Workers’ Compensation Retaliation

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In most cases where an injury has occurred at work, the only remedy is under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation system. This means the benefits are defined by law.  In 1975, however, a provision was added to the Minnesota workers’ compensation law that prohibited retaliation against an employee for seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Under Minnesota workers’ compensation law, an employer can be liable in a civil action if the employer fires or threatens to fire an employee seeking work comp benefits. This is known as a work comp retaliation claim. An employer can also be sued if the employer or its insurance company intentionally obstructs an employee seeking workers’ compensation benefits. The injured employee may file a work comp retaliation claim seeking loss in work comp benefits and can also seek costs, reasonable attorney fees, and punitive damages. This work comp retaliation claim is a civil action that is separate from the work comp matter. A work comp retaliation claim covers those situations where an employer/insurer delay or deny benefits in a manner that goes beyond unreasonableness and neglect, and awards damages reserved traditionally for conduct that is outrageous or cruel. This means the action or inaction has to go beyond any reasonable defense the employer or insurer may have for denying work comp benefits. There is a three part test the employee must meet in any work comp retaliation claim: 1)  The employee must demonstrate that the discharge was impermissibly motivated; and 2)  The employer then articulates another reason for the discharge, then 3)  In order to prevail the employee must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the discharge was for the impermissible reason asserted. Contact Us In addition to handling ordinary workers’ compensation matters, the Minnesota work comp lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka also handle work comp retaliation claims.   If you believe you may have been retaliated against for filing a workers’ compensation claim, or you have been threatened with discharge for filing a workers compensation claim, contact our St. Paul workers’ compensation lawyers for a free consultation.

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Work Comp Injuries at the Office Party

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OFFICE PARTY INJURIES In many offices in Minnesota, there are Christmas parties, office parties, picnics, or other office events. Work comp injuries at the office party may be covered under Minnesota workers’ compensation.  Several issues are analyzed in making a determination whether work comp injuries at the office party are covered. Minnesota Statute 176.021, subd. 9, provides: Injuries incurred while participating in voluntary recreational programs sponsored by the employer, including health promotion programs, athletic events, parties, and picnics, do not arise out of and in the course of the employment even though the employer pays some or all of the cost of the programs.  This exclusion does not apply in the event that the injured employee was ordered or assigned by the employer to participate in the program. THE MAIN ISSUE IN EVALUATING WORK COMP INJURIES AT THE OFFICE PARTY IS WHETHER THE EMPLOYER “ORDERED” OR REQUIRED THAT THE EMPLOYEE ATTEND. In Ellingson v. Brady Corp. an employee was not required to attend the employer’s “Fun Day” program. The injured employee was given the option to attend, remain at work, take a vacation day, or take the day off without pay. The court held that because attendance was not mandatory, the injury that occurred was not compensable. MANDATORY ATTENDANCE IS A KEY FACTOR IN EVALUATING WHETHER MINNESOTA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COVERAGE APPLIES TO WORK COMP INJURIES AT THE OFFICE PARTY. Our Minnesota work comp lawyers know how to analyze a case involving work comp injuries at the office party.  If you were injured at a work party, picnic, or event, our lawyers will review the circumstances of the work event and explain to you whether you may be entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits.  If benefits are available, our Minneapolis/St. Paul work comp lawyers will fight to get the benefits you deserve.

