Articles Posted in Workers’ compensation

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young-police-officer-1-1515554In State v. Okafor, a police officer driving to work in uniform was in a car accident. His patrol car had been having engine trouble, so he took it to a repair facility for patrol cars, and he was driving his own car at the time of the accident. His car was clipped, resulting in him losing control of the car and hitting a tree. He suffered personal injuries and pursued a workers’ compensation benefits claim.

The police officer’s employer, the State, brought an action for judicial review in the Circuit Court and filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court denied. The State argued that his claim was barred by the going and coming rule. Under this rule, you cannot recover workers’ compensation benefits for injuries sustained while going to or coming from work. There are certain exceptions however, including a special errand exception and an exception when an employer requires an employee to use his own car for work.

The police officer explained that when he dropped off the car for repair, there weren’t other patrol cars he could use, which was why he was driving his own car at the time of the accident. When driving his own car, he can arrest someone he sees committing a felony and help if he passes an accident. However, he can’t write tickets or chase vehicles or make a traffic stop.

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floor-tiles-1194781In Long v. Injured Workers’ Insurance Fund, the court considered a case in which the owner of a flooring installation company, a sole proprietor, was injured. Before 2011, the owner had elected to be a covered employee under LE § 9-227. His company did work as an independent contractor for the contractor Ryan Homes. The contractor paid the sole proprietor every week for the hours worked by the owner.

While installing carpet for the contractor, the owner sustained a serious back injury. He was able to come back to work temporarily, but due to the severity of the injury he couldn’t work after fall 2011. According to his attorney, he would be 100% disabled for the remainder of his life. Six months after the accident, the owner filed a claim notice with the Commission.

The claimant filed a tax return for 2011 claiming no wages, although he did declare a business income of $16,879, which represented the sole proprietorship’s net profit. At a Commission hearing, there was a question as to how the Injured Workers’ Insurance Fund (IWIF) calculated workers’ compensation premiums. IWIF had sent a letter trying to get information from the claimant so that it could establish premiums based on his estimate of payroll.

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garbage-truck-924177-mLocal government employees in Maryland are restricted in their ability to sue for injuries caused by an employer or coworker. In Blue v. Arrington, a Baltimore City employee (Arrington) hurt another employee (Blue) while they were working at their jobs for the City. The injured plaintiff was working as a Seasonal Maintenance Aide on a garbage truck. He was side mounted on the outside of a truck driven by Arrington. Arrington was on the cell phone, tried to turn, and crushed Blue between a fence and brick wall.

The injured employee received workers’ compensation for permanent disability, medical expenses, and lost wages, but he also sued Arrington for negligence for the same injuries. The plaintiff alleged the coworker owed a duty to operate the vehicle properly and breached the duty of care by failing to properly turn the vehicle while keeping a lookout for Blue.

The city filed a motion to dismiss on its employee’s behalf, relying on the Local Government Tort Claims Act, which prevents local government employees from suing coworkers for tortious acts or omissions that are committed in the scope of employment if Maryland workers’ compensation covers the injury. It argued that the plaintiff’s exclusive remedy was worker’s compensation. Continue reading →

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blocks-of-flats-962068-m-2In the 2012 case WMATA v. Williams, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”) appealed after the Circuit Court affirmed the workers’ compensation ruling that a worker’s leg injury was causally related to an earlier work injury.

The claimant worked in a physically demanding job as a mechanic for WMATA. His back and left knee were injured at work, and he had to undergo physical therapy for his knee. Before the claimant got his strength back, the physical therapist recommended work hardening, an intensive type of physical therapy.

The work hardening program was at a different location. On the second to last day of the program, the claimant went back to his truck to eat his lunch. After he finished lunch, he was walking back to a session of the work hardening program when a driver in the parking lot backed into him. This resulted in an injury to his right knee. The claimant claimed workers’ compensation benefits for the right knee. Continue reading →

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industrial-warehouse-2-1169213-mSome Maryland cases involving workplace injury can be complex because they require more analysis than a simple workers’ compensation claim. If a worker is injured while using a defective machine, there may be a product liability component to the claim. This means that the manufacturer of the machine can be held responsible for a worker’s injuries in civil court under a theory of defective manufacturing, defective design, and breach of warranty. There may also be claims against various entities in the distribution chain, including the company that sold the machine.

In the 2010 case of Miller Metal Fabrication v. Wall, an appellate court considered a products liability case. The defendant manufactured machinery. The machine that caused an injury was a brine-filling machine used by food processors. It was commissioned by Country Fresh and fabricated according to the design for a machine manufactured by a company that no longer existed.

