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To our valued clients:
April 30, 2020
RE: COVID-19 UPDATE; USEFUL TOOLS ON OUR WEBSITE
The COVID-19 stay at home order has likely magnified your day-to-day frustrations. It feels like your injury and need for medical treatments have been put “on hold” indefinitely. Many law firms are adopting this “on hold” policy, telling clients their only option is to suffer and wait. But when you’re injured, you’re already living with too much suffering and waiting.
That’s why I made it a priority to find ways to reduce or eliminate wait time for our clients. My staff has researched available options and compiled a list of new tools that can accelerate your access to medical care, and speed up day-to-day management of your workers’ compensation or personal injuries claims.
Speed up your access to care and claims management with these tools:
1. Telehealth appointment options: Find a list of health care providers who offer “telehealth” appointment options on our website. There you’ll find details related to eligibility for telehealth appointments and how to schedule one. Access the list directly at:
2. Video conferencing instructions: Learn how easy it is to use the video conferencing tools available for telehealth. Information about Zoom and other video conferencing applications is here on our website: https:/ /ramsaylawfirm.com/coronavirus-covid-19-resources-information/
3. Digital signatures and document management: We’ve selected two remote signing programs to make disbursing settlements and signing documents easier. Learn more about DocHub and Docusign. You may see these tools being used by our office.
We realize not every problem or delay in medical care can be fixed with these tools. But these approaches may work for you to obtain pain management, consult with a mental health expert, or even work on your physical therapy. Your recovery is a long process and each small step furthers your progress and healing. Please know that we will continue to work diligently to seek alternative solutions for you.
As always, our focus remains on you. We are grateful for the technology that allows us to continue to move your medical care and your life forward, while you stay safe at home.
How can you help during this time? If you find an option for medical care that works for you – please tell us! Sharing your story can help others. Please don’t hesitate to call us if you have any questions.
I hope you are safe and well. Despite the uncertain and stressful time that we are having, the Ramsay Law Firm is still open and ready to help with your workers’ compensation or personal injury case. We are currently still offering the option of an office visit, as long as you are well, but recommend telephone conferences or video conferences instead.
Please be advised that the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) has canceled worker’s compensation hearings for March and April. Mediation between now and April 12th must be conducted remotely. Our staff will be in touch with you if this change applies to your case.
The NCIC staff is working remotely. We are unsure if this will cause any delays in receiving decisions or Orders. We are hopeful that because hearings have been canceled, decisions may be issued more quickly. Many insurance companies, defense law firms, and other companies are either working remotely or with a reduced staff. We have more difficulty getting people on the phone, but continue to be persistent electronically.
We are doing our part with Social Distancing, which means that we will keep a respectful distance and refrain from shaking hands. We are also being very diligent and thorough in our cleaning and disinfecting of the office after each visitor. We have taken steps to prepare for our employees work from home, should the need arise, in order to maintain the support necessary for you and your claim. Of course, we always remain available via telephone.
Doctor’s offices remain open and if you and your family are well, we encourage you to continue to seek the treatment you need for your injury. Hand washing before and after any doctor’s visit will be very important. Getting good rest, finding ways to relax and laugh should also be high on your list. Please stay safe and don’t hesitate to give us a call at 704-376-1616 if we can help.
Is Coronavirus Covered Under Workers Compensation?
In response to the continuing pandemic, Congress passed-and the President signed-an unprecedented series of laws designed to help people effected by the COVID-19 crisis. The following is intended as a brief summary of these benefits and how they can apply in workers’ compensation cases, as well as generally.
Expanded Unemployment Benefits:
Traditionally, North Carolina has been among the stingiest and worst unemployment benefits in the country. To be eligible, the unemployment cannot be attributable to the employee’s “fault” (layoffs or furloughs due to COVID-19 are not the employee’s fault) and the employee must actively seek work. The employee must be ready, willing and able to work.
Benefits are limited to 20 weeks and a maximum amount of $350.00 per week. To be eligible, you generally must have worked 2 of the previous 5 quarters (3 month periods or 15 months), and earned more than $780.00 in each of those quarters. The earnings usually are required to be paid subject to W2 reporting, not independent contractor/1099 earnings or “under the table” cash payments. The amount of benefits is determined by taking the earnings for the last two quarters (six months) and dividing that amount by 52. So if someone earned $20,000 per year on a steady basis, the last two quarters (six months) would be $10,000; divided by 52 would equal a benefit of $192.31 per week. The maximum benefit is $350.00 per week. The math means unemployment benefits are maxed out by anyone making more than $36,400 per year. Put another way, a person making $36,400 per year gets $350.00 per week in benefits; a person making $125,000 per year also gets . . . $350.00 per week in benefits. To be eligible, the unemployment cannot be attributable to the employees “fault” (layoffs of furloughs due to COVID-19 would meet this requirement) and the employee must actively seek work.
