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Injured at Work and the Employer Says it is Your Fault?

Injured at Work and the Employer Says it is Your Fault?

Indiana enacted its first Worker’s Compensation Act in 1915 in response to a growing number of workers injured on the job who had no guaranteed means of receiving medical treatment for injuries or wage replacement income during their physical recovery. Prior to enacting its first Worker’s Compensation Act, when an Indiana worker was injured, the worker was permitted to sue their employer in court in an effort to get compensation. However, lawsuits were time consuming, expensive, and frequently left the injured worker in a position where they were unable to obtain medical attention while their lawsuit was working its way through court because time was lost to address arguments from employers that the worker caused the accident or assumed the risk of the accident. The Workers Compensation Act struck a compromise between the competing interests of the worker and the employer and moved to a no-fault based system. In short, and in general, employers were stripped of the ability to claim the worker caused the accident. In exchange for this concession, injured workers were deprived from collecting pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life damages.

In today’s Indiana Worker’s Compensation system, this means when a worker is injured “on the clock” when they slip and fall, or are injured in a car accident, or are injured in a construction accident, the worker’s employer is not permitted to claim the worker should have paid more attention to what they were doing when the event occurred. However, some important employer-based fault arguments are still available to employers. For example, pursuant to I.C. 22-3-2-8, employers may raise affirmative defenses that no money is owed because the injury was 1) due to the employee’s knowingly self-inflicted injury, 2) due to intoxication, 3) due to the commission of an offense (not including traffic violations), 4) due to a knowing failure to use a safety appliance, 5) due to a knowing failure to obey a reasonable written or printed safety rule which has been posted in a conspicuous position in the place of work, or 6) due to a knowing failure to perform any statutory duty.

Disagreements often occur when an employer raises one of these defenses, and if left unresolved, a judge is asked to determine whether the employer’s defense is valid at a hearing. Like many areas in law, an exploration into the facts of an individual matter is usually necessary to assess the validity of these types of defenses. For example, just because a worker is intoxicated or impaired at the moment the worker is injured, it does not necessarily mean the employer does not owe compensation. Indeed, there is a difference between a drunk worker being injured when the worker drives a delivery truck off the road compared to a drunk worker performing his work satisfactorily when a co-worker accidentally drops an item from above that strikes and injures the worker.

Similarly, not every failure to use a safety appliance or knowing failure to obey a posted and written safety rule bars a recovery. When an employer allows the alleged prohibited conduct to occur or also engages in the prohibited conduct, the employer will not be able to shield itself from responsibility. As an illustration in an industrial or machine setting, if an employer posts an open and obvious sign that machinery must be shut down before it is cleaned, but observes employees cleaning the machine while it is not shut down, the employer will not be allowed to rely on a fault-type defense.

If you need help navigating a matter involving an injury at work where questions exist as to whether the employer may raise an argument that the worker is at fault for the accident, Goodin Abernathy, LLP can bring experience, knowledge, and resources to bear on the question. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Safety While Commuting on the Monon Trail

Safety While Commuting on the Monon Trail

It can be difficult sometimes to stay positive during the current COVID-19 crisis. However, experts recommend that it is not only good for our physical health, but also our mental health to get outside and exercise. With the decrease in motor vehicle traffic, many people are riding their bikes for exercise and enjoyment. In fact, the current pandemic has led to a tremendous surge in bicycle sales around the globe. If you have been shopping for a new bike lately you will know what I am talking about. We have a wonderful system of shared paths here in Central Indiana. As more and more people are using these paths, it is up to each of us to ensure that they are safe for all users and avoid personal and bicycle accidents or injuries whenever possible.

Passing safety on biking & walking trailsI have always enjoyed cycling, but had fallen away from the activity until recently. The pandemic has allowed me to renew my love for cycling, and I have used this as an opportunity to ride more frequently. I try to ride to work 2-3 days per week, as my schedule allows. With the Courts being closed to the public, and most hearings taking place via phone call or Zoom, I have not needed to wear a suit and tie every day. My current commute is about 25 miles round trip. This takes me about 1 hour each way, and I have found that my rides to and from work are a great way to relieve stress, enjoy the outdoors, and save a little money on gas.