Country Fresh custom-manufactured machinery. It commissioned the machine for use in a mushroom processing plant assembly line. It was installed at a facility in Maryland, where it filled buckets of mushrooms with brine. Continue reading →

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old-tools-1130510-mIn a recent case, a Maryland appellate court looked at how an injured worker’s permanent partial disability benefits are capped. The question was whether they were capped by the state average weekly wage in effect on the injury date, or the state average weekly wage for the year when the worker’s permanent partial disability benefits started.

The worker in the case was hurt in 1998, but he argued that his award should be based on the state average weekly wage for 2000, since that was when he established his right to an award for permanent partial disability. The Workers’ Compensation Commission rejected this argument, as did the Circuit Court and Court of Special Appeals.

The worker asked the Court of Appeals to review the case. The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower and intermediate appellate court that the applicable rate was the one in effect on the worker’s injury date. It explained that every year, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation decides what the state average weekly wage will be. In this case, the worker was awarded 185 weeks of benefits. Continue reading →

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ladder-rungs-1326879-mAlthough independent contractors do not have the right to workers’ compensation benefits in Maryland, there are some cases in which employers have misclassified a worker as an independent contractor when the worker is actually an employee. In Elms v. Renewal by Anderson, the plaintiff (Elms) was a home improvement contractor who owned and operated his own home improvement business that was not incorporated. The business used the business name “Elms Construction Company” and offered window and door installation, roofing, and carpentry. The plaintiff obtained workers’ compensation insurance as a sole proprietor. However, he didn’t include himself on the policy, and his son was the only named employee on the policy.

The plaintiff entered into a relationship with Renewal, a company that performed window and door installation. He installed windows and doors for the company, and he certified that his own construction business carried workers’ compensation insurance. Renewal required the plaintiff and his workers to wear company shirts and plant its company signs in customer yards, and to follow its other policies and rules.

On the first two installation jobs that the plaintiff performed for Renewal, its employees trained his employees in the methods and materials to be used. Subsequently, it reviewed the plaintiff’s installations and required him to make corrections. Renewal also gave report cards to homeowners to rate their installations, and it then offered feedback. The plaintiff believed that he was required to maintain a score of at least 90 percent from customer ratings. Continue reading →

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silhouette-car-1426855-mIn Maryland workers’ compensation cases, mileage reimbursement may be awarded to a claimant who needs to make visits to the hospital. In a recent case, an insurer and an employer appealed summary judgment in favor of an employee who claimed medical mileage in his workers’ compensation case.

The employee had gotten hurt while helping coworkers lift a wall on a construction job where he was a foreman. He suffered neck and back pain and required medical treatment. He went to several medical appointments in a two-year period, taking a taxi or public transportation each time. He didn’t keep any receipts.

Nonetheless, his lawyer gave him a form to ask for reimbursement.  He submitted the form without the receipts. In the round trip mileage column, he simply filled out the number of miles. The insurer and employer refused to reimburse the mileage because he had not receipts for the actual cost. Continue reading →

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parking-lot-1092981-mIn a recent case, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals considered whether a claimant who had reached maximum medical improvement could receive temporary total disability benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The case arose when a 68-year-old claimant working at a CVS pharmacy fell on ice outside her workplace. She hurt her mid and lower back because of the fall.

She filed for temporary total benefits through CVS’s insurer and began medical treatment. A neurosurgeon’s examination found that she had a medical condition called kyphosoliosis, a pre-existing S curve in her mid and lower back. She also had a fracture to the spine as a result of the accident. Fragments of her spine had entered the spinal canal.

Her neurosurgeon recommended a fracture repair and he referred her to an orthopedic surgeon for further evaluation. After talking to the orthopedic surgeon, she decided against the surgery. Continue reading →

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fire-house-side-106948-mIn a recent Maryland workers’ compensation case, a firefighter filed a workers’ compensation claim in which he alleged he had been injured on motorcycle while leaving a physical training session at a high school. He was returning to the fire station where he worked on “light duty” because he had a prior compensable back injury. He worked four 10-hour shifts.

The firefighters were encouraged to do 2 hours of physical training per shift. These were paid training sessions, but the firefighters could train at any location they wanted. During the period of light duty, the firefighter who filed the workers’ compensation claim would come by the station to pick up his mail. This was a usual practice for firefighters on light duty.

On the day of the accident, the firefighter came to the high school in the morning and trained. He went to get his mail by motorcycle. He got into an accident. Continue reading →