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Work Injury Cases High in Healthcare and Social Service Sectors

Healthcare workers, social services and residential treatment personnel are currently at high risk of injury in the workplace, both from those they care for and due to exposure to the new coronavirus. Work injury can result from this exposure to the new coronavirus, and from the stress related to both exposure and workplace dynamics

In the years spanning 2011-2013, between 70-74% of assaults in the workplace occurred in healthcare and social services settings. For healthcare workers, assault injuries represented about 10% of injuries that required days away from work, compared to a low 3% of all private sector employees. And, while healthcare workers account for 20% of all workplace injuries, they make up 50% of victims of workplace assaults. On-the-job risks faced by these workers are no doubt in a heightened state during the time of COVID-19.

Incidents of workplace violence given the most public media attention have historically centered on workplace homicides, with more recent attention given to negligence. While workplace homicides account for the minority of incidents, the remainder of violent incidents in the workplace often result in non-fatal, but serious injuries. Workplace setting heavily impacts the factors that put workers at risk of being victim to workplace violence. The best work injury lawyers know that registered nurses, nurse practitioners, technicians, therapists, emergency medical care personnel, physicians, pharmacists, physicians’ assistants, care providers and aides, and any support staff who come into contact with patients and clients receiving care are all at higher risk of work-related injury.

Today, exposure to viral infection naturally exacerbates organizational risk factors of workplace violence like understaffing, overcrowding, and long patient wait times. While COVID-19 lawsuits are on the rise among impacted workers, states are having to determine whether the virus qualifies as an “occupational disease” or an “ordinary disease of life.” But for healthcare, social services and care facility workers, coronavirus infection may more easily meet the criteria of an occupational illness due to how they likely contracted the disease. But more so, risk of work injury is magnified for these workers. 

Healthcare and social services workers face additional risk of injury through transporting patients or those with a history of violence or criminal activity. Nursing home residents aren’t the only ones carrying high risks of injury due to possible neglect and compromised immunities, nursing home and healthcare workers themselves are placed in compromising positions with lack of adequate personal protection equipment, understaffing, and frustrated family members of patients and residents affected by coronavirus.

When Hate Crimes Happen at Work

Workplace hate crimes may fall under state or federal laws that impact injury claims and damages for an injured worker.

Workplace Hate Crimes on the Rise

Hate crimes occur when a person engages in illegal behavior that’s motivated by bias against the victim’s race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. Hate crimes can happen in neighborhoods, schools, outdoor venues, hotels, casinos, restaurants, retail stores, and many other places where people gather, even in the workplace.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines workplace violence as encounters or incidents that involve verbal abuse, bullying behaviors, sexual and racial harassment, threats of violence or harm, and physical attacks to workers. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, workplace violence usually falls into one of four categories:

  • The perpetrator has no known association with the worker or workplace
  • The perpetrator has a personal relationship with a worker
  • The perpetrator is a current or former employee
  • The perpetrator is a customer, guest, or patient in the workplace

Over the past few years, Nevada businesses have experienced a rise in hate crimes. Henderson workers comp lawyers have seen a jump in personal injury claims filed by workers injured by some type of workplace violence related to hate crimes. Workers with the highest rates of injuries from workplace violence include healthcare and social services workers, public transportation workers, hotel staff workers, teachers, and school employees, and office managers and personnel workers. Due to minimal protection and limited staffing, these workers face a greater risk of physical injuries from workplace violence.

According to the Government of Accountability Office (GOA), healthcare and social services workers endure the highest rate of verbal abuse attacks and physical assaults within the U.S. workforce. Most cases of hospital workplace violence involve verbal and physical assaults on doctors and nurses perpetrated by patients or their family members

Victims of Hate Crimes

When victims are targeted because of their race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability, the perpetrator can be charged with a hate crime under federal laws. If the hate crime involves violence, the perpetrator can be charged with a federal crime under U.S. statutes. Federal crimes that may also be considered hate crimes include aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder or first-degree murder, homicide, and sexual abuse. If a perpetrator is convicted of a federal hate crime, he/she can be sentenced to many years in prison.

Although there are numerous state and federal laws with enhanced punishments for hate crimes, there are no laws that punish “hateful speech” since Americans are protected under First Amendment Rights that allow freedom of speech. If a perpetrator is screaming racial slurs while physically assaulting the victim, their speech is evidence of a hate crime that’s racially motivated, but screaming racial slurs is not illegal.