Most of my commute is on shared paths, used by both cyclists and pedestrians, which allows me to avoid interaction with motor vehicles, for the most part. However, most of the accidents and close calls that I have observed were between two bicyclists or bicyclists and pedestrians.

The most common mishaps that I have observed can usually be narrowed down to 3 things: 1. Bicyclists riding too fast for the conditions; 2. Pedestrians who move suddenly out of their lane and in to the path of bicycle that they don’t know is approaching, and 3. Confusion between bicyclists and motorists at the intersections of shared paths and roadways.

I ride a relatively slow, fat-tired bike, with an average speed of 12-14 miles per hour. In my opinion, this is plenty fast for shared trails. To go faster than that in an area where pedestrians are walking is just a recipe for disaster. There are places on the Monon Trail, for example, where cyclists can go faster than that, but when there are crowds of people running and walking and crossing the trail, it is simply not safe.

The other danger that I have observed is cyclists overtaking pedestrians without warning them of their approach. In 2016, the Indiana Legislature removed the requirement at I.C. 9-21-11-8, that all bikes must be equipped with an audible signal device, that can be heard from a distance of 100 feet, such as a bell. I think this was a mistake. A simple bike bell is an easy way to alert others, particularly pedestrians, that you are passing them. In my experience, most pedestrians who walk on shared paths, appreciate the signal that a bike is approaching and will be passing them. Most pedestrians will usually give a hand signal that they heard the bell, and many will even say, “Thank you,” as I pass. Many people walk with their children and their pets. An audible bell gives them a heads up to keep their kids or their pets close as a bicycle passes.

Some pedestrians who are not as familiar with walking on shared paths may be startled by an audible bell. I have observed pedestrians jump upon hearing the bell, or quickly move out of the way. I have observed pedestrians turn suddenly, which can cause them to inadvertently move left and into the path of the cyclist. This can be dangerous. Just last week, I saw a runner, who had reached the point in her run where she was going to turn around and go the other direction. She quickly turned around just as a bicycle was overtaking her. The cyclist did not have a bell to alert his presence. The bell is only to alert pedestrians so that they know a bicycle will be passing on their left. It is not a call to get out of the way, or to even change your course in any way. If more cyclists used a bell, I believe pedestrians would be more attuned, and travel on our shared paths would be even safer. If you are walking on the trail, it is always a good idea to move to the right of the trail before stopping, and look both ways before crossing the trail and reversing direction.

Lastly, there is a lot of confusion about what motorists and cyclists are supposed to do when the shared path intersects with vehicular traffic. If you spend any time on Nextdoor, you will see raging debates about who should stop and when. Everyone needs to follow the rules of the road whether you be driving a car or riding a bicycle. All bikes and motor vehicles should heed the signs that pertain to them at each individual intersection. Bikes and pedestrians are required to stop and make sure the intersection is clear of vehicle traffic before proceeding. If there is a flashing yellow light, motorists need to be prepared to stop to allow pedestrians to cross. Usually, motor vehicle drivers will stop for a flashing yellow light if they see bikes or pedestrians waiting to cross. Always make sure it is safe to proceed before riding your bike across vehicular traffic.

If everyone takes a moment to make sure that their bike is functioning properly, and we all pay attention to the rules of the road, our great system of trails will be safer for everyone. Now get outside and ride your bike!

Chip Clark is a partner at Goodin Abernathy, LLP where he specializes in representing clients who have been injured in personal injury accidents. You can follow him on Instagram at @ChipClarkIndy

MAKING SENSE OF THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (FFCRA)

MAKING SENSE OF THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (FFCRA)

What is the FFCRA and Do I Qualify?


