• Is COVID-19 a compensable “occupational disease” under the law of Workers’ Compensation in Maryland?

    The current COVID-19 pandemic is obviously an unprecedented public health crisis in American society.  Numerous industries and organizations, including the legal community, are facing uncharted questions and challenges.

    I’d like to examine one such question that is relevant to my particular area of legal practice, Workers’ Compensation in Maryland: whether someone who is deemed an “essential employee” and required to go into work during the pandemic, and who then contracts COVID-19, can file for workers’ compensation benefits?

    Maryland’s workers’ compensation laws are in place to ensure that when someone is injured or becomes ill on the job, the worker and/or their families receive certain benefits in order to maintain financial and medical well-being.  Those benefits include temporary total disability (TTD), which is a payment of two thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage for the time the worker is completely unable to work due to occupational accident or illness.  Workers are also entitled to coverage of all medical expenses directly related to the occupational injury/illness by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.  Additionally, permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits are sometimes available to compensate workers who suffer some degree of lasting negative consequences as a result of occupational illness or injury.  There are other benefits as well, but these are some of the main ones.

    MD Code Labor and Employment Section 5-101 defines an occupational disease as one that is “contracted by a covered employee:  (1) as the result of and in the course of employment; and (2) that causes the covered employee to become temporarily or permanently, partially or totally incapacitated.”

    However, the Employer/Insurer’s liability is limited by Md. Code Labor and Employment Section 9-502(d) which states compensation must only be paid if:

    (1) the occupational disease that caused the death or disability:

    (i) is due to the nature of an employment in which hazards of the occupational disease exist and the covered employee was employed before the date of disablement; or
    (ii) has manifestations that are consistent with those known to result from exposure to a biological, chemical, or physical agent that is attributable to the type of employment in which the covered employee was employed before the date of disablement; and

    (2) on the weight of the evidence, it reasonably may be concluded that the occupational disease was incurred as a result of the employment of the covered employee.

    In 2019, Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, had a chance to examine the concept of “occupational disease” in the case of Baltimore County v. Quinlan, 466 Md. 1.  That case involved a firefighter/paramedic who had developed degenerative tears in his meniscus.  The case highlighted that usually an occupational disease is one that develops gradually over time as a result of conditions in the workplace.  Some examples might be asbestosis or carpal tunnel syndrome.  One of the questions in Quinlan was whether the claimant’s degenerative knee condition fell into the category of a compensable occupational disease.  Ultimately, the Court determined that Mr. Quinlan’s knee condition was an occupational disease for which he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

    The Court highlighted a two-part test (with the second part divided into two sub-parts) for determining the compensability of occupational diseases.  The first part involves an examination of the professional tasks of the specific employee in question.  The second prong of the test involves an examination of whether: “(a) the ‘nature’ of the employment includes the hazards of the ailment the employee suffers from to a greater degree than that present in general employment; and (b) whether the employee’s job functions expose the employee to those hazards.’”  The Court examined prior Maryland cases which demonstrate that courts are to look at the specific “risk factors” to which a given worker is exposed and which may give rise to an occupational disease.

    The Court took into account various factors in determining that Mr. Quinlan’s knee condition was a compensable occupational disease.  For example, the Court looked with favor on expert testimony in the record that firefighters/paramedics have a higher statistical likelihood of developing meniscal tears.  The Court also highlighted that occupational diseases usually require some level of “repetitive” behavior over time which gives the disease a chance to develop on the job.  Furthermore, the occupational disease has to arise out of conditions which are normal and natural to the employee’s job duties.

    What does this mean in regards to COVID-19 and essential workers?  I believe that, in light of the statute and case law discussed above, many essential workers in Maryland who are still showing up to work during the pandemic, and who contract COVID-19, will have strong arguments that their disease is a compensable “occupational disease.”  Workers will have to describe for a Commissioner their specific job duties, and how doing those duties in the midst of a highly infectious pandemic could naturally give rise to the contraction of COVID-19.  Workers will want to be as specific as possible in describing their job duties during the pandemic, and in showing why it is more likely than not that they contracted the disease at work as opposed to elsewhere.  In line with Quinlan, if a worker can find statistical data showing that their profession has a higher risk of infection than others, this would be helpful.

