If you’re a motorcycle rider, warmer temperatures mean you’ll be able to take your bike out more often for longer periods of time. Take the time now while the weather is still transitional to do those all-important safety checks to ensure your motorcycle meets all the basic requirements.
Brakes: The ability to stop your bike isn’t really optional, is it? So test the front and rear brakes separately, making sure each feels firm and holds the motorcycle when the brake is pushed down the whole way.
Tires: Good tread is key to driving your motorcycle safely through spring storms and summer thundershowers. Start your tire evaluation by checking the tread on your tires. Look for all types of damage, including cracking and spots where the rubber has dried out. Got good tread? Next, check the pressure in your tires. Keeping the pressure at recommended levels has a big impact on how safely your bike handles.
Lights: Because motorcycle safety depends on visibility, testing your bike’s lights is critically important. Test your headlights, brake lights, and turn signals—and don’t forget your four-way flashers and your dash indicators.
Horn: Alerting other drivers of where you are on the road requires a working horn. Make sure it works before you need it.
Fluids: Read your owner’s manual to be sure you’re filling up and topping off your fluid levels properly, including your oil. Like worn down tire tread, having fluid gauges that are not filled correctly will negatively affect how well your bike handles as well as engine performance.
Controls: Make sure there are no leaks or rust along the lines of your bike’s controls.
Throttle: Make sure your motorcycle’s throttle feels tight and smooth, and that it snaps back when you let go.
Mirrors: Motorcycle safety has a lot to do with controlling the things you can control. Because there’s no way you can be sure a driver is paying attention to you, your safety depends on your ability to keep track of them. So make sure you can see the lane behind you and the lane next to you and adjust your mirrors accordingly. Be sure you can move your mirrors smoothly and ensure that they lock in place.
Helmet & Gear: Once you have your bike road-ready, take a good look at your gear. Your leathers and armor should be free of damage and fit well. Your helmet should be approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation and free of cracks and fit snugly. Wearing a helmet greatly increases your chance of survival if you’re in an accident.
Making sure your bike is road-ready for the spring riding season is only part of motorcycle safety. Practicing defensive riding completes the picture. Know the helmet laws—in your state and in any other state you may pass through. Get familiar with license requirements and insurance laws for motorcycles.
If you or someone you care about has been injured in a motorcycle accident, don’t hesitate to call us or use the form to submit your information for a free consultation of your claim. It’s important to capture any evidence quickly, and to file claims within legal limits.
Most Marylanders didn’t see much snow last winter, but so far, 2021 has more than made up for that. The Farmer’s Almanac’s prediction of a wet, snowy winter for the mid-Atlantic region has been turned into a reality, especially in Frederick and western Maryland– bringing with it more challenges for drivers on the roads.
Driving safety experts say that drivers should prepare for snow and ice on the roads early so that a sudden winter storm isn’t a dangerous surprise. Let’s talk about a few things you can do to be ready to drive safely this winter:
Put snow tires on your car.
Experts recommend you get four snow tires put on your care to give you better traction and maximize your steering/braking ability in the snow, ice, and slush – thus reducing your chances of a car accident.
Check your engine.
Cold weather is hard on your car engine, so pay a bit of extra attention to it to keep it running smoothly this winter. Keep the coolant, oil, and other fluids at recommended levels, either by checking them yourself or bringing your car in for regular maintenance.
Top up windshield wiper fluid.
Visibility in bad weather is critically important, so do your part by replenishing your windshield wiper fluid regularly. Most windshield wiper fluids contain a de-icer as well, which is handy in a sudden ice storm or snow shower until you have time to physically clean your windshield. Road salt, along with additional dirt, slush and grime from wintery roads, can make it especially difficult to see – so keep a spare bottle of windshield wiper fluid on hand in case you run out.
Check regularly for any headlights, signal lights or taillights that have burned out. Strong light signals go a long way to alerting other cars of your intentions on the road, especially in poor visibility.
Have a winter storm survival kit.
