Snow Law 101

As the snow continues to pile up, let us take a moment to review some of the law relating to snow and ice removal in Connecticut. Are property owners responsible for premises liability lawsuits if someone is injured on their property?

Under Connecticut law, a landowner has an obligation to remove or otherwise treat dangerous accumulations of snow and ice from his or her property.  It is well established that the landowner’s obligation to remove snow or ice does not begin until after a reasonable period has passed following the end of the storm.  This means that a landowner may not be liable to an injured party who falls on snow or ice on their property during a storm.  This is commonly referred to as the “ongoing storm” doctrine.

In some instances, it may be possible for a person injured during the course of a storm to bring a claim against a landowner if it can be shown that the injury was caused by an older accumulation of snow or ice not related to the ongoing storm.

The obligation to perform snow removal is known as a “nondelegable duty”.  This means that the landowner cannot avoid responsibility an injury caused by snow and ice merely because they had assigned the responsibility of snow removal to another party.  In an instance where a snow removal company has failed to perform its responsibilities, an injured person likely has a claim against both the landowner and the snow removal company.

Responsibility for snow and ice removal on public sidewalks is governed by local ordinances.  For example, §99.56(C) of the Waterbury City Ordinances reads:

(C)   The owner or person in possession and control of land abutting a public sidewalk shall have a duty of exercising reasonable care to keep the sidewalk free of dangerous conditions caused by the accumulation of ice or snow thereon and shall be liable to any person who sustains injury to self or property where a breach of the duty is the proximate cause of the injury.

Most Connecticut cities and towns similarly place responsibility for snow removal of public sidewalks on the owner of the abutting property.  Your own town likely has a specific ordinance relating to snow removal on public sidewalks.  These ordinances usually provide details regarding how long an abutting property owner has to remove dangerous snow and ice conditions.  You are encouraged to review them on your city or town’s website.

Top Ten Legal Movies In The Last 50 Years

1.My Cousin Vinny (1992)
Joe Pesci plays a brash Brooklyn lawyer who only recently passed the bar exam on his 6th try. He is representing his cousin and friend who are arrested for murder after stopping at a convenience store in Alabama.

2. Marshall (2017)
Chadwick Bosman plays Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice on the Supreme Court. The movie follows Marshall who travels around the country defending blacks he believes were unjustly
charged with criminal offenses.

3. Philadelphia (1993)
Tom Hanks is a gay attorney who claims his law firm fired him because he contracted AIDS. Tom Hanks hires Denzel Washington to represent him.

4. The Verdict (1982)
Paul Newman is a washed-up lawyer who is referred a medical malpractice case and sees it as one last chance to save his career.

5. Erin Brockovich (2000)
Julia Roberts is a paralegal who investigates illegal dumping of highly toxic chemicals which turns into one of the largest class action lawsuits in U. S. History.

6. A Civil Action (1998)
A small plaintiff’s firm in Boston sues a major corporation whose tannery is responsible for the leukemia related deaths of eight children. John Travolta is the lead attorney for the plaintiffs and Robert Duvall is the attorney for the Defendant.

7. A Few Good Men (1992)
Tom Cruise is a high energy Navy JAG attorney of a military courtroom trial. Two marines are court martialed for the death of another marine as part of an unofficial punishment known as “code red.” The two marines testify they were following orders. The marine commander played by Jack Nicholson testified they acted on their own.

8. Michael Clayton(2007)
George Clooney plays a “fixer” attorney at a big law firm where he cleans up messes no one wants to touch and deals with ethically questionable clients.

9. The Paper Chase (1973)
The movie is about the demanding environment of Harvard Law School.

10. The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
Matthew McConaughey is hired to defend a wealthy real estate mogul who is accused of assaulting a prostitute.

Why you should not hire an attorney you see advertised all over buses, billboards, etc.

Why you should not hire an attorney you see advertised all over buses, billboards, etc.

It has been over 40 years since Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down bans on commercial advertising by Attorneys. Bates is a landmark case that paved the way for the current overabundance of personal injury lawyers who run continuous television ads and have their pictures on billboards and on the side of buses all over the country. Consumers are overwhelmed with these ads on a daily basis and they are often the first attorneys that personal injury victims call when they are looking for legal representation.

There are many reasons you probably should not hire that attorney you see advertised all over the place and here are a few reasons why:

1. You probably will never actually speak with the Attorney you are attempting to hire.

2. Many times, the lawyer you see if just a figure head for the firm. The chances are pretty good that they are not trying cases themselves and the chances are also pretty good that they will never see or work on your case.

