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How the Legislature Threw a Bone to the Insurance Companies’ Favorite Pitbulls

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We have written a lot about rehabilitation professionals, particularly vocational rehabilitation professionals. Insurance companies have traditionally used vocational rehab professionals to set you up for a Form 24. (That’s the Industrial Commission form they use to cut off your benefits.) All the voc rehab professional had to do was to send you out on a variety of ridiculous job leads for which you were either completely unqualified, paid next to nothing, were part-time, or were a couple of hours from your house. When you reasonably decline to go through with those interviews, the rehab professional would document that you were non-compliant and insta-presto the Industrial Commission would cut off your weekly checks. For those of you with workers’ comp claims arising before June 24, 2011, you still get to deal with this.

Several quick examples:

An RP referred an injured worker to sell wooden outbuildings from the back of a pickup truck on the side of the highway in the mountains of Ashe County. On commission.

An RP referred a client of ours to a job as an interior decorator for mobile homes which were sitting on the sales lot. When our client went early for the interview, he observed the RP dropping off a local private investigator from her car. The “interview” took place as a breakfast joint at a table next to where the investigator was sitting. And the “interview” was with another American Rehab RP who was pretending to be an employer.

An RP referred a client to a “work from home and earn $1000s per week” advertisement in the local paper. All the client had to do was scrape up $500 for the information kit – and the insurance company wasn’t going to pay for it. The client’s refusal to pay the $500 was documented as non-compliance.

An RP recently wrote a report to be attached to a Form 24 stating that he had referred our client to over 100 jobs but had not received any independent confirmation that he had put in a single job application. When questioned about this, the RP admitted that he had only asked two of the “over 100” employers if the client had put in an application. And both of them said that because they were not hiring at the time, they didn’t keep any applications at all and thus could not say one way or the other if the client had applied. The RP was outraged that we suggested his statement “I haven’t received independent confirmation” was misleading just because he had made essentially no effort to obtain that independent confirmation.

So, those of you with claims under the old law still are vulnerable to these types of games. But those of you with new claims . . . with the definition of suitable employment changed to permit part-time minimum wage jobs, even if you had been making $100,000 annually, there really isn’t much a vocational rehabilitation professional has to do. As long as you can be a Wal-Mart greeter or a parking lot attendant or a security guard, your benefits may be short-lived.

Given that the voc rehab professional no longer has to find “suitable employment” for you (technically she still looks for suitable employment, but all employment is now suitable) then what will she have to do? And with nothing to do, why pay her to do anything? An entire division of the insurance companies was basically facing the elimination of their jobs. And this was a division which had served the interests of the insurance companies with great devotion over the years.The solution was to create a situation where vocational rehabilitation is still relevant even after you have returned to work. Under the new law, if you return to work making less than 75% of your old previous wages, then the injured worker has the right to request vocational rehabilitation including education and training at any North Carolina community college or public university at defendants’ expense. The only catch is that it must be likely that completion of the retraining will result in a substantial increase in your earning potential.

The question which only time will answer is whether the vocational rehabilitation professionals will continue to serve the insurance companies by saying that future voc rehab is unnecessary (and therefore they are unnecessary) or whether they will be forced to assist injured workers in obtaining further services which the carriers oppose.

At Oxner + Permar we have met with a couple of independent vocational rehabilitation professionals who have already demonstrated they would buck the system and do the right thing for injured workers. We are putting standards and guidelines in place to make it nearly impossible for the carrier to prevent you from getting the education you may need to completely return to your old standard of living.

This article was written by Chip Permar

Two Big Changes in Workers’ Compensation

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Big Change Number One.

Currently if you are injured and you cannot return to suitable employment, you are entitled to draw workers’ compensation benefits for life. For nearly twenty years Todd Oxner has been telling people if they live to 102 and die in a bar room brawl they’ll get paid until they’re 102. No more. “Lifetime” claims are now limited to 500 weeks unless you are completely disabled from all work – not just suitable employment. Basically it’s going to be 500 weeks unless you are in a wheelchair. As long as you can work as a Wal-Mart greeter on a stool it’s 500 weeks. It’s somewhat more complicated than that and we will deal with that in an upcoming article. But it won’t apply to most people at all.

