Be Aware of Winter Weather and Slip and Fall Injuries

Posted in Slip and Fall

With the cold wintry weather now upon us, it is time to talk about the dangers of slips and falls. Although it is not a fun topic to discuss, it is not something to be ignored. When you go outside in the morning, be sure to stay alert for black ice. Any source of water, from a leaking hose to rainwater dripping from a downspout to a gutter, can quickly freeze and become a slip and fall hazard to anyone in the area.

Always use proper footwear with good tread when you are outside in wintry conditions. If you walk or run outside at night or early in the morning, be sure to wear reflective clothing and use a good source of light. This will help drivers to see you, and the light also will help you to keep a good lookout for ice on the ground. When around your house, make sure there is no water leaking or dripping inside or outside your home. Any outside leaks can freeze overnight and be a hazard to you and others who come onto your property.

For example, I can recall a situation where the fire department had been called to address a water leak that was coming from the garage door on a vacant house. When the fire department arrived, the water had been leaking onto the driveway for some time. The outside temperature was below freezing. The water that had accumulated in the driveway looked like a puddle. As one of the fireman got out of the truck and began walking on the driveway to try to determine the source of the leak, his foot touched the black ice, and he slipped and fell onto the concrete, suffering significant injuries. This accident occurred in the middle of broad daylight. Although the water on the driveway looked like a puddle, it really was dangerous black ice and the fireman was severely injured from the fall.

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E-Cigarette Companies Marketing to America’s Youth

Posted in Product Liability

While there is no doubt that e-cigarettes are dangerous, a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presents a much greater problem that has previously been overlooked. According to the study, approximately 18.3 million middle school and high school students were exposed to at least one source of e-cigarette advertising in 2014. To put that figure into further perspective, it represents nearly 70% of the total study participants. Of this marketing, approximately “14 million students were exposed to [e-cigarette] ads in retail stores, 10.5 million students were exposed to ads on the internet, 9.6 million students were exposed watching TV or movies, and 8 million students while reading newspapers or magazines.”

Additionally, the study concluded that e-cigarettes were the most common tobacco product used by children in that same age bracket in 2014, which only underlines the apparent effectiveness of e-cigarette marketing. Just to start, there are a variety of obvious concerns with marketing any device like e-cigarettes to children. Even ignoring those concerns, the fact of the matter is that these products deliver nicotine into the body, which is known to stunt brain development in children.

There is simply no disputing that these products are dangerous. In addition to questionable marketing tactics targeting children, e-cigarettes have a whole host of other issues. There has been a history of the rechargeable batteries exploding; leading people to suffer from catastrophic injuries, and in spite of all this the e-cigarette industry just grows larger. Unfortunately, as the product’s marketing continues to expand, it will collect more and more users who are seeking to take advantage of its benefits without fully understanding all the potential risks.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of an e-cigarette or vaping device, it is recommended that you seek experienced legal counsel immediately.

Courts Decide Workplace Harassment Civil Suit

Posted in Workers' Compensation

On December 4, 2015, the Appellate Division decided the can of Rose Fonrose Louis v. Burger King Corp, and held that the petitioner’s sole remedy for sexual harassment at work was in the Workers’ Compensation court. The case arose during Petitioner’s employment at Burger King in the Monmouth Mall. During the length of employment, Petitioner was sexually harassed by an assistant manager who made inappropriate sexual advances while they were both in a walk-in freezer. While the harassment was occurring, the store manager opened the door of the walk in freezer, looked at both employees, and closed the door.

Testimony revealed that while the manager had the door open, the assistant manager stopped his harassment. Later the same day, the assistant manager again made inappropriate sexual advances toward the petitioner while both were working. Petitioner did not report the incidents, however the following day her husband called to complain to the manager about how his wife was treated and he also made a visit to the store to follow up. At that time, Burger King had a written policy prohibiting workplace harassment, and that policy had been issued to all employees.

In following and consistent with the harassment policy, the manager reported the incidents to the district manager, who initiated an investigation and transferred the offending assistant manager to another store. Several days later, the petitioner also filed a complaint with the police department, who charged the assistant manager with fourth-degree criminal sexual contact.

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National Burn Awareness Week: February 1-7, 2016

Posted in Burn Injuries, Injury Law

This year National Burn Awareness Week is February 1 – 7. This is the 30th anniversary of this important week, which was developed as a vehicle to promote burn awareness and prevention among the general public, as well as high-risk groups, like children and older adults. The goal is always to spread a common message of awareness and prevention, and this year’s message is Scald Prevention. The American Burn Association and National Scald Prevention Campaign provide a wealth of information on this important issue.

High-Risk Groups

Young children and older adults are at particularly high risk for burn injuries. Children have immature motor and cognitive skills, strong dependence on adults for supervision and danger-avoidance, and an inability to self-rescue. Older adults often have decreased reaction times, impaired mobility and may suffer from the effects of a pre-existing health condition.

