Call Our Proven Jury Trial & Business Law Advocates for a Free Consultation 317-843-2606
Indiana Raises Worker’s Compensation Rates for Benefits

Indiana Raises Worker’s Compensation Rates for Benefits

Finally, after years of remaining at the same level, the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board and State of Indiana increased the financial recovery rates an injured worker can claim for their casewww.in.gov/wcb/files/PPIandTTD-benefits2023_1.3_.pdf  For injuries that occur on or after July 1, 2023, an injured worker may recover more money for their PPI and TTD benefits.  The schedule used by the state increases annually over the next four years.  Understanding these rate tables can be complicated.  Since every dollar for your work injury case is precious, you should contact Goodin Abernathy for legal help.      

Worker’s Compensation Laws

Employees hurt on the job in Indiana are protected by Indiana’s Worker’s Compensation laws.  Attorney Jim Browne and Goodin Abernathy regularly help our Hispanic clients navigate the legal process to protect their rights and fight for more benefits.  This article highlights main points of the Indiana Worker’s Compensation process. 

Each state uses different laws for their worker’s compensation (“work comp”) claims.  In Indiana, a work injury is considered a civil law claim.  It does not involve criminal or immigration law issues.  Something a little different about work comp claims is an agency handles the legal process – not a court of law.  The Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board is the agency that tracks and handles these cases.  You can learn more about the Board at this website https://www.in.gov/wcb/

An important part about Indiana’s work comp law is that an employer cannot defend a case based on liability or fault.  Unlike an auto accident or other typical type of injury claim, it does not matter whether an employee was negligent and did something to cause the accident.  As long as the employee was not intoxicated or intended to hurt themself, Indiana requires the employer to offer benefits.

Unfortunately, we often hear that employers threaten immigration reporting or similar problems when their employees are injured.  You should not be afraid of immigration issues.   Indiana’s work comp law allows any worker to make a claim.  Your immigration status does not affect your legal rights and does not involve notifying the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (“ICE”) agency.  Hispanic workers should not be concerned about immigration problems and notify their employer or supervisor immediately if injured on the job.  Make sure to report your injury right away because waiting to do so may allow the employer to dispute responsibility.

Preliminarily, a couple legal issues we see affecting work comp claims involve whether the worker was an employee and whether the employer has insurance coverage.  Determining whether an injured worker is an employee or independent contractor can be a complicated legal question.  Since Indiana law does not require employers to offer independent contractors work comp benefits, let’s review some basic differences between employees and independent contractors. 

Signs That Show A Worker Is An Employee

  1. The worker is paid with a company check
  2. Taxes are taken out of their pay checks
  3. Worker does not work at other jobs
  4. Worker does not have her/his own business
  5. Worker uses the employer’s equipment
  6. Worker regularly visits the employer’s place of business
  7. Works the hours and schedule the employer chooses

An Independent Contractor Is Usually Identified When These Circumstances Apply

  1. The worker has her / his own company
  2. They work for various other companies
  3. They do not work for the employer full time
  4. They receive a 1099 tax form from the employer
  5. They do not have taxes withheld from their payments
  6. They use their own vehicles and equipment to perform the work

Worker’s compensation insurance coverage is an important part of the claim.  Without insurance coverage, employers usually cannot pay the benefits they owe their injured employees.  Many employers are small companies or individuals and choose not to pay for insurance.  This is an important reason why you should ask if your employer has worker’s compensation insurance.  A legal option that sometimes helps injured workers in these situations is if your employer is performing work for another company or contractor.  Typical examples of this arrangement are found in construction and staffing agency arrangements.   Indiana’s work comp law allows us to take one step up and make a claim for benefits from the general contractor or staffing agency if the primary employer does not carry insurance.

When an employee is injured on the job, Indiana law requires the employer to offer various benefits.  The first and probably most important benefit is for medical treatment.  If you visit the doctors, therapists and medical providers the employers offer, they must pay for all your costs.  You are not responsible for deductible payments.  You are not required to use your own health insurance or take FMLA time. Since your health and well-being are your primary concerns, you may seek medical treatment immediately after your work accident.  If your employer or the insurance company deny you treatment, then you should seek legal help immediately.  The attorneys at Goodin Abernathy understand the process and will explain your rights. 