You don’t have to live on Mount Washington to run the risk of getting stuck in bad weather or having to sit out a rough spot on the side of the road. Packing the basics like a shovel, a flashlight, batteries, blankets, water, and snacks is a good idea. Add a cell phone charger, jumper cable, flares– even a bit of sand or cat litter to give tires better traction if needed– round out a well-supplied emergency kit.
Falling snow is beautiful, especially if you’re safe at home with nowhere to go. But if you must brave the roads, or if a fast moving storm comes on by surprise – having your car equipped properly in advance will help keep you, your vehicles, and those you are sharing the road with safe and sound.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are more than 11,000 tire-related automobile crashes on our county’s network of roads and highways every year. You might be surprised at how little time it takes to keep up with good tire safety practices.
Do a Regular “Walk-Around”
There can be visible signs of problems with your tires long before the pressure gets out of whack or the treads wear down. While you’re filling your car with gas, get in the habit of walking around your vehicle and looking for signs of damage or nails embedded. Check the sidewalls for any bulges, missing rubbers, or deep scrapes. If you can see a lump or bulge, it often means your tire has a broken cord. If there’s an abrasion or divot out of the sidewall, you are well on your way to what could be a dangerous tire failure.
Monitor Tire Pressure Closely
Low tire pressure is the most significant cause of tire-related accidents. Over-inflated tires can cause premature wear on your tire treads or bulging along the tire walls—which can also lead to tire failure. Newer vehicles have Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) that light up on your dashboard if your tire pressure is low, but they do not detect over-inflated tires. That’s why many auto safety experts suggest relying on the old school way of keeping tabs on tire pressure. Keep a stick-style pressure gauge in your car so you can monitor your tire pressure manually at least once a month.
So what’s the right tire pressure for your vehicle? It depends. The recommended pressure for your tires can be found either inside the driver’s side door or in your Owner’s Manual. Keeping your tires inflated to the recommended pressure is best for safety and fuel consumption.
Check for Worn Treads
All tires have a bar in the groove that is molded to a height of 2/32nd of an inch. treads worn to less than that can contribute to tire failure. But who knows what 2/32nd of an inch looks like? Try sliding a penny into your tire treads with the Abraham Lincoln side facing you. If you can see the entire top of Lincoln’s head, you need to replace your tires.
Watch for Uneven Wear
Uneven wear to your tires sometimes means your vehicle has a mechanical issue, like misalignment or worn suspension. Have your tires rotated every 3,000 to 4,000 miles to prevent uneven wear on tires.
How Old are Your Tires?
Aging tires can potentially cause a tire blowout, resulting in the driver’s loss of control, serious injury, or even fatalities. There is no specific age at which tire problems happen. However, a joint report from Ford, GM, Chrysler, and others—as reported last year by ABC News—urged “all motorists to replace tires that are six years of age or older because of the possibility the rubber in them could degrade and create a dangerous situation in which the tire loses its tread.”
After you replace your tires, continuing to head off dangerous tire failure means keeping up to date with the manufacturer. Register your tires so you can be contacted if there’s a recall on them.
Keep all these safety and maintenance tips in mind to avoid dangerous tire failure—not only will you have a safer experience, you’re also likely to save on fuel consumption.
If you have been in an accident because of tire failure, contact The Law Offices of Arthur Crum for a free, no-obligation consultation.
The best time to learn about what to do in the event of an emergency is before it happens. Just as it’s not very effective to try to piece together what you have seen about doing CPR while you are with someone who has had a heart attack, neither does it make sense to try to remember how you should respond on the scene after you have been in an automobile or motorcycle accident.
We urge you to take a moment now in advance of a vehicle accident to learn and understand the three most important things you can do to preserve evidence that might be helpful before its integrity is compromised.
DOCUMENT. If you are physically able and will not be putting yourself in danger, take photos of the scene and make notes if you can. If you have a smartphone, this will be easier. In addition to using the built-in camera, you can also use the “voice memo” app. Just open it and narrate what happened before, during and after—it can be transcribed later. Focus on documenting the following:
- Physical damage to any vehicles and surrounding structures.
- Injuries you, your passengers, and others have suffered.