Furthermore, young children and older adults have thinner dermal layers of their skin compared to members of other age groups. This leads to deeper burns at lower temperatures and shorter exposure times. When exposed to the same quantity of hot liquid, a child will likely suffer burns over a larger percentage of her total body surface than an adult.

Scald Statistics

In 2013, an estimated 68,536 scald burn injuries were seen in hospital emergency departments in the U.S.; 15,588 (23%) occurred to children under age 4 or younger.

Water does not have to be boiling to cause a severe burn. The boiling point for water is 212° F. It takes just 2 seconds of exposure to 148° F water to cause a burn sever enough to require surgery. Hot water heaters should be set to 120° F, or just below the medium setting. A safe bathing temperature is 100° F.

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How Social Security Disability and Workers’ Compensation Really Work

Posted in Workers' Compensation

Understanding workers’ compensation can be tricky enough for the average person, but determining how this interacts with your social security disability can be even trickier. Many often ask me: “Can I work while collecting social security disability benefits, and how does this affect my New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits?”

The short answer is yes, but the long answer is slightly more complicated than that. The U.S. Social Security Administration has special rules which make it possible for people receiving disability benefits to work and collect their monthly benefits. Under most circumstances, you can work part-time and earn up to approximately $750 per month, and still maintain your SSD and Medicare benefits.

If you find that you are able to work in excess of part-time, you may be eligible for a “Trial Work Period” regardless of much you are earning. A TWP allows you the opportunity to test your ability to work. Be aware that the TWP applies to any nine months in a 60 month period. You must report your work activity and continue to have a disabling impairment to qualify for continued benefits during a TWP. If the TWP ends unsuccessfully, your benefits can be reinstated without the need to file a new application, as long as it occurs within 36 months of the end of the TWP. In addition, Medicare benefits will continue for at least 93 months (7+ years) for most persons with disabilities.

The SS rules allow you to work while you are totally and permanently disabled within the above parameters. However, be aware that if you have also been found totally and permanently disabled under the NJ workers’ compensation statute, you are absolutely prohibited from working despite the more liberal SS rules.

If you have been hurt at work and unable to return to work, it is strongly recommended that you seek experienced counsel immediately.

New Jersey Ice and Snow Removal Law and Winter Driving Tips

Posted in Injury Law, Motor Vehicle Accidents

Snow Removal Law

Now that the temperatures outside have started to dip and the winter driving season is upon us, it is time to remind you of New Jersey’s ice and snow removal law. Remember to remove all ice and snow from your vehicle before driving, especially from the hood, windows, and roof. Motorists who fail to obey this law face fines of $25 to $75 for each offense, regardless of whether the ice and snow is dislodged from the vehicle. If flying ice or snow causes property damage or injury to others, motorists face fines of $200 to $1,000 for each offense.

Also keep in mind that flying ice or snow can cause a car accident, resulting in injury or death to anyone on the roadway. If you cause an accident and injure or kill someone, you could be sued and your assets could be at risk. So be safe and remove all ice and snow off of your car every single time before you drive. It could be the difference between causing an accident and getting home safely. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident as a result of snow or ice that became dislodged from a vehicle on the roadway, see legal counsel immediately.

Winter Driving Tips

The State’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety offers some winter driving tips, which are worth repeating here. Read them over, and always remember to drive safely and follow all motor vehicle laws. The State’s winter driving tips are:

  • Drive slow (at or below the posted speed limit) and adjust your speed for the changing road conditions.
  • Turn on your headlights, using low beams when traveling in snow.
  • Increase your following distance. In winter weather, travel at least eight to 10 seconds behind the car in front of you.
  • Give snowplows plenty of room to work. Don’t tailgate and try not to pass. If you must pass, take extreme caution in doing so. Remember, a snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see him, but they don’t always see you.
  • If you skid, don’t brake or accelerate. Remove your foot from the gas, and gently steer your car in the direction of the skid (the direction the rear of your vehicle is sliding.) When your car starts heading in the desired direction, carefully straighten the wheel.
  • Slow down before exiting the highway. Exit ramps often have icy patches, sharp curves and stalled or stopped vehicles.
  • Have a personal safety kit easily accessible in your vehicle that includes: an ice scraper/brush; shovel; jumper cables or battery starter; blanket; sand, salt or kitty litter for traction; lock de-icer; flashlight and new batteries; extra windshield wiper fluid; safety flares/warning device; cell phone with spare battery; water and non-perishable food (i.e., granola or protein bars); and paper towels or a cloth.
  • If your vehicle does become disabled, pull off the road as far as possible and turn on your emergency flashers. Remain with your vehicle until help arrives. If you can’t get your vehicle off the road and are uncertain about your safety, do not stay in your vehicle or stand behind it. Proceed carefully to a safe location away from traffic.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident caused by someone who wasn’t paying attention, you should contact legal counsel immediately. Stark & Stark is dedicated to helping injured people and we can make sure that your rights are represented. The insurance companies have people working hard on their side, and so should you.

