THE SERIOUS CONSEQUENCE OF WORK INJURIES: INJURED WORKERS, SUICIDE AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

After an industrial injury, Injured Workers are faced with a number of life obstacles.   They have their body which has broken down in some shape or form and is in need of repair and healing. A claims process has arisen in which the Injured Worker’s Employee/Employer relationship has changed.   They have taken on a new relationship with a workers’ compensation insurances company which is both trying to assist with the process and trying to manage the risk by taking steps to minimize the claim. They have a new relationship with doctors who, while they have a relationship with them, they are also beholden to the employer and insurance company. Finally, their family relationship may have changed.  They may no longer be providing the economic contribution to the family.   They may no longer be able to help perform chores in the house.   They may need to be dependent upon others in the house for assistance.   They may be spending more time in the house with other family members leading to more conflict.

These stressors can lead to serious consequences. This article will discuss a recent study from South Korea of import, which discusses the risk of suicide in individuals who have suffered occupational injuries.

What Factors Did the Study Look at?

The study looked at a variety of factors: loss of income, return to work, the nature and extent of the disability, pensions, and family disruption.  Lee H, Kim I, Kim M, et al

Increased risk of suicide after occupational injury in Korea Occupational and Environmental Medicine Published Online First: 13 August 2020. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2020-106687

What Was Were the Conclusions?

Industrially Injured Workers are statistically at a higher risk of injury when compared to others that are economically active.

The study found that “Injured workers showed higher mortality from suicide for both men (SMR=2.22, 95% CI 2.14 to 2.31) and women (SMR=2.11, 95% CI 1.81 to 2.45) compared with the economically active population in Korea.” Lee H, Kim I, Kim M, et al Increased risk of suicide after occupational injury in Korea Occupational and Environmental Medicine Published Online First: 13 August 2020. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2020-106687

One interesting note, which is of import, was the more severely disabled workers had a lower suicide risk. Supra.   One reason hypothesized as the fact that they have received a disability pension.   This notion of disability pension, when translated into a United States analysis and within the State of California could imply a Social Security Disability Award, a Government Employee Disability Pension, such as CALPERS, LACERA, KCERA, CALSTRS or LACERS, or a Disability Pension from a Private Disability Plan.  Further, on Workers’ Compensation Case of a high percentage, such as 100 percent, the disability payments are substantial.

What Do We Need to Learn from the Study?

Most importantly, it is those who have injuries that cause the loss of employment, but which do not cause permanent disability, that we should be concerned with.  In essence, individuals who lose their job and does not get substantial financial assistance are at a greater risk for suicide. Increased risk of suicide after occupational injury in Korea Occupational and Environmental Medicine Published Online First: 13 August 2020. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2020-106687

What Should We Do?

For those Injured Workers it is important that efforts be made to get them treated promptly and get them returned to the workforce.   Both expediting treatment and the prompt provision of the Job Voucher would certainly assist in these cases. Further, there should be awareness to identify these individuals and get them psychological counseling through the workers’ compensation system or through an Employee Assistance Program.  Also, those Injured Workers may benefit from retaining Legal Counsel to assist them.   They may need assistance in the handling of their workers’ compensation claim as well as potential claims related to disability discrimination.

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.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ATTORNEYS VERSUS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAWYERS: LEGAL REPRESENTATION WITHIN THE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SYSTEM: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

What is an Attorney? What is a Lawyer? Is there any difference?   Injured Workers who are seeking representation to handle their workers’ compensation claims are often confused as to whether there are two different types of legal representatives.   Further, Injured Workers are often confused as to what representative can be present on their behalf before he Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.

This article will discuss Lawyers, Attorneys, and other Legal Representation before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.

What Is a Legal Representative?

In California, a Legal Representative is a licensed member of the State Bar of California.  The State Bar Website in fact uses the term “Attorney” and “Lawyer” interchangeably.   In essence, there is no difference.   Members of the State Bar hold themselves out as either being a lawyer or an attorney.   Some use both terms.  In sum, if you are looking for a legal representative, you are looking for a member of the State Bar.

What is the California State Bar?

Per the State Bar, it’s “mission is to protect the public and includes the primary functions of licensing, regulation and discipline of attorneys; the advancement of the ethical and competent practice of law; and support of efforts for greater access to, and inclusion in, the legal system.

The State Bar: Licenses attorneys and regulates the profession and practice of law in California, Enforces Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys, Disciplines attorneys who violate rules and laws, Administers the California Bar Exam, Advances access to justice, Promotes diversity and inclusion in the legal system

Created by the Legislature in 1927, the State Bar is an arm of the California Supreme Court, protecting the public by licensing and regulating attorneys.

The State Bar licenses more than 250,000 attorneys, investigates approximately 16,000 complaints of attorney misconduct annually and distributes over $78 million in grants to legal aid organizations.”

How Does One Become a Member of the State Bar?

One becomes a member of the State Bar by having certain qualifications and taking and passing the California State Bar Examination.  A person graduating law school and obtaining a law degree, Juris Doctor, J.D. is not a guarantee of being a State Bar Member.  Many individuals who have J.D., degrees take and do not pass the examination.   As a result, they cannot practice as a Lawyer/Attorney within the State of California.  The Bar passage rate varies from year to year.

