• A presumption in favor of granting COVID-19 workers’ compensation benefits?

    As of August 28, 2020, Honolulu firefighters are asking the Mayor of that city to make it easier for them to obtain workers’ compensation benefits related to COVID-19.   Specifically, the firefighters are hoping that the Mayor will enact a legal presumption in their favor.  This would mean that if a firefighter gets sick with COVID-19, it would be presumed that they got it while on the job, and therefore are eligible for workers’ comp benefits.  The local government or its insurance company would then have the burden of overcoming that presumption by showing that, in fact, the firefighter contracted COVID-19 from somewhere other than work.  This would create a different legal standard than the usual one in workers’ compensation cases, where the burden is on the employee to establish that his/her injury or illness occurred on the job.  If the change goes into effect, it would be significantly easier for firefighters to obtain workers’ comp benefits.  Honolulu is not the only jurisdiction to consider this kind of legislation; a few months ago I shared on LinkedIn that Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut had issued an executive order also creating a presumption in favor of workers who contacted COVID 19 during the early part of the pandemic. As of August 28, 2020, Honolulu firefighters are asking the Mayor of that city to make it easier for them to obtain workers’ compensation benefits related to COVID-19.   Specifically, the firefighters are hoping that the Mayor will enact a legal presumption in their favor.  This would mean that if a firefighter gets sick with COVID-19, it would be presumed that they got it while on the job, and therefore are eligible for workers’ comp benefits.  The local government or its insurance company would then have the burden of overcoming that presumption by showing that, in fact, the firefighter contracted COVID-19 from somewhere other than work.  This would create a different legal standard than the usual one in workers’ compensation cases, where the burden is on the employee to establish that his/her injury or illness occurred on the job.  If the change goes into effect, it would be significantly easier for firefighters to obtain workers’ comp benefits.  Honolulu is not the only jurisdiction to consider this kind of legislation; a few months ago I shared on LinkedIn that Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut had issued an executive order also creating a presumption in favor of workers who contacted COVID 19 during the early part of the pandemic.

    This is a sensible policy, and I believe the Maryland legislature should follow suit.  For months, frontline workers such as doctors, nurses, nursing home staff, police officers, and firefighters have had to venture out and do their jobs in the midst of the pandemic.  For those who contracted COVID-19, many of them would have almost certainly gotten sick while at work and being in close proximity to patients or co-workers who have the disease.  Our government should pave the way for those individuals to more easily obtain workers’ compensation benefits to help cover the costs of their treatment and to ensure that they are not forced to use sick or vacation time to cover their days missed.  The presumption would be rebuttable, meaning that the worker would not be guaranteed benefits; the employer/insurer would still have the chance to show that the employee contracted COVID-19 outside of work.  The presumption could also be limited to only encompass certain classes of essential employees, and it may also be limited to a specific period of time, perhaps the first few months of the pandemic.  These limitations would create a fair balance on the one hand between the right of employees to be compensated and the rights of employers/insurers who do not have a tremendous new front of liability thrust upon them due to unprecedented circumstances.

    The concept of a legal presumption is not unheard of in Maryland.  Certain emergency personnel such as firefighters and police officers already benefit from presumptions in their favor.  MD. Code Labor & Employment Section 9-503 establishes that certain emergency personnel who develop heart disease, hypertension, or lung disease are entitled to a presumption in their favor that they developed those conditions as work-related occupational diseases.  There are also already presumptions in place for certain individuals who contract some types of cancer and Lyme disease.  This goes to show that our Legislature is already familiar with the concept of making it easier for certain individuals, who put their lives and bodies on the line, to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.

    Regarding the current pandemic, it makes sense to again create a presumption in favor of benefits for frontline employees, in light of the courage and dedication that they displayed by showing up to work during the pandemic. Regarding the current pandemic, it makes sense to again create a presumption in favor of benefits for frontline employees, in light of the courage and dedication that they displayed by showing up to work during the pandemic.

    For all of your workers’ compensation questions, please contact our experienced attorneys at 410-787-0022.


    1. https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2020/08/28/firefighters-ask-exception-workers-compensation-policy-during-pandemic/
    2. https://portal.ct.gov/Office-of-the-Governor/News/Press-Releases/2020/07-2020/Governor-Lamont-Signs-Executive-Order-Strengthening-Workers-Compensation-Claims

  • Defining Personal Injury and When to Call a Lawyer

    Defining Personal Injury and When to Call a Lawyer

    In the case that you find yourself injured or hurt and it’s likely due to someone else, you may find yourself wondering what the proper course of action is. Do you deserve restitution or compensation? Is a lawyer necessary? Or should bygones be bygones? It’s often a difficult field to navigate, and knowing how to proceed can be tricky. Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law understands just that, so today we’ll define what personal injury and provide some guidelines on when to call a lawyer.