Victim Compensation Programs

Every state offers services and programs to help violent crime victims and their families. Individuals convicted of violent hate crimes in lower courts often have an order of “restitution” included in their sentence, which makes them legally obligated to pay for the victim’s damages including:

  • Expenses for medical treatments
  • Expenses for physical therapy or rehabilitation
  • Expenses for mental health treatments
  • Expenses for prescribed medications
  • Out-of-pocket expenses related to treatments
  • Lost wages

Every state has different types of benefits, compensation limits, and deadlines to apply for aid. In Nevada, a Henderson workers comp lawyer can provide legal guidance and advice on state victim compensation programs and workers’ compensation claims for workplace hate crimes.

Nevada Hate Crime Laws

In Nevada, a crime committed against a person because of that individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, mental or physical disability, or sexual orientation, is a hate crime. Even if the perpetrator wrongly believes the victim is in one of these groups, he/she can still be charged and prosecuted for a hate crime.

While Nevada laws do not delineate hate crimes with specific penalties, the state does enhance the penalty for certain crimes which happened mainly because of the protected status of the victim. If the victim is a minority, of a different sexual orientation, or physically or emotionally disabled, penalties for a hate crime can be increased by the court.

In Nevada, a hate crime in the workplace could also be an employment discrimination case in certain circumstances. In some cases, when an employee is the victim of a workplace assault he/she may have to choose between filing a workers’ compensation case with a workers comp lawyer and filing a tort case under the so-called exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation. When a workplace hate crime case becomes complicated, a Henderson workers comp lawyer can address legal issues and provide guidance that ensures the best outcome for the employee. In general, any criminal sanction against the perpetrator will have no effect on a workers’ compensation claim.

Injured In a Slip or Fall? Here’s What To Do

Most slip and fall injury claims are based on negligent actions of the property owner, so the injury victim must prove negligence in a Nevada Court to recover damages.

Slip and Fall Injury Claims

Nevada laws regarding slip and fall accidents are clearly defined. “Slip and fall” is a term used in personal injury cases when a person trips, slips, or falls on another person’s property. Slip and fall cases usually fall under a broader category of “premises liability” laws.

Slip and fall accidents can occur on public properties and private properties, both indoors and outdoors. In either case, the property owner may be held legally responsible for damages caused by injuries under certain conditions. To win a lawsuit involving a slip and fall accident, the injury victim (plaintiff) must show proof that the property owner (defendant) was negligent in keeping the property free of hazards that could cause someone to fall. Proof must also be shown that the property owner was aware of the hazardous property conditions and did nothing to fix them. Common things that may constitute negligence on the part of the property owner include:

  • Trash and debris on the property
  • Overgrown grass, shrubs, and trees
  • Uneven or cracked walkways
  • Wet or slippery floors
  • Damaged or worn tile or carpeting
  • Damaged stair treads and handrails

In Nevada, there is no “strict liability” for slip and fall cases, which means that an injury victim is not entitled to compensation just because he/she fell and suffered injuries. Nevada personal injury law contains a “comparative negligence rule.” This means that a slip and fall injury victim can receive compensation that is proportional to his/her own responsibility for the accident. As long as the injury victim is found responsible by the court for less than 50% of the accident, he/she may be proportionally compensated. For example, if found 25% responsible, he/she would receive 75% of the possible compensation.

If severe injury or death occurs from a slip and fall, a Henderson personal injury lawyer can file a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of the victim or wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased person’s family. According to Nevada Statutes, a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of injury, and a wrongful death lawsuit within two years from death. After that point, the statute of limitations runs out and the claim will be rejected by Nevada Courts.

Tips for Choosing a Personal Injury Attorney

Choosing the right personal injury attorney can be the difference between winning and losing a lawsuit. Professional background and legal experience in personal injury cases is essential.

How to Find the Right Personal Injury Lawyer

When a personal injury occurs, the injury victim may be entitled to compensation for injuries. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, compensation may be awarded for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and punitive damages in some cases.

Although the injured party may want to file a lawsuit against the party responsible for his/her injury, choosing and hiring a lawyer can feel like a daunting task, especially for someone who has never needed legal representation. Finding the right lawyer is not impossible, but narrowing the search can make the process faster and less complicated.

Get Referrals

Personal referrals from family members, friends, and co-workers are a good place to start. Someone who has worked with a personal injury lawyer can offer valuable advice on a lawyer’s professional background, legal knowledge and experience, practice areas, court and trial experience, personal demeanor, trustworthiness, and ethics. All of these are important attributes for an attorney.