In California, the Bar passage rate is relatively low.   For example, per the State Bar, the February 2020 General Bar Exam preliminary statistics reported that the passage rate was 38 percent for first-time applicants and 22 percent for repeat applicants.

For a Client, Is Active Membership in the State Bar Important?

Yes.  An Attorney/Lawyer can only practice workers’ compensation law as an attorney if they are an “active” member of the State Bar.   If a client wishes to check on an attorney’s status or whether they are a member, click here.

Attorneys can have various status. They can be active, on probation, suspended, inactive or disbarred.

Is There Non-Attorney Representation Before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board?

Yes and No.  Non-Attorneys can provide representation before the WCAB.   There must be a filing to the WCAB concerning this representation.

Per the Policy and Procedure Manual of the WCAB, Section 1.120 (2013 Revision),  provide for “APPEARANCES In each case in which a law firm representing an injured worker appears by an employee not holding current active membership in the State Bar of California, pursuant to Rule 10773, the employee shall file at the time of his or her first appearance at the WCAB an original document that: 1. discloses to the board and to the applicant that he or she is not licensed to practice law in the State of California; 2. states the name of the attorney directly responsible for supervising the employee; 3. specifically states that the employee is authorized by the supervising attorney to sign settlement documents; and 4. is signed by the supervising attorney and the client.” [emphasis added]

Note: Even Defense Attorneys can have non-attorney representation before the WCAB, “In each case in which a law firm representing a defendant appears by an employee not holding current active membership in the State Bar of California, the employee shall file at the time of his or her first appearance at the WCAB a document that complies with the paragraph above, except that it need not be signed by the client.”

What About Settlement Documents, Can a Non-Attorney Representative Sign Them?

Yes. However, prior to the submission of the settlement documents for approval, the Law Firm is required to file the Non-Attorney Representative Notice.

Can a Non-Attorney Representative Get Paid from the Settlement Award or Order?

No. Pursuant to Labor Code Section 4903, no fee for legal services shall be awarded to any representative who is not an attorney.

What About Disbarred Attorneys, Can They Provide Representation?

No.  Per the P & P Manual, “[a]n attorney who has been disbarred, suspended, declared involuntarily inactive by The State Bar, or who has resigned with charges pending before The State Bar, is not allowed to appear in any manner before the WCAB. (Rule 10779; In Re Roman Pellicer (2008), WCAB en banc, 73 Cal. Comp. Cases 1065.)”

Why Do Attorneys Use Hearing Representatives?

There are many reasons why Attorneys use Hearing Representation.   In the process of workers’ compensation cases, there are many limited issues for which an attorney’s time and services are not required. Therefore, it is convenient to use a Hearing Representative to handle such an appearance. For example, the hearing is intended to continue the case to a further hearing.  Some more experienced Hearing Representative handle more complex matters.   Most of them have never attended law school. Therefore, they most likely lack the legal training that you get in law school which includes legal writing, legal research, analysis of authority, and legal argument.

What is Your Opinion on Hearing Representatives?

Like Attorneys, Hearing Representatives are a mixed bag. Some are very good, some are average and some are lacking.  I employ Hearing Representatives to handle limited matters before the WCAB.   Most times, I use them only when I have a conflict and I essentially need to have a “warm body” make an appearance before the WCAB.   I prefer to have an Attorney present, however. I prefer to not have Hearing Representatives deal with legal issues.

If you are concerned about a Hearing Representative on your case, you should contact the Law Offices and speak to the attorney who is directly responsible for supervising the employee.

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.

 

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAWYERS, THE CALIFORNIA LAWYERS ASSOCIATION AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: ATTORNEYS REPRESENTING INJURED WORKERS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The California Workers’ Compensation System is very complicated. Frequent changes in the law and current events require Attorneys practicing in workers’ compensation to stay up to date. In order to stay up to date, Workers’ Compensation Lawyers participate in educational programs.  Therefore, Associations that provide educational programs and address issues such as the standards for Lawyers practicing within the field is of import. Injured Workers are best served when their lawyers are active members of such Associations.

The California Lawyers Association (CLA) provides support to the Workers’ Compensation community to enhance the quality of the practitioners within the field. CLA has a Workers’ Compensation Section which supports the workers’ compensation community. The CLA Workers’ Compensation Section is essentially a spin-off from the State Bar.   The State Bar used to have a Section on Workers’ Compensation.  Lawyers would join the section by notifying the State Bar when paying their dues and pay an additional fee to participate.  Currently, the State Bar allows lawyers to join the CLA Workers’ Compensation Section by designating to do so and paying an additional fee.  The CLA, overall,  produces programs at the quality level of the State Bar.

Per the CLA, “[t]he purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the California Lawyers Association is to serve our members, workers’ compensation practitioners, and the people of California by promoting an efficient and just compensation delivery system.”

Is The CLA Workers’ Compensation Section Exclusive for Applicant’s Attorneys? 

No. the Section is open to all participants in the workers’ compensation field. Therefore, both Applicant’s Attorneys and Defense Attorneys participated.