    What is Personal Injury?

    Personal injury law exists to cover situations where one’s body, mind, or emotions are hurt. It’s usually because of another party’s negligence or carelessness. This includes wrongful death, and another name for personal injury law is tort law. Some kinds of personal injury cases include car accidents, dog bites, injuries from explosives or chemicals, or injuries to one’s reputation by defamation. Emotional and mental health can also be included: such as the deliberate infliction of emotional distress, or as a byproduct from a physical injury.

    Personal injury usually involves negligence, which happens when the defendant didn’t meet their legal duty of care and the plaintiff was then injured. Strict liability can be applied in certain cases; which means the defendant who harms the plaintiff is responsible, how careful the defendant was notwithstanding. However, this is limited to certain cases, such s consumer product liability claims.

    When Is It Necessary To Call a Lawyer?

    When it comes to filing a claim, it’s in your best interest to hire a personal injury lawyer. The attorney will represent you and make sure that you receive the maximum amount of compensation entitled. There are a few cases where hiring a lawyer is unnecessary, such as when it’s a non-serious injury, or where liability has been admitted. However, it’s wise to always get a free consultation to have your case evaluated. Your case will be much more successful if there’s documentation and proof. This could be receipts, doctor’s notes, medical bills, and other items that can help document the proof of the sustained injury and incurred expenses.

    A lawyer is also often necessary if you’re suffering emotionally or mentally, as it becomes more difficult to navigate the legal waters then. You should also contact an attorney if you suffer from injuries after some time, but were not immediately or readily noticed. In these cases, it’s wise to have legal counsel to make sure you aren’t taken advantage of. The terminology can often be confusing: assumed risk, incurred risk, arbitration, etc. It’s easy to get lost and lose perspective in an emotionally-charged situation like this, which is why it’s wise to call a lawyer as soon as possible.

    How Do I Get in Touch?

    At Jack J. Schmerling in Glen Brunie, MD, we’re glad to offer our assistance in the case of personal injury. With years of experience, we can guarantee that we will provide the best help possible so that you receive the compensation you deserve. To get in touch with us, don’t hesitate to call us at (410) 988-4956 today.

  • Involved in a Wreck? Don’t Ignore These Delayed Symptoms

    Most car accident injuries are immediately apparent, such as lacerations and broken bones. Others may not result in symptoms until hours, days, or even weeks after the wreck. Your injury attorney in Baltimore needs to know about these late-appearing injuries so that he or she can provide effective legal advocacy services, and secure maximum compensation on your behalf.

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    Back Pain

    Low back pain is particularly common among survivors of rear-end and side-impact car accidents. It might not develop right away, and it can become worse without treatment. It’s possible for the pain to be caused by damaged vertebrae, ligaments, or nerves, so talk to a doctor about your symptoms promptly.

    Abdominal Pain

    Pain or swelling of the abdominal area should receive emergency medical attention. This could indicate severe internal bleeding that may become life-threatening. Other accompanying symptoms may include extensive bruising on the area, dizziness, and fainting.

    Neck Pain and Stiffness

    Neck pain and stiffness, loss of range of motion, and headaches can indicate whiplash—a common late-appearing injury of rear-end car accident survivors. Without early treatment, it’s possible for whiplash to cause chronic symptoms. Other accompanying symptoms of whiplash may include blurry vision, tinnitus, dizziness, and muscle spasms, along with pain, numbness, and tingling that extends down the arms. Treating whiplash may involve multiple sessions with a chiropractor and/or a physical therapist. Your attorney can help you secure compensation for these medical expenses.

    Headaches and Impaired Cognition

    Never ignore any signs of possible head trauma or neurological impairment after a car wreck, such as headaches, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and impaired reasoning. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can develop even if your head wasn’t struck by something. The force of the impact can cause your brain to move back and forth within your skull, causing severe tissue damage. Other signs of brain trauma can include convulsions, nausea, vomiting, confusion, depression, irritability, and loss of balance. Some patients go on to suffer from long-term or permanent changes in personality and functional abilities.