When a doctor or medical expert says you cannot work due to your injuries, you may claim Temporary Total Disability (“TTD”) payments.  Indiana’s work comp law requires employers to pay two – thirds (66.66%) of your regular income while you cannot work.  These TTD payments are not reduced for income tax or other typical withholdings.  Before the payments start, the doctor must determine that you miss more than seven (7) consecutive days of work.  If you miss thirty (30) consecutive days or more, than the employer must go back and pay you for the first 7 days of work that you missed.  Sometimes, workers do not miss time off work immediately after their injury.  But later, they require surgery or start treatment that keeps them off work.  The TTD rules also apply to these subsequent periods of missed work.   

When the employer or its insurance company determine that certain benefits should finish, they are required to send you a Termination of Benefits form.  The form looks like this www.in.gov/wcb/files/Blank-38911.pdf  If you dispute that benefits should stop, it is important to respond to these within seven days of receiving the form.  If you fail to respond, then technically the employer may stop sending you the TTD benefits. 

The final type of benefits owed to an injured employee involves the Permanent Partial Impairment (“PPI”) value of your injury.  Basically, this benefit pays the employee for the future impairment they will suffer from the injury.  That is, how will the injury interfere with their work and ability to earn income in the future.  Calculating this benefit is complicated.  For instance, the doctors and work comp Board uses the AMA Guidelines for reference.  https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/ama-guides/ama-guides-evaluation-permanent-impairment-overview.  To understand it best, you should contact our Legalmente Hablando Indy team for representation.  We will examine the medical records, show you how the government calculates the benefits and describe your legal options for maximizing recovery of PPI benefits. 

Indiana law controls how attorneys charge for legal services in work comp claims.  All attorneys in the state charge the same percentages for contingency fees.  Since we charge a contingency fee, that means we collect our fees only when we win and you get paid money for your claim.  If we do not collect money, then you do not pay.  Our legal fee agreements are explained in both Spanish and English. 

If you or a loved one are injured in a workplace accident, contact the Goodin Abernathy legal team.  We handle death claims, amputations, orthopedic surgeries, electrocution, burns, explosions, head /brain injuries, spinal column fractures and broken bones.  You will find we care about our clients and patiently explain the legal process.  Count on us to aggressively represent your claim. Contact us today.

Job Safety with Anonymous IOSHA Reporting

Job Safety with Anonymous IOSHA Reporting

Many Hispanics working physical labor jobs face dangerous work conditions.  Unfortunately, Hispanics and many other workers sacrifice their safety in hopes of keeping their jobs for income.  Attorney Jim Browne and his Legalmente Hablando Indy legal team work daily with injured workers.  Often attorney Browne must request work accident reports from the Indian Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (IOSHA).  These reports describe investigation results after work injuries occur.  Of course, Legalmente Hablando Indy prefers nobody gets hurt and workers enjoy safe conditions.  So here are a couple options Hispanic laborers can use to prevent accidents. 

IOSHA offers workers a way to privately request help enforcing safety standards in the work place. https://www.in.gov/dol/iosha/iosha-home/ IOSHA’s inspection may result in warnings or fines.  But it will certainly help identify hazards and develop safety plans to reduce the risk of worker injury.

IOSHA offers two ways to file safety complaints.  First, you may file a formal complaint.  A formal complaint is made by a current employee or their representative. Formal complaints are assigned to a Compliance Officer for inspection, and they must meet the following requirements:

  • Asserts that an imminent danger, a violation of the IOSH Act or a violation of an IOSHA standard exposing employees to physical harm exists in the workplace;
  • Is submitted in writing; and
  • Is signed by at least one current employee or employee representative.

To make the report, you may use this form www.in.gov/dol/files/IOSHA_Complaint_Form.pdf or write a letter and send it to IOSHA. 

Another reporting option includes a “non-formal complaint.”  Using this reporting keeps your identity anonymous.  Your employer and co-workers do not learn that you or your representative made a safety complaint.  A non-formal complaint does cause IOSHA to investigate the workplace for hazards complained of in the report.  You may use this link to find the report in Spanish: https://www.osha.gov/form/osha7/espanol

Slip and trip injuries are the most common problems in work sites.  Many of our Legalmente Hablando Indy clients suffer broken ankles, wrists and twisted knees in these accidents. We also represent many clients who have suffered injuries after falling from heights, like roofs, ladders and scaffolds.  Since so much velocity and force is involved with these accidents, our clients typically suffered serious closed head injuries, broken bones and tragically, even death. 

The demolition industry exposes many of our clients to additional dangers.  Typically, our demolition clients are injured when heavy objects, like walls, ceilings or pipes fall onto them.  Or they are burned by electric wires and fall from scissor lifts. 