- Road debris from the vehicles involved. Knowing how far items from the vehicles involved were thrown from the scene can assist an investigator in figuring out how fast the vehicles were going prior to impact.
- Skid marks on the road and/or any property damage incurred can help determine the angle from which your car may have been struck.
- Witnesses. Look for people who may have seen the accident. Ask them for their names and contact information so they can be contacted if needed. It is often impossible to locate witnesses after they have left the scene, so it’s important to talk to them at the time of the accident.
Again, if you are physically able to do so without putting yourself in danger, taking the time to create this sort of documentation of the accident will give your attorney the information they need to build a strong case if the circumstances demand it.
RECOVER. Your car accident attorney may need to help obtain the following types of information, but recovering it can be critically important in validating your case and defending your insurance claim if needed:
- Video Footage. You may not have ever noticed them before, but many buildings have video cameras integrated into their security system. When it’s likely these cameras recorded your accident as it occurred, this evidence will help your attorney understand what happened and build your case accordingly if it is warranted.
- Onboard E-Data. Commercial trucks and even some newer private vehicles record data electronically such as the speed of the vehicle prior to the crash that we may be able to obtain through legal channels.
CONSULT/HIRE. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to gather, investigate, preserve, and present the evidence needed to represent your vehicle collision claim in the applicable jurisdiction. For example, one thing an attorney may do is send a “letter of spoliation” to the other party involved to keep them from tampering with or destroying evidence. These types of letters frequently request that the other vehicle not be fixed until your legal team has been able to take pictures.
At the Law Offices of Arthur C. Crum, PA, we understand that the period following a vehicle accident is often a challenging time for you and your family. For more than 30 years, we have been helping individuals who have been injured in vehicle accidents to understand the status of their case and the path we recommend to resolve it. This includes meeting with each client to explain the legal process and review the appropriate testimony and documents so that we can have the best chance possible of obtaining all the benefits and compensation they are entitled to under the law.
Arthur C. Crum, Jr. has championed the rights of individuals who have been injured, working to ensure that they are compensated for their loss. As your legal representative, Mr. Crum calls upon more than 30 years of legal experience in cases involving workers’ compensation, serious car accidents, personal injuries, and wrongful death. For more information, call 301-662-4088 or email email@example.com.
Since 1980, Frederick Health Hospice, formerly Hospice of Frederick County, has been caring for members of our community with life-limiting illnesses and their families, and comforting those who are grieving. Thanks to generous community support, Frederick Health Hospice is able to offer a wide range of services that are not reimbursed by insurance but that are much-needed– including a Veterans Support program, grief support for perinatal and infant loss, a camp of grieving children, and support for those whose loved ones have died from suicide or overdose.
Helping our local Hospice provide compassionate care to all who need it without regard for their ability to pay is important to all of us at The Law Office of Arthur Crum. Every year, we are honored to join with dozens of other members of the Frederick Bar Association to help sponsor an Annual Goose Hunt, whose proceeds support Frederick Health Hospice. Held in memory of Judge Herb Rollins and Donald R. Grossnickle, the 9th annual event held in January of 2020 raised more than $243,000 for Frederick Health Hospice.
Over the years, Frederick Health Hospice has expanded in size and scope, but its focus remains the same: to honor each person’s journey through illness or grief with dignified care, compassionate support and gentle guidance. We look forward to doing all we can to continue to support their compassionate work with those in our community who are going through one of life’s most difficult passages.
Some people consider tractor trailer trucks the bullies of the open road. If you’ve ever had one of these big rigs bear down on you while you’re driving up Route 15-North, you might agree. But upon closer examination, more often than not, accidents between tractor trailers and automobiles are the fault of the latter. In fact, research from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the Federal Highway Administration, says that car drivers are at fault nearly 80 percent of fatal accidents involving tractor-trailers.
Even though getting into a car accident with an 18-wheeler is very likely to result in death for anyone driving a car, truck safety training is rarely covered in Driver’s Education classes.
So, educate yourself. Keep yourself and your passengers safe by practicing these five tips for sharing the road with tractor trailers.