3. Many times, people who hire a widely advertised lawyer will not actually ever interact with an attorney. They will be forced to always talk to paralegals.

At the Dodd Law Firm, LLC you will meet with a lawyer and have a face to face conversation the first time you come in to visit with us for a free consultation. We strive to make every client feel like their case is important. Recommendations from former clients are the main sources of our new cases. This is one of the reasons you will not see our picture on the side of a bus or on a billboard anytime soon.

Often, lawyers who are heavily advertised are just trying to get as many simple “ordinary” cases as possible so then they are can get the best return on their investment (by investing as little time as possible). They are not proactive as they develop a strategy for the clients to get them the settlement/compensation that they deserve.

Handling a high quantity of cases does not equate to a high-quality lawyer.

The simple matter is that lawyers who get the best results and settlements in a trial are the ones who have a proven track record of actually trying cases. Those lawyer are the ones who are willing and able to put in the work, invest their time, and go to bat for their clients. Many attorneys, especially those who rely on a high volume of cases for their revenue simply are not willing to do that.

Consumers cannot always trust what they see on advertisements either. While the Dodd Law Firm is certainly interested in taking on your personal injury case we are more concerned about individuals getting the best possible representation for their claim. Hiring a personal injury attorney should be seen as an investment and you should do your due diligence and decide who you would like to represent you.

At The Dodd Law Firm, LLC you can view a summary of each of our attorney’s credentials and can see an ongoing list of our case results. Our firm website is http://www.doddlawfirmct.com.

When to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Many workers will need to or can benefit greatly from hiring a workers’ compensation attorney.
The following are some examples of when you need to hire a workers’ compensation attorney:

WHEN YOUR CLAIM IS DENIED
Insurance companies deny workers’ compensation claims for a variety of reasons. For example,
the insurance company might claim that your injury was not work-related or that you filed your
claim too late.

YOUR PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY RATING IS DISPUTED
The majority of most workers’ compensation awards are for permanent partial disability benefits.
These benefits are calculated based on your PPD rating. If the insurance company does not
agree with the rating assigned by your treating physician, it can require you to attend an IME
with the doctor it chooses. The IME doctor will most likely assign a much lower disability
rating, which the insurance company will use to justify paying you less in benefits. An attorney
can be essential to obtaining a fair settlement or convincing a Commissioner that you are entitled
to a higher rating.

YOU HAVE A PRE-EXISTING CONDITION
If you have a pre-existing injury or condition involving the same body part you injured at work,
you will be facing an uphill battle with the insurance company. The insurance company will
likely blame your injury on your previous condition rather than your work activities. This is
especially true if your injury has developed slowly over time rather than during a single work
accident.

YOU ARE HAVING TROUBLE GETTING TREATMENT YOU NEED
Insurance companies often deny or delay in approving medical treatment especially surgeries.
An attorney can put pressure on the insurance companies to approve the necessary medical
treatments in a timely manner.

YOUR ABILITY TO WORK HAS BEEN AFFECTED
If you can never work again, you will need to maximize your workers’ compensation benefits to
last well into the future. If you need to change careers, you will need to secure training in a new
line of work.

YOU ARE RECEIVING OTHER GOVERNMENT BENEFITS
If you are receiving Social Security Disability Benefits, these benefits may be reduced if you
receive workers’ compensation benefits. An attorney can help you minimize how much your
Social Security Disability Benefits will be reduced.
If you are eligible for Medicare, you may need to set aside a portion of your workers’
compensation settlement to pay for future medical treatment. An attorney can help you do this in
the most advantageous way.

YOU ARE HAVING A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION HEARING
If the insurance company refuses to pay you or authorize treatment, you will need to prove your
case at a hearing. Since this is similar to a mini trial, you will almost certainly need an attorney
to represent you.

IS AN ATTORNEY WORTH THE COST?
Workers’ compensation attorneys do not charge in a typical hourly fashion. Instead they charge
a contingency fee: a percentage of any workers’ compensation benefits they help you recover.
The percentage is generally 20%.
You will likely get a much higher settlement offer when an attorney is involved. Attorneys
understand the law, know how to negotiate and can use various tools to develop your case.
Because of this, you will probably receive more in benefits if you hire an attorney even after the
attorney takes his or her fee.