Amputations are injuries attorney Browne also focuses on for Indiana Worker’s Compensation claims.  The amputation injury involves a special set of regulations for determining benefits.  Goodin Abernathy is experienced in fighting for our clients’ best medical and financial recoveries.  Contact us for free in person, telephone or video consultations if you, a friend or loved one has suffered a work injury.  Jim Browne and his team care about our Hispanic clients work to provide them the best legal service available in Indiana.

The 9 Most Common Injuries from Construction Accidents

The 9 Most Common Injuries from Construction Accidents

Falls account for one in three construction site accident deaths. However, not all accidents are so extreme that they result in death. For many people, their injuries include bruises, cuts, broken bones, and concussions. However, it doesn’t matter if the injury is minor or severe. If it impacts your ability to work, it affects your life and family. The lawyers at Goodin Abernathy understand that a construction injury can be a life-altering accident. They fight hard to secure their clients just compensation for their injuries. 

Broken Bones 

The most cited OSHA safety regulation violation is the lack of fall protection on construction sites. Completed buildings have several safety features in place to protect people from falling. Buildings that are in the construction process do not have these features installed yet. This and the very nature of working up high puts construction workers at a greater risk of falling. For example, from ladders, rooftops, scaffolding, or large machinery. When you fall from a tall height, your body is at risk of breaking bones and bruising upon impact. 

Other common causes of broken bones are struck-by accidents or crush accidents. This is when the construction worker gets struck by or crushed by a vehicle, machinery, or equipment. Broken bones can take months to heal, then require many more months of rehab. In some situations, the victim may never fully regain the functionality of their broken limb. 

Electrocution 

Because construction sites are buildings in progress, they have an increased risk of electrocution. Exposed wiring and generators present a risk by exposing construction workers to electricity. Then there is the use of power tools and electrical equipment as an everyday part of the job. If these tools are not properly maintained, they can have an electrical short that injures the user. Finally, excavation and site trenching activities can result in a construction worker unknowingly hitting buried electrical wires. When someone experiences electrocution, they can experience nerve damage, respiratory problems, seizures, and brain damage. These injuries could be short-term or long-lasting, depending on the severity of the electrocution. 

Knee and Ankle Injury 

Construction sites are not easy places to walk. Building materials, equipment, and tools are strewn about. Then there is the uneven ground, holes, and trenches. Navigating this minefield of potential danger can sometimes result in a slip or trip and fall. When this happens, knee and ankle injuries also occur. Minor injuries may require the injured worker to stay off their foot for weeks or months. More serious injuries could require surgery. 

Back Injury 

Sometimes back injuries happen from falls, being struck by, or being caught in-between accidents. But they can also occur from over-exertion. Simply being required to carry or move equipment that is too heavy for you can cause a back injury. These injuries can debilitate a person, rendering them unable to sit or stand for extended periods of time. Recovery can require rest and physical therapy to heal and strengthen the back muscles. 

Head and Brain Injury 

There is a reason construction workers wear hard hats. Even a minor bump to the head can cause a head or brain injury. Head injuries are tricky; minor injuries rarely cause long-term problems. However, severe injuries can create extensive complications that are long-lasting. If a construction worker suffers a head injury, they should get checked by a doctor. The most common type of injury is a concussion. Recovery requires rest, which can keep you from work. In contrast, severe head injuries can impact speech, coordination, seizures, and cognitive thought. Effects can directly impact the victim’s ability to function and prevent them from going back to work. 

Spinal Cord Injury 

A spinal cord injury occurs when a sudden and traumatic blow to your spine causes your spinal bones to crush, compress, or dislocate. This movement of the bones damages the spinal cord located within them. Because your spinal cord is a tight bundle of nerves that acts as a central command center for your body, these injuries can have far-reaching effects. You could experience minor numbness or total paralysis. Injury to your spinal cord is permanent. This type of injury is life-altering and affects every part of a construction worker’s life. 

Illness

Asbestos and lead were once commonly found in construction. These materials are harmful to the human body. Construction workers who work on an older building could be exposed to these hazards. However, they aren’t the only dangers that can cause illness. Construction workers exposed to toxins, chemicals, solvents, and pesticides are at risk of suffering illness. This type of injury is more challenging to prove liability for. Unlike physical injuries, illness does not always happen right away. Sometimes, it can take years for the illness to become known. If you worked in construction and suspect that your illness is a result, consider speaking with a personal injury attorney.