  • A Family’s Guide to Post-Accident PTSD

    Although post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is strongly associated with combat veterans, people of all ages and backgrounds can develop it—including residents of the Baltimore area who have been involved in car accidents . PTSD is a serious mental health disorder that warrants the attention of a medical professional. Since behavioral healthcare services can be expensive, and aren’t always covered by insurance, your family may decide to talk to an injury lawyer about the merits of seeking compensation from the at-fault party.

    PTSD- Disorder

    Understanding PTSD

    Unlike many mental health disorders, PTSD has an identifiable cause. It always stems from exposure to a traumatic, frightening, or dangerous event, such as the following:

    • Being in a war zone
    • Experiencing the death of a loved one
    • Seeing a dead body
    • Surviving a major car accident
    • Being trapped in a car after an accident

    The symptoms of PTSD linger well beyond the event itself, and they can last past the time it takes the person to physically recover. PTSD does not indicate any character flaws or lack of willpower. It isn’t possibly to simply “snap out of it.” PTSD is a real medical condition that requires expert treatment.

    Recognizing PTSD

    The signs and symptoms of PTSD can be chronic or short-lived, and not everyone experiences the same symptoms. Usually, symptoms begin within three months of the event. The signs of PTSD are grouped into categories. An official diagnosis requires the individual to experience the following for at least one month:

    • One or more re-experiencing symptoms
    • One or more avoidance symptoms
    • Two or more cognition and mood symptoms
    • Two or more arousal and reactivity symptoms

    Re-experiencing symptoms are those that involve reliving the trauma. They include flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts that are impossible to control. Avoidance symptoms occur when the person tries to avoid places, objects, or activities that remind him or her of the event. For example, a car crash survivor might become incapable of getting in a car. Arousal and reactivity symptoms include:

    • Angry outbursts
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Feeling tense

    Lastly, cognition and mood symptoms include:

    • Memory loss
    • Negative thought patterns
    • Withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities

    Getting Treatment for PTSD

    Treatment is best begun as soon as possible. After a loved one survives a car accident, families should be alert to the potential signs of PTSD. Its treatment is usually a combination of medications, such as antidepressants, and psychotherapy.

  • Are Employers Legally Liable for Non-Employee Injuries?

    Workers’ compensation insurance protects employers from the financial cost of workplace injuries for their employees, but what about non-employees who are injured while on a job for you? When working with independent contractors, issues of injuries and workers’ comp law in Baltimore become more complex. Consulting with a workers’ compensation attorney can help you understand your rights.

    Your liability for non-employee injuries is determined by several different factors. The first is whether you correctly classify the injured party as a non-employee or if he or she should have been classified as an employee and covered by your workers’ compensation coverage. For a true independent contractor, you cannot provide workers’ compensation coverage but the contractor can sue you, if he or she can provide that your negligence contributed to his or her injury. If the worker should have been an employee, you may be required to pay unpaid past benefits as well as injury compensation. Even if your independent contractor has his or her own insurance, you can be sued if your negligence was a factor in the injury. Because of the complexity of workers’ comp laws, you should consult with an attorney immediately after a non-employee injury occurs.

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  • Could I Have a Concussion?

    Concussions are a common car accident injury that can lead to problems that may not always be immediately obvious. Because concussions can cause symptoms that can last indefinitely without treatment, it is important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. If you are in a car accident in Baltimore and believe that you could have a concussion or another injury, speak to an accident attorney to find out what your rights are for compensation. If you experience any of the symptoms of a concussion, visit the emergency room as soon as possible.

    Symptoms of a Concussion

    Headache

    Because concussions are caused by impacts to the head, headaches are a common symptom. Headaches caused by concussions can be dull and aching, or they may be severe. Some people experience a feeling of pressure in their heads more than a traditional kind of headache pain. Any time you have a headache or pressure in your skull after an impact to the head, you should be evaluated to see if you have a brain injury like a concussion.

    Confusion

    With a concussion, many people describe feeling dazed, confused, or as through they are walking around in a fog. They may also have amnesia about the car accident and the events immediately before and after it. Speech may be slurred, and they may give delayed responses in conversations. These problems can persist after a concussion and turn into long-term concentration problems and memory issues.

    Psychological Changes

    After a concussion, many people experience uncharacteristic irritability, excessive crying, depression, and sleep disturbances. Personality changes may also occur. These symptoms frequently don’t appear immediately after the car accident injury but in the days that follow, and they can persist well into the future. For some people, these symptoms are the only ones that are experienced. After a head injury, any psychological or behavioral changes should be reported to a doctor, who can determine if an injury such as a concussion is to blame.

