Industry stakeholders, contractors, and industry associations recently provided testimony at an OSHA public hearing regarding reinforcing steel and post-tensioning standards. As reported by The Ironworker, the rationale for pursuing new standards is:

  • The current OSHA standard written in 1971 is antiquated and only contains three references specifically pertaining to reinforcing steel and two for post tensioning.
  • Common hazards during reinforcing steel installation and post-tensioning operations are not addressed in current standards.
  • Fatality and accident trends indicate a direct correlation between accident causation factors and lack of specific regulations.
  • The usage of steel reinforced and post-tensioned poured-in-place concrete is expected to double.
  • The negotiated rulemaking process will produce the best safety standard and regulations through the cooperative efforts of OSHA, stakeholders and experts in the reinforcing steel and post-tensioning industry.

Protecting members during reinforcing steel activities is part of the “2017 Zero Incident” campaign. The goal of the campaign is to pursue safety standards that will prevent workplace incidents. Key safety provisions of the proposed OSHA standards pertain to reinforcing steel and post-tensioning standards and prevention of structural collapse during the hoisting process of walls and columns. The proposed text of the standard is available here.

Most people don’t understand that when you get hurt at work, you not only have the potential for a workers’ compensation claim, but also a third party negligence claim. You might wonder, what exactly is the difference between the two?

A workers’ compensation claim is against your employer and is intended to recover partial wage benefits and payment of medical bills from your work related injury, if you are injured in the course and scope of your employment. A third party claim, on the other hand, is against someone other than your employer and is intended to recover pain and suffering, lost wages, future wages, and other damages. Because the law does not allow you to sue your employer for negligence, workers compensation is your only remedy against your employer. As a result, you must look to third party to recover your other losses.

For example, let’s assume you are working at a construction site and you fall through a hole in the floor. As a result of this fall, you are catastrophically injured. The hole was created by Company A, who did not secure, cover, or provide warning for the hole. You work for Company B. In this type of case, you would be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits from Company B and pursue a third party negligence case against Company A for failing to secure, cover, or provide warning for the hole.

Continue Reading Juggling Workers’ Compensation & Third Party/Negligence Cases: You Need Someone Who Can Do Both

Employees who are injured in the course and scope of their employment are only entitled to weekly wage loss benefits and medical benefits. To determine the correct amount of weekly wage loss benefits payable to given individuals, their average weekly wage must be calculated. When an injured worker does not have a fixed income or salary, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act focuses on the amount of time the employee actually worked for the employer immediately preceding the work incident and the amount of wages earned during that period of time.  Under these circumstances, where varied wages are involved, the act has delineated three different methods for calculating an individual’s average weekly wage.

For long-term employees, the earnings used to calculate the average weekly wage are taken from three of the four highest periods of 13 weeks immediately preceding the date of injury.  However, for injured workers who have not been employed for at least three consecutive periods of 13 weeks, the earnings for any completed period of 13 weeks immediately preceding the date of injury are used in calculating the average weekly wage.

Newly hired employees who have worked less than 13 weeks for their employers leading up to the date of injury are permitted to use their hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours they expected to work to determine their correct average weekly wage.

It is important to know what is considered “wages” when computing an individual’s average weekly wage.  Money advanced or reimbursed to an employee for board and lodging, profit-sharing payments and exercised stock options may constitute wages.  Bonuses are considered wages for the purpose of computing the average weekly wage and are usually prorate over the entire year.  Overtime pay must be included as wages, as well as vacation pay, which is attributed to the entire year and prorated accordingly.

It is a well-established principle that these calculations are supposed to reflect a realistic measure of what an employee could have expected to earn had he not been injured, this is not always the case.

The maximum allowable compensation rate is $932 per week.  Therefore, if an employee earned more than $1,400 per week prior to sustaining a work-related injury, the maximum amount of money that individual could receive in workers’ compensation benefits would be $932 per week.

Many older patients, who are on Medicare or in a Medicare Advantage Plan, are shocked when they are hospitalized for less than 3 days only to find out that Medicare will not pay for nursing home coverage following this brief hospitalization.  These patients, who are technically admitted for “observation” for less than 3 full days, are in fact, being penalized for getting well faster than a Medicare patient who spends perhaps 4 or 5 days in the hospital.

Medicare is currently conducting pilot projects in hospitals across the country in which Medicare patients admitted to the hospital for less than 3 days, are permitted to continue their recovery in a nursing home, with payment made by Medicare.  The hope is that providers that drop the 3-day rule can reduce costs or keep them the same while improving the quality of care.  These pilot projects are conducted under a provision of the Affordable Care Act that created the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovations to develop ways of improving Medicare.  If you have any questions regarding the rules, contact Stark & Stark today.

23 Pa. C.S.A. § 4308.1 amended the Domestic Relations Code by permitting the Department of Welfare to intercept overdue child support from lump sum monetary awards or settlements paid by insurers and worker’s compensation.  This law makes overdue child support a lien by operation of law against the net proceeds of any monetary award exceeding $5,000.00.  There is reduction to account for attorney’s fees and proportionate share of cost.

The law broadly defines “monetary awards” and applies with equal force to ANY civil claim asserted in and resolved in Pennsylvania, ANY settlement obtained before a lawsuit and ANY settlement of a lawsuit resulting from any claim for bodily injury, death or paid as an award under worker’s compensation or occupational disease. The law requires the attorney handling the claim to provide a statement including client’s name, address, date of birth, social security number and the amount of support owed or a statement that no support is owed.  This information is then used by either the attorney or insurance company to search through the Child Support Section of the DPW Website.