What is the FFCRA and Do I Qualify? by www.goodinabernathy.com

Effective April 1, 2020 and continuing through December 31, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) will require certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and/or expanded Family Medical Leave for reasons related to COVID-19.

There are essentially 2 parts to the Act. Part 1 is an emergency expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Part 2 requires certain employers to provide Federal Paid Sick Leave.

The Act applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees. This includes both full and part-time employees. This number also includes dual employees, such as those provided by professional employment organizations (PEO’s) also known as staffing agencies. There may be exceptions for “extreme financial hardship,” but the Department of Labor has not yet produced any guidance for what that means.

The Act also provides for a “Distressed Small Business Exception,” which only applies to employers with 50 or less employees. Again, because this law is so new, there is little to no guidance from the Department of Labor as to who will qualify for this exception.

So, what does the FFCRA require employers to do?

Generally, all employers must provide their qualifying employees with:

Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined either (1) pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider, and/or (2) is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; AND up to 10 additional weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of COVID illness or a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

FAQ’s about the FFCRA:

How does an employee qualify for these FFCRA benefits?

Some examples include:

  • Being diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.
  • Having symptoms of the virus.
  • Being required to be in self-quarantine.
  • Being ordered by your doctor to self-quarantine.
  • Having to care for a spouse or child who is infected with the virus.
  • Another common example will be caring for a child whose school or daycare has been closed because of COVID-19 – Or having substantially similar condition based on guidance from the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Can both parents claim paid leave under the FFCRA?

There is nothing in the law that suggests that both parents would not be entitled to paid leave if they otherwise qualify for the benefits.

Can my employer require me to use paid sick leave before paying benefits under the FFCRA?

It depends. The expanded benefits to FMLA do not kick in for the first 10 days, therefore you may be required to use unpaid sick leave to cover that gap. The mandatory sick leave would not require you to use accrued unpaid leave.

How much pay am I entitled to receive?

It depends on whether you are seeking the expanded benefits of the FMLA, or the mandatory paid sick leave. Normally, a qualifying employee is entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA. The new law expands that to include paid leave of two-thirds of base pay based on number of hours normally worked. The maximum is $200 per day, or $10,000 per employee, based on 12 weeks of eligibility.

The mandatory paid sick leave under the FFCRA is capped at $511 per day, with a total benefit of $5,110 per employee.

How are employers expected to pay for these FFCRA benefits?

The government has rolled out several plans to help small business employers pay for these new benefits. One option is a dollar for dollar tax credit for payments made. A second option is a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover payroll costs. If certain conditions are met, and all of your employees remain on the payroll for a specified period, these loans will be forgiven (they don’t have to be paid back). Lastly, some employers may have business interruption insurance that could be applicable. Definitely check your policy to determine coverage.

Can my employer disclose my diagnosis of COVID-19?

Yes, under certain circumstances, there are exceptions to HIPPAA’s confidentiality requirements. For example, an employer can disclose such a diagnosis for the safety of your co-workers.

What if I contracted COVID-19 at work, will workers’ compensation cover my treatment?

There is much we don’t know about how the new laws will be interpreted, and whether a diagnosis of COVID-19 could be considered an occupational disease. Certainly, for those on the front lines fighting this disease, for instance health care workers, an argument could be made that it is a risk of the job.

If I have to provide these FFCRA benefits, my business will be forced to shut down. Are there any exceptions?

Yes. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.

If I have to take leave, can I get my job back when I return?

Yes. The new law requires employers with 25 or more employees to reinstatement after 12 weeks. If your employer has less than 25 employees they must “make reasonable effort” to reinstate an employee who has taken leave under the Act.

In these uncertain times, it is always best to know your rights. If you have questions about Coronavirus/COVID-19, and your entitlement to benefits under the new laws, please contact us for a free legal consultation. We are not currently taking in-person interviews in our efforts to avoid unnecessary spread of the virus, but we are always available for telephonic consultations.

