Alternative methods of pain relief: What injured workers should know

Alternative methods of pain relief: What injured workers should know

By now, we’re all aware of the ever worsening opioid crisis in America, and the use of medical marijuana and CBD oil as an alternative treatment for pain. But, do you know how these alternative methods will affect your workers’ comp?  

The common choice for acute pain management may include opioids, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatories that treat a variety of conditions from post-surgical or persistent pain to constipation or depression.  

Many of these medications don’t work well when taken together, and prolonged use can cause patients to develop a tolerance which reduces their overall effectiveness.  If you’re an injured worker, you need access to pain management alternatives that don’t involve the risk of long-term opioid use.

Both the legislature and the public at large are recognizing the need for alternative medicine, and not surprisingly, the most widely discussed option is cannabis.  Even Ohio now has medical marijuana programs.  The programs offer patients who qualify for medical care to purchase medical grade marijuana in a variety of forms.  

Cannabis therapy goes beyond the concept of smoking a “joint”.  

Medical marijuana utilized in a variety of edibles, vape oil, ointments, pill form, and in “CBD-only” form, which eliminates the substance THC thereby avoiding the common side effects associated with “getting high”.  

CBD oil is the preferred method of cannabis treatment for use in children and infants suffering from seizure disorders. In fact, in a recent study done by Dr. Orrin Devinsky for the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the use of CBD oil as a treatment for patients with severe seizure disorders had a 39% drop in the frequency of seizures.

Cannabis doesn’t just stop at treating seizures, but it’s also been effective at treating a range of problems from chronic pain to irritable bowel, anxiety and sleep deprivation.  Medical professionals are increasingly available in Columbus to help counsel injured workers on the appropriate use of cannabis as a valid, alternative treatment.

There could be legal complications.

First, many insurance companies won’t reimburse for the cost of the treatment.  This refusal could be based more on ethical or moral concerns than actual cost, since it would be hard to make the case that a naturally growing plant is more expensive than engineered synthetic pharmaceuticals.

Also, injured workers returning to employment while using cannabis may violate a company policy.  Therefore, it’s important before engaging in a treatment program to discuss with your counsel the potential legal ramifications of using a cannabis treatment.  

Whichever you decide is the right treatment for you, the prior stigma associated with cannabis use is rapidly changing.  If you’re currently undergoing pain management, don’t hesitate to consult your treating physician about your medical options, and be sure to discuss with a workers comp attorney about your legal options as well.

For more information, contact Thomas Marchese at 614-486-3249.

Can I get workers’ comp for a dog bite?

Can I get workers’ comp for a dog bite?

If you get attacked by a dog during the course of employment, you may have two causes of action; workers comp and a dog bite lawsuit.

When people think about workers’ comp claims, the most common injuries that come to mind are injuries like broken bones, machinery accidents, trip & falls or repetitive stress injuries, but any injury that occurs on the job can result in a workers’ comp claim; that includes dog bites.

Workers like mail carriers, landscapers, delivery people, or even repair people and contractors are all in danger of dog bites when performing their job duties. Fortunately, if you’re on the job at the time you’re attacked, you’re likely eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Under Ohio law, all companies with more than one employee are required to carry workers’ comp insurance in case of accident, injury, or disease.

When it comes to a dog bite or attack, Ohio law also allows third parties to be held liable in dog attacks. If you are performing work-related duties, and are attacked by the property owners dog, or a dog that the property owner permits on their property, the property owner may be liable for your injuries.

If you’re hurt on the job, take the following steps to make sure your workers’ compensation claim isn’t denied.

  1. Get medical treatment and notify your employer immediately of your injury. Be sure to have the doctor document any work restrictions they mandate.
  2. Ask your employer to report the injury to the Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC).
  3. Speak with a workers comp lawyer to make sure that your claim is submitted correctly and that you receive fair compensation to cover your medical bills, missed work, and financial restitution.

If you also decide to pursue a workers’ compensation case, you need a skilled attorney to help navigate through this legal maze. At the law office of Thomas Marchese, worker’s compensation claims are all we do.

Call (614) 486-3249 or use our contact form. Now is a good time.

Should you be compensated for Carpal Tunnel?