- Give Truckers Plenty of Room. Whether you’re passing or driving behind an 18-wheeler, always give them lots of room. These trucks are big, heavy, difficult to maneuver, and due to their expansive surface area, they are also likely to get blown around by the wind– resulting in swerving and unexpected drifts into the next lane over. Big rigs are also prone to tire blowouts. The worst place to be when heavy shards of tire rubber explode onto the highway is tucked up next to the semi-truck’s cab driving 70 mph. Anticipate the danger and steer clear.
- Respect the Tonnage. Tractor-trailers typically carry 80,000 pounds or more, making them roughly 30-times heavier than most passenger vehicles. It takes a fully-loaded semi-truck 4 percent longer to stop than it takes the average car or SUV. Going 65 mph in ideal road conditions, that means an 19-wheeler will take 525 feet to come to a complete stop. Think about that before you decide to slide in front of a semi-truck going downhill, especially in the rain.
- Account for Blind Spots. You know your car has blind spots, but did you know a semi-truck has blind zones, often called “no zones”? A truck’s front blind zone extends 20 feet from the front of a tractor trailer, particularly on the passenger side, while the rear blind zone extends 200-feet behind the vehicle. That means that truck drivers can’t see your car until you are at least 20 feet in front of them or 200-feet behind them. Move through these zones as quickly as you safely can. A good safety check is to look for the truck driver’s face in the side mirrors. If you can see their face, then the driver can see you.
- Pass Quickly & Carefully. When you must pass, remember the passenger side of a semi-truck is a huge blind zone. Always pass on the left, veering as far to the outside part of the lane as you can in case the truck swerves or drifts. Pass quickly, and don’t cut back in too soon. Remember, it can take a fully-loaded truck the length of two to three football fields to come to a complete stop.
- Never Pass a Turning Truck. Despite the sign on almost all 18-wheelers warning that “This Truck Makes Wide Turns,” drivers attempting to pass a turning semi are one of the most frequent causes of accidents between cars and trucks. Be patient, wait for the driver to complete the turn, and then resume driving.
Roads in and around Frederick, Maryland are busy thoroughfares that are now handling far more traffic than they were ever designed to– which can make driving riskier, especially around fully loaded tractor trailers and other speeding vehicles. Avoid distractions, keep your eyes on the road, and drive safely for the conditions. Follow these “share the road” guidelines and do your part to keep yourself and your passengers safe.
Vehicle accidents happen when you least expect them, and your commitment to driving carefully and responsibly does not insulate you from becoming the victim of one. It’s sad but true.
In the worst cases, an accident on the road can cause death—yours, or a loved one’s. In a matter of moments, car accidents can also cause injuries, complete with hardships that will affect your life for weeks, months, or even years.
That said, if you have been in a vehicle accident, you have every right to seek an attorney who can help ensure that you receive appropriate compensation for the losses and hardship you have suffered. Keep in mind, however, that the law is like the field of medicine. There are specialty areas, and not every practitioner is equally talented or experienced. It’s important to take the time to research a potential personal injury attorney as carefully as you would a physician.
When hiring a personal injury attorney in Maryland after a car accident, here are five things to do:
Meet in Person
We offer a free initial consultation so we can meet potential clients and answer basic questions about Maryland accident law. We take the time to give you an overview of how we imagine proceeding through the system, and give you the opportunity to ensure that you feel comfortable interacting with us.
Agree on Goals
No matter what type of car accident you’ve had, recovering fully from it, both emotionally and physically, will take a team of people. We can be clear, however, that when it comes to recovering the funds to compensate you for losses and damages, the team member you will be relying on is your personal injury attorney.
We will help you recover the money you are entitled to based on the harm the accident has caused you. If this makes you uncomfortable, it shouldn’t. The Civil Justice system is designed to compensate you for the suffering you have experienced and the losses you have incurred. We believe our clients deserve our best efforts to balance out the hardship they have dealt with with monetary compensation.
Recovering damages after an automobile accident is no time to give your nephew who has recently passed the Bar his first chance at representing a plaintiff in a court of law. You need to select a lawyer who has years of experience representing people like you in personal injury cases, specifically cases that involve auto accidents.