Most local bar associations have lawyer referral services that provide the names of attorneys in specialty areas, but they do not offer much information. An online research can provide information regarding past client reviews, attorney licensing and standing in the state, and sanctions for legal violations.

Set Up a Meeting

Once an attorney is selected, the next step in contacting the law office to schedule an initial meeting about the case. Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations for the first meeting to establish a personal relationship, review the details of the accident and injury, discuss the trial process and settlements, outline the time frame, and discuss legal fees. Prior to signing any type of legal agreement or contract, the client should understand and agree with all legal fees.

During the initial meeting, asking questions can provide important information.

  • How long has the attorney been practicing law?
  • What percentage of cases involve personal injuries?
  • Does the attorney have trial experience in court?
  • Will the attorney in the meeting be handling the case?
  • Does the law firm work on a contingency basis?
  • How are legal fees charged and collected?

Since many personal injury cases involve insurance companies, it helps to hire a personal injury lawyer who has experience with insurance claims and settlements.

Are Truckers Pushing too Hard During the Pandemic?

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a significant rise in essential delivery services across the country, putting more trucks on the road and pushing drivers past safe driving limits.

COVID-19 Causes Relaxed Safety Regulations

Under normal circumstances, commercial truck drivers have restricted driving hours to promote safety, but the coronavirus pandemic has created changes in those restrictions. To provide needed relief to Americans during the COVID-19 crisis, the Trump Administration has suspended federal trucking safety regulations that mandate limited daily driving hours for commercial truckers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces strict regulations for the U.S. trucking industry. One of those regulations restricts a commercial truck driver from driving more than 11 hours within a 14-hour period and mandates rest stops and breaks. Regulations and enforced to prevent driver fatigue, a major problem within the trucking industry that causes thousands of trucking accidents seen by truck accident attorneys each year.

During a national crisis, law allows the president and state governors to issue emergency declarations when public health or safety is at risk. President Trump declared such an order to ensure faster transport and delivery of vital supplies like medical equipment, food supplies, and basic necessities for the public. With FMCSA regulations suspended, commercial truckers and delivery drivers are permitted to drive longer shifts and additional hours without restrictions.

Although COVID-19 business closures and stay-at-home orders have significantly decreased motor vehicle traffic, delivery drivers are out in droves. Semi-trucks transporting medical equipment and supplies to hospitals, refrigerated trucks delivering food items to grocery stores, and Amazon vans delivering essentials to homeowners are flooding highways and city streets.

With FMCSA safety regulations suspended, the trucking industry is concerned that long hours on the road and rushed deliveries may cause a rise in trucking accidents and injuries. Fatigue and sleep deprivation in commercial truckers is responsible for many truck crashes that result in fatalities. According to FMCSA Large Truck Crash Studies, at least 13 percent of commercial truck drivers are fatigued at the time of a crash.

The study notes that truck driver fatigue and drowsy driving are commonly caused from long hours on the road, inadequate sleep and rest, physical and/or mental exertion, and drugs and medications. To prevent fatigue and drowsy driving accidents, FMCSA regulations restrict commercial truck drivers from driving more than 60 hours in one week or more than 70 hours in eight days. Suspended regulations during COVID-19 pose increased accident risks for truckers.

Who’s at Fault and What Are Your Options After a Pile-Up Accident?

Pile-up car accidents raise questions about liability, since drivers often have different versions of accident details. Fault for the accident will be based on the police report and insurance investigations.

Untangling Liability in Pile-Up Accidents

When a car hits another car from behind, the car in the rear is generally held liable for the accident. The law assumes that the car traveling behind must maintain a safe braking distance from the car in front. In a pile-up accident,  determining fault becomes more complicated, because there are multiple drivers, multiple insurers, and conflicting accident details in police reports.

Typically, the police report from the accident scene notes which car is at fault based on details collected at the scene. In pile-up accidents, one vehicle often causes the crash and sets off a chain reaction collision, However, it is possible for multiple cars to be at fault. The amount of fault is usually determined by details in the police report and/or by insurance adjusters who investigate accident claims. In most states, insurance companies decide driver liability. They often seek damages from other insurers to cover their claims. Insurance companies have the final say in determining who they believe is at fault for an accident, and they don’t always agree with conclusions found in police reports.