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Workers’ Comp Depression

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Under Minnesota workers’ compensation law, depression that results from a work injury may be compensable in certain cases. Minnesota workers’ compensation law divides “mental injuries” such as depression into certain categories: 1. Mental Physical Cases: This occurs when work comp depression produces a physical ailment. This is likely not a situation where the issue of depression will arise, but some of these claims are still compensable under Minnesota workers’ compensation law. It is generally the employee’s burden to prove the physical ailment resulted from work comp depression. 2. Physical/Mental Cases:  In situations where a work-related physical injury cases, aggravates, or leads to a mental injury like depression, that mental injury may be compensable under Minnesota workers’ compensation law.  In these cases, there usually must be some sort of work-related physical injury that leads to work comp depression.  If the employee can prove he or she began suffering from depression as a result of the work-related injury, then the employee may be entitled to additional benefits for work comp depression. In order to prevail in proving a physical/mental workers’ compensation case involving depression, it is not necessary that the physical injury be the sole cause of the mental injury.   Rather, it is sufficient that the work-related physical injury be a substantial contributing factor to be producing the mental injury. In these cases, the work comp depression may trigger additional work comp benefits. Minnesota workers’ compensation courts have not required that a physical injury be of a certain severity in order to prove a companion mental claim. The workers’ compensation judge will look at each individual case and decide whether there was a work-related physical injury.   Once that determination has been made, any associated work comp depression will likely be covered under Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits as well. Contact Us If you were injured at work and believe you are suffering from depression caused by your work injury, it is very important to obtain a medical opinion that ties the psychological condition to the physical effects of the work injury.   Our St. Paul workers’ compensation lawyers will contact your treating physician and seek these opinions on your behalf.  If the doctor agrees, our Minnesota work comp lawyer will fight to get you workers comp depression benefits. Contact us today for a free review of your Minnesota workers’ compensation case.

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When Are Car Accidents Covered by Minnesota Work Comp Insurance?

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Many employers in Minnesota require their employee to travel in their vehicle as part of their job. The issue of whether an employee’s motor vehicle insurance or workers’ compensation insurance covers the injuries can become an issue.   As with any injury, it must first be decided whether the injury arose in the course and scope of employment. However, traveling employees are subject to a different analysis depending on the nature of the employment and the circumstances surrounding the collision. The first instance that must be evaluated is whether the employee was traveling.  Some injuries sustained by traveling employees are compensable and some are not. It depends on  a variety of factors including what the employee was, what the employee was doing, and whether the employee was required to be traveling as part of his or her duties. Employer-Furnished Transportation: This is one of the exceptions to the coming and going rule. If an employer transports its employees to and from work on a regular basis, injuries sustained during that time are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Three conditions must be met under this exception:  1) the transportation must be regularly furnished; 2) the employer-furnished vehicle must also have an employer-furnished driver; 3) the injury must occur while the employee is being transported to and from employment. Employee-Furnished Transportation: There are a variety of circumstances that can lead to coverage under this category. This category is very fact-specific and it will depend on the specific circumstances of a case. Coverage can turn on the issue of whether the employee is required to have a vehicle as part of employment, whether transportation expenses are paid by the employer after allowing the use of personal vehicles, and whether there is an expectation on the part of the Employer that the Employee will use his or her vehicle. Travel as a Part of Service: To recover for injuries sustained while traveling, the employee must be able to show that the travel was part of his or her employment.  This can be done by showing that the trip furthered the employer’s interests, the employee received complete or partial reimbursement for travel expenses, or the employee received wages for the time spent traveling. If the employee can show that these events occurred, the entire journey will be compensable. Under this exception, a traveling employee will be considered “in the course of employment” continuously during a business trip unless the employee deviates on a personal mission. Contact Us As stated before, the law in this area is highly fact-specific.  If you have been injured as a result of a motor vehicle collision that occurred while you were working, contact us for a free consultation.

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Workers’ Compensation Medical Bills

