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Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Healthcare Workers Killed by COVID – Families Fight for Workers’ Comp Benefits

As the death toll due to COVID-19 climbs, families of some deceased frontline workers are finding out that the workers’ compensation system is stacked against them.

“The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique circumstance where the many jobs that are not typically considered hazardous have suddenly become very dangerous for workers. Workers deemed essential …are at a high risk of exposure to the virus while at work. But the more hazardous working conditions do not guarantee that a COVID-19 infection would be covered under workers’ compensation in most states.” (NCSL.org)

Families are fighting for benefits because of the death of their loved ones (doctors, nurses, physician assistants, ambulance drivers, hospital housekeepers, and maintenance workers, to name a few), and facing “denials or long-shot odds of getting benefits paid. In some cases, those benefits amount to an ambulance bill. In others, they would provide lifetime salary replacement for a spouse.”(Inquirer.com)

These frontline workers are risking their lives everyday helping others. In at least 16 states to date, measures have been passed to make it easier for frontline “workers infected with the coronavirus to qualify for benefits for lost wages, hospital bills or death. Similar bills are pending in other states.” (KHN.org)

Many of these bills state that the burden of proof will be on the employer, (not the employee, which is the status quo). In other words, instead of the employee (or the employee’s family) having to prove he/she contracted the virus on the job, the employer would be forced to prove the employee did not catch the virus at work.

“KHN [Kaiser Health News] and The Guardian U.S. have identified more than 700 [health care workers] who have died and has told the story of 139 of them. For these workers’ families, the stakes of the pending laws are enormous.”

One of these stories remembered 22-year-old John Paul Granger (AKA JP), one of South Carolina’s youngest COVID victims. He was an EMT in Greenville.

Granger died on May 26 after a month in the hospital. Patrick Hahne, friend of Granger’s and former EMT driver “said he and JP “frequently expressed how inadequate the PPE and precautions” were. Initially, he added, the only protection they typically had when transporting patients to dialysis clinics, for example, was surgical masks. Hahne said they started wearing N95 masks a few days before JP fell ill.”(KHN.org)

Actions taken in South Carolina:

To date, no legislation has been passed to help the families of deceased frontline South Carolinians that have succumbed to COVID-19 get the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve.

For now, S.C. Code § 42-11-10 states: “Testing and treatment of an employee exposed to a contagious disease is a question of law that requires a fact-specific legal analysis and ultimately can only be decided by a Commissioner at a Hearing. Nothing prevents an employee from filing a workers’ compensation claim if they believe they contracted a disease that is work-related. If the claim is denied by the employer, the employee has the right to request a hearing before a Commissioner. At the hearing, the Commissioner will hear the facts presented and render a decision after applying the facts of the case to the law.” (Fox28media.com)

THE LAW OFFICES OF DAVID L. HOOD – REPRESENTING INJURED WORKERS IN SOUTH CAROLINA

The Law Offices of David L. Hood and co-counsel have been fighting for the rights of injured workers in Charleston, N. Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Georgetown, Murrells Inlet, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Greenville, Hilton Head, Rock Hill and all across South Carolina for over 25 years. We have a dedicated team that will strive to take care of your claim professionally and treat you with respect. Over the years we and our co-counsel have represented hundreds of injured workers and their families, working hard to get them the medical treatment and compensation they deserve.

To learn more about what we can do for you, contact our offices to set up a free initial consultation. If you choose to work with us, we will handle your case on a contingent fee basis, which means you pay nothing unless we make a recovery for you. To get in touch with us, you can call our offices at (843) 491-6025 or email us here.

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Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motor Vehicle Fatality Rate Spikes, Despite COVID-19 Lockdown

In March 2020, states across the country implemented stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It would make sense that virtually empty roadways would mean less vehicle accidents resulting in less fatalities. In actuality, the roadways became more lethal!

“A new National Safety Council report finds that the number of motor vehicle fatalities per miles driven increased by 14% compared with the March 2019 rate.”(NPR.org) Although there was a drop of 8% in total deaths related to motor vehicle accidents, the number of miles driven also dropped by 18%, because people were staying at home, instead of getting out and about. So, although the roads were emptier, they were riskier.

“The National Safety Council (NSC) analysis counts a fatality as anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident; drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.”

Ken Kosh, manager of statistics at the NSC said what is normally seen during a recession is either a decrease in the number of motor vehicle-related deaths, or the injuries and fatality rate will hold steady or slightly decrease. “The combination of both a dramatic decrease in number of total deaths coupled with a dramatic increase in the fatality rate on our roads…was very surprising.”