When multiple cars collide in a pile-up accident, determining fault and liability for the accident gets complicated. While one driver may be found 70 percent at fault, other drivers may share fault at 30 percent. Investigating pile-up accident claims is a lengthy process that involves many different drivers and many different insurance companies, often fighting to protect their assets by avoiding payouts on claims. Due to increased liability and legal issues, car accident lawyers are important for drivers involved in pile-up accidents. Drivers involved in a pile-up accident should follow certain steps:

  • Call the police to the scene of the accident
  • Gather evidence to support a claim (photos, videos)
  • Get witness statements from people who witnessed the accident
  • Seek medical attention for injuries as soon as possible
  • Report the accident to the insurance company
  • Review insurance policy provisions

Nevada is a fault state, also known as a tort state, which means the person found at fault for a car accident is responsible for all damages related to property and injuries. If lawsuits are filed against a driver, a Henderson car accident lawyer can provide legal help to minimize liability.

Stress, Fatigue Put Essential Workers at Risk of Injury

Workers exposed to prolonged job stress and fatigue from dangerous tasks, long hours, and lack of sleep face higher injury risks on the job. Essential workers in frontline industries are particularly vulnerable to job-related injuries.

High Injury Risks for Essential Workers

Many jobs place stringent physical and emotional demands on workers, but workers in certain jobs face higher injury risks because of them. Workers deemed as essential workers by federal and state officials due to the coronavirus pandemic are much more likely to suffer serious or even life-threatening injuries on the job.

Essential workers are employed in a variety of jobs that protect public health and safety. The federal government has labeled six types of employment as frontline industries necessary for American public health and safety during the COVID-19 crisis. Frontline industries include:

  • Healthcare
  • Public Transportation
  • Trucking, Warehouse, and Postal Services
  • Grocery, Convenience, and Drug Stores
  • Childcare and Social Services
  • Public Cleaning Services

Since all of these industries provide essential public services, workers in any of these frontline industries may be exposed to prolonged job stress and fatigue from hazardous job conditions, long work hours or shift work, and lack of adequate sleep. While healthcare workers face high risks of exposure to coronavirus, public transportation workers may be required to work longer hours and/or different shifts. Trucking, warehouse, and postal workers may face a change in normal hours that throw them into a night shift creating sleep deprivation and related sleep problems.

The physical and emotional demands on workers in frontline industries put them at a higher risk of job-related accidents and injuries commonly seen by workers comp lawyers. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a rise in work-related injury claims handled by workers comp lawyers across the country.

Frontline Healthcare Workers

Although all essential workers face higher injury risks, healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic may face the greatest risks. Hospital workers, physicians, nurses, and medical technicians commonly face high rates of stress and fatigue as a part of their normal jobs, but the coronavirus pandemic has doubled, even tripled, those rates due to extremely hazardous working conditions.

Healthcare workers are under constant stress from possible COVID-19 exposure and infection while treating coronavirus patients. Workers are not only worried about their own safety, but the safety of their families who may be exposed from close living conditions. To keep up with public safety demands and treatment of ill and dying coronavirus patients, most healthcare workers are working longer hours, night shifts, and exhausting amounts of overtime. Health care workers who are working on the frontlines may experience prolonged, high-stress levels due to the following conditions:

  • Longer hours and extra shifts
  • Lack of personal protection equipment (PPE)
  • Physical strain of protective equipment (exhaustion, heat, dehydration)
  • Constant vigilance regarding infection control procedures
  • Physical isolation and quarantine
  • Safety concerns for family members

While many essential workers are feeling the effects of stress and fatigue, healthcare workers face emotional fears of contracting COVID-19 from infected patients. According to Kaiser Health News, at least 600 frontline health care workers have died from COVID-19. Deaths include doctors, nurses, paramedics, hospital technicians, hospital administrators, hospital janitors, and nursing home workers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed only 368 COVID-19 deaths among health care workers, but they acknowledge that these numbers are likely very low, because the CDC does not identify individuals.

Workers Compensation Claims and Lawsuits

Although workers comp lawyers are seeing a rise in COVID-19 lawsuits, there may be certain restrictions on workers’ compensation claims and benefits. While workers’ compensation laws provide compensation for “occupational diseases” that arise out of and in the course of employment, many state statutes exclude “ordinary diseases of life” such as the flu or common cold, and possibly the coronavirus.

In many cases, work-related injuries due to coronavirus may be covered by workers’ compensation insurance, if it can be defined as an occupational illness or injury. To qualify for an occupational illness or injury compensable under workers compensation: (1) The illness or injury must arise out of the normal scope of a person’s employment; and (2) The illness or injury must be caused by conditions directly related to a person’s specific job duties.