    Obviously, it seems that hospital workers and other healthcare workers who are exposed to COVID-19 patients have the strongest argument for compensability.  However, I think that the statute and Quinlan provide an avenue for compensability for other essential workers as well.  For example, grocery store checkout clerks.  Their specific job duties entail standing face to face with hundreds of customers for several hours each day, and directly exchanging food and money between those individuals.   This repetitive job duty certainly seems to give rise to the hazard of contracting COVID-19, especially if the grocery store worker can establish that during their non-working hours they remained isolated and at home.  Nursing home employees and correctional officers also come to mind as classes of employees who could have strong claims for compensability when it comes to COVID-19.

    Ultimately, the question of the compensability of COVID-19 as a compensable “occupational disease” in Maryland is a novel one, and does not fit neatly into the previously recognized classes of occupational disease.  However, the statute and case law certainly at least allow for the possibility that COVID-19 is a compensable disease.

    If you or someone you know contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic and you believe the disease is work-related, please contact attorneys Jack Schmerling, Esq. and Ilan Roth, Esq. at 410 787 0022.

     

  • Steps to Take After a Car Accident

    Every 14 seconds, someone is injured in an auto accident. With so many car crashes happening every day, it’s important for drivers to be prepared and to know what to do after an accident. If you are in an auto accident, remember to take the following steps and consult an experienced car accident lawyer in Anne Arundel County.

    Put Safety First

    Immediately after an accident, move the cars to the side of the road and away from traffic to prevent further accidents or injuries. If the vehicles cannot be moved, everyone should stay in their cars with their seatbelts fastened while waiting for help to arrive. If you or your passengers have been injured, seek medical assistance right away. Keep all of your medical records so that an accident attorney can help you receive full compensation for your personal injury.

    Exchange Information

    Record the name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, the insurance company, and policy number of the other driver and owner of the vehicle. You will also want to write down the year, make, model, and color of all vehicles involved. If there were witnesses to the accident, get their contact information as well.

    Car accident lawyer in Anne Arundel County

    Document the Accident

    Take photographs of the vehicles, damage caused the location, and any relevant traffic signs or signals. You will also want to file an accident report with the police if no officers arrived on the scene. By creating a complete picture of the collision and how it happened, you can improve your insurance claim and strengthen your case with a car accident lawyer.

    Contact Your Insurance Company

    It’s important to notify your insurance company right away about any accidents so that you can file your claim properly and receive full compensation. You may also need information about what your policy does and does not cover after an accident, like costs for towing or a rental car.

    Hire a Car Accident Attorney

    An attorney with a car accident law firm can help you recover the costs of medical bills, car repairs, and missed work. If you suffered an injury due to another driver’s negligence, you will want an experienced lawyer to act as your legal advocate when going up against the other party for compensation. Your accident attorney can also negotiate a fair settlement with your insurance company and will offer full support while you recover.

  • What Are the Most Common Workplace Injuries?

    Workers' compensation law firms serving Baltimore

    Millions of workplace injuries occur each year in the U.S. Even if you follow all safety protocols, you could be injured while on the job due to circumstances beyond your control. If you suffer a workplace injury, you may be entitled to compensation from your employer. Workers’ compensation law firms serving Baltimore have experience seeking compensation for all types of workplace injuries, including the following.

    Overexertion and Bodily Reaction Injuries

    Overexertion and bodily reaction are consistently the top causes of workplace injury. Overexertion injuries may be caused by lifting, pushing, pulling, throwing, holding, or carrying motions. Musculoskeletal injuries are often sustained and commonly affect the back, shoulders, knees, ankles, or multiple body parts at once. For example, a nurse may strain her back while lifting a patient. Bodily reaction injuries occur when a worker slips or trips but does not fall, which can cause muscle injuries and trauma.