  • Does Workers’ Comp Cover Mental Health Injuries?

    Mental health injuries that occur at work can be as devastating as physical ones, but are you eligible to receive workers’ compensation for them? In Baltimore, workers’ comp law generally does allow this kind of coverage, but you may need an attorney to help you make your claim.

    Watch this video to learn more about workers’ compensation and mental health injuries. If you experience post-traumatic stress disorder or depression because of something that happens on the job, you will need to consult your state’s workers’ comp laws to find out what your rights are. In Maryland, if the mental health injury was sustained at work, you are generally entitled to workers’ comp. These cases are sometimes difficult to prove, so it is helpful to have an attorney fighting for your rights.

  • What Really Happens During a Personal Injury Jury Trial?

    After filing a car accident lawsuit in the Baltimore area, your injury attorney and the counsel for the defendant will likely negotiate a settlement. Most accident injury lawsuits are settled out of court. You’re not obligated to accept a settlement offer, of course, but if you do, it means you’ll accept a sum of money in exchange for dropping the lawsuit. If a settlement arrangement doesn’t work out, your lawyer will talk you through each step of the trial process.

    jury - trial

    Jury Selection

    The first stage of a personal injury trial is the selection of the jurors. This is the process by which potential jurors are questioned about matters that might unfairly influence the verdict, such as their ideological beliefs, affiliations, and past experiences. The judge will have the opportunity to ask questions. Both parties have a limited number of challenges that they can use to dismiss certain jurors.

    Statements

    When the trial starts, your injury attorney and the lawyer for the defendant will make opening statements. These are brief, oral arguments that do not involve presenting physical evidence or questioning witnesses. Similarly, toward the end of the trial, both attorneys have the opportunity to make closing statements, which are final arguments.

    Evidence

    The main phase of the trial is the questioning and cross-examination of witnesses. The attorney for each party has the opportunity to call witnesses to the stand and question them under oath. After an attorney has questioned his or her own witness, the other attorney can question that witness in a process called cross-examination. Afterward, the first attorney may decide to question his or her witness again. This is known as re-direct examination, and it’s an opportunity to try to correct any problems that may have developed during the cross-examination. During the questioning of witnesses, the attorneys can also introduce physical evidence, such as medical records, photographs, or surveillance footage.

    Jury Deliberation

    Once all the witnesses have been questioned and the attorneys have made their closing arguments, the judge issues instructions to the jury. The jurors go to a private area for deliberation. This is a process that allows the jury to discuss the case and the evidence, and vote on a verdict. Jury deliberation may be very quick, lasting only an hour or two, or it may go on for days or weeks. If the jury does not find in your favor, you may decide to talk to your attorney about filing an appeal.

  • Preventing Back Injuries at Work

    One of the most common causes for declining work productivity and missed work days is back pain. Workers’ comp law allows Baltimore employees to receive workers’ compensation benefits for injuries sustained while on the job , but avoiding these injuries is certainly preferable. Watch this featured video to learn how you can protect your back while lifting heavy items.

    This video suggests estimating the weight of the item and identifying the best gripping areas before you try to lift it. You should also make sure you have a clear walking path to the item’s destination. If the item is too heavy or bulky, it’s a good idea to ask someone else to help you. Or, use a mechanical lifting aid. Keep the item close to your body as you lift and carry it. And remember to contact a workers’ comp attorney promptly if you do become injured and you have concerns about your rights under workers’ comp law.

  • Spotlight on Occupational Diseases

    Workers’ compensation cases aren’t always about injuries. Illnesses that occurred in the workplace may also be covered. If you believe you are the victim of an occupational disease, then contact an attorney to see if you should file a workers’ compensation lawsuit in Baltimore .

    An occupational disease is a chronic condition that was caused by activities done at work. Some of the diseases that could be occupational in nature include cancer, respiratory issues, hearing loss, and skin diseases. In some instances, depression and anxiety can also fall into this category. If you have such an illness, an attorney can help you determine if your employer could be held responsible and if you should file a workers’ compensation claim. The amount of money to which are entitled depends on a number of different factors, including how your illness impacts your ability to do your job now and in the future and the cost of your medical bills. Your attorney can guide you through the process as well as any necessary workers’ comp appeals that follow your initial claim.

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