Injured Workers in Nevada Survive 2015 Legislative Changes

By admin on June 2, 2015

legislationThe 78th session of the Nevada legislature closed last night with a close call for Nevada’s most severely injured workers.   The self-insured employers’ lobbyist tried a last minute attack on how  permanent partial disability awards are calculated by pushing for adoption of the 6th edition of the AMA Guides to Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.  Changing from the AMA Guides 5th edition to the 6th edition would have reduced many awards by significant amounts of money, particularly spinal injury awards.  Earlier in the legislative session the self-insured employers had tried  to pass a law  calling for adoption of the 6th edition.  However, the self-insureds were unprepared for a strong opposition from attorneys who represent injured workers, the Nevada Justice Association, rating doctors, and unions.  Many  people devoted long hours toward defeating proposed legislation that would negatively impact injured workers.

I will be writing more about the specific legislative changes to Nevada workers’ compensation law.  For now, I want to thank those injured workers who testified at legislative committee hearings and who provided statements very quickly to be forwarded to legislators who were voting on amendments to the law.

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2015 Changes to Nevada Police/Firefighter Heart and Lung Laws

By admin on July 24, 2015

police officer & fire fighter
The 2015 legislative session made a major change in SB 153 to the heart and lung statutes regarding the application of a conclusive presumption of compensability. A conclusive presumption means that the ill police officer or firefighter does not have to prove that an occupational exposure caused a disabling heart or lung disease. It also means that employers cannot try to prove that the claimant had a preexisting illness or that something other than occupational activity caused the heart or lung disease if the conclusive presumption applies. The new conclusive presumption in NRS 617.455 and NRS 617.457 are effective June 8, 2015, and state:

A disease of the lungs (or heart) is conclusively presumed to have arisen out of and in the course of the employment of a person who has been employed in a full time, continuous, uninterrupted, and salaried occupation as a police officer, fire fighter, or arson investigator for 2 years or more before the date of disablement if the disease is diagnosed and caused the disablement:

(a) During the course of that employment; or

(b) If the person ceases employment before completing 20 years of service as a police officer, fire fighter, or arson investigator, during the period after separation from employment which is equal to the number of years worked; or

(c) If the person ceases employment after completing 20 years or more of service as a police officer, firefighter, or arson investigator, at any time during the person’s life.

Service credit that is purchased in a retirement system does not count toward years of service for the purpose of these statutes.

The same bill codified existing case law that a person with a heart or lung claim is only entitled to medical benefits if they file a claim after retiring.

Finally, SB 153 enacted a provision that will not go into effect until January 1, 2017, that frequent or regular use of tobacco products within 1 year, or a material departure from a physician’s prescribed plan of care within 3 months, immediately preceding the filing of a claim excludes the person who has separated from service from the conclusive presumption in NRS 617.455 and 617.457. This provision will allow an employer or insurer the ability to defend against retirees’ claims similar to their ability to defend against heart and lung claims of claimant’s who fail to correct predisposing conditions after being warned to do so after the annual heart/lung physical of currently employed claimants.

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Permanent Partial Disability Evaluations-2014

By admin on July 13, 2015

Thank you to Katherine Godwin, Supervisor of the Medical Unit, at the Devision of Industrial Relations-Workers Compensation Section, for providing me with the number of rating evaluations in Nevada for fiscal year 2014 (July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014).

A total of 5405 ratings were assigned by DIR, with 1249 in the North, 3749 in the South, and 407 in the Rural part of Nevada.   The official statistics reported to the U.S. Labor Department for the number of all claims filed is only published for 2013, so I cannot give accurate information on the percentage of Nevada claims that resulted in a permanent partial disability evaluation in 2014.  Typically,  in past years, only about 10% of Nevada claims result in a rating evaluation.

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New Spanish blog

By admin on July 13, 2015

Please spread the word that I am also writing a Spanish blog now, accessible from my website. As with my English blog posts, I  write my own articles unless I’m featuring a guest author.  (Yes, my legal assistant does need to help me with translation and grammar.)  My Spanish posts will focus on the  needs , problems, and solutions for the Spanish-speaking injured worker in Nevada.  Email me any topics about the claims process or Nevada work comp law that you think particularly affect Latino workers in our state.


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New Nevada Supreme Court Decision on Suing Contractors

By admin on July 7, 2015

mining truck
Employers who comply with Nevada law by purchasing workers’ compensation insurance are protected from lawsuits for personal injuries brought by injured workers.  The injured worker’s exclusive remedy when the accident is work-related is to seek workers’ compensation benefits by following the procedures in the Nevada Industrial Insurance Act (NRS Chapter 616).  Co-workers are also protected from personal injury lawsuits unless the injured worker can show that the co-worker intentional caused the injury.  In Nevada, subcontractors and independent contractors  who negligently cause injury to a worker on the same job site, may legally be considered co-workers also, thereby making them also immune from personal injury liability.


Nevada Work Comp Benefits for Injuries after 7/1/15

By admin on June 29, 2015

Nevada employees whose work-related accident or occupational illness occurs after 7/1/15 are entitled to receive the lesser of 2/3 of their actual average monthly, or 2/3 of the state maximum average monthly wage of $5,426.25.   If the injured worker was making more than the state maximum, she is only entitled to receive 2/3 of the state maximum.  That means that if the injured worker is off work due to the injury for a month, or her employer does not have light duty work within the doctor’s restrictions, she will receive $3,617.50 in compensation benefits that month.   The usual 14-day payment will be $1,663.76.  Each day in the pay period is counted, including Saturdays and Sundays, when calculating compensation benefits.  The daily rate under the new maximum average monthly wage is $118.84.  Click here for more information on how the state decides what the maximum will be each fiscal year.