Safety Tips for Holiday Travel on the Roads

Safety Tips for Holiday Travel on the Roads

Tis’ the season to be… CAUTIOUS! Well on the road that is. Not only does the weather get worse every holiday season around here, but also, many individuals think that it is okay to drink alcoholic beverages before getting on the road. Combine those two and you are practically guaranteed to see or worse experience an accident yourself!

Don’t Break the Law By Drinking and Driving

Beyond already breaking the law, there are some other consequences that people don’t think of till after they get in an accident. Such as, after their treatment at a hospital for drunk driving, the individual will learn that their vehicle has been impounded. That for sure will be more than a pretty penny to get it out of there, we can guarantee you that. There may also be additional charges if the accident caused property damage or injured someone. Then if attorneys, like us, get involved, the intoxicated driver will also have to pay for those property damages and medical bills of the injured.

That being said, it is better to prevent accidents before you start traveling during this holiday season. Believe it or not, the majority of car accidents occur close to the driver’s own homes. This is because individuals typically get over-confident when they’re almost home and think that they know their roads like the back of their hand. This makes them less observant than they normally would be. But let’s be honest, could anyone really describe every detail of their hand without looking at it?

Safety Tips for Your Holiday Travel

It is important to plan carefully before heading to a holiday event this season. Use these recommended safety tips to protect you and your family from an injury this holiday season.

Safety Tip 1: Maintain Your Vehicle

Make sure your vehicle is in good working condition during the winter by having a professional tune-up. Check your tires. If the tread is worn, have them replaced. Before you leave home, verify that you have enough fuel in the vehicle to cope with any detours that you might need to take.

Safety Tip 2: Understand Your Route

We know a lot of you rely on Siri, or your phone in general, to be able to get around anywhere. This is completely understandable but instead of plugging it in and going, try taking a few seconds before heading out to really understand how you are actually getting to your destination. By understanding your route, it will help prevent you from getting lost and allow you to focus on the road rather than your device.

Safety Tip 3: Plan For Extra Travel Time

Sometimes your map’s feature “estimated arrival time” can be a bit off. This is especially true during the holiday season. The roads are typically busier than normal, you never know when an accident may cause a huge traffic jam, and it is even more difficult to find a place to park.
So try leaving 10-15 minutes earlier than you normally would to avoid being late to your holiday events this season. But if you are a bit unlucky on the road and running a bit behind, remember it is better to arrive late at an event than driving too fast, getting in an accident, and instead arriving in the hospital.

Safety Tip 4: Use Your Safety Equipment

Holiday joy and excitement is in the air, which sometimes leads to you forgetting the small things. So make sure to turn on your vehicle’s headlights before dusk, so that other drivers can see you on the road. Keep warm clothes in the car in case of an emergency, and do the same for your passengers. A safe car is a happy car.

Safety Tip 5: Have a Designated Driver

When you travel to a holiday party with a group of friends, have a designated driver who won’t drink any alcoholic beverages. With this safety tip, you will have a sober individual to drive you home from the holiday event to avoid any accidents and get you home safely.

Safety Tip 6: Have a Plan B

Sometimes your Designated Driver forgets they are supposed to be the designated driver. In that event, have a Plan B for an alternate SOBER transportation. Today, it is easy to use a smartphone to contact a Lyft or Uber driver nearby and to take you and your friends home. Plus if you’re riding with others, share the costs through those apps, or others, like Venmo.

Safety Tip 6: Focus On the Road

While traveling throughout the holidays, make sure to focus on the road rather than trying to multi-task on your smartphone, talking to passengers, and listening to music. Instead designate a passenger to tell you where to go so that you can watch the road for any impaired drivers potentially swerving into the wrong lanes or those who are driving without any headlights.

Safety Tip 7: Remain Alert For Pedestrians

Remember that more individuals are also walking during the holiday season, so you must remain alert for pedestrians who are walking along the streets, sidewalks, or crossing a designated or undesignated part of the street. Keep in mind, some of these pedestrians may be inebriated and may not make the most sound decisions. Lastly, just because it is winter, does not mean that there are not still some bikers out there. Always keep a lookout for cyclists, and remember, give them 3 feet when you pass.