Respiratory Problems Another Potential Hazard for E-Cigarette Users

Posted in Product Liability

From 2013 to 2014, the global market for e-cigarettes and e-liquids has nearly doubled to $6 billion, with the U.S. accounting for nearly half that amount. That is a staggering number in sales for an otherwise relatively new product. Overall, the e-cigarette industry markets their product as the safe alternative to smoking, and even claims to help facilitate the process to quit. This increase in sales clearly indicates that their marketing is working.

Many individuals, including myself, have stood at a convenience store counter and thought, “I’ll buy an e-cigarette today. Maybe it’ll help me quit smoking, or at least it will be healthier than smoking a real cigarette.” Unfortunately, those assumptions might not be as accurate as we previously hoped.

A recent study published by JAMA Pediatrics questioned the safety of e-cigarettes. The study sampled over 45,000 children from Hong Kong with an average age of 15 years old and revealed that 40% of teenagers who smoked either traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes suffered from various respiratory symptoms when compared to those who have not smoked either traditional or electronic cigarettes.

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Appellate Division Upholds Decision in Walmart Workers’ Comp Case

Posted in Workers' Compensation

A particularly noteworthy case was recently decided by the Appellate Division on November 20, 2015. This case, Colleen Fitzgerald v. Walmart, is so interesting because the Court found that the worker’s injured condition did not qualify as a work related injury simply because she felt a “pop” in her low back while walking at work.

The Petitioner, Colleen Fitzgerald, filed a claim for an accident that occurred on April 26, 2010, while she was working for Walmart. She stated that she was merely walking in the store and felt a “pop” in her low back. While at the time of the claim Ms. Fitzgerald said she felt the pop she was not doing anything other than walking, later testimony revealed that at some time prior to the incident she had been doing some lifting at work in her position as a zone merchandise supervisor.

She reported the accident to her manager, and after seeing her family doctor who diagnosed her with protruding lumbar discs, she took FMLA for 12 weeks and a leave of absence while she received treatment. She did return to work at Walmart for a period of time, however because she then had another non-work related slip and fall accident where she broke her elbow, she was ultimately terminated from her job at Walmart. There was never any authorized treatment provided by the Workers’ Compensation carrier for Walmart.

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Understanding Work Related Accidents & Workplace Accommodations

Posted in Workers' Compensation

After you’re injured in a work related accident, there are many steps that you need to take. You’ll need to arrange doctor’s appointments and potentially schedule physical or occupational therapy sessions to determine the length and severity of your injuries. After the accident, you may also need extra accommodations once you return to work, which poses a difficult but important question: what should I do if I have permanent restrictions as a result of a work related accident, but my employer will not accommodate me?

For those unsure or unaware, the benefits payable under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation include payment of medical bills, temporary disability benefits while the worker is recovering from an injury, and permanent disability benefits, which are subject to a schedule of benefits. This is all available so an injured worker can be compensated for the ways in which the injury will have a permanent impact on their life. For some, this impact may mean that they not physically capable of returning to their former job. When this happens, they may need training to re-enter the workforce; however, this is not something that workers’ compensation is obligated to provide.

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The Most Common Family Law Issues in Workers’ Compensation

Posted in Workers' Compensation

A work-related injury can have a devastating effect on a family physically, financially, and emotionally. Sometimes a family cannot recover from these stressors and they find themselves in family court facing a variety of unexpected issues. This blog will address both child support and equitable distribution, some of the most frequently asked questions.

Child Support

When you are out of work due to a work-related injury or illness, you are entitled to receive workers’ compensation temporary disability benefits. In New Jersey, the law provides that you receive 70% of your gross weekly wage subject to a statutory maximum benefit in 2015 of $855 per week. Benefits are paid directly by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to the injured worker.

This can cause a problem if your child support payments are paid directly out of your regular paycheck. The fact that you are not receiving your regular paycheck does not suspend your obligation. It is your responsibility to pay your weekly obligation out of your workers’ compensation temporary disability benefits. You may pay the support directly or ask the judge of Compensation for court order reducing your weekly workers’ compensation benefit and paid by the carrier to the probation office. However, because benefits are only a portion of your regular wages, many obligors fall behind on their payments when they have be out of work while recovering from an injury. Under these circumstances, the past due benefits continue to accrue and you will go into arrears. These arrears are still your responsibility to pay and will be deducted, at least in part, from any award you receive for permanent disability.

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