A word to the wise: the attorneys with the biggest advertising budget are not your best choices. The lawyers with the billboards along the highway and 24/7 TV commercials are often not the ones who have obtained the best results for their clients—many times because the spokespeople for the firm—who appear to be seasoned veterans of the practice of law—are not the ones who actually handle the case. That critical task may go to the young associates of the firm—remember that nephew who recently passed the Bar? How do you know you know most of your case work is not being done by him, even if a more experienced lawyer actually fronts the case in court? You need an experienced lawyer dealing with your case from beginning to end.
Find Out What Others Say
While these are not foolproof, it’s a good idea to refer to review testimonials. Go to a third-party evaluation site, as the testimonials on your prospective attorney’s website have been hand selected by the practitioners themselves. Do you have a trusted friend who has used the services of a local personal injury lawyer? Ultimately, you are going to need to trust your gut after the initial consultation and your own careful research, but factoring the attorney’s recommendations from others into the mix can be helpful.
Has your prospective car accident attorney received recognition from their peers or national organizations? Recognition from the legal community can be another way to evaluate how well the lawyer is respected in their specialty area. Again, this is not a foolproof gauge, but it won’t hurt to see if your attorney has received any accolades for representing clients in cases similar to yours.
If you have been involved in a car accident, you need an attorney with extensive knowledge of auto accident claims, many years of experience in settling and trying cases, outstanding client satisfaction, and a track record of getting monetary awards for its clients.
Call Arthur Crum at 301.662.4088 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free initial consultation and start moving toward the compensation you need to get your life back after a car accident in Maryland.
Maryland often enjoys warm weather through the fall, making it possible for us to find new ways to enjoy the outdoors — a welcome respite following the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Higher temperatures pose serious health concerns, however, for those who work outdoors, especially when personal protective equipment is requirement. Those who work outdoors or in hot environments face an elevated risk of:
- Heat stress and related injuries.
- Workplace accidents including burns from touching hot surfaces, slips and falls caused by sweaty hands that fail to grip handrails, and obscured vision caused by foggy protective eyewear.
- Occupational illnesses such as heat stroke, fainting, exhaustion and cramps.
Heat Stress v. Heat Strain
When it comes to workers’ compensation cases, “heat stress” results from a combination of a worker’s exposure to heat from the environment, physical activity, and clothing that traps body heat—collectively known as the “net heat load.” When a worker is under heat stress, their body works hard to keep their rising core body temperature within healthy limits—a physiological response that produces “heat strain.” Mitigating factors to net heat load and the resulting heat strain include hydration, humidity, air temperature, direct sunlight, protective clothing and other equipment, and other factors related to individual health.
Construction Workers Face Greatest Risk
While all outdoor workers are at risk for heat-related injury, construction workers face some of the greatest risk. Not only is the work intense, causing the body to work hard to modulate core temperature, construction workers often must work in direct sun during the hottest times of the day, or in crawl spaces and attics where there is no climate control. Some construction jobs, such as paving, roofing and welding, require proximity to sources of extreme heat. In fact, according to the CDC, of all the deaths in the U.S. caused my heat-related illness and injury, more than a third of those occurred within the construction industry.
Can Masks Effect Heat Strain?
Helpful though they may be in preventing or slowing the spread of coronavirus, wearing masks may exacerbate the risk of heat-related injury for some who work outdoors or in hot environments.
- Masks can cause “breathing resistance.” Some individuals experience a shortness of breath and over-activation of respiratory muscles while wearing a mask, both of which can cause more extreme heat strain as the body works to modulate temperature.
- Certain masks increase discomfort. Some research suggests that certain face masks, including N95 masks, can increase wearer discomfort and increase their response to heat exposure by increasing thermal temperature around the nose, mouth and cheeks—causing breathing resistance and heart rate.
- It can be more difficult to spot the signs of heat illness in someone who is wearing a mask. Telltale signs like excessive sweating, rash, slurred speech or confusion can quite literally be “masked” when most of the wearer’s face is obscured.