Call For Assistance

If you are injured in an accident caused by a drunk or impaired driver, contact an attorney right away for a free legal consultation.

Safety Protection Against Falls at Work

Knowing how to properly use and maintain ladders while working is life-saving knowledge to have for safety protection against falls at work – and at home. Daily, within the United States, at least two thousand citizens are critically hurt during the use of a ladder. If you add in the occasional slip and fall occurrence, that number goes up considerably. For a hundred of them, long-term disability or possibly even permanent disability can be the end result due to their injuries.

Fall Protection and Training

Fall protection and training will consistently play key roles in keeping your employees safe. Worker’s compensation insurance premiums increase as more employees file claims. Falls happen every single day and at least one ladder accident causes a person’s death. At that point, you must ask yourself, “What is the cost to someone when told they are permanently disabled, can never work again or worse.” Loss of income alone can be devastating to a family. Effective January 2017, OSHA established updated employer requirements connected to the performance, design, and utilization of fall protection structures. The update raises consistency between construction standards and the general industry.

The majority of industrial companies’ biggest expenses due to employee injuries deal with ladder-related falls. The financial weight can be astounding. The dreadful human cost is even more shocking. With effort, fall protection and prevention, when it comes to a slip and fall, ladders or aerial access equipment, will most likely be a huge focus the future. Think of this scenario. If you were on the cliff of a mountain, would you rather build a fence around the top of that cliff for safety? On the other hand, would you prefer to station an ambulance at the base of the mountain just in case?

All safety equipment is designed with its potential dangers in mind. During the design process the attempt to eliminate all of those red flags. The designers outline everything in their hierarchy of controls. In layman’s terms, they engineer out the danger. If you do not see a path to engineer the danger out, safeguard against the danger. If guarding against it is not possible, then you must properly warn, supply personal protection equipment and adequately train people on its use and dangers.

Technology of Ladders

Many things over the years have improved thanks to technology. The time has long past to improve the safety of ladders. The primary design of conventional ladders has been untouched for centuries. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the rate of ladder injuries has grown in the past decade. Sadly, a team somewhere reviewed the design and decided that the original blueprint of the ladder could not be enhanced. This is why you will see many warning labels on ladders. These visible warnings force safety professionals to schedule a myriad of training meetings. These meetings teach employees to not do things on a ladder that everyone knows they are going to do anyway.

Stepladders actually present their set of special problems. Falls still happen due to over-reaching. They also have compliance rules pertaining to sustaining three points of contact while in use. You should constantly maintain three points of contact when you ascend and descend on a ladder. For example, there should be a combination of two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot at all times. Now, what should you do once you are no longer in climb mode and begin working? Technically, you are still supposed to have three contact points. Most personnel feel it is difficult to work with just one hand. Tying off above certain height levels is also something recommended. Lastly, what do you do when it comes to working on surfaces that are uneven or over stairs? The debate continues.

Aerial safety cages are another means of reaching heights. They are not actually considered ladders and are not scaffolds or power lifts either. Aerial safety cages permit the operator to perform their work in a completely enclosed space. The unit is a height-adjustable platform that is in compliance with all tie off and guardrail rules. This newer type of access equipment is more adaptable than traditional ladders or powered lifts. Aerial safety cages are capable of adjusting for working on stairs or uneven surfaces. They cages are approved for use surrounding live electrical circuits because they are assembled with non-conductive fiberglass rails.

Protection and prevention against a fall on the job begins with understanding how individuals use ladders. Just as important, there needs to be continued concentration on how people injure themselves using ladders. With continued research in this area, there can be real opportunities to designing new and safer products for climbing. If you are hurt or need worker’s compensation answers, Goodin Abernathy LLP can assist you. Call us for a free consultation if you have been injured on the job.