Should you be compensated for Carpal Tunnel?

RSI’s or “Repetitive Stress Injuries” like carpal tunnel are becoming increasingly common as more and more workers are restricted to their desks to perform their job over a keyboard. While the work is most likely the cause of the injury, you can’t sue your employer over carpal tunnel syndrome. Most workers are barred from pursuing a lawsuit for workplace injuries by workers compensation laws.
If you’re someone who suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome that you believe is caused by your work, it’s important to understand your state’s workers’ compensation insurance system. Workers’ comp may be your only means of receiving compensation for your work-related injury.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that is caused by the compression of the median nerve and the tendons that flex your fingers as they travel through the “carpal tunnel” in your wrist. This tunnel is very narrow, so even a small amount of swelling can compress the nerve. This compression can cause pain, weakness, and even numbness in the hand and wrist.

Although carpal tunnel syndrome can be the result of a variety of factors, including age, weight, trauma, arthritis, disease, pregnancy, etc., it can also be caused by overuse or repetitive movements of the hand and wrist. Common workplace-based examples of repetitive tasks include: 

  • Typing
  • Using a cash register
  • Pushing, slicing, or pressing objects without a sufficient break or rest period

Treating carpal tunnel syndrome could require surgery. This surgical procedure is known as carpal tunnel release. A surgeon will cut through the ligament to make more space for the median nerve and tendons. Non-surgical remedies include rest, splinting, diuretics, and steroid injections.

 

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If you suffer a work-related injury, you’ll most likely be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are a few arguments you could encounter when it comes to carpal tunnel and other repetitive stress injuries.

 

Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome a Workplace Injury?

One of the most frequently debated issues when it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome is whether it was caused by a workplace injury or by a non-work-related factor. The employee will have the burden of proving the injury was work-related. For example, a worker may hold a second job that requires repetitive movements, or outside of work they may be an avid tennis player. In both of those instances, it could be argued that carpal tunnel syndrome developed because of those factors.

Characterizing Carpal Tunnel: Burden Of Proof

How carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized can affect your burden of proof. For example, if compensable as an occupational disease, you may have to prove by convincing evidence that the injury arose during and out of the course of employment.

No Cost to Discuss Your Case; $0 until we win.

Fake work injuries can equal big fines and jail time.

Fake work injuries can equal big fines and jail time.

The Crime –

A Columbus, Ohio mobile home maintenance worker now owes his former employer, TS Tech USA Corporation, more than $41,000.

35 year old Jason C. Smith, plead guilty to a felony count of workers’ compensation fraud this past Tuesday (August 14, 2018).

Investigators were acting on a tip with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation when they found out Jason Smith was working for the mobile home park as well as a number of private individuals for close to two years. All while he was receiving $41,413 in disability benefits from TS Tech.

The Punishment –

Along with having to repay the money, a judge also sentenced him to one year of jail time, which was suspended in exchange for 3 years’ probation.

According to Jim Wernecke, BWC’s special investigations department director, “You can’t claim you’re disabled and collect benefits from BWC or your employer when you’re also working under the radar and making a living. Workers’ comp benefits are for people who truly can’t work because they were injured on the job, not people who want to cheat the system and pad their income.”

This comes on the heels of yet another workers comp scam in Ohio.

The Crime –

On August 8th, 57-year-old Grant Myers, of Huron, was ordered to reimburse BWC $11,566 after pleading guilty to a first-degree count of workers’ compensation fraud.

Investigators found him running a drywall business while receiving disability benefits from the agency.

The Punishment –

Myers was initially given a 30-day jail sentence for his crimes, but a judge suspended the sentence after Myers agreed to pay BWC restitution.

If you are injured at work and worried about your financial future, immediately get an attorney who specializes in workers comp cases. Partnering with a skilled worker’s’ compensation attorney may ensure that you get maximum compensation for your injuries. Your needs are more than just a basic settlement.

The Help You Need –

Call Columbus Attorney Tom Marchese at 614.486.3249 or click here to get started with your free consultation.

How Will Legal Marijuana Impact Workers Comp?

How Will Legal Marijuana Impact Workers Comp?

