WORKERS’ COMPENSATION IN THE NEWS #8: CAN A FIRE CAPTAIN FINGER LIABILITY ON A PROPERTY OWNER FOR A WORK INJURY?

In Los Angeles,  a horrific property fire happened at a Vape Shop which included an explosion. As a result, a number of firefighters sustained injuries trying to put out the fire.  A Fire Captain sustained serious injuries which included the loss of fingers.

It was reported that he is now suing the property owner for negligence.   The allegations of negligence concerned the owner’s storage of both nitrous oxide and butane containers in excess.  Dailymail.com

Was the Fire Captain’s Injuries a Workers’ Compensation Injury?

Yes.  The Fire Captain was in the course and scope of his duties when putting out the fire.  Therefore, he is entitled to pursue a workers’ compensation case.

If the Fire Captain Filed the Civil Suit Against the Property Owner, Can He Still File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Yes.  Many Work Injuries are caused by Third Parties. A Third Party is someone other than the Employer.   Based upon the alleged facts,  the Fire Captain could pursue both a workers’ compensation claim and a civil lawsuit. He did not have to choose between one or the other.

Can an Injured Worker Collect Separately From Both a Workers’ Compensation and a Civil Claim?

Not necessarily.  Many times, the Insurance Company for the Workers’ Compensation will join in the Civil Lawsuit.  This is called subrogation.  They, like the Injured Worker, are entitled to collect a recovery from Third Party that was liable for the work injury.  The division of the proceeds from a Civil Action would be dependent on the facts. For example, if the Workers’ Compensation Insurance paid out a lot of money in medical care, their lien on the Third Party case may be quite substantial.  They would command a considerable amount.

Is There Any Special Benefits a Fire Captain Can Receive from This Work Injury?

Yes.  There are two special benefits.   First, the Fire Captain is entitled to salary continuation for up to one year pursuant to Labor Code Section 4850.  Second, the Fire Captain, due to finger amputations would be entitled 240 weeks of TTD benefits as opposed to the 104 week limitation.  This is per LC 4656.

Why Would the Fire Captain File a Civil Claim?

A Civil Claim provides for different types of damages.  For example, wage loss would be a factor.  In light of the Fire Captain’s loss of fingers, he may have substantial wage loss as his firefighting career may be over.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

AMPUTATIONS AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Amputations can be a life-changing event for a Worker.  Workers may lose their ability to perform their job as well as perform activities of daily living.

The Workers’[ Compensation Community is concerned about amputation cases as they involve  extensive medical costs and missed time from work.

This article will discuss amputations, special laws concerning amputations, and interesting data derived from a recent study.

What Is an Amputation?

The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board defined amputation.  In Cruz vs. Mercedes Benz, 72 C.C.C. 1281 (Panel Decision), the WCAB indicated “ Defining amputation as the severance or removal of a limb, part of a limb, or other body appendage comports with the ordinary meaning, and includes the range of potentially compensable scenarios, including both traumatic loss of a body part in an industrial injury and surgical removal during treatment. This definition conforms to our understanding of the common meaning of the term “amputation,” which encompasses external projecting body parts, not internal parts, even if they include bone. It is also consistent with the definitions in the International Dictionary of Medicine and Biology, Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, and Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. To the extent that some definitions refer to organs, appear to encompass all body parts, or include an equivocal “etc.,” we reject them or interpret them in a manner consistent with our understanding of the term “amputation.”

Thus, surgery on a lumbar disc was found not to constitute an amputation.

Why Is an Amputation Important in California Workers’ Compensation?

An amputation in a workers’ compensation case triggers entitlement to additional periods of total temporary disability. 240 weeks is allowed in the case of amputations. Labor Code Section 4656.  In these cases, there is no requirement that the temporary disability period be connected to the amputation. Jon Van Ness, Applicant v. Barbara Herzstein, 2007 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 239 (Panel Decision)

How Do Amputations Occur on an Industrial Basis?

Occupationally related amputations can occur for many reasons.  The accident itself can be the source of the amputation, i.e. a skill saw cutting off a finger.  They can result of a crush injury which necessitates an amputation. They can be the result of post-surgical infection.  They can be the result of an industrially related disease process such as diabetes.

Interesting Amputation Facts Are:  

Males vs. Females

Men sustain most of the work-related amputations.  (84.8%) Gomez NG, Gaspar FW, Thiese MS, Merryweather AS. Trends in incidence and correlation between medical costs and lost workdays for work-related amputations in the State of California from 2007 to 2018. Health Sci Rep. 2021 Jul 1;4(3):e319. doi: 10.1002/hsr2.319. PMID: 34250271; PMCID: PMC8247939.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time Employees

Full-Time Employees were more likely to sustain amputation versus Part-Time Workers. (71.7%.) Supra.

Most Amputated Parts

Most claims consisted of partial-hand amputations (82.0%).  Most of those were partial-hand amputations, 66.7% were fingers without the loss of the thumb. Following partial-hand amputations, partial-foot amputations were the next most common claim  at 5.9%.  Supra.

