Medical marijuana is a hot topic throughout the nation right now. While there has been great strides in the legalization of marijuana for the treatment of medical diagnosis, there has also been much debate about its use during activities such as driving, working and testing in professional sports. Naturally one of the debates involves workers compensation.
Is testing positive for pot enough to disqualify an injured employee from receiving workers’ comp benefits?
James Hahn, 32, worked at the County Juvenile Detention Center when he suffered an injury to his right shoulder and neck while subduing an unruly, combative teen. After realizing the injury was worse than he initially thought, he reported it to his employer in a timely manner, four days later to be exact.
He was then given a post-accident drug screen on the same day he reported the injury. He also had a second screening the following day. Both drug tests were positive for marijuana. Hahn never disputed the test results. He had a prescription given to him by his doctor to treat his anxiety and insomnia. He assumed this wouldn’t be an issue when it came time to collect benefits.
The BWC found there was no evidence presented to show Hahn was high on the day he was injured, nor was there any evidence to show the marijuana in his system was the “major cause” of his injury. But the BWC denied his workers’ comp benefits anyway.
Medical Marijuana Law and Workers Compensation.
In 2016, the Ohio General Assembly set up the framework to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio, effective Sept. 8, 2018. It was approved for certain medical conditions, including chronic pain, PTSD, and traumatic brain injuries. At this time, the only legal forms of medical marijuana will be edibles, oils, patches, plant material and tinctures and vaporization.
The impact of the new law on the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and its programs is limited although it expressly states that an employee whose injury was the result of being intoxicated or under the influence of marijuana is not eligible for workers’ compensation.
An employer is not required to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana;
The law does NOT prohibit an employer from refusing to hire, fire, or taking an adverse employment action because of a person’s use of medical marijuana;
The law specifies that marijuana is covered under “rebuttable presumption.” This means that an employee whose injury was the result of being intoxicated or under the influence of marijuana is not eligible for workers’ compensation regardless of whether the marijuana use is recommended by a physician;
While the law does not specifically address reimbursement for medical marijuana recommended for injured workers, Ohio law already has rules and statutes in place that limit what medications are reimbursable by BWC to those that are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Marijuana has not been approved by the FDA and remains a Schedule I illegal drug under federal law, therefore does not qualify for a reimbursement.
Social media connects more and more people every single day. The growth of social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat is creating an environment where people are comfortable sharing every aspect of their day to day lives.
In this modern era, social media in the workplace is common, as employees often check their accounts frequently throughout the day. However, it’s important to exercise restraint regarding what you post, especially if you have an open workers’ compensation claim.
How what you post can affect your workers comp claim.
To better understand the effect it can have, we first need to understand what workers’ compensation is. Workers comp is essentially an insurance that a company carries which pays an employee’s wages if they get injured on the job. When an employee is injured, they can make a claim against that insurance. The payment is intended to help the employee offset any lost wages while they’re unable to work.
Each state has its own set of regulations that govern how the process works, however, there are a few mistakes to avoid after getting injured on the job regardless of where you live. Having an open workers’ compensation claim doesn’t prohibit you from posting on social media, but you should be cautious about what you post.
It’s important to keep in mind that the insurance company paying your claim, as well as its lawyers, are always on the lookout for workers’ compensation fraud, where an employee lies about how an injury occurred or the severity of the injury to collect a check without working.
As long as your claim is legitimate, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. However, those who submit claims and then engage in physical activities that demonstrate that their claim is questionable are the ones at risk.
These are the people who do something like:
Claiming a back injury that prevents them from lifting heavy objects, then posting photos of themselves skiing on vacation.
Claiming an injured hand that prevents them from performing work duties, then posting photos of themselves doing things like throwing a baseball or digging holes in their garden.
Claiming an injured foot then posting that they just finished running a 5K race.
It may sound silly but you’d be surprised how frequently it happens. An open workers’ comp claim doesn’t mean you can’t play sports, just think about what message you are sending if you’re posting about it.
Even when your claim is completely valid, it’s still wise to watch what you’re posting on social media. Misunderstandings can occur very easily and it would be a major inconvenience to need to look for personal injury lawyers simply because you made an ill-advised social media post.
Sometimes, it’s just better to NOT post on social media at all.
There are several things to avoid posting once you’ve submitted a claim. One type of post that can cause the most significant issues is anything related to physical activity.
For example, if you’re receiving workers’ compensation and are under doctor’s orders to minimize physical exertion, you definitely don’t want to post any pictures, videos or comments about hitting the gym or playing sports. The insurance company could see that and deny your claim or even charge you with fraud, claiming that you clearly exaggerated your injuries or that you weren’t making an effort to get better.
Posting photos or videos of yourself going on vacation is also a bad idea.