States Rights vs. Feds

As of 2018, medical marijuana is legal in 29 U.S. states and recreational is legal in 7 states… And there’s no end in sight. The opioid crisis continually makes headlines, and some doctors are already prescribing marijuana as an alternative to addictive narcotics.

In fact, there are known cases of injured workers weaning themselves off of opioids using marijuana. Some evidence even suggests marijuana can be extremely effective in addressing issues like epilepsy, glaucoma and some traumatic injuries.

As for the evidence?…

One study that appears in a 2017 edition of the Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain asked medical marijuana patients to rate the effectiveness in treating their pain. The average score was 74.6% on a scale of 0% (“no relief at all”) to 100% (“complete relief of pain”).

Still, marijuana-related research is in its beginning stages. And even if cannabis becomes a more mainstream therapy for workers comp injuries, it still remains illegal under federal law.

That means if a doctor prescribes cannabis for an injured worker, the carrier may still have grounds to refuse payment of the claim.

So far, only 5 states, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico, officially require insurers to pay workers comp claims involving medical marijuana.

Although such cases have been few, as more states legalize marijuana, it could be a very interesting circumstance. You could have a state saying yes, you have to pay, and the feds saying no. Although the supremacy clause of the Constitution may suggest the federal government would have precedence, it could be seen as a states’ rights issue too.

The Drug-Free Workplace

Another issue working its way through the courts is an employers choice to implement drug-free workplace policies.

The goal seems simple: Reduce the number of employees who come to work impaired. If a larger portion of the workforce comes to work drunk or high, that could create injuries on the job that wouldn’t exist before.

Every state has laws that dictate what an insurer can do if someone causes an injury who was impaired in some way. Some allow you to restrict coverage and some allow you to deny the claim altogether.

But do drug-free workplace policies stand up in states where marijuana is legal, either medically or recreationally?

In 2015, Colorado courts ruled that an employer can have a drug-free workplace policy and fire you for testing positive for marijuana, even though it’s legal.

But in July, a Massachusetts Court ruled that employees who have legal prescriptions for marijuana can sue their employers for disability discrimination. But only if they’re fired solely on the basis of using the drug. That means that while employers are free to enforce a drug-free workplace policy, they can still be held liable for discrimination.

The Burden of Proof

The reality is, there’s no reliable way for an employer to determine whether an employee is high at work. A drug test may come back positive, but that could just mean the employee smoked at some point in the last few weeks.

However, it’s important to note: In Ohio, a positive urine test for cannabis creates a rebuttable presumption that the injured worker was intoxicated at the time of the injury and the intoxication caused the injury.

Short of an injured worker coming clean of their own accord, proving marijuana impairment in the event of an injury is a tall order. You can’t breathalyze for marijuana, unlike alcohol which can be tested on the spot. But the science hasn’t gotten there yet for marijuana or even for prescription pain medications.

Some employers have expressed concern that if they implemented drug testing they wouldn’t be able to get the work done. There are certain industries where drug use among employees is just part of the drill.

You have people saying, ‘Why does it matter, as long as I’m not stoned when I come to work? You don’t test to see if I got drunk over the weekend or even if I just had a couple of beers last night. Why does it matter what I’m doing in my off-hours?’

What does a drug-free workplace look like in a world where marijuana is legal?
As this becomes more prolific, we’ll have to figure out how we deal with it.

If you’ve got a question about a workers comp issue, immediately call Columbus Attorney Tom Marchese at 614.486.3249 or click here to get started with your free consultation.

Top 5 most common workplace injuries and how to avoid them.

All kinds of injuries can occur in the workplace, which can cost both the employer and the employee valuable time and money.

​Today, we’re going to take a look at the 5 most common workplace injuries and offer some safety tips to help you prevent them from occurring.

1. Trips, Slips And Falls

Slips, trips and falls account for one third of all personal injuries in the workplace, and they’re a top cause of all workers’ compensation claims. The types of injuries incurred include head, back and neck injuries, broken bones, cuts, sprains and pulled muscles.

The most common reasons for falls in the workplace are:

Slips: Occasional spills, wet or oily surfaces, weather hazards like icy steps or walkway, and loose rugs.