    Slip-and-fall Injuries

    A worker may slip on a wet floor, trip over an object on the ground, or fall from a height, such as from a ladder, roof, stairway, or platform. Faulty equipment or machinery may be to blame for some falls. As a workers’ compensation attorney will attest, these types of injuries are incredibly common.

    Injuries Caused by Equipment or Objects

    Factory workers and those who operate heavy equipment are at risk of being struck by, entangled in, or otherwise harmed by machinery. Numerous workplace injuries are also caused by falling objects, such as a tool being dropped from above. Such accidents commonly result in serious head injuries, which may necessitate filing a temporary or permanent disability claim with the help of a workers’ compensation lawyer.

    Violence-related Injuries

    Police officers are often injured by violent acts while in the line of duty. Even office politics and arguments have been known to escalate into attacks that cause injury.

    Transportation Accident Injuries

    Employees who drive for business purposes, whether in company cars or their own vehicles, are often involved in auto accidents. If a behind-the-wheel injury was sustained while on the clock, a workers’ compensation attorney can help the victim receive adequate compensation to cover medical bills and days away from work.

  • Get to Know Attorney Jack Schmerling

    Jack Schmerling Attorney At Law

    If you need expert legal guidance, look no further than Jack Schmerling, Attorney at Law. With more than 35 years of experience representing the rights of his clients, Mr. Schmerling understands the legal strategies that will secure a favorable outcome for your case. This personal injury attorney began his distinguished career after obtaining his Juris Doctor from California Western School of Law. In addition to providing exceptional legal representation for his clients, Mr. Schmerling has remained dedicated to ongoing professional development. He has frequently been asked to give lectures for the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Education Association, the Maryland Association for Justice, and other notable organizations. As an accomplished personal injury attorney, he has also been asked on numerous occasions to testify as an expert regarding workers’ compensation cases.

    Along with specializing in handling workers’ compensation cases, Mr. Schmerling takes great pride in helping those who are involved in DWI and traffic cases, in addition to personal injury claims and Social Security disability claims. As the founding member and sole attorney at his personal injury law firm located in Baltimore, Mr. Schmerling takes the time to provide personalized attention and service to each of his clients.

    Below is the list of services we provide:

    • Workers’ CompensationInjuries at work may include exposure to harmful substances or other physical injuries. I can help you file your claim and receive proper compensation.
    • Auto AccidentsInsurance companies can be a hassle to deal with. If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, allow me to assist you with the legal matters.
    • Social Security DisabilityIf you are unsure about the social security benefits you qualify for, I can help you. I can help determine if you qualify for social security income.
    • Personal InjuryWhether you are suffering from a sore neck, broken bone, or other injury caused by someone’s negligence, I can help you get the compensation you deserve.
    • DUI/DWIDrunk driving is not something to be dealt with lightly. I want you to be informed of your rights and receive a positive outcome for your case.

    Contact me today at (443) 354-4107 to receive a free initial consultation.

     

  • What Are the Consequences of Getting a DUI?

    Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. However, the consequences of making a mistake as severe as drunk driving can have lifelong implications. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you should contact a DUI lawyer near Baltimore promptly. Police officers and prosecutors treat DUI cases very seriously and typically seek the maximum penalties for offenders. A DUI lawyer in Glen Burnie can negotiate for a reduction of charges and lessened penalties to help you get back on your feet quickly.

    DUI Lawyer Baltimore

    Jail Time

    When you consult a DUI attorney, he or she can help you understand the potential penalties involved with a conviction. In Maryland, first-time DUI offenders may be sentenced to up to a year in jail. For a second offense, you’ll face a mandatory five-day sentence. However, that’s only the minimum jail term. You could be sentenced to up to two years. If you’re convicted of a third DUI offense, you’ll face up to three years behind bars.