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Sterling Education’s Advanced Workers’ Compensation Seminar

By admin on June 24, 2015

seminarSterling Education Services provides educational seminars all over the country for several fields of law, including workers compensation. On August 19, 2015, Sterling Education is hosing their 13th Annual Advanced Workers’ Compensation forum at the Embassy Suites in Las Vegas, Nevada. Each year, this forum proves to be an exceptional opportunity for all professionals involved in workers compensation including attorneys, benefit personnel, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and risk managers. In addition to the valuable information to be learned at the seminar, it also qualifies for several Continuing Education Credits,  such as Nevada and California CLE, Nevada Insurance, HR Certification Institute, ABIH, CSP, PCAE, CRCC, CDMS, and CCMC.
Presentations will be held from 8:30-4:30 by several Las Vegas workers compensation attorneys. I am scheduled to present a wide array of topics regarding representing special injured workers, including police and firefighters, death benefits, stress claimants, and permanent total disability claimants.
The cost to register for this seminar is $349 per person. However, you can save $30 if you take advantage of early registration before July 8, and by using discount code FLD50 you can save an additional $50 during early or normal registration. To register now, visit Sterling Education’s registration page.

Work-Related Traumatic Brain Injuries in Nevada

By admin on June 1, 2015

brainTraumatic brain injuries that happen at work are almost always caused by a fall from a ladder, the roof of a building, the top of a truck, scaffolding, or on a construction site.   The injured worker may or may not lose consciousness immediately following the accident, and there are usually other physical injuries such as spinal fractures and broken bones in addition to a skull fracture or bleeding in the brain.  The injured worker is usually taken by ambulance to the nearest emergency room at a hospital where the trauma team works to stabilize the patient and assess the brain injury.  During this time, blood work is taken to determine whether there is alcohol or illegal drugs in the patient’s system that could affect treatment.  The presence of alcohol or drugs could also be used to deny an otherwise legitimate workers’ compensation claim.

Families of the patient are ordinarily too shocked to do much other than wait for bits of information to trickle to them from nurses or doctors treating the patient.  If the patient is placed on a ventilator in a medically induced coma, the family’s sole concern at this point is whether the loved one will survive, and if so, what will be the quality of life given the brain injury.   The most frustrating thing for family, even if they are able to be at the hospital for hours each day, is getting information about the extent of the injury and what to expect.

My recommendation for the family is to talk to the hospital social worker to get information on who the workers’ compensation insurer is and the name of the adjuster assigned to the case.  (more…)

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Physician Progress Report: Get one every doctor visit

By admin on May 27, 2015

medical recordsFollowing every visit to your authorized treating doctor, be sure to ask the doctor or his assistant for a copy of the doctor’s physician progress report.  There is a DIR-approved form that most doctors use, although some have modified the form to include their office address, phone number, and have slightly different boxes for slightly different information.  The physician progress report is sent by the doctor’s office to your adjuster following each visit and tells the adjuster what further treatment is planned, what the work restrictions are for the next month, or whether the doctor has taken you off work completely.  This form also tells the adjuster-and you, if you make sure you get a copy-whether the doctor has released you from care, and if so, whether the doctor thinks you have a ratable impairment.  The last PPR also should state whether you are released full duty or have permanent work restrictions.  If the doctor writes nothing in the box for the date of your next office visit, or writes PRN (meaning, “as needed”), it means that the doctor has released you from his or her care, and that the adjuster will then be closing your claim for medical benefits.

As some doctors aren’t straightforward with their workers’ compensation patients, and avoid potential arguments with the patient by not telling them they are released form care full duty, it is essential that you get and read the PPR after every visit and before you leave the doctor’s office.  (more…)

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Cancer in Nevada Firefighters

By admin on May 20, 2015

fire fightersFire fighters have a law entitling them to workers’ compensation benefits under a law written especially for fire fighters.  NRS 617.453 provides for a rebuttable presumption that a cancer is work-related for fire fighters with 5 years or more of full-time, continuous employment if the   person was exposed to a known carcinogen and the carcinogen is associated with the disabling cancer.  This law also gives examples of known carcinogens and the disabling cancers that are linked to those carcinogens.  The list of known carcinogens and the disabling cancers that are associated with them is not an exhaustive list, however.  A fire fighter may offer evidence that another substance is a known carcinogen now, or that other types of cancers are also associated with a particular known carcinogen.

Unlike the heart and lung laws that provide for workers’ compensation benefits for fire fighters, the cancer law does not provide for a conclusive presumption that cancer is work-related.  The employer of a fire fighter may offer proof that the cancer was caused by something other than exposure on the job to a carcinogen. Fortunately, there are new studies that are providing more data regarding carcinogens and the specific cancers caused by exposures.   On April 15, 2015, the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, published “Risk of Cancer Among Firefighters in California, 1988-2007”.  This study of almost 20 years of data is significant because it has information on cancer risk to modern building materials and the burning of plastics in home appliances, furniture and electronic, even when a fire fighter is wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus.

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