Trips: Poor lighting, clutter, wrinkled carpeting or mats, uncovered cables, and uneven walking surfaces.

There are 3 keys to preventing these types of workplace accidents: good housekeeping, quality walking surfaces and proper footwear. Beyond that, employees should be encouraged to report areas where clutter, obstruction, spillage or damage have occurred.

2. Being Struck By Or Caught In Moving Machinery

Accidents can happen to anyone working with heavy machinery although they are more common in factories, with farm equipment, and construction equipment. Machinery that’s not properly guarded is a safety hazard. When body parts get caught in or struck by exposed moving parts or flying objects from machines without protective guards, the results are often times disastrous. The long and horrifying list of machinery related injuries includes crushed hands and arms, severed fingers, blindness and even worse.
The best way to prevent mechanical hazards is to remember that any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury MUST be safeguarded, and proper operator training as well as protective clothing must always be provided.

3. Vehicle Related Accidents

Where there are vehicles of any kind, there’s the potential for accidents. These include being struck or run over by a moving vehicle, falling from a vehicle, being struck by objects falling from a vehicle and getting crushed by or stuck under an overturned vehicle.

Avoiding these types of accidents begins with assessing who’s at risk, as well as where and when these accidents most commonly occur. Only then are prevention measures more easily established. Focus on workplace design, ensuring all layout routes always segregate pedestrians and vehicles and make any obstructions clearly visible. Directions, speed limit and priority signs are also helpful.

4. Fire And Explosions

Explosions and fires in the workplace are frequently caused by risk factors such as faulty gas lines, improperly stored combustible materials or open flames. The resulting injuries incurred include damage to the respiratory system, varying degrees of burns and even potential disfigurement. Explosions and fires account for 3 percent of workplace injuries and have the highest casualty rate of all probable workplace accidents.

There are 4 types of injuries commonly associated with this type of accident:

Primary Blast: These occur due to the effects of pressure on body tissues, affecting ears, lungs and the GI tract.

Secondary Blast: This occurs when flying objects strike nearby workers.

Tertiary Blast: High-energy explosions can lift someone off the ground.

Quaternary Blast: Everything else that happens as a result of an explosion, such as crush injuries, burns and inhalation of toxic substances.

OSHA recommends following its hazard communication standards to help workers avoid these types of injuries. In addition, material safety data sheets for all chemicals should be kept on hand and employees should be required to wear personal protective equipment at all times.

5. Repetitive Stress and Overexertion Injuries

Musculoskeletal disorders are the most costly workplace injuries. Complaints of back pain alone cost employers more than 7 billion dollars annually and lead to more than 100 million lost workdays annually. These kinds of injuries contribute to loss of productivity and millions in annual health benefit payout costs.

The financial impact on the employer is one thing, but the long-term effects on workers can be severe and potentially debilitating and they account for nearly 33 percent of occupational injuries.

Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs) are the fasting growing category of workplace injury and comprise more than 100 different types of job-induced injuries, and they’re severe enough to inhibit simple activities with crippling and debilitating pain. They could even eventually permanently impair a worker’s ability to perform his or her job.

Causes for these types of injuries include:

Improper Lifting or Manually Lifting Heavy Objects: You’ve heard it a million times, lift with your knees, not your back. Especially objects weighing over 50lbs without the assistance of a co-worker or lifting device.

No Breaks: With repetitive work, short breaks should be required or the work may eventually result in wear and tear on the body.

Intensive Keying: Constant typing and clicking strains muscles and tendons.

The key to preventing these injuries is ergonomics! Ergonomics is the science of adjusting the job to fit the body’s needs and provides injury prevention solutions that are simple and relatively inexpensive. Workers assigned to tasks that require repetitive motion should be required to take frequent breaks to rest or stretch, and manual or mechanical lifting equipment should be provided for anything weighing over 50lbs.

The best way to protect your employees and help prevent injuries in your workplace is to take a holistic approach to workplace safety. This means ensuring your employees have the proper protective equipment, adequate training to perform their jobs, and making sure your facility is compliant with federal and environmental regulations.

If you’re injured at work, immediately call Columbus Attorney Tom Marchese at 614.486.3249 or click here to get started with your free consultation.

Have a Safe Day!