Under the CARES Act, unemployment benefits are expanded significantly by what is called “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.” The expansion has three main elements:
The unemployment needs to be “because of the COVID-19 emergency.” If a restaurant worker is unemployed because they currently are forbidden to be open, that would certainly be subject to the increased benefits. It is less clear if restaurants are allowed to reopen and their particular restaurant shut down because of financial problems whether they would still be eligible for the increased benefits. The following is the Department of Labor’s guidance on what qualifies for the increased benefits:
The most common of these situations is people whose place of business is closed because of the COVID-19 or who must care for their children due to school shutdowns. Note that if you are eligible for telework and refuse, the benefits are not available.
As it relates to workers’ compensation, most people getting workers’ compensation will not get the expanded benefits. This is because either they have not been working recently enough to be eligible or they are not “available to work” as required by the statute. Workers’ compensation benefits are paid at a rate of 67% of average pre-injury earnings, up to a maximum compensation rate of $1,066.00 per week.
There are a couple of situations where it might apply, however. First, if an injured worker was performing light-duty and they can no longer perform that light-duty because the place of business is closed or one of the other requirements apply, that person would be eligible if they meet the other requirements. In this situation, it would almost certainly be more beneficial to collect unemployment than workers’ compensation, as the unemployment benefits may be higher, at least initially. The time limit on benefits would eventually stop the unemployment benefits, especially if the business reopens, whereas workers’ compensation benefits can be paid for much longer. The second situation is where someone is recently injured and otherwise meets the requirements for unemployment. For them, it may be more beneficial to get the unemployment benefits as they may be substantially higher than worker compensation benefits. In either event, discuss this with your attorney before making the choice.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
In addition to the unemployment assistance, the Congress passed the FFCRA. What this does is dramatically expand the Family Medical Leave Act for COVID-19-related conditions.
Among the highlights:
ALL employers must provide two weeks of full-pay sick leave and 2/3 pay for 10 weeks if an employee is unable to work because of an isolation order, or the employee gets Covid-19 or has to isolate because of exposure or caring for someone else; or
Has to care for a child whose school and/or daycare has been closed due to Covid-19-related reasons.
It applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees, regardless of full or part-time status and regardless of length of work. In addition, health insurance and other employment benefits must be continued as if the employee is working.
Here is a DOL poster explaining the new benefits:
For any questions about these matters, contact Ramsay Law Firm and the attorney working on your case.
For an occupational disease to meet the statutory requirements, the first thing the employee must show is an increased risk of developing the disease. The employee does not have to show that their job exposure is the only way to develop the disease; only that their job duties are such that they are at a greater risk of developing it than the general public. For some jobs, that is obvious and easy to prove. People who work in a job where they are routinely exposed to infected people are likely to meet the requirements. Who would that be? Think first responders – ER workers, doctors, nurses, hospital employees, EMS workers and others who would be routinely exposed to infected people as a part of their daily jobs.
As it becomes increasingly likely that a major epidemic of coronavirus (COVID-19) will sweep the country, people are beginning to wonder, “If I get coronavirus and I was exposed to it and caught it at work, is it covered?” The answer, like many areas of the law, isn’t black and white.
As a general rule, coronavirus will be covered, if at all, as an occupational disease. North Carolina law requires that for an occupational disease such as this to be covered, it must be “due to causes or conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation or employment, but excluding all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed outside employment.” North Carolina courts have interpreted this as requiring an employee to prove two things: increased risk and causation. Meeting both of these requirements can be difficult. The more widespread the virus becomes, the more difficult it will be to prove causation. Here are a few scenarios to help explain the answer.
As an attorney, it is unlikely I have a greater risk of being exposed than anyone else unless I specialized in coronavirus cases. Though as an attorney, I meet with people and am exposed to co-workers in an office environment, I generally don’t do that anymore or less than other typical office workers. The courts have been clear with their decisions on this point. If an employee gets infected by a disease that just happens to come from a co-worker, that is not covered. Others might be in more of a grey area. Think flight attendants, nursing home caregivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, hairstylists, daycare providers, or others who are exposed to large numbers of people at close quarters. But as a general rule, the majority of workers will not be able to show an increased risk.
