doctor examining woman with sprained hand

WCITN #14: A Unique Film Production Injury

The Rust Film Production’s fatality was not the only work injury of interest. Another worker sustained a work injury when they were bitten by a venomous brown recluse spider. This occurred when the production was shutting down.  The spider’s bite contained poison.  As a result, the crew member has been hospitalized and may require the amputation of an arm. The injury occurred “on location.”

It is reported that “a lamp operator and pipe rigger, was working to wind down production of the film after cinematographer … was fatally shot…, when he was bitten by a brown recluse spider – a venomous spider that is native to North America.”  It was reported he “started experiencing severe symptoms, including necrosis of his arm, which occurs when cells die, and sepsis.”

There are several unique issues with regard this work injury:

Where Should the Workers’ Compensation Claim Be Filed?

The location of where a work injury is to be filed is generally referred to as the venue.  Workers’ Compensation for private employers is generally a state issue.  Thus, when there is a “on location” injury, the question arises as to which state would be the proper venue.  This is an issue which is heavily factual.  Where the employee lives, where the contract was made, where the employer is located, and where the injury happened as are relevant.  A careful legal analysis must be done to determine venue.  There are times when multiple states may serve as a proper venue.

Who Pays the Medical Bills?

In the news reports, there was concern about the  Injured Worker’s medical bills.  In California Workers’ Compensation Law, the Employer is 100 percent liable for paying medical bills that are generated in accordance with the Labor Code.  Thus, it is important that the claim be made.

Is There Anything Special Concerning the Nature of the Injury?

Yes.  If an amputation is required in the matter, the Injured Worker’s period of temporary disability payments would be extended from 104 weeks to 240 week which must be within the period 5 years from the date of injury.

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.

Injured Workers and Medical Releases: Insurance Companies Requesting Releases and Workers’ Compensation: What You Need to Know

Injured Workers are frequently requested by Insurance Carriers to sign medical release forms.   These releases are also requested by Attorneys who represent both Injured Workers and those who represent Insurance Companies.

This article will discuss workers’ compensation discovery, medical releases, the different types of medical releases, and why insurance carriers and attorneys request medical releases.

What is Discovery?

“Discovery” is a legal term. It essentially means “information gathering” within a legal system. Legal systems, such as the California Workers’ Compensation System provides laws concerning this discovery. Examples of workers’ compensation discovery include witness depositions, medical records subpoenas, and medical-legal examinations.

Records can be obtained formally and informally.  The formal was is by subpoena.  The informal way is by consent.  Consent is obtained via a signed medical release authorizing the document production.

Why Is Workers’ Compensation Discovery Unique?

Workers’ Compensation (WC) Discovery is unique in that is pace is set within the Labor Code. Labor Code Section 5402 provides that Insurance Companies have 90 days, from the date of employer discovery of the claim.

WC Discovery is used to find out a variety of information. Medical records may allow the Insurance Company to verify the injury.   Medical records can provide information about one’s medical history which can impact the Claimant’s entitlement to compensation.

Beyond workers’ compensation, there are federal rules which address medical privacy issues.  This federal law is HIPPA which created national standards to protect individual’s medical records and other personal health information.  It “generally gives patients the right to examine and obtain a copy of their own health records.”  HIPPA

Why Are Medical Releases Important for Discovery?

Labor Code Section 5402 creates urgency for the insurance companies to obtain the claimant’s information as soon as possible.  Medical releases allow for medical records to be produced in a more expeditious fashion.

Also, there releases may authorize psychiatric or drug and alcohol treatment.  A medical release must specify these records.   Releases does not require these releases.  Thus, Injured Workers, especially if the claim is not a psychiatric claim, do not and should not sign a release for these records.   This is noted in the case of Allison vs. WCAB, , it was noted that “[t]he Supreme Court ruled that although the plaintiffs waived their physician-patient confidential communication privilege (Evid. Code, § 990[Deering’s] et seq.) and their psychotherapist-patient confidential communication privilege (Evid. Code, § 1010[Deering’s] et seq.) as to the medical, emotional, and mental conditions placed by them in issue in the case, and information regarding such conditions was therefore discoverable, all medical privacy was not waived.” 64 C.C.C. 624

Is there an Obligation to Provide a Release?

There is no obligation for an Injured Worker to provide a release to an Insurance Company.   Again, with psychiatric or drug and alcohol treatment releases, these should be scrutinized whether they are relevant.

What Happens If I Do Not Sign Releases?

Sometimes, when releases are not signed, a carrier will deny a claim based upon the lack of cooperation in discovery.   Insurance Companies also have the power to subpena records.  Therefore, they can obtain the records.  It may, however, take more time and paperwork to do so.

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 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

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