While it’s not necessarily prohibited for you to go on vacation during your claim, it can arouse suspicion. You also shouldn’t post about any work you’re doing even if that work isn’t physically demanding. The insurance company will argue that if you’re healthy enough to work elsewhere, you’re healthy enough to work anywhere.
When you suffer an injury, it’s normal to want to post about your recovery on social media to keep your friends and family in the loop. While this is fine, keep in mind that you don’t want to give the workers’ compensation authorities one story, and then provide a different story through your social media accounts. If there’s contradicting information, then you won’t be seen as trustworthy anymore.
Be smart, not paranoid.
You don’t need to be paranoid, but you should always think before you post and consider how your posts could be interpreted by your employer or the insurance company that’s paying your claim.
Social media posts cause misunderstandings all the time, but in situations like this, a misunderstanding could be extremely costly for you and could even harm your reputation. Being cautious about what you post while you have an active claim is well worth it.
Being aware of your audience is always important when posting on your social networks. By submitting a workers’ compensation claim, you add the insurance companies and their attorneys to your audience.
Even if you protect your posts with permissions, it’s still possible for your network to share your status updates, photos, and videos. Even another employee could screen capture your photo and send it to your boss.
To avoid any misinterpretations, just be cautious about what you post on social media during your claim period.
In the past 10 years, the number of women entering the workforce in traditionally male-dominated jobs has increased by nearly 30%. More and more women are working as trade laborers, warehouse workers, equipment operators and such. It’s important that all employees, male and female, are taught the same rights and regulations regarding Workers’ Compensation.
Many single moms are entering into fields that are statistically more dangerous, and they need to know what protection they and their families have in case of work related injury. Having an accident at work can be an extremely tough time, not only with the pain of your injury, but also the stress that can come from lost wages. The Workers’ Comp process can be daunting and confusing if you don’t know your rights.
If you’re a woman who’s been injured in at work, whether it’s an office setting or on the factory floor, you’re entitled to collect your insurance benefits.
Take a look at some of the basic facts that all workers should know about the Workers’ Compensation system.
#1. No one is at Fault
Throughout the U.S., the workers comp program is considered to follow a “no fault” structure. What that means is you will not have to prove that your employer is directly at fault for your accident. Your claim is considered on the basis of the injury you sustained, not the circumstances of the incident that occurred. Regardless of whether you might be partially to blame due to carelessness, this won’t impede or affect the decision-making process on your claim. The only exception to this rule is if you were found to be under the influence at the time the injury occured.
#2. Report it Quickly
You might not feel like your injury is significant enough to even bother reporting it. For example, you could feel fine and unhurt after a slip and fall accident but you should still report it. Injuries like twisted backs and joints might not show up for several hours or even days after the initial incident. Your best bet is to report even the smallest injury immediately to protect yourself from future issues with your claim.
#3. Lawsuits Are Optional
Once you accept your workers’ compensation claim, you become automatically exempt from any further legal action against your employers. However, this doesn’t prevent you from filing a further negligence lawsuit against a third party. For example, if you were to be injured in the workplace by a piece of malfunctioning machinery, you would still be able to file a claim against the manufacturer directly. So, if your regular claim won’t be sufficient to maintain your care, medical bills and lost time, there are other avenues to investigate with your legal team.
Do you ever experience wrist or elbow pain but have no memory of having injured yourself? You could be one of the thousands of people suffering from a repetitive stress injury (RSI).
Who is at risk of getting a RSI?
Various factors have the potential to cause upper limb disorders, including repetitive work, improper working posture, sustained or excessive force, or carrying out tasks for long periods without suitable rest breaks. Experts stress, RSI can lead to permanent disabilities if untreated, so it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as you notice the signs.
In fact, the chairman of the national charity RSI Action, Steve Fisher, developed such bad RSI in his back during his career as an aerospace engineer, that he was unable to walk and was forced to take medical retirement. He blames computer use, poor understanding of his condition by employer and doctor, and explains: “Many people are using computers at work, with a lot of mouse work, this creates a relatively heavy load on the small muscles of the lower arm and hand which also causes movement of the nerves in the arm and shoulder, and it can build up problems over time.”
Mr. Fisher’s presentation outlines several “degrees of RSI”, prevention, impact, and recovery.
1st Degree –
Occasional unpredictable aching
Simple measures should result in full recovery
2nd Degree –
Frequent or predictable burning, throbbing, etc
Further measures & treatment should result in a full recovery.
3rd Degree –
Constant pain and/or improper nerve sensations.
Strength or endurance problems.
Significant treatment, long partial recovery.
RSI is most common in older adults: (24%) of 41-63 year olds have had RSI, compared to (16%) of those aged 18-30. Although repeated computer and mouse use is most often cited as the culprit, the HSE found that construction and manufacturing sectors have the highest incidence of work-related upper limb disorders, followed closely by health workers. What are the common symptoms of RSI?