Evidence is emerging that many drivers are getting more reckless on the empty roadways, and no traffic means it’s easier to speed. Reports indicate that speeding has significantly increased. “Because speed is the number one predictor of crash severity, the proportion of people dying per collision is on the rise…” (ABC7.com) “Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO.

Martin says we should all take it as our civic duty to drive safely during this global pandemic and crisis. We need to do it for the frontline workers, who need to be concentrating on the many coronavirus patients needing care. They do not need to be overwhelmed by preventable car accidents.

The NSC urges motorists to do the following, especially during this pandemic, to help ensure safe roads:

  • “Follow state and local directives and stay off the roads if officials have directed you do to so; many states are asking drivers to stay home except in emergency situations or for essential errands
  • Obey speed limits, even if roads are clear and traffic is light
  • Be aware of increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic as people turn to walking and biking to get out of the house safely during quarantine; conversely, pedestrians and bicyclists should remember that reduced traffic does not mean no traffic, and be careful when crossing or walking in streets
  • Practice defensive driving: Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions
  • Stay engaged with teen drivers’ habits and practice with them frequently – tips are available at org/DriveitHOME
  • Organizations and employers are encouraged to join the Road to Zero Coalition, a 1,500-member group committed to eliminating roadway deaths by 2050” (ohsonline.com)

Thankfully, South Carolina was one of eight states that had a notable decrease (12%) in the number of roadway deaths between January and March of 2020.

THE LAW OFFICES OF DAVID L. HOOD – SERVING CAR ACCIDENT VICTIMS IN SOUTH CAROLINA

If you have suffered a collision in South Carolina, the legal team at the Law Offices of David L. Hood will help you navigate the situation professionally. We have years of experience in helping people involved in serious accidents figure out the legal requirements and details needed to move forward after an accident. After gathering all the necessary information we will pour our efforts into building your case to get a fair settlement or take it to court if the need arises.

Our entire team has years of experience representing various clients and car accident victims in South Carolina. Having a passion to help, we offer a free initial consultation where we provide candid legal advice on what options you may have. If you choose to work with us, we promise a contingent-fee based case, where you don’t pay unless we get a recovery in your case.

You can find our contact information on the page here and schedule your free consultation session.

Other online resources used for this article:

Categories
Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Frontline Workers’ Lives Endangered by COVID-19

We’re going into month four now in the COVID-19 pandemic, with more Americans testing positive and more deaths every day. COVID-19 is a highly contagious coronavirus with common symptoms of fever, body aches, dry cough, fatigue, chills, headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, and loss of smell. In some people, it can cause more serious symptoms, like high fever, and shortness of breath (often indicating pneumonia). (Health.Harvard.edu)

As of today, the United States has had over 1.41 million confirmed cases, and over 83,000 deaths related to COVID-19. Here in South Carolina, there have been over 7,900 confirmed cases, and over 355 related deaths.

We all want to protect ourselves and our families the best we can, and try to stay safe from this virus; however, healthcare workers are right in the midst of it all, and are risking their own lives caring for the sick. Frontline workers can only be as safe as the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and protocol they are provided with.

Many nurses, doctors and EMT’s are being put in harm’s way and in many instances are being “forced to make terrifying compromises.” (TheDailyBeast.com) Because hospitals are overwhelmed, some workers lack proper PPE. Any shortage of PPE is a “clear and present danger”, the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) says. (NPR.org)

Then there are some frontline workers who “suffer from underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to the highly infectious virus.” (KHN.org)

Either of these issues can cause workers coming into contact with COVID-19 patients to contract the virus and become very sick; some do not survive.

To date, very-limited information is available about how many frontline healthcare personnel (HCP) have been infected or have died from contracting COVID-19. “In some states, medical staff account for as many as 20% of known coronavirus cases. But no national database exists to track their deaths.” (TheGuardian.com) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 27 deaths among health workers as of April 14th, with 9,200 health workers reporting a positive test for the coronavirus. “The CDC researchers acknowledge the figures are almost certainly a substantial undercount because most of the people tested in the overall set (84%) didn’t say whether they’re a health care worker or not.”

55% of the 9,200 frontline workers who reported contracting COVID-19 think they were exposed at work.

