to $2 billion in fines and restitution to federal and state governments.

The negotiations in Pennsylvania increase the importance of the Alaska trial. If Lilly wins, its hand will be strengthened in the settlement talks. If Alaska wins, other states and federal prosecutors are likely to demand even more money.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/06/business/06drug.html?_r=1&em&oref=slogin