According to recent workers’ compensation claim statistics, healthcare workers, and first responders who work directly with coronavirus patients are more likely to be approved for benefits under an occupational illness or injury. Although every state workers’ compensation case is judged on individual circumstances, a workers’ comp lawyer can help to ensure payable benefits by gathering important documents required by the court to prove occupation illness or injury. According to state laws, occupational illness or injury is determined more on facts related to how a worker contracted the illness or injury, rather than facts about the specific illness.

What Federal Workers Should Know About FELA

Under federal law, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) protects injured railroad workers injured on the job and compensates them for work-related injuries.

Understanding FELA Protections

In 1908, Congress enacted the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) to protect railroad workers and their families. FELA provides a federal legal system where railroad workers throughout the United States who are injured on the job can seek compensation for their injuries under FELA claims. All injured railroad workers are protected under FELA, as long as their injuries are sustained on the job.

FELA provides guidelines for railroad employment standards and outlines the duty of railroad companies in meeting those standards. Under FELA, railroad companies and employers must protect railroad workers, even those whose primary duties are not performed on or around trains. FELA guidelines include:

  • Provide a safe work environment including equipment, tools, and safety devices
  • Provide adequate job training and supervision for all workers
  • Enforce safety rules and regulations to prevent accidents
  • Inspect work areas regularly for hazards
  • Provide reasonable work quotas
  • Protect workers from harmful intentional acts of others

FELA Claims

Unlike no fault workers’ compensation claims, FELA claims require proof of liability for job-related injuries. A worker who files a FELA claim with a workers compensation attorney must prove negligence on the part of the defendant which could be various manufacturers, the railroad company, a direct manager or supervisor, or other railroad workers. FELA claims must show that the defendant failed in some way to provide a safe work environment.

When a FELA claim is filed, a defendant may try to establish a comparative negligence defense to avoid liability. The defendant may try to show that the worker’s own negligence or fault led to his/her injuries. A comparative negligence defense is used to assign some percentage of fault to the plaintiff which lessens the damages awarded for injuries.

FELA Compensation

Compensation awarded to an injured railroad worker in a FELA claim typical covers: present and future medical expenses; present and future lost wages; and present and future pain, suffering, and mental distress.

If injuries lead to a worker’s death, FELA allows compensation to be paid to the deceased worker’s surviving spouse and children. If the only survivors are parents or close family members, FELA compensation may be directed to them. A workers compensation attorney who handles FELA claims can ensure that compensation is properly received and distributed to survival parties.

Four Types of Spine Injuries

When injuries occur to the spine, the medical prognosis depends on which of the four sections of the spinal cord are involved and the severity of the injuries.

Understanding Spine Injuries

Spine injuries often result in long-term or permanent injuries and disabilities, depending on the severity of the injury and which part of the spine is affected. There are four main sections of the spinal cord, and each one controls different body movements, bones in the vertebrae, and spinal cord nerves.

Cervical Spine

The cervical spine controls the head and the neck. It is the top section of the spinal cord that controls the first 7 vertebrae (C-1 to C-7) in the neck. Since it is close to the brain, injuries are often severe and sometimes fatal. Many cervical injuries seen by Henderson personal injury lawyers are caused by motorcycle and car crashes, the leading cause of spine injuries each year. Severe cervical injuries often leave victims paralyzed from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair.

Thoracic Spine

Thoracic spinal cord injuries affect the abdomen and the lower back. There are 12 vertebrae (T-1 to T-12) located in the thoracic spine that control muscles and nerves essential for breathing and balance. T-1 to T-5 vertebrae affect muscles and nerves in the upper chest, mid-back, and abdominal region, while T-6 to T-12 vertebrae affect muscles and nerves that control posture and balance. Injuries to the thoracic spine often result in limited body movements, balance issues, and respiratory problems.

Lumbar Spine

The lumbar spine is the lowest section of the spinal cord with 5 vertebrae (L1 to L5). These vertebrae are larger because they carry most of the spine’s weight. Injuries to the lumbar spine often result in some loss of function to the hips and legs, but do not affect functions of the upper body. Severe lumbar injuries may cause involuntary bladder control and the need for special medical equipment. If severe hip or leg injuries occur, the victim may require surgery, leg braces, or a wheelchair.

Sacrum

The sacrum is located between the lumbar spine and the tailbone with 5 vertebrae (S-1 to S-5). The sacrum controls functions and nerves in the pelvic organs, the bladder, bowel, and sex organs. Damage to the sacrum is rare and usually occurs from trauma caused by falls from heights. People with arthritis or osteoporosis are prone to stress fractures in the sacral spine.

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