Type of Business

Manufacturing is the industry with the highest number of claims (24.1%.) Supra.

What Should an Injured Worker Take from This Study?

The study noted that “[a]mputations represent high medical costs and number of lost workdays.” Gomez NG, Gaspar FW, Thiese MS, Merryweather AS. Trends in incidence and correlation between medical costs and lost workdays for work-related amputations in the State of California from 2007 to 2018. Health Sci Rep. 2021 Jul 1;4(3):e319. doi: 10.1002/hsr2.319. PMID: 34250271; PMCID: PMC8247939.

Due to the increased medical expense and missed time from work, Insurance Companies will make efforts to control the costs.  They may do so by employing a Defense Counsel as well as a Nurse Case Manager.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for over 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

FINGERTIP INJURIES AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Upper Extremity Injuries are very common in an occupational setting.  Upper Extremity Injuries can include injuries to the fingertip.  Fingertip injuries can involve an amputation.

In the general population, “[i]t is estimated that as many as 45,000 finger amputations are performed in the US per year with an incidence rate of 7.5/100,000 people.” Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

This article will discuss Fingertip Injuries, causes of fingertip injuries, treatment for fingertip injuries, a special workers’ compensation law with respect to amputation cases, and issues relating permanent disability.

What is the Fingertip? Why is It Unique?

 Fingertips are unique. “The tip of the digit comprises virtually all tissue components present elsewhere in the body: skin, bone, joint, synovial membrane, ligaments, tendons, tendon sheaths, arteries, veins, lymphatic channels, nerves, and advanced nervous end organs.” Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

Thus, a traumatized tip can experience a variety of symptoms.  These symptoms and factors of impairment can include tenderness, sensitivity to cold, discoloration, and deformity.   Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

What Are Common Causes of Fingertip Injuries?

Many occupational hand injuries involve metal items.  The metal items can include hand tools which include blades.  On a personal note, I have had fingertip injuries occur on table saws in which safeties have been removed.  Also, I  have had fingertip injuries in which the hand accidentally went into a piece of moving machinery.

Fingertip injuries can also occur as a result of sharps.   Sharps are devices that are used to cut.  These include many items used in the medical field such as auto injectors, connection needles and sets, infusion sets, lancets, needles, and syringes.

Sharp injuries can result in lacerations, amputations, or neurovascular injuries. Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

 What Are Goals of Treatment?

 Treatment goals for fingertip injuries include restoration of sensation of the tip, improving the durability of the tip, and providing for proper bone support to allow for nail growth. Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

What Problems Can Arise from a Fingertip Injury?

Problems arising from fingertip injuries can include deformities, intolerance to cold, skin tenderness, stiffness, and long-term functional loss. Kawaiah A, Thakur M, Garg S, Kawasmi SH, Hassan A. Fingertip Injuries and Amputations: A Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8291. Published 2020 May 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.8291

How Is a Fingertip Injury Treated?

Due to the complexity and importance of the fingertip, there are many issues that can present.  There are concerns with respect to psychological factors that can present with such injuries.

Also, there may be issues of pain syndromes that can occur as a result of a fingertip injury.  These pain syndromes can even occur in the case of minor contusion. Approach to Fingertip Injuries Patricia Martin-Playa, MD, Anthony Foo, MD* Clin Plastic Surg 46 (2019) 275–283 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cps.2019.02.001

Treatment can include repairing the skin by stiches or glue, skin grafting, reconstruction, composite grafts, flap reconstruction, bone graft, nail complex reconstruction.

Are There Psycho-Social Factors Issues with Fingertip Injuries?

Yes.  Fingertips are an extremely important part of the body.  They are used frequently during the day for a variety of tasks. Fingertip injuries can impact one’s occupation and their participation in hobbies.  For example, a fingertip injury may impact on one’s ability to perform a musical instrument.

Fingertips are usually visible to the public.  Therefore, there can be an emotional impact on the patient.

Fingertip injuries that are part of a workers’ compensations have secondary motivation issues. For instance, the patient may have concerns about disability status and impairment.

Fingertip injuries can be subject to clinical bias. For example, medical practitioners may view the severity of the injury differently from the patient. Approach to Fingertip Injuries Patricia Martin-Playa, MD, Anthony Foo, MD* Clin Plastic Surg 46 (2019) 275–283 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cps.2019.02.001

Is There a Special Law for Amputation Cases?

Yes. In the case of amputations, total temporary disability benefits are extended out to 240 weeks from 104 weeks.  This is pursuant to Labor Code Section 4565(c)(3)(c.)

What Type of Permanent Impairment Can Arise from A Fingertip Injury?

Fingertip injuries can cause many types of impairments.  There are impairments that relate to amputations, there are impairments that relate to skin conditions, there are impairments that relate to nerve damage, there are impairments which relate to loss of function such as range of motion.  Also, there may be a pain impairment add-on.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

 

 

 

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