If an Attorney is a Member of the CLA Workers’ Compensation Section, It That Important? 

Yes and No. Any Lawyer can pay to be a member of the Workers’ Compensation Section. Therefore, being a member does not mean anything. Being an active member, however, is important. An active member, in my opinion, is one who regularly attends or participates in the various Educational Program provided.

Should an Injured Worker Value an Attorney Who Is a Member of CLA? 

Absolutely. As an active member, I have had the opportunity to attend countless seminars that CLA has provided. These seminars are well attended by both Applicant’s Attorneys and Defense Attorneys. The attorneys who I have seen attend these seminars are quite competent individuals. Further, the materials presented to them keep them apprised as to workers’ compensation law in general as well as recent case law and legislation that impacts the workers’ compensation system. Further, these seminars include many outstanding speakers and presenters in the industry. In sum, active participants in the Workers’ Compensation Section of CLA, are up to date on various workers’ compensation issues.

Further, participation in these programs allows Applicant’s Attorneys and Defense Attorneys to interact and debate ongoing issues within workers’ compensation. It is an opportunity to understand the positions that will be taken by the “other” side.

What are the Activities of the CLA’s Workers’ Compensation Section? 

The Workers’ Compensation Section of CLA is involved in the following activities: Publishing newsletters to keep members informed of new developments; establishing committees through which members may actively participate; presenting educational seminars on timely topics throughout the year; originating legislation which, upon approval, is made a part of our legislative program; recommending positions on pending legislation on behalf of the California Lawyers Association, and commenting on administrative regulations and rules of court.

What is the CLA Workers’ Compensation Section’s Purpose?

They ”are dedicated to serving our members, workers’ compensation practitioners, and the people of California by promoting an efficient and just compensation delivery system.”

Per the CLA website “[t]he purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the California Lawyers Association is to serve our members, workers’ compensation practitioners, and the people of California by promoting an efficient and just compensation delivery system. The section, through standing committees, seeks to promote better legal practice, education and legislation affecting workers’ compensation. We review proposed state legislation and regulatory rules, and make recommendations to the authors. Our goal is to achieve the following constitutional mandate: Constitutional Basis of Laws

The Workers’ Compensations Act, codified in the Labor Code, with other related laws, has its jurisdictional basis in the California Constitution, Article XIV, sec. 4, which provides in part as follows:

The Legislature is hereby expressly vested with plenary power, unlimited by any provision of this Constitution, to create, and enforce a complete system of workers’ compensation…to compensate…workers for injury or disability, and…for death…irrespective of the fault of any party…to the end that the administration of such legislation shall accomplish substantial justice in all cases expeditiously, inexpensively, and without encumbrance of any character…””

What Type of Educational Programs Does CLA Provide in the Workers’ Compensation Section?

The Workers’ Compensation Section provides a wide variety of programs. There are seasonal programs which cover a large variety of topics. There are Rating Seminars which deal with rating issues. There are Specialization Seminars which assist attorneys in preparation of the specialization examination. Also, they also have Webinars on a large variety of topics as well.

What Other Services Does the CLA Provide? 

Per CLA, the “California Lawyers Association Workers’ Compensation Executive Committee, subcommittee on Technology and Social Media, offers access to our section members to listen to oral arguments made in Workers’ Compensation cases at various Districts of the California Court of Appeals.”

What Types of Committees Does the Workers’ Compensation Section Have? What Types of Things Do they Do?

The Workers’ Compensation Section has an Executive Committee, an Educational Committee, a Practice and Ethics Committee, a Legislation Committee, an Awards and Recognition Committee, Publications Committee, Membership Committee, Technology/Website/Social Media, a Community Outreach Committee, and an Unpublished Cases Committee.

These committees work on many different things such as improving the level of professionalism and competence for all individuals who practice before the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board. They do so by providing quality and affordable education, public outreach, and assist with legislation.

How Does the CLA Workers’ Compensation Section Provide Assistance to the Workers’ Compensation Community? 

Per the CLA, the Section “seeks to promote better legal practice, education and legislation affecting workers’ compensation. We review proposed state legislation and regulatory rules, and make recommendations to the authors. Our goal is to achieve the following constitutional mandate: Constitutional Basis of Laws: The Workers’ Compensations Act, codified in the Labor Code, with other related laws, has its jurisdictional basis in the California Constitution, Article XIV, sec. 4, which provides in part as follows: The Legislature is hereby expressly vested with plenary power, unlimited by any provision of this Constitution, to create, and enforce a complete system of workers’ compensation…to compensate…workers for injury or disability, and…for death…irrespective of the fault of any party…to the end that the administration of such legislation shall accomplish substantial justice in all cases expeditiously, inexpensively, and without encumbrance of any character…”

What Do Members of CLA Workers’ Compensation Section Get? 

As a member, they are provide a newsletter, and provide access and discounts to Workers’ Compensation Section Programs and Publications. In addition, Members are allowed to participate in the Section and the Committee activities.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding your workers’ compensation claim, 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 workers’ compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information. Contact us today for more information. Click Here.

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