Loss of Limb 

In some caught in-between accidents, a construction worker may lose a limb. This happens when the victim gets caught where they shouldn’t be. The limb gets caught, causing it to get crushed. Another common occurrence is the loss of a finger or toe. Fingers can easily get caught in the way of a sharp blade. Toes can become injured when heavy equipment or building supplies get dropped on the foot. Depending on the limb lost, this injury can prevent the construction worker from continuing to work in the construction industry. 

Internal Organ Damage 

Being caught between, crushing, and fall accidents can have a devastating impact on the human body. While external damages are readily assessed, internal organ damage can lead to potentially life-threatening complications. Surgery may be required to repair the injury and stop bleeding. It can then take months or over a year for the individual to heal. During this time, they may not be able to work. 

Hire a Goodin Abernathy LLP Lawyer

The Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys handle worker’s compensation and negligence claims for clients injured on construction sites.  These two legal claims involve difficult issues in which the Goodin Abernathy attorneys are experienced taking to court and fighting for our clients’ recoveries.  A “work comp” case involves making a claim against the worker’s employer for statutory benefit.  These include medical treatment, lost wages and physical impairment.  

A “negligence” claim is the second legal area that many attorneys are not as experienced in handling.  In certain situations, an injured worker can make legal claims against general contractors, project supervisors, project owners or other services typically involved in a construction project.  Especially in death, amputation or serious injuries, we need to make sure our clients exhaust their legal remedies and collect the damages they are entitled to under the law. That’s why we help our clients recover more money for damages through negligence cases compared to only going after a work comp claim.  In serious injuries, amputations or death claims, call the Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys right away.  We care about our clients, their families and supporting them with first-rate representation. 

Do not wait to seek treatment if you’ve experienced an injury while working on a construction site. Once you have a diagnosis and treatment plan, consider speaking with a lawyer. The team at Goodin Abernathy has experience representing injured construction workers. They fight for the compensation they deserve to ensure they have financial security. 

Schedule a consultation to discuss your construction site injury with one of our attorneys. 

Injured In Auto Accident And Don’t Have a Driver’s License

Injured In Auto Accident And Don’t Have a Driver’s License

In Indiana, in order to legally operate an automobile, and you are required to have a driver’s license. To obtain a driver’s license, you must pass a written driver’s test and pass a road test. These conditions exist throughout the country. Indeed, all states and Washington D.C. require an individual to pass a road test and a written driver’s test before being issued a driver’s license. Thus, may wonder what happens when an individual is injured in an accident but the individual does not possess a valid driver’s license.

In short, although operating an automobile without a valid driver’s license is a criminal offense, the absence of a driver’s license does not automatically prohibit an individual from recovering for their injuries. However, in the context of a claim for personal injuries, disagreements often occur over whether the absence of a driver’s license is even admissible evidence. When these disagreements occur, and if left unresolved, a judge is asked to determine whether the jury will be allowed to hear evidence about the absence of a driver’s license. Like many areas in law, an exploration into the facts of an individual matter is usually necessary to assess how a judge is likely to resolve these types of disagreements.

For example, just because a driver does not possess a valid driver’s license at the moment of the accident, it does not necessarily mean a judge will allow a jury to hear this information and it is important to identify whether the individual ever possessed a valid driver’s license at any time in their life and to identify what the driver was doing at the time of the accident. The basic and indisputable purpose of the driver’s license requirement is to certify that the owner of the license has proven they are capable of operating an automobile on public roads in a safe and responsible manner. Therefore, if an individual previously passed a road test and written test, but forgot to renew their license, and is then rear-ended while stopped at a red light, the fact that the individual did not possess a valid license at the time of the accident has little relevance, and is not likely admissible. This is because the individual had previously demonstrated a base understanding of the rules of the road and a base proficiency at operating an automobile and the competence is not in dispute since they were properly stopped at the time of the accident.

On the other hand, if the individual has never possessed a license and has never passed a road test and written test, and is injured in an accident while changing lanes shortly after passing a sign signifying a lane was ending, it is more likely a judge would allow a jury to hear evidence about the absence of a valid license. This is because the same factors that make it necessary for individuals to pass a written and road test (knowledge of right of way practices and warning signs) are the same factors that are associated with the facts of the accident.

If you have questions about how the absence of a valid driver’s license impacts a claim for personal injuries, call one of our experienced lawyers for a free consultation.