The second thing the employee needs to show is causation, i.e. that the work actually caused the employee to get the coronavirus. Paradoxically, the more prevalent and widespread the virus becomes, the harder it will be to show causation. Why? If millions of people get the virus, it will become harder to show that the workplace was the location of the infection vs. getting exposed in your community or from a family member. Again, like increased risk, the more closely the employee works with infected individuals as part of their job duties, the easier it will be to show the infection originated at work. Also, in the early stages of the outbreak, and with lower numbers, it is easier to track infected individuals and their contacts and thus makes it easier to show that more likely than not, the workers caught coronavirus from a particular individual or workplace interaction. If the worst-case scenarios unfold and there are literally tens of millions of people infected, then it is hard to pin down a work-related cause to any particular infection.
The bottom line is, if there is a large, nationwide outbreak, most employees will not get workers compensation for coronavirus even if they can show they got it at work. The exception to front-line workers in healthcare and others who directly deal with infected individuals as part of their job. The more severe the outbreak, the harder it will be for anyone to meet the legal requirements under North Carolina law.
Hopefully, by limiting exposure to large crowds, diligently washing hands, avoiding contact with those who may have been exposed – this epidemic will not be as bad as it could be.
“My employer denied my workers comp claim”
“I was having difficulty getting approved for surgery” Contact Ramsay Law Firm P.A., 10610 Metromont Parkway, Ste. 205, Charlotte, NC 28269 Phone: 704-376-1616
“I just knew that God brought me to you.”
You are between a rock and a hard place when you’re injured on the job. You need to recuperate from your injury, but a work opportunity arose. Quitting a job when there is an active workers’ compensation case is a complicated decision. Here, the Ramsay Law Firm outlines the implications of leaving your job if you have an ongoing workers’ comp case in North Carolina. Based on our decades of experience, you should make an educated decision before leaving your job.
Our attorneys understand how difficult it can be when you want to quit your job without risking the outcome of your workers’ compensation claim. If you are contemplating resigning your job while your claim is pending, you should talk to an attorney who can help you determine the repercussions of your decision. Call (704) 376-1616 to speak to an experienced attorney at the Ramsay Law Firm.
The moment you resign, your employer can argue that the legal responsibility towards you ended with the termination of the employment relationship. However, this argument is not valid if your departure is due to your injuries and your employer didn’t have a position that would accommodate your current situation.
With the assistance of an attorney, you may be able to establish the link between your resignation and your injuries. If you want to continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits, you shouldn’t rush to a decision. This is especially true if you’re still recovering from your injuries.
Moreover, you should be prepared to inform your new employer about your injuries and that you sought workers’ compensation in order to preserve your right to file a claim if you’re injured at your new job. If you don’t disclose this information, your new employer can claim that you had a pre-existing injury and contest your claim.
Workers’ compensation benefits are intended to pay for your medical expenses and to cover for wages lost during your recovery. In North Carolina, wage replacement benefits pay for two-thirds of the average of your wages for 13 weeks prior to your injury. Subsequently, if you are permanently injured, workers’ compensation continues to pay for your medical treatment even if you change jobs and still have medical bills related to your work-related injury.
Your decision to quit your job will have an impact on your weekly wage replacement benefits. However, if there is a pending settlement on your disability benefits, you should talk to an attorney before quitting your job. There are implications an attorney is uniquely prepared to understand. Wage replacement is a difficult aspect of workers’ comp law. For example, if the new job offers the same or better wages, there are financial consequences your attorney can help you understand. If your job offers a lower pay, you may need an attorney to persuade your old employer to pay for the difference, especially if your previous employer didn’t have a suitable opening that will fit your current situation and offer the necessary accommodations.
As long as your medical status doesn’t change and you are permanently disabled, you should continue to receive your permanent disability benefits. However, when your medical condition improves, your payments can be revoked.
In addition, if you have not reached maximum recovery for your injuries, you may face other repercussions that your attorney can explain depending on your circumstances. The extent of your coverage can be diminished unless you make educated decisions. With the help of a qualified attorney, you can determine what, if any, workers’ compensation coverage you will receive if you quit your job.
If you have a pending settlement, you should get more information before deciding to accept a new work opportunity. There are instances where you should wait for a settlement before quitting your job if the fairness of your settlement is at risk. If you are waiting for a decision in your claim, you should talk to an attorney who can help you determine what is at stake concerning your settlement amount.
Your settlement amount depends on your employer’s fairness regarding your medical claim. However, many other factors can influence settlement determination. If you have not completed your medical treatment, you may not know what the adequate amount of your settlement is. The best approach for the total losses is to have a clear idea on the medical costs so that there is a determination of what is a fair settlement in your case.
An experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney can play a critical role in helping to ascertain a fair settlement amount. The lawyers of the Ramsay Law Firm can help. Call (704) 376-1616 to speak with an experienced attorney today.
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