Keeping Your Workforce Healthy
If you’re an employer whose workers must work outdoors this summer and fall, here’s the minimum you should be doing to protect them:
- Schedule jobs very early in the morning.
- Regulate temperatures when you can or provide air-conditioned rest areas.
- Provide cold drinking water with disposable cups
- Encourage frequent hydration breaks.
- Expand the number of workers on your crews to allow workers to rest and cool off more often.
- Use staggered schedules to reduce the number of workers on a site at a time
- Allow workers to remove their mask and other protective equipment when safely distanced from one another.
- Limit new workers’ time working in the heat and monitor experienced workers’ exposure.
- Create a heat alert, education and training program.
- Have procedures in place to respond to potential injuries.
- Encourage a buddy system so workers can report if their partner appears to be experiencing heat-related illness.
- Provide a supply of masks so workers can change them frequently. Sweat-soaked masks can make it even more difficult to breathe.
Placing a priority on safety and taking appropriate precautions will go a long way toward keeping those who must work outdoors or in hot environments safe while complying with OSHA guidelines for reducing COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.
In less than six months, COVID-19 has changed the way we operate within our society. In many ways, the ordinary things we used to do every day—like going to the grocery store or the dentist—have been fundamentally altered.
Many attorneys believe that the laws that currently govern our society will need to change as well. Personal injury attorneys in particular are wondering if the COVID-19 public health crisis will raise the legal standards for the “duty of care” in negligence-based personal injury cases.
What is the Duty of Care?
The duty of care is the foundation of a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury lawsuit is based on the premise that someone—an individual or corporation—breached a duty of care to another person. When an individual or corporation fails to act with reasonable care, and someone is harmed as the result of that failure, the person who has been harmed may have a personal injury claim.
In personal injury law, one party has a duty to another. The person with the duty is the one who has the legal obligation to act in a reasonable way. For example:
• An event coordinator must post signs indicating trip, slip, and fall hazards.
• Drivers must drive safely to prevent accidents.
• Manufacturers must provide directions for use/hazards for misuse instructions.
• Concert promoters have an obligation to provide security and limit the number of people entering the premises.
Is There a Standard “Duty of Care”?
The duty of care standard is based on something called “a reasonable person” standard. To put it another way, the standard duty of care is defined as “what a reasonable person would have done in a particular situation. Therefore, in order to evaluate a case, the specific facts of that case must be examined. What is reasonable in one situation may not be reasonable in another.
Has COVID-19 Changed the Duty of Care?
The legal system often refers to something called “precedent”—or what has come before—to inform current decisions. Unfortunately, a situation like what is happening now with the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been seen in the United
States since the Spanish flu more than 100 years ago. Therefore, there are not precedents for the law to refer to insofar as what constitutes a reasonable standard for a duty of care.
The legal system is in the process of redefining what constitutes a reasonable standard of care in the era of COVID-19. Businesses may have to rethink their practices in order to account for enhanced legal scrutiny. This crisis may have opened the eyes of the public and the law in terms of what is acceptable for business owners when it comes to safety, resulting in the need for:
Stricter Sanitation Standards. It has been clearly established already that dangerous viruses like the coronavirus (the pathogen that causes COVID-19) exist. We know that these unknown or “novel” viruses may be in common areas and can easily be contracted or passed along, and chances are they are more virulent than those that have come before. Because of this increased awareness, the duty of businesses to protect their customers from these dangers is more apparent. What was once thought to be acceptable sanitation practices may no longer be up to legal standards in the post-coronavirus era.
Crowd Management. Staying within the fire marshal’s recommended occupancy used to be adequate for safely managing the amount of people inside a venue or store at a given point. The need for encouraging physical distancing may dictate far stricter crowd management protocols in the future. New measures may need to be implemented to keep public places safe from coronavirus and other pathogens.
Business Owners and the Duty of Care
Because they operate for profit, businesses have traditionally been held to a higher definition of duty of care than the general public—even before COVID-19. That means that the law can be very strict with businesses when evaluating their actions to uphold their duty of care after an injury occurs.
