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.