In South Carolina, it was reported on April 15th that 118 Prisma Health (a hospital system in the Midlands and Upstate that employs 30,000 people) employees had tested positive for COVID-19. A spokesperson for Prisma Health said 54% of those were work-related cases. (Greenvilleonline.com)

In an April 1st letter to Governor Henry McMaster, the President of the South Carolina Nurses Association (which represents more than 44,000 registered nurses in South Carolina) expressed concerns that SC nurses had been reporting extremely challenging working conditions such as “inappropriate PPE, reuse of PPE, inadequate staffing, and rapidly changing protocols.” Also, some nurses had complained that they were unable to be tested for COVID-19. She asked the governor to see to it that nurses be provided with proper PPE, adequate staffing, and testing, so they could be sure they were not exposing others (patients and/or their families) to the virus. “If we do not protect our workforce, who will?” (IslandPacket.com)

The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation law as it is now, does not address pandemic exposure to first responders. S.C. Code § 42-11-10(B) states as follows: “No disease shall be deemed an occupational disease… when it is a contagious disease resulting from exposure to fellow employees from a hazard to which the workman would have been equally exposed outside his employment, {or} is one of the ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed, unless such disease follows as a complication a natural incident of an occupational disease or unless there is continuous exposure peculiar to the occupation itself which makes such disease a hazard inherent in such occupation.”

Help may be on the way. Representative Russell Fry is pushing for legislation to make workers compensation available to coronavirus frontline workers who contract the virus. Rep. Fry says the law as it is now would require a worker to prove that he/she contracted COVID-19 at work, which would be tough to do. “If they are to get coronavirus, it is likely because they were on the front lines doing their job. Other states are doing this through executive order or through administrative actions, and we’re hoping to do the same in South Carolina,” said Rep. Fry. (WBTW.com)

For now, S.C. Code § 42-11-10 states: “Testing and treatment of an employee exposed to a contagious disease is a question of law that requires a fact-specific legal analysis and ultimately can only be decided by a Commissioner at a Hearing. Nothing prevents an employee from filing a workers’ compensation claim if they believe they contracted a disease that is work-related. If the claim is denied by the employer, the employee has the right to request a hearing before a Commissioner. At the hearing, the Commissioner will hear the facts presented and render a decision after applying the facts of the case to the law.” (Fox28media.com)

THE LAW OFFICES OF DAVID L. HOOD – REPRESENTING INJURED WORKERS IN SOUTH CAROLINA

The Law Offices of David L. Hood and co-counsel have been fighting for the rights of injured workers in Charleston, N. Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Georgetown, Murrells Inlet, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Greenville, Hilton Head, Rock Hill and all across South Carolina for over 25 years. We have a dedicated team that will strive to take care of your claim professionally and treat you with respect. Over the years we and our co-counsel have represented hundreds of injured workers and their families, working hard to get them the medical treatment and compensation they deserve.

To learn more about what we can do for you, contact our offices to set up a free initial consultation. If you choose to work with us, we will handle your case on a contingent fee basis, which means you pay nothing unless we make a recovery for you. To get in touch with us, you can call our offices at (843) 491-6025 or email us here.

Categories
Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Where are All the Non COVID-19 Emergencies?

Many emergency rooms have seen a huge increase in patients with fever, cough, shortness of breath, and other signs of possible pneumonia stemming from COVID-19 lately.

“However, ER physicians have also noticed a startling decrease in patients coming in for serious non-COVID issues, such as heart attack and stroke.” (Forbes.com) Because of the “Stay at home” orders during this pandemic, it’s understandable that there would be less accidents, injuries, etc., thus some drop in ER volume.

But, where are all the patients with inflamed appendixes, bowel obstructions, heart attack symptoms, stroke symptoms, and infected gall bladders? They are nowhere to be found, and it’s very unlikely that there has suddenly been a decline in these types of cases.

In a Gallup online poll taken between March 28 and April 2, people with different conditions were asked if they needed treatment at a doctor’s office or emergency room right now, how concerned would they be that they may be exposed to the coronavirus. 86% of heart disease patients said they would be either “very concerned” or “moderately concerned.” The figure was 83% for patients with high blood pressure.

Doctors are worried that “the pandemic has produced a sub-epidemic of people who need care at hospitals but dare not come in.” (WashingtonPost.com) People are worried about going to the hospital and being exposed to COVID-19, because as we’ve all heard, people with other health conditions who contract COVID-19, have an increased risk of serious complications.