Nursing homes are some of the businesses that will likely be subject to additional scrutiny with regard to duty of care. Even if they operate as a non-profit, they have an elevated duty of care responsibility for the people they serve. The last six months of the pandemic in the US have demonstrated repeatedly how easy it is for coronavirus to spread within nursing homes.
For example, a resident in a Maryland nursing home who is harmed after contracting COVID-19 may qualify to bring a personal injury claim against that home if it can be shown that inferior sanitation practices or other infection control measures allowed coronavirus to spread.
If you or someone you know has been hurt by poor sanitation or by poor business practices related to coronavirus, you may have the right to compensation. Contact a personal injury attorney in your state of residence for further information.
Workers compensation insurance exists because there is always the risk of an employee becoming ill or injured at work. Here’s how it works in simplest terms: in order to provide coverage and benefits to an employee in the event of an illness or injury “arising out of and occurring in the course of their employment”, the employer pays insurance premiums for a workers’ compensation insurance policy.
Although “employee restitution” measures have been in effect in the US as early as 1871, these laws have evolved significantly over the last 150 years. Modern “workers compensation” insurance has now replaced civil court proceedings as a faster, less costly, and more effective way of compensating employees for work-related illnesses and injuries.
Workers’ compensation cases have been fairly clear-cut until very recently. For example, if you are a lineman working on an overhead cable, and you fall and get a concussion in the process, clearly this injury “(arose) out of and (occurred) in the course of [your] employment” and that you are most likely entitled to worker’s compensation. However, if you are essential employee who has worked onsite during the pandemic who tests positive for COVID-19, confirming the way you became ill is far less clear. Figuring out whether you came in contact with the coronavirus as a result of working during the pandemic is a question that is at the core of whether you are entitled to workers compensation in these circumstances.
The insurance system is just one of the many areas of professional and personal life that need reimagining in light of the global pandemic. What should workers’ compensation insurance look like now so that premiums paid by businesses don’t skyrocket, adding further financial stress on companies already under serious strain. How can these policies provide benefits to affected employees when they need them most?
In considering modifications to the workers’ compensation system, governors and municipal leadership must balance the best interests of business, employees, and the public. Some states, including California, have reduced the barriers to obtaining workers’ compensation for essential workers who contract COVID-19 by creating a “rebuttable presumption” that the infection occurred at work. A rebuttable presumption takes the traditional burden of proof off of workers to establish that an illness or injury is work-related. Other states are considering COVID-19 relative to workers compensation using a variety of approaches, with many issuing executive orders, enacting legislation, or deferring action altogether.
As you might imagine, business lobbyists and other advocacy groups are typically opposed to these changes, including the enactment of rebuttable presumptions—even in limited circumstances. For example, the Illinois Workers Compensation Agency repealed a rule that would have presumed that all COVID-19 illnesses affecting essential workers to be work-related after a court struck down the rule.
In the absence of an outbreak at the workplace or other compelling evidence, it is difficult to prove if, when, and how an individual was exposed to COVID-19 at work rather than someplace else. The fact that individuals may be asymptomatic for up to two weeks following exposure makes it particularly challenging to determine the source of the exposure.
Workers’ compensation was created as a “no-fault” system. This means that employees can recover for work-related injuries and illnesses even if the incident resulted from the employee’s negligence or carelessness. Because workers’ compensation benefits are the only means of redress for job-related illnesses and injuries, employers can use this in their defense should an employee try to sue them for damages outside the workers’ compensation system.
Most state laws provide for narrow exceptions, including when the employer intentionally caused harm to the employee. Attorneys for plaintiffs filing wrongful death lawsuits due to COVID-19 are arguing that these individuals’ employers engaged in intentional conduct that led to COVID-19 exposure at work. Certain business advocacy groups are lobbying for immunity from such lawsuits for employers, although no decisions to establish precedents have been forthcoming yet.
If you think you may be at risk of not being covered by your workers’ compensation insurance policy for a COVID-19 related illness or injury, seek professional representation. The laws are changing rapidly — it makes sense to have an experienced workers’ comp attorney on your side.