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WORK COMP MEDICAL BILLS In general terms, an injured employee has the initial burden of showing that a work injury arose out of and was in the course of employment in order to be covered under Minnesota workers’ compensation law.  If the injured employee can meet that burden, the employee must then show that any medical bills or treatment was reasonable and necessarily required to cure and relieve the effects of the work injury in order for those  medical bills to be covered under Minnesota work comp law. THE SUPREME COURT HAS CONSTRUED THE WORKS “CURE AND RELIEVE” TO MEAN “CURE” OR “RELIEVE”. In the case Schutte v. Independent School District No. 281, the court expended upon the definitions of “cure” and “relieve”.  In that case, after a human bite drew blood at work, the injured employee was tested for HIV, vaccinated against Hepatitis B, and told to return for follow-up testing.  The employer refused to pay for the workers’ compensation medical bills stemming from the follow-up treatment.  The employer claimed that since follow up treatment was preventative in nature for conditions that were never diagnosed, the treatment should not be covered.  The court rejected this argument and held that: providing reasonable treatment to prevent or reduce the probability of serious consequences is reasonably part of what the legislature contemplated under the concept of reasonable and necessary medical treatment.  It would be absurd result to require an injured employee to actually contract a serious or even life-threatening disease before being allowed treatment reasonably consequent to his or her injury…What is important here is not the potential diagnosis but the fact that the treatment at issue is incidental to and necessary as a result of a work injury. THIS IS A VERY BASIC EXAMPLE OF HOW AN INJURED EMPLOYEE MUST OVERCOME THE BURDEN TO GET MEDICAL BILLS COVERED UNDER MINNESOTA WORK COMP LAW. However, the law in this area can get very complicated.  Our Minnesota work comp lawyers know how to get your workers’ compensation medical bills covered. If you were injured at work and your employer’s work comp insurance company has denied coverage for the workers’ compensation medical bills or treatment, call our experienced Minneapolis/St.Paul workers’ compensation lawyers for a free case review today.

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Permanent Partial Disability Benefits (PPD)

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PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits are intended to compensate injured workers for permanent loss or impairment of a bodily function.  PPD benefits are not dependent upon wage loss or ability to work.  In order to qualify for Permanent Partial Disability Benefits in Minnesota, an injured worker must show that the permanency of the injury is causally related to the personal injury.  The work activity or incident need not be the sole cause of the permanent condition or injury, but at a minimum the work related activity must substantially aggravate, accelerate, or combine with a preexisting condition to produce the disability. We’ll take care of everything else. Submit the short form below to setup a consultation. THE INJURED EMPLOYEE’S TREATING DOCTOR USUALLY DETERMINES THE PPD BENEFIT WHEN THE EMPLOYEE REACHES MAXIMUM MEDICAL IMPROVEMENT (MMI). The law has gone through changes and the date of injury determines how the law will dictate the benefit, if any, that is owed.  Our Minnesota workers comp lawyers can help make this determination. After the physician  percentage is calculated under Minnesota Rule 5223, that percentage is then multiplied by a lump sum under Minnesota Statute § 176.101, subd. 2a(a).  Again, the percentages and lump sum have changed over the years and the date of injury determines the law that you look at to determine the benefit.  The above cited laws are for those injuries after 2000.  This can get fairly complicated.  Our experienced lawyers will make sure you get the correct Permanent Partial Disability Benefits for your work injury. This is the general Minnesota workers’ compensation law for PPD benefits.  The laws regarding this benefit are much more complicated than I have cited here.  Insurance companies will try to give you a lower percentage and amount of money than are deserved.  If you are receiving or believe you may be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits, it is important to contact our experienced Minneapolis/St. Paul work comp attorneys to ensure you are receiving the correct amount under the law.  Our workers’ compensation lawyers will review your case to make sure you are getting the PPD benefits you deserve.

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Is Chiropractic Care Paid For If I am Injured At Work In Minnesota?