Not surprisingly, wrists are the most common trouble spots, with (69%) identifying this as the joint most likely to be affected, followed by fingers (29%), forearms (23%) and thumbs (20%). Elbows and shoulders can also be stiff or painful, and even knees and feet can suffer if your job involves large amounts of kneeling or operating foot pedals. Some warning signs of RSI include pain or tenderness, stiffness, tingling or numbness, cramping, weakness or throbbing. There may even be swelling.
In the beginning stages, the discomfort is usually only felt when performing the action that is causing the problem. However, if no remedial action is taken, it can eventually become constant and, in some severe cases, irreversible. See your physician. Tell them about the symptoms you’re experiencing and if they recommend a medical leave from work. You may already be diagnosed with a form of RSI and not even know it.
Repetitive stress injuries also go by several other different names, some of which you may already know you have, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, tennis or golf elbow, or bursitis. These are all examples of RSI. While there has been a rise in RSI incidence since keyboards became part of everyday life, the condition has actually been recognized for hundreds of years. We tend to think of RSI as a modern-day condition, but the truth is that it was first reported way back in 1700 when an Italian doctor identified more than 20 examples or RSI among musicians, clerks and other industrial workers of the period. The high incidence of problems involving the lower arm joints is simply a reflection of the amount of time we spend using keyboards and handheld devices.
What can I do if I think I have RSI?
Modify your workspace- Affected workers should talk to their employer about ways to modify their working space to relieve symptoms and risk. Simple changes such as adjusting your chair height, adding a lumbar support pillow or even a footstool can do wonders for your posture. There are also ergonomic keyboards and cushioned mouse pads available to assist with wrist pain. Most times, your employer can order one of these things for you at no cost to you. Rest and exercise- Simple exercises incorporated into daily routines can help prevent RSI. For example, if you’re sitting at a computer all day, be sure to take breaks often and stretch your wrist and fingers to loosen any tightness. Starting with your right hand, gently extend the fingers back one at a time, followed by taking them all back at the same time. Repeat this several times throughout the day. Read about additional exercises here.
Can I get Workers Comp for an RSI?
Most of the people that suffer from an RSI without treatment, do so because they feel as though they can’t afford to take time off of work for the injury to heal. However, you may not know that most times, a repetitive stress injury can qualify you to receive workers comp. The truth is, any injury that is directly correlated to your occupation is eligible for workers comp. Even if you have a pre-existing condition that has been aggravated or accelerated due to your occupation, you’re still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Although prevention is better than treatment when dealing with repetitive strain injury, it’s important to address any issues as soon as you notice symptoms, as they’re likely to get worse. Be aware of the risk, and if you see the first signs of aches and pains, whatever you do, don’t ignore them.
If you believe you have a repetitive strain injury, don’t wait. Contact Thomas Marchese for a free case evaluation.
After a workplace injury, you’re counting on your workers’ comp benefits to help pay your medical bills and help you get by financially until you’re able to return to work. Unfortunately, your employer (or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier) had different plans.
As with any insurance claim, there are important deadlines, rules, and exceptions that will ultimately determine if the claim is approved. If your workers’ comp claim was denied, the first thing you need to do is determine the reason why. This should be in your denial letter as well.
Here are some common reasons for a denial of workers’ comp benefits: (This is not an exhaustive list, and an experienced Ohio workers’ comp attorney will be able to assess your case in detail.)
You didn’t report your injury within the deadlines given. While you should notify your employer immediately following the injury, the Ohio statute of limitations for filing a workers compensation claim is one year.
No one witnessed your accident. Whether your witness was a coworker or even a surveillance video, any proof that can verify how you became injured can drastically help your case. If you know that your accident had no witnesses, it should encourage you to report your injuries to your employer immediately, and get prompt medical attention.
Your accident report or medical records seem suspicious. Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier will be tediously going through your claim with a fine-toothed comb. If your report differs from those of your coworkers or your doctor, or if your medical records show that you had drugs or alcohol in your system at the time of the accident, it will be very difficult to get workers’ compensation benefits.
You refused to cooperate during the claims process. Being cautious when dealing with insurance companies is always advisable, and it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney before signing or recording any statements or documents. Often times, your signature or recorded statements aren’t required to obtain benefits, but many insurers will try to use this as an excuse to deny your claim. This is usually not a valid reason to deny a claim, and an attorney can help you sort this out in an appeal.
Your employer or their workers’ comp insurer made a mistake or are being difficult. Often, employees can follow procedure by the book when it comes to reporting their injuries and filing claims, but they’re still denied benefits. Whether the employer or their carrier overlooked a key detail or simply made a mistake, a workers comp attorney can help you appeal your denial if your case is sound.
Appealing a Workers’ Comp Denial Now that you have a greater understanding of why your claim was denied, you may want to appeal the decision. The denial letter should provide a deadline for filing your appeal. Keep in mind that it can be a complicated legal process and best handled by an experienced workers’ comp attorney.