    Fines

    When you consult a DUI law firm, one of your primary concerns may be the high cost of a DUI conviction. As your DUI attorney can explain to you, the court may impose certain fines on you if you’re convicted. For example, a first-time offender may be ordered to pay up to $1,000; a second-time offender up to $2,000; and a third-time offender up to $3,000. However, there are many other costs related to a DUI conviction, such as higher insurance premiums, alcohol counseling costs, and license reinstatement fees—to name just a few.

    License Revocation

    Your DUI attorney will fight against the possible revocation of your license. However, if you’re convicted, it’s entirely possible that you’ll lose your license for a period of time. First-time offenders can have their license revoked for six months and have 12 points on their license. For a second conviction, you could lose your license for a year, followed by a period of time with an ignition interlock device. A third DUI conviction in Maryland involves the revocation of your driver’s license for 18 months.

  • FAQs and Answers About Maryland’s DUI-Related AEP Requirements

    Maryland’s Alcohol Education Program, or AEP, is a rehabilitation initiative for people who have been convicted of DUI or DWI. If your attorney in Baltimore advises you to attend one of these programs as a result of your court case, here is a look at what you need to know.

    aep - maryland

    What exactly is the AEP?

    Maryland’s AEP is a 12-hour class designed to educate people about alcohol use and abuse as well as the risk of driving while intoxicated. It is frequently required for people who have been convicted of DUI or DWI before they can regain their licenses. In some cases, a 12-hour AEP program is recommended by the court in lieu of jail time or other penalties, especially for a first offense. If the court has identified you as an alcohol abuse or alcohol dependent, you may be required to take a longer program than the 12-hour AEP.

    What are some reasons I may need to take the AEP?

    You could be referred to the AEP on the recommendation of a district court judge or by an administrative law judge from the Office of Administrative Hearings. If your license was revoked because of an alcohol-related offense, you will be referred to the AEP when you apply to have your license reinstated. Your lawyer may request that you be referred to the AEP as well to reduce some of the other potential punishments associated with your DUI or DWI conviction.

    What are the consequences of not attending the AEP?

    When you are referred to the AEP, you must begin the class within 90 days of your referral. If you do not, then you will receive a letter telling you that you are required to surrender your license to an MVA location. You will need to complete the course before you can get your license back. If you were instructed to attend the AEP in lieu of another punishment, the court may enforce that punishment instead.

    If you are in need of a DUI defense attorney, contact Jack J. Schmerling Attorney at Law today!

  • The Workers’ Compensation Claims Process Step-by-Step

    If you are injured on the job, the steps you take after the injury may determine your ability to claim compensation. It’s important to closely follow the correct procedures are you file a claim, including finding a workers’ comp lawyer in Baltimore to help you with your case. Follow these steps to protect your rights and preserve your ability to collect compensation for your injury.

    Worker's Compensation Claim Form

    Report Your Injury

    It is imperative to report any injury that occurs at work to your supervisor right away, including acute injuries, occupational diseases, and cumulative-trauma injuries. Be very clear with your supervisor that your injury is specifically related to work, and ensure that he or she creates an official accident report. If your supervisor refuses to prepare a report or doesn’t include all of the relevant details in the report, write to him or her an official letter documenting the injury. If you can get your supervisor to sign something acknowledging receipt of the letter, it can be helpful to your workers’ compensation lawyer, but if not, simply keep a copy of the letter and a note of when you delivered it. If a report was prepared, get a copy.

    See a Doctor

    A doctor should evaluate you as soon as possible. Your company may have a preferred physician, but you are entitled to choose your own doctor under Maryland law. Be very clear in explaining your injury to your doctor, specifically stating that it was a work injury. Follow your medical instructions precisely, and request notes if your doctor recommends that you don’t work or avoid certain activities. All bills should be sent to your employer or your employer’s insurance company. Your workers’ compensation attorney can help you understand where your bills should go.

    Consult Your Lawyer

    Stay in contact with your workers’ compensation attorney throughout the claims process. He or she will walk you through all of the necessary steps to achieving a successful claim. Don’t discuss your case with anyone at work, and talk to your lawyer if you are contacted by an insurance company.