Ladder Safety & Workers Comp

Ladder Safety & Workers Comp

Every year, hundreds of workers wind up hospitalized for a ladder accident due to gross violations of safety protocol; however, there are plenty of isolated accidents that can happen for any number of preventable reasons. Whatever the reason may be for a ladder safety accident, there are a number of things that you should always keep in mind to tell whether or not you might be entitled to work injury compensation.

Ladder Safety

Proper ladder safety begins with having the right ladder. The majority of ladder accidents can be avoided just by making sure that the right kind of ladder has been chosen for the job. However, in many cases, the quality of the ladder being overlooked tends to be one of the major reasons why somebody ends up getting hurt.

Responsible business owners will always make sure that ladders in all areas are consistently examined and inspected to confirm that they are dependable for the workers. In the event that a ladder becomes compromised, fails or breaks while a worker is standing on it due to a failure to properly maintain it, a critical aspect of the case would be just how diligent the employer or management’s efforts were to make sure that said ladder was properly examined and cleared for safe use.

Self-Supporting Ladder Misuse

It isn’t just about the objective quality and safety of the ladder but also its default design issues. Certain ladders are built in a self-supporting design, making them safe to use without necessarily having to propping them up against something larger and supportive. When it comes to ladders that are not self-supporting, however, things can get a little bit complicated. A non-self-supporting ladder can be just as dangerous as an improperly maintained ladder. If it is used at an angle where the distance from its top support to the bottom foot of the ladder is more than a quarter of its working length, it’s crucial to maintain it.

Surface Stability

Even if the ladder is in passable condition and properly used, a concern also involves the stability of the surface it stands on. In order to make sure that a ladder is truly safe to operate, it needs to be confirmed that the surface is properly level, free of debris and overall stable.

There can’t be any unintentional slipping or movement that happens when pressure is put on the ladder of any kind. Even if it doesn’t seem to be that significant at first, a moment of unexpected compromise when there is an actual risk of an injury can prove to be disastrous very quickly.

Employer Supervision Oversights

Just as it is important for an employer to make sure that the state of the ladder is optimized for safety, it is also important for them to make sure that the employees have been properly trained. It is the responsibility of the employer to make sure effective training programs are provided and put in place, so that each employee knows exactly how to use the ladders properly. In addition to confirming that every employee is familiar with the proper safety protocol, consistent regular safety meetings or “tool box talks” are also standard in the construction and painting industry.

In-patient Hospitalization and Multiple Injuries

If you require inpatient hospitalization because of a ladder accident, the employer must file a record of your in-patient hospitalization with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within 24 hours. If the employer fails to file a record of the inpatient hospitalization, they can very easily be held liable for negligence to follow through with due process. OSHA is also concerned with multiple injuries from single construction accidents.

Negligence Claims

In addition to making an Indiana Worker’s Compensation claim, your accident might also involve a negligence claim against a third party. This means if an accident was caused by a worker from another company or an independent party (someone besides your employer or co-workers), then you might have a legal claim beyond the recoverable benefits from the worker’s compensation law. Our firm handles both negligence and Indiana Worker’s Compensation claims, and we know what to ask about and look for with these cases. When we can prosecute injury claims to collect damages beyond those offered through the Indiana Worker’s Compensation law, we go after them and fight for our clients.

Summary

With Indiana workers compensation claims, you can get the justice you need for using the state’s laws for work accidents. The law requires employers to offer benefits covering medical expenses, lost income from time off work (TTD) and permanent partial impairment (PPI) compensation. In order to make sure that your case is as strong as possible, you will want to make sure that you have all of the necessary details in order. Make sure to accurately report the time of the accident, all of the details about the environment, any medical details provided by your primary health care providers and a complete chronological report of the events leading up to and following the accident.

The more details that you can provide about your Indiana workers compensation claim case, the better of a chance you will have to get the kind of work injury compensation that you deserve. If you would like to know more about how you might be able to present a strong worker’s injury case, feel free to get in contact with us for a free consultation.