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A Personal Injury, Workers' Compensation and Defense Base Act Law Firm Fighting for the Injured.

Articles Posted in workers compensation

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This January, an Administrative Law Judge approved a settlement reached by Javier Ruiz, Esq. relating to home modifications needed by a client (pictured below with his consent) in a Defense Base Act (DBA) case. The case involved litigation of complex legal issues requiring expert testimony as to the modifications needed to the client’s home. For instance, a wheelchair bound injured worker will need lower light switches, doors widened, ramps created, and lower sinks.

To accomplish these necessary modifications, this firm took the depositions of engineers and accessibility experts who testified as to the necessity and cost of home modifications.  Mr. Ruiz travels the country  in his pursuit of justice and fairness for our clients. Attorneys Jo Ann Hoffman & Associates are proud to be able to help injured workers like this who are often ignored by insurance companies.


Multitude of Benefits Available Under the Defense Base Act/Longshore Act

Do you know the types of benefits available to you if you are injured in an accident covered by the Defense Base Act/Longshore Act? Broadly speaking, there are two types of benefits available under the DBA: 1) compensation benefits and 2) medical benefits. Home modification falls under medical benefits.

Many injured workers incorrectly assume that medical benefits simply means doctors visits, surgeries, medication, and physical therapy. Fortunately, the definition of medical benefits under Section 907 of the Act is very broad, so broad that it not only includes purely medical benefits like doctors visits, surgeries, medication, and physical therapy, but the definition also includes medically necessary and reasonable apparatus. Continue reading →

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We welcome our new clients in Puerto Rico as we are now open for business at 1519 Juan Ponce de Leon Ave. #510, San Juan PR 00909-1715 only 12 minutes from the Airport. I’ll explain why we opened to help those working there.

IMG_5406-e1526405710868-1-225x300In 2004, a very bad hurricane hit Florida. We had windows blown out of our office and we were without power for nine days at our house. An electrical pole had fallen across our street so no service vehicles could get to us. We would be nine days without power. During that time we got to know all the neighbors as we shared food and grilled outside. One neighbor siphoned gas from a boat to run the generators for homes on the street. It was a camping out experience where you learned to treasure a hot shower at a friend’s, were amazed by all the stars in the sky at night visible without electricity, and where you worked diligently to board up broken glass. You danced for joy at seeing a power truck on your street. We learned to share, be grateful, and have patience.
In 2017, my single largest donation was to the Red Cross after seeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. I chose that charitable organization after my cousin Amy described her experience with the Red Cross. You see Cousin Amy was on the United Airlines crash in Sioux City where 1/3 of the people perished. The plane had broken into three parts. She ended up in a section that came to rest upside down in a corn field. “When we walked away from the crash with only the clothes on our back, having the Red Cross there with warm clothes, and blankets is something you’ll never forget.” Continue reading →

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When our firm received a call that a worker pulling up plywood on a new townhouse construction project had died, we went to the scene. In St. Petersburg, FL we were able to canvas the site and find the building permits to identify the company to pursue for death benefits.  Learning from the employer that he did not care about the death and would not pay benefits, only increased our desire to obtain benefits for the children of the deceased.  Every life has benefit and every life deserves respect.  This firm spoke with the owner of the project who agreed to contact the employer about the accident.

IMG_4410-e1521756625851-1-225x300Javier Ruiz from our firm filed a claim for benefits in the State of Florida Workers Compensation Courts and after one year of litigation a settlement was reached which had to be approved through the Guardianship Court as the deceased was survived by three minor children. In the State of Florida, $150,000.00 is the maximum payment for an on the job death. After obtaining Court approvals these proceeds can be disburse to help raise 3 minor children who are forever without the aid and support of their father.

It is our unwavering commitment to those who have no voice that drives our passion to help.  We travel and fight for those who would be left without a voice, left without a remedy.  We are a better society for helping those that come here to help us perform our construction.  These are people who work to have money to send home for their children. We will not ignore indigent children because they have to eat, grow and learn all without a father who worked until his death to support them.

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While rare, an attorney should always consider the viability of pursuing a third-party claim where a DBA injury is due to the negligence of a third-party other than your employer. This is allowed under 33 U.S.C. Section 933 (a) but has a strict requirement of notification under subsection (g)Compromise obtained by person entitled to compensation:

IMG_9967-e1496774041913-1-225x300“1.  If the person entitled to compensation (or the person’s representative) enters into a settlement with a third person referred to in subsection (a) for an amount less than the compensation to which the person (or the person’s representative) would be entitled under this chapter, the employer shall be liable for compensation as determined under subsection (f) only if written approval of the settlement is obtained from the employer and the employer’s carrier, before the settlement is executed, and by the person entitled to compensation (or the person’s representative). The approval shall be made on a form provided by the Secretary and shall be filed in the office of the deputy commissioner within thirty days after the settlement is entered into.