Farming Accidents in Indiana

Farming Accidents in Indiana

Why You Need to be Represented by the Attorneys of Goodin Abernathy LLP for Farming Accidents in Indiana

The Goodin Abernathy LLP trial attorneys are experienced with helping farm and field workers who suffer serious injuries in farming accidents. As Indiana’s harvest season begins, now is the time to use extra caution working in the fields and driving through the countryside.

The Hoosier State is ranked 10th nationally in total agricultural production and ranked in the top five states for crop production like corn and soybeans. It’s also ranked fifth in the nation for swine production and third for poultry. (https://farmflavor.com/indiana-agriculture/) With this high volume of production, numerous workers and large farm machinery are active daily in the fields of Indiana’s farms. Because of this heavy equipment, agriculture is a hazardous industry. Farmers are at a high risk for fatal and serious farm accident injuries. (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aginjury/) These injuries are gruesome and can have long lasting effects. Over the years, Goodin Abernathy LLP’s personal injury attorneys have represented farm hands throughout Indiana, helping them understand the legal system and fighting to make sure they collect the legal benefits or damages they deserve following serious accidents.

Our initial consultations are free. More importantly, since each client’s farming accident experience is unique; Goodin Abernathy LLP does not charge a set contingency fee. Our fees depend on the level of legal work your claim requires. When meeting with us for the first time, no one will pressure you to sign a fee agreement or make any decisions right away. We prefer in-person initial consultations. If time and distance are a barrier for out of state clients, we handle video conferencing and telephone conferences at convenient times, all days of the week.

Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys handle farming accident cases for injured clients and their families from all across the country. If the accident happened in Indiana, Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys know the law. We handle state and federal lawsuits and are proficient at holding those responsible accountable for their negligence.

Since fall is when the harvest takes place, more accidents occur during this time of year. Most farm operations own and run their own semi trucks for hauling grain. Thus, more big trucks are driving throughout the countryside on state and country roads increasing possibilities that trucking accidents can occur. Grain trucks, filled full of heavy grain, are harder to stop. They can also enter the road at unmarked points during the day or night. Many do not have the proper, legally mandated, reflectors and lights. Some of these farm vehicles are even left on the side of the road without the proper materials to make them visible to other traffic on the road. Big farm machinery can also hit or run over workers in the field—especially those attempting to load produce.

Machinery accidents only allot for a portion of farming accidents. Here are some of the other accidents the attorneys of Goodin Abernathy LLP have handled:

  • a dairy farm hand who slipped in cold, frozen mud and fell into a manure pit where he died from toxic fume exposure;
  • a young teen who was working as a temporary farm hand and put his hand in an auger to dislodge material when the machine started running again and mangled his hand;
  • silo accidents where young or untrained farm hands get sucked into huge amounts of grain.

Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys also realize that many of Indiana’s agricultural workers come from out of state or even out of the country. In fact, 73% of America’s farming labor force is comprised of migrant workers.

If you are injured in Indiana, Goodin Abernathy LLP is the firm to represent you. When Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys take a farming accident case, we grab it hands-on and work to collect the details that accurately describe how and why the accident happened. Our experience handling medical testimony, using top quality experts and showing a jury the anatomy of an injury is just as important as our experience investigating accidents. We have the skills necessary to represent you, and the attorneys of Goodin Abernathy LLP CARE ABOUT OUR CLIENTS.

Goodin Abernathy LLP also offers all of these services, in Spanish, to the Indiana Latino community. Marca aquí por un versíon en Español – Legalmente Hablando Indy.

Indiana law allows farms to cover cases under Indiana Worker’s Compensation law or face a potential negligence claim. Worker’s compensation should provide you with medical, rehabilitation and income benefits if you are injured on the job. These benefits are provided to help injured workers return to work. It also provides benefits to the worker’s dependents if they die as the result of a job-related injury. The attorneys are Goodin Abernathy LLC understand the legal intricacies of farming accidents claims. We care about you and your families and are ready to help you fight for the maximum amount of compensation allowable by law.

Let Goodin Abernathy LLP guide you through your legal claim. We walk beside you through the entire process handling your case with the care and attention you deserve. We want to get to know you, discuss the legal process, provide you the opportunity to ask questions and explain our fee structure. Reach out to Goodin Abernathy LLP and let us show you how we set ourselves apart from other attorneys. Experience the care, wisdom, and experience Goodin Abernathy LLP has to offer by calling 317.843.2606 today for your free consultation.

 

 

Photo by Spencer Pugh on Unsplash

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.