Here are some interesting statistics:

“MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina), a major stroke center, averaged 550 calls per month over the past four months about possible stroke patients from the 45 to 50 emergency rooms that refer patients. But it has seen just 100 in the first half of April, said Alex Spiotta, director of neurovascular surgery. Phone calls from patients to MUSC’s telestroke program dropped from as many as 20 daily to about nine in mid-April.”

At the University of Miami-Jackson Memorial Comprehensive Stroke Center, between February and March, stroke patients went down almost 30%.

A recent NRC study (National Research Corporation) found that “53% of consumers have delayed care for themselves or someone in their household during COVID-19, and 60% of consumers think there is an elevated risk when visiting their providers.” (ThinkReviveHealth.com)

A Second Health Crisis?

Is there a second health crisis looming, that will appear once the Coronavirus is finally on the decrease? Will this take place due to patients delaying necessary medical care, with conditions that are nonurgent at the time, but because of the delay, become life-threatening?

This is exactly what Dr. Evert Eriksson, trauma medical director at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) fears will happen. He says too many patients are “trying to tough it out at home, fearful about going to the hospital because of the virus.” For example, he’s seeing many patients coming to the hospital with ruptured appendix, whereas previously they would have gone to the ER before the rupture took place. He says 70% of patients presenting with appendicitis right now are “late presentations.”

One patient in his 20’s ignored the increasing pain in his stomach, only using over-the-counter painkillers. By the time he finally went to the ER, “he had developed a large abscess, that was gnawing through the muscle in his abdominal wall.” Had he gone to the hospital 10 days earlier he would have needed a fairly routine surgery, and maybe a one-night stay in the hospital. Instead he had a lengthy and difficult stay in the hospital. Doctors had to operate, and then use antibiotics to control the widespread infection before they could even begin to address the appendix itself. Dr. Eriksson said, “That’s going to be a wound-care challenge for him moving forward.” The patient had said he held off because he was scared of contracting COVID-19 at the hospital.

Chris Kwolek, a vascular surgeon has also seen an increase in patients that are waiting to go to the hospital. He said when people have problems with circulation in their feet and legs, and put off getting care, Dr. Kwolek has to resort to amputation, being unable to restore blood flow at that point.

Megan Stobart-Gallagher, an emergency physician states, “Patients who come in with non-COVID-19 stuff are dying at higher rates.” This is because they are waiting so long before seeking medical attention. He notes that a 15-year-old patient who presented with pneumonia died within 24-hours of arriving at the hospital. (Inquirer.com) Pneumonia is an unusual cause of death for a patient that young.

What are health professionals doing to help prevent the next health crisis?

Cardiologist reports showing a recent sudden drop in heart attack patients spurred the American Heart Association to “launch a new media campaign, urging people to call for help at the first signs of heart attack or stroke.”

Some cardiologists are checking in with patients through telemedicine visits. The American College of Cardiology launched a “Cardiosmart” campaign, reassuring patients and encouraging those with symptoms to call 911 for urgent care and to continue with medical care through telemedicine when possible.

Hospitals are protecting patients by requiring all staff to wear masks, increasing cleanings, and separating patients with symptoms. They are doing all they can to inform their local communities that their ER’s are safe, and “to reassure patients that they have the appropriate equipment, expertise, and protocols to keep all patients safe — both those with COVID-19 and those without.”

One group of hospitals issued flyers stating, “If you are having an emergency, we are ready to care for you.”

With heart attacks and strokes, every minute counts. Any small delay in seeking medical care could cause more permanent damage. William A. Gray, a cardiologist says the major message for heart patients has to be staying home during a heart attack or heart failure is not a good place to be.

Dr. Harlan M. Krumholz says, “People with chronic conditions need to know that avoidance of needed care could ultimately be as big a threat as the virus itself.” (ReachMD.com)

CONTACT THE LAW OFFICES OF DAVID L. HOOD FOR A FREE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CONSULTATION

If you or someone you care about has suffered because of medical negligence, please schedule your free consultation by calling the Law Offices of David L. Hood at (843) 491-6025 or filling out our brief online contact form.

We know how difficult it can be to deal with the immediate and long-term effects of a serious malpractice-related injury. At the Law Offices of David L. Hood, we work hard to make things simple for you. After a free case evaluation, if we believe we can help you and your family, Medical Malpractice Attorney David L. Hood, co-counsel, and our team of experts will vigorously pursue your case to get you the best result we can achieve. Let us put our years of experience to work for you!