2.  If no written approval of the settlement is obtained and filed as required by paragraph (1), or if the employee fails to notify the employer of any settlement obtained from or judgment rendered against a third person, all rights to compensation and medical benefits under this chapter shall be terminated, regardless of whether the employer or the employer’s insurer has made payments or acknowledged entitlement to benefits under this chapter.”Do not settle your third-party case without first obtaining written permission from both the employer and the DBA insurance company to settle the third party claim.  If you settle the third-party claim without getting written consent you will lose all future compensation and medical treatment payable by the DBA insurance company. If you are settling your third-party case for less than the compensation you are entitled to under the DBA case, you must obtain written approval on Longshore DBA Form LS-33 which must be filed within 30 days of the settlement with the District Director.
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hearing-protection-1532036Hearing loss under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, as extended by the Defense Base Act, is compensated under Section 8(c)(13) as a scheduled injury, resulting in a scheduled award. It is a traumatic injury in that the harm occurs immediately upon exposure.

Hearing loss is determined by the use of a professional audiologist who will perform an audiogram. The audiogram will show the percentage loss of hearing in each ear, and that can then be used to determine your overall hearing loss.

There are two types of hearing loss under Section 8(c)(13). The first is monaural hearing loss, which simply means a loss of hearing in one ear. A 100% loss of hearing in one ear results in 52 weeks of compensation at the appropriate compensation rate. For example, if you have a 30% loss of hearing in one ear only, you will be paid for 15.6 weeks of compensation at the appropriate compensation rate(30% of 52 weeks).

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Far too many times I hear, “it hurts and I need to stop”.  DO NOT … I REPEAT … DO NOT STOP.  Physical therapy is a necessary evil and YES it hurts but as they say, NO PAIN NO GAIN.

Physical therapy, also known as physical rehabilitation, requires a lot of time, a lot of hard work, and of course a knowledgeable physical therapist. Physical therapists are highly educated and are licensed health care professionals, licensed under Florida Statutes, Ch. 486.  Their job is to examine, evaluate, and treat patients whose conditions limit their ability to move and function in daily life.  A therapist’s overall goal is to maintain, restore, and/or improve mobility and help reduce pain.  In some cases, physical therapists are instrumental in helping a patient avoid surgery or the long-term use of prescription medications and associated side effects. IMG_0284 Continue reading →

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If you have a pending worker’s compensation claim, it is advisable to contact your claim’s adjuster prior to seeking treatment at an emergency room. If you do not obtain pre-approval, you run the risk of being personally responsible for the hospital bill.   Even if it is after hours or the weekend, we still urge that you make a good faith effort to obtain authorization.  Send an Email to the adjuster or leave a voice mail – your best bet is to do both.  If you are unable to contact your adjuster and you proceed to the emergency room, it is imperative that you inform the emergency room nurse that you have a pending worker’s compensation claim.   If you have your claim information (i.e., name, address and telephone number of the worker’s compensation carrier and/or claim number), be certain to provide same.   While providing this information is necessary for processing, the emergency room services must be approved and authorized by the claim’s adjuster so that the bill can be paid accordingly.   Please do not provide your personal health insurance card.  Continue reading →

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Obtaining up to 52 weeks of Rehabilitative TPD with the advent of the Westphal case is much easier now. This means the injured worker can receive up to 52 weeks of rehabilitative temporary partial disability (TPD)  where they have a high school education or an GED and cannot return to the same line of work. This also applies when your prior job is not available or the work is not within your restrictions. In that event, the injured worker should apply using the attached form for rehabilitative TPD benefits. The Judge cannot deny the first 26 weeks of benefits and with a high average weekly wage this can result in significant compensation benefits for the injured worker. The goal of course is to help the injured worker find a better job. Many clients can look to obtain a higher settlement in the lump sum settlement because they will release rehabilitative TPD benefits. This firm specializes in obtaining those benefits and settlements. Since 1984 we have been known in the industry for LUMP SUM SETTLEMENTS.IMG_5975

Continue reading →

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The recent Caterpillar Logistics, reversed a judgment awarded in the Miami Court, and discussed the factors that would allow a person to recover damages where they are fired in retaliation for filing a workers compensation claim.  Our firm follows these lawsuits closely.

Juries are generally fairly liberal in awarding damages on these cases as they relate to the upset of being fired.  The problem in this case was that the injured worker continued on a no work status due to his physical injuries and therefore, since there was no evidence that the injured worker would recover to the point that he could return to substantial/equivalent employment, therefore the retaliation was not the cause of his future lost wages.  “In summary, the jury’s award of back pay and front pay are not sustainable because Amaya was unable to work due to his on the job physical injuries.”  Those damages were compensable through his workers compensation case.  Had the injured worker been cleared for work after being placed on a no work status due to his physical injuries and if he was unable to work due to his emotional injury then he could have been awarded the money for lost wages and loss of earning capacity.  The jury has to award money for emotional distress and mental anguish.  Based on these factors, the Appellate Court reversed the half million dollar judgment for the injured worker in Caterpillar Logistics Services, Inc. vs. Rudolf Amaya 3rd Dis. Ct of Appeals decided July 13, 2016.

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I just returned from London, England where I had my client sign her release.  There was a notary requirement on the original release, but in London, a notary charges £100 pounds, which is equivalent today to $130.00.

To save my client that money, we spoke with the supervisor at the insurance company and received approval for her signature to be witnessed by two people in London, which was done instead of having a notary.  This saved the client $130.00 and we did not charge the client for our travel expenses, as we frequently do business in London.IMG_3377

We receive calls from all over the United States from people injured while providing services to our troops stationed throughout the world.  Their injuries are covered under the Defense Base Act, which is a Federal Statute, providing workers compensation benefits.

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