Big Change Number Two.

If (when) you return to work at reduced wages you will be entitled to draw wage loss for a period of 500 weeks. That is an increase from the 300 weeks under current law. Same as now, any week of total disability paid is deducted from the 500 week total. But in a positive twist, the 500 weeks is not a timer that begins on the date of accident. If your employer brings you back to work in transitional duty or make-work for a period of time that period is not deducted from the 500 week total.

It is important to note that these changes apply to cases arising after June 24, 2011.

There are some significant twists to these provisions which we will be addressing in upcoming weeks. In the meanwhile, however, if you have a new case, most of the strategies which were used before are now not going to work. Call Oxner + Permar and let us help you work out a roadmap to your success in workers’ compensation.

Can I call and just ask a question?

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Believe it or not we do not charge anything for this! Yes! Please call us. We would much rather talk to you now and give you some advice than have disaster strike and you have to call us later. Most of the time we can have you speaking with an attorney who has been certified by the State of North Carolina as a specialist in workers’ compensation within just a few minutes. Less than 2% of all attorneys have that certification by the way… So call us! One of our staff will take a few notes and get a Board Certified Specialist on the phone. We are so dedicated to answering questions that even the two founders of the firm, Todd Oxner and Chip Permar, spend a good portion of their day giving advice to injured people just like you.

How do I hire Oxner + Permar and what does it cost?

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We work on a contingency fee basis. You may have heard this term before or heard a lawyer on television say, “we don’t get paid if you don’t get paid.” A contingency fee means something has to happen in order for us to get a fee. That something, the contingency, is you getting paid. So if your claim is denied and you aren’t getting anything then we don’t get paid until and unless you get paid. If you don’t get paid then you don’t owe us a fee. It’s as simple as that… there’s no risk to you.

If your claim is accepted and you’re getting paid then our fee is based on the permanent award at maximum medical improvement or a settlement. There are other less common contingencies like you receiving Social Security Disability with an offset or receiving temporary partial disability.

The Industrial Commission has to approve all of our fees. They normally approve a fee of 25% — and although some firms do, we never ask for more than 25% of your overall settlement. And other than on disputed or litigated benefits we don’t take fees on temporary benefits.

Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filter Failures and Bard’s Cover Up: Part 1

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As many as 250,000 Americans are implanted with IVC Filters every year, making it one of the most popular medical devices in the country. These small, spider-like nets are implanted into a patient’s blood stream as a filter to prevent dangerous blood clots from traveling to the heart and lungs.

However, these devices come at a deadly cost. A recent NBC News investigation revealed that as many as 27 deaths have been associated with the Recovery Filter, manufactured by medical giant CR Bard. We’ve posted the NBC News video at the bottom of this page for your convenience.

Worse, after learning of the damage its product was causing, Bard never took steps to make the product safer or remove it from the market. Instead the executives at Bard turned to Hill and Knowton, the masterminds behind big tobacco’s media strategy. Together, the two companies formulated a plan to downplay the risks of the Recovery Filter and mislead the public in order to protect share prices. Bard also commissioned a confidential study that revealed the serious risk of filter fracture, migration within the blood stream and death but, again, did nothing to remedy the problem.

Bard’s scheme of misinformation was so successful not even doctors were aware of how deadly IVC Filters could be. This put patients like Dodi Froehlich, a 45-year-old mother of two, perilously close to death. In 2004, she was implanted with Bard’s Recovery Filter following a car accident. Several months after it was implanted, she was rushed to a hospital after her heart stopped beating. Doctors had no choice but to perform emergency surgery to remove a metal shard which had broken off from the filter and migrated to her heart.

Now, there are thousands of patients implanted with IVC Filters walking around every day. Many have already been injured. If you or a loved one suffered injury because of a defective IVC Filter, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Us to Learn More!

This article is part one of Oxner Permar + Richardson’s series on Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) filters.