As a practical matter, I ask for this information in the initial interview and explain that overdue support must be paid back.  In the few situations where I have a client who has overdue support, I will compare the amount found with the client’s understanding of the amount.  If there is a dispute as the amount and it is before settlement, I will instruct my client to resolve the dispute otherwise I will pay the amount listed on the website.  If there is a dispute, this law requires the WHOLE amount to be placed in escrow with the Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit (PASCDU) until the dispute is resolved.

On Saturday June 7, 2014 I spoke at a quarterly meeting of the Teamsters, Graphic Communications Unions in Philadelphia, PA. Members present were from DC-9/Graphics Communications Union 14-M President, Kurt Freeman and Graphics Communications Union 16-N, President, Joe Inemer. I spoke about difference between third party cases and Workers Compensation claims. I spent time educating the union leaders regarding how to protect their members when injured in a work related accident and the recoveries that could be obtained both under their workers’ compensation claim and the third party claims. It is important for unions to understand the difference between third party claims because each allows a worker to recover differently for their losses. Third party claims are  when someone other than the employer causes your accident, even though  the accident may occur at work. Workers’ compensation claims are when you are injured at work but the injury is not the fault of anyone else (third party). Joe Inemer commented, “Your presentation was very informative. When it concluded, we continued to discuss what a great presentation it was.”

As one of the few attorneys that represents Personal Injury that focus on death and catastrophic injuries and Workers’ Compensation cases, I grew up in a union family and understand the challenges workers face in the work place and when injured. If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, contact Stark & Stark today.

Employees who are injured in the course and scope of their employment are  entitled to weekly wage loss benefits and medical benefits.  To determine the correct amount of weekly wage loss benefits payable to given individuals, their average weekly wage must be calculated.  When an injured worker does not have a fixed income or salary, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act focuses on the amount of time the employee actually worked for the employer immediately preceding the work incident and the amount of wages earned during that period of time. Under these circumstances, where varied wages are involved, the act has delineated three different methods for calculating an individual’s average weekly wage. 

For long-term employees, the earnings used to calculate the average weekly wage are taken from three of the four highest periods of 13 weeks immediately preceding the date of injury.  However, the injured workers who have not been employed for at least three consecutive periods of 13 weeks immediately preceding the date of injury are used in calculating the average weekly wage.

Newly hired employees who have worked less than 13 weeks for their employers leading up to the date of injury are permitted to use their hourly rage multiplied by the number of hours they expected to work to determine their correct average weekly wage.

It is important to know what is considered “wages” when computing an individual’s average weekly wage.  Money advances or reimbursed to an employee for board and lodging, profit-sharing payments and exercised stock options may constitute wages. Bonuses are considered wages for the purpose of computing the average weekly wage and are usually prorated over the entire year.  Overtime pay must be included as wages, as well as vacation pay, which is attributed to the entire year and prorated accordingly.

It is a well-established principle that these calculations are supposed to reflect a realistic measure of what an employee could have expected to earn had he not been injured; this is not always the case. 

The maximum allowable compensation rate is $932 per week.  Therefore, if an employee earned more than $1,400 per week prior to sustaining a work-related injury, the maximum amount of money that an individual could receive in workers’ compensation benefits would be $932 week.

If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, contact Stark & Stark today.

The Compassionate Allowance program expedites disability decisions for persons with the most serious, and often fatal, conditions to ensure that these persons receive their disability decisions quickly, rather than the months or years it takes for most disability claims to be decided upon.   The Compassionate Allowance program identifies claims where the applicant’s disease or condition clearly meets Social Security’s standard for disability.  In January of this year, Social Security added 25 new Compassionate Allowances conditions, including 12 cancers, bring the total number of conditions to 225.  The new conditions also include serious disorders of the digestive, neurological, immune and multiple body systems.  To date, almost 200,000 people with severe disabilities have been approved through the Compassionate Allowance fast-track program for evaluating claims.

To see a complete list of Compassionate Allowance disabilities, visit the Social Security website here

In my previous posts, I discussed the sometime difficult issue of whether you are “in the course and scope of your employment” at the time an injury occurs.  A recent case highlights the difficulty.

The Facts:

  • The employee worked at the employers tool and die business.
  • His job is to make sure the employer’s machines are running smoothly.
  • While working on his midnight shift, the employee checks all the machines to ensure they are working.
  • After he checks the machines, the employee tells his co-workers that he would be in the tool and die room for a couple of minutes.
  • While in the tool and die room, the employee polished a bolt for his child’s go-cart with an emery cloth.
  • As he was doing this, the employee’s left thumb was drawn into a lathe resulting in the loss of his thumb.

The Court’s Decision:

  • When determining if an employee is engaging in the furtherance of the business or affairs of the employer, which is usually expressed as “in the course of employment”, the court should construe this term in a liberal fashion.
  • The employee is entitled to compensation for any injury occurring on the premises of the employer during the hours of employment so long as there is nothing to show that the employee abandoned the “course of his employment” or was engaged in something wholly foreign thereto.
  • The employee made a decision to leave his work responsibilities and  perform a personal task, unrelated to his job duties.
  • The employee was not injured in the furtherance of the employer’s business or affairs.
  • Because the employee had actively disengaged himself from his work responsibilities, he was not in the “course of his employment” at the time of his work injury.

The Lesson:

  • If a court, under the circumstances, concludes you have departed from your employment at the time you are injured you are not eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.  In this instance, the court focused on both the amount of time that the employee departed and the purely personal nature of what he was doing at the time he was injured.

If you have questions regarding your rights under Workers’ Compensation, please contact one of Stark & Stark’s experienced attorneys.