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CHIROPRACTIC CARE PAYMENT Sometimes when a worker is injured in Minnesota, he or she would prefer to go to a chiropractor to treat their injuries.  Minnesota workers’ compensation, however, limits the amount of chiropractic care that insurance companies are required to pay for. These “limitations” are called the treatment parameters.  The treatment parameters apply to all dates of injury and health care providers.  They only apply however to treatment that was provided after January 4, 1995. The treatment parameters only apply to treatment initiated after liability has been established.  If the insurer has denied liability, the treatment parameters are not applied to the treatment for that injury. AS A GENERAL PARAMETER, ANY TREATMENT MUST BE MEDICALLY NECESSARY. Regarding chiropractic care, the courts have held that chiropractic treatment that provided relief of symptoms was not in and of itself sufficient to support a determination that the treatment was reasonable and necessary.  There are several factors that the compensation judges look at to determine whether the chiropractic care is reasonable and necessary to cure and relieve the effects of the injury.  These factors include: The employee’s opinion as to the relief obtained in terms of the extent, frequency, and duration of treatment. The possibility of other conditions not discovered by the chiropractor causing the employee’s problem. The setting up of a weekly schedule with no reduction to an “as needed” status. The period of relief from pain, in particular whether persistent pain returns. The use of alternative medical providers in the event of the employee’s ability to continue to work. The recommendation of long-term chiropractic care into the future which results in a maintenance rather than injury treatment. The possibility of psychological dependency of the employee on chiropractic care. THE DURATION OF TIME THAT AN INJURED EMPLOYEE IS ALLOWED TO OBTAIN CHIROPRACTIC TREATMENT IS ALSO LIMITED UNDER MINNESOTA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAW. Under the treatment parameters, an injured employee is allowed up to 12 weeks of treatment, including adjustments and adjunctive therapies.  There is a maximum treatment frequency of five times a week for the first one to two weeks and then decreasing frequency thereafter.  After the initial 12 weeks of treatment, an additional 12 visits over the next 12 months are allowable if all of the following requirements are met: The treatment must progressively improve or at least maintain the functional status gained during the initial 12 weeks of treatment. The treatment is not regularly scheduled. The chiropractor’s records include a documented plan to “encourage the employee’s independence and decreased reliance on health care providers”; and The chiropractor uses active modalities (i.e., education, posture and work method training, worksite analysis, modification, and exercise). If you are an injured worker and would like to seek the help of a chiropractor it is important to seek the advice of a work comp attorney.  We can help find a chiropractor that is familiar with Minnesota workers’ compensation laws to ensure that the treatment is covered, and/or advise the employee’s chiropractor regarding those laws.  If you have been injured at work and would like to treat with a chiropractor, contact our Minneapolis/St. Paul workers’ compensation attorneys today for a free consultation.

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How to Start a Minnesota Work Comp Case

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STARTING A WORKERS COMP CASE The method to start a Minnesota work comp case depends on the benefit being claimed and whether the employer has accepted primary liability.  If the employer has denied primary liability for the injury, then a Claim Petition must be filed to start a Minnesota work comp case.  If the employer has accepted primary liability for the work injury and you believe you are entitled to Minnesota work comp benefits such as wage loss or a medical benefit, you can also file a Claim Petition.  If the employer has accepted liability and you are only claiming a medical benefit, a Medical Request document must be filed to start a Minnesota work comp case.  If the employer has denied liability for the injury, a Medical Request cannot be filed because primary liability has not been established.  The benefit to filing a Medical Request rather than a Claim Petition is the matter will be set on the court’s calendar sooner than it would if a Claim Petition was filed. A CLAIM PETITION IS THE MINNESOTA WORK COMP VERSION OF A SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT, WHICH IS HOW A TRADITIONAL LAWSUIT IS STARTED. The petition must state the names and addresses of all parties, the date of injury, the average weekly wage claimed, the nature of the injury, the extent of disability claim, and that notice of the injury was properly provided to all parties.  All witnesses must also be named, the desired location of the hearing, how long of a hearing is anticipated, and any request for a settlement conference or pretrial hearing.  Some evidence indicating the injury was a work injury must also be attached. THE EMPLOYER AND INSURER MUST SERVE AND FILE AN ANSWER TO THE CLAIM PETITION WITHIN 20 DAYS. The answer must include specific responses to the allegations, medical reports on which the answer is based, any affirmative defenses, and information regarding the IME.  If a timely answer is not filed, and an extension is not requested, the matter can be set for an immediate hearing. If you have questions about how to start a Minnesota work comp case, call our Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers today.  Our Minneapolis/St.Paul work comp attorneys will provide a free consult and answer all of your questions about how to start a work comp case.

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Do I Have to Attend an Independent Medical Examination?