Other online resources used for this article:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/v74a54/even-people-without-coronavirus-are-getting-sicker-right-now

Categories
Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Will COVID-19 Change the Workers’ Compensation System Forever?

Even after the worst part of the coronavirus pandemic subsides, it will likely take many years to assess the ways it has altered American society and culture. Certainly, the effects on employment and the healthcare industry will be significant, so we should expect laws to change to address those changed circumstances. Accordingly, states might be compelled to revise the laws and regulations governing their workers’ compensation programs.

By examining the ways in which workers’ compensation claims have already been affected, we might be able to gain some insight as to how cases stemming from employment-related injuries and illnesses will be handled in the short and long term. Developments that might lead to an overhaul of the workers’ comp system include:

  • Shift toward working from home Now that the country has gotten an unexpected crash course in working from home, many employers will likely judge the results and determine if permanent changes should be implemented. Along with reduced rent and transportation costs, decentralized employment might change the nature of workers’ compensation coverage. While the sharp decline in claims will surely reverse once things return to normal, it’s not certain that we’ll see workplace injuries ever reach the pre-pandemic level.
  • New methods of medical evaluation The coronavirus crisis has taxed the U.S. healthcare system in numerous ways. With so much fear about COVID-19 exposure among both patients and medical professionals, telemedicine has rapidly become standard operating procedure for a wide range of conditions. Cost and doctor availability already had many healthcare providers moving in that direction. Future workers’ compensation actions might be decided by medical evaluations during which the doctor and claimant were never in the same room.
  • Distinctions about when someone can return to their job Wage replacement for workers’ compensation recipients is centered on when an individual can return to the workplace. Even after the worst part of the pandemic is over, there still will be a danger of exposure, especially for people in high-risk groups. Decisions on how long someone collects benefits might hinge on their medical history, geographic location and the contact they would have with others on the job.

Whether you’re dealing with a case involving potential coronavirus exposure or a different type of workers’ compensation claim, retaining a knowledgeable attorney to represent your interests will increase your chances for a favorable result.

Contact a workers’ compensation lawyer for a consultation 

[ln::firm_name]  represents clients in workers’ compensation filings and appeals. Please call 843-491-6025 or contact the firm online to set up a consultation.

Categories
Bodily Injury Lawyer Motor Vehicle Accidents

Drop in Car Crashes, Spike in Bicycle Accidents Linked to Coronavirus

Once Americans came to understand how deadly the coronavirus can be and how easily it is passed from person to person, transportation habits changed. Not only did people drastically curtail business and personal travel, but many stopped going to their workplaces. That has led to a reduction in car accidents at the same time that cycling accidents have risen.

Given New York City’s status as the current epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, recent accident data from the city may offer some insight into what other cities around the country might now, or soon, experience:

  • Lack of auto traffic Injuries to automobile drivers, passengers and pedestrians showed double-digit drops as New Yorkers first started changing their behavior to avoid coronavirus. Even before the statewide stay-at-home order went into effect on March 22, individuals and businesses seemed to cut back on unnecessary vehicle travel. This trend only intensified as state and local governments around the nation have installed increasingly tough restrictions on transportation. In fact, the reduction in accidents has resulted in a windfall to auto insurers, some of which are now refunding premiums to policyholders.
  • Increased bicycle use As people’s schedules instantly became more flexible and subway use dropped, bicycle ridership increased during the first week of widespread closures. Unfortunately, this led to a 43 percent increase in New York City bike accidents compared to the same period last year. Subsequently, ridership seemed to return to more normal levels, possibly because most people have switched to working from home or lost their jobs.  
  • Fears associated with mass transit, taxis and rideshares At some point, stay-at-home orders will be eased and many people will be returning to their workplaces. However, fears over shared spaces will linger, perhaps forever. People who might have been willing to use public transportation, rideshares and taxis might opt instead to purchase their own car. The presence of more vehicles on the road increases the likelihood of an accident no matter what type of environment you’re in. 

Whatever shifts in transportation patterns lie ahead, vehicle accidents will continue to happen.  An accomplished auto accident lawyer can help you understand the applicable laws relating to fault and insurance claims. Even finding a doctor to provide appropriate treatment and medical evidence could be difficult as many offices remain shut down. Working with a skillful attorney gives you the best chance to achieve a successful legal result.   

Contact an auto accident lawyer to make an appointment 

[ln::firm_name] represents clients in cases relating to injuries arising from auto accidents. For a consultation, please call 843-491-6025 or contact the firm online.