  • What Happens After You File for Workers’ Compensation? [INFOGRAPHIC]

    Filing a workers’ compensation claim can be as stressful as the injury itself. Although some claims are straightforward, it is always helpful to have a workers’ compensation lawyer at your side to ensure your rights are being protected. When you file a claim, the first step is getting documentation of your injury from a doctor. Only a medical professional can determine if your injury will prevent you from working. Although most employers in Maryland are required to have workers’ comp insurance, your boss may decide to dispute your claim. If this occurs, you will need a workers’ compensation attorney to fight on your behalf. Find out more about workers’ compensation cases in this info-graphic from Jack Schmerling, Attorney at Law . Our workers comp lawyer in Baltimore will help you win the compensation that you deserve. Please help other workers understand the importance of hiring a workers’ compensation attorney when they are injured on the job by sharing this information.

    Infographic

  • Understanding Phantom Pain

    If a serious car accident injury leads to an amputation, then you may experience phantom pain. Your car accident lawyer in Baltimore will consider your phantom pain alongside the other circumstances of your accident when seeking damages on your behalf. Here is a closer look at what you need to know about phantom pain.

    After an amputation, phantom pain is pain that feels like it is coming from the limb that has been amputated. It is not something that occurs in your head but rather the result of stimuli from your spinal cord and brain. The symptoms can be severe and difficult to manage, and for some people, they can last indefinitely. Your car accident attorney will factor the severity of your phantom pain and your doctor’s prognosis to decide what your future medical costs may be, as well what kind of pain and suffering damages to pursue from the negligent party.

    phantom - pain

  • How to Deal with a DUI or DWI, From Start to Finish

    Steps Explained to Deal with DUI Law in Glen Burnie, MD

    It’s a very difficult situation if you find yourself or a loved one arrested for a DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated). While it’s a situation that no one wants to find themselves in, unfortunately, it can happen. While it’s vital to make sure you seek counseling and therapy throughout the entire process to make sure you’re dealing with it properly, it’s also important to take care of the legal aspects, which can be very daunting. To help make an already difficult time easier, Jack J. Schmerling is here to provide advice on how to proceed after a DUI or DWI.

    What To Do After a DUI or DWI

    Police officers can generally use three methods to determine if you’ve had too much to drink. They can observe you and pull you over if your driving is suspicious; they can ask you to perform a sobriety test, such as performing balance or speech tests; or they can also measure your blood-alcohol level. You can refuse taking a chemical test at a DUI or DWI stop, but this generally means implied consent. This states that refusal could lead to suspension of your license for between 3 to 12 months, even if you’re eventually found not guilty. Do note that if the case goes to trial, this could lead jury members to believe you refused because you actually were intoxicated or under the influence.

    Sometimes you’ll have to appear for an arraignment, a court appearance where you’re formally charged and asked to respond by entering a plea. You’ll be asked to plead either guilty or not guilty. Having an attorney at this stage is usually unnecessary; you can always change your plea later. You can usually insist on a jury trial as well, and you should deny convictions so your attorney can challenge their validity later.

    It’s difficult to defend a drunk driving charge, since it involves a keen understanding of scientific and medical concepts. Hiring a lawyer who has a specialty in these cases is paramount to making sure you receive effective legal counsel. If the police don’t have physical evidence, it’s possible an attorney could plea your case to what’s called a “wet reckless”; while it doesn’t sound as bad as a DUI, it tends to carry the same fines and penalties.

    After being released, your options include pleading guilty, asking for a trial before a judge, or trying to plea bargain. Consulting with your lawyer is strongly recommended. You will understand if it’s best to fight the charge or plea bargain, and much of this depends on your recorded blood alcohol level. No matter what route you want to take, getting an attorney is in your best favor to make sure you can navigate the legal field of life after a DUI or DWI.

    How Do I Proceed?

    To help you proceed in the difficult time after you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI or DWI, please get in touch with us at Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law. Throughout Glen Burnie, MD, we’re available for legal counsel. For a free evaluation, call us today at (410) 988-4956.