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In most cases, the answer is yes. Under Minnesota workers’ compensation law, the employer/insurer is entitled to an independent medical examination of the employee for any injuries claimed.  Many times this will occur during your case while you are receiving benefits.  In other cases, when your Minnesota work comp claim has been denied from the beginning, it will occur after the filing of a Claim Petition. The filing of the Claim Petition triggers a requirement that the Independent Medical Examination occur within 120 days of the filing. The term “Independent Medical Examination” is a misnomer.  These examinations are anything but independent.  The doctor conducting the examination is paid by the insurance company.  Although many of these doctors are reputable and provide an honest opinion of your medical condition, the insurance company and employer hire these doctors to support their claim that you, the employee, is no longer entitled to benefits.  If a doctor provides an opinion contrary to this narrative too often, that doctor will not be used anymore by the insurer to conduct an independent medical examination. Despite the fact that from the outset you may believe that you should not be required to attend an examination that is more “adverse” than it is “independent” you must remember that  you are required by the rules to attend this independent medical examination.  Failure to attend can result in a denial of your Minnesota work comp benefits. After the independent medical examination, you will receive a report outlining the doctor’s opinions.  Many times this report will be accompanied by a letter from the insurer stating that your Minnesota work comp benefits will be discontinued and you have reached what is called maximum medical improvement. At this point it is important to hire an experienced Minnesota work comp attorney to fight both the adverse examination report and the discontinuation of Minnesota work comp benefits.  There are no attorney fees associated with hiring a Minnesota work comp attorney unless we are successful in obtaining those Minnesota work comp benefits which have been denied, or there is a settlement of your case. Call our Minnesota work comp attorneys today if you have questions about an upcoming independent medical examination or would like to discuss your Minnesota work comp case.

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Determining Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Wage Loss Benefits

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DETERMINING MINNESOTA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION WAGE LOSS BENEFITS CAN BE TRICKY. An injured employee’s wage on the date of injury determines the amount of the employee’s Minnesota workers’ compensation wage loss benefits.  A fair estimation of the injured employee’s future earning power, taking into account a reduced earning capacity because of injury, is the main objective of determining an injured employee’s average weekly wage. THE INJURED EMPLOYEE’S DAILY WAGE MUST FIRST BE DETERMINED IN ORDER TO DETERMINE THE AVERAGE WEEKLY WAGE UNDER MINNESOTA WORKER’S COMPENSATION. Calculation of the daily wage for Minnesota workers’ compensation wage loss benefits becomes more relevant when an injured employee’s earnings are irregular, difficult to determine, or the injured employee was part time.  In those cases of irregular employment, the daily wage is calculated by dividing the total earnings in the preceding 26 weeks by the days in which the injured employee actually performed any of the duties of her employment. Average weekly wage for Minnesota workers’ compensation wage loss benefits, in regular employment situations, is arrived at by multiplying the daily wage by the number of days (and fractional days) normally worked in the business of the employer.  If there is a contract specifying the amount of compensation, his compensation rate will be based on that contract.  For the “regular employment” situations, fluctuations for legal holidays, vacation days, and sick leave are not used to determine the wage based on the formula for “irregular employment”.  Sometimes you can arrive at the injured worker’s average weekly wage simply by adding up the gross amount that has been received weekly by an injured employee and dividing that number by the number of weeks.  Our Minnesota work comp lawyers will use whichever method is necessary to determine the average weekly wage. ONCE THE AVERAGE WEEKLY WAGE IS DETERMINED, IT CAN THEN BE DETERMINED WHAT THE MINNESOTA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION WAGE LOSS BENEFIT COMPENSATION RATE IS. If an injured employee is off work completely due to a work injury, the wage loss benefit compensation rate is determined by taking 2/3 of the average weekly wage.  There is a maximum and a minimum on the amount an injured employee can receive in benefits and that limit is determined by the Minnesota workers’ compensation law in effect on the date of the injury.  This has changed over the years, most recently in October 2013. THE STARTING POINT IN DETERMINING MINNESOTA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION WAGE LOSS BENEFITS IS THE AVERAGE WEEKLY WAGE. Then looking at the law in effect on the date of the injury, it can be determined what the appropriate wage loss benefit amount is.  There are several different types of benefits available. As you can see, determining workers’ compensation wage loss benefits is tricky.  Our experienced Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyerswill make sure the correct amount is determined.  If you have a question about the amount of Minnesota workers’ compensation  wage loss benefits you are currently receiving, or believe you are entitled to benefits you are not receiving, contact our Minneapolis/St. Paul work comp attorneys for a free case review.

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