A Notice About Healthcare Deductibles for COVID-19 Treatment

Dear Clients,

Many health insurance companies have announced that they will waive deductibles for medical treatment related to the COVID-19 virus. This waiver applies to all individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and is not limited to individuals who have contracted the virus through work activities.

If you have contracted COVID-19 and have incurred out-of-pocket medical expenses related to your treatment for the virus, we strongly recommend you contact your health insurance company to see if they have pledged to waive your deductible.

Please do not hesitate to contact The Dodd Law Firm if you have any questions related to medical bills related to COVID-19 treatment.

Thanks,

 

The Dodd Law Firm

COVID-19 as a Workers’ Compensation Injury

While some workers are able to work from home, there are many who must continue to work outside of the home during the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.  This includes workers from multiple disciplines such as healthcare, delivery, utilities, and too many others to name.  With this work comes the inherent risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. 

A worker who contracts this illness after being exposed in the workplace has the right to file a Workers’ Compensation claim. 

A Workers’ Compensation claim would provide substantial assistance in dealing with the potentially serious effects of the coronavirus. 

First and foremost, if the claim is accepted, a Workers’ Compensation insurance company would be obligated to pay for all the related medical treatment needed for a sick worker.

Secondly, the sick worker would receive money benefits for any time they missed from work as a result of their illness.

It is also worth noting that there is still much that is not known about the long-term effects of this illness.  There is potential that the severe respiratory distress which may be caused by the virus may lead to damage to other vital organs such as the brain, kidneys, liver and heart.  Permanent damage may also be done to the lungs in some cases. 

We do not intend to alarm anyone with this information, but to encourage those individuals at risk to assert and preserve their rights to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation system in this unprecedented time.  Further, it is important to file a written claim as soon as possible, as various legal deadlines will apply to these cases, as they do to other Workers’ Compensation claims.  If you do not file your claim in time, you may lose all rights to any Workers’ Compensation benefits for your illness.

The Importance of Uninsured and Underinsured Insurance

UM (uninsured) auto insurance protects you after a Motor Vehicle Accident when the at fault driver does not have insurance.  UIM (under insured) protects you when the at fault driver has insurance, but not enough insurance to cover all damages (medical bills, lost wages, pain & suffering, etc).  You expect the at fault driver to have sufficient auto insurance to pay for your damages and injuries they caused you.  The problem is some drivers do not have sufficient insurance. And now their problem becomes your problem! 

Why UM/UIM Insurance is Important

If the at fault driver does not have sufficient insurance to compensate you for the damages and injuries, you will have to have to had purchased sufficient underinsured auto insurance for more than the other driver’s insurance company.  Liability insurance will not help you in this situation. Liability insurance is designed to pay the party that suffers damages and injuries caused by you.

In order to be able to use your own uninsured insurance, you must have a higher coverage amount than the at fault driver.  This means that if you and the at fault driver both have minimum ($25,000) insurance policies, you will not be able to use your own underinsured insurance coverage.  You must have an underinsured policy limit of more than the minimum ($25,000).  

Reasons why you need sufficient underinsured coverage:

  1. Many drivers in Connecticut do not have auto insurance and many that do have minimum policy limits of $25,000.00. That means the most their insurance company is obligated to pay you $25,000.00.
  2. UM/UIM coverage is very affordable coverage that you can add to your auto insurance policy. In addition, UM/UIM coverages doesn’t only protect you but also your family members and other passengers who ride in your vehicle.
  3. UM/UIM protects you outside of your car as well.

            If you are a passenger in a friend’s vehicle and are involved in an accident, your UM/UIM policy will apply and protect you.

            In addition, if you are hit by a car as a pedestrian, your UM/UIM policy will protect you as well even if you are not in a vehicle.

An UM/UIM claim/lawsuit progresses in the same way as a regular auto lawsuit except the lawsuit is against your own auto insurance company and not against the other driver’s insurance company. 

We urge you to call your insurance company to get a quote for additional UM/UIM coverage.  We think you will be surprised as to how affordable additional coverage can be!

INVISIBLE INJURIES: Mental Health Claims in Workers’ Compensation

The phrase “Workers’ Compensation injury” traditionally invokes images of sprained backs and carpel tunnel injuries.  While physical injuries such as these may be some of the most commonly occurring types of injuries sustained by workers, they are not the only type of injury that may be covered by a Workers’ Compensation claim. 

In Connecticut, psychiatric or mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may also be compensable if they originate from a physical injury sustained at work.  In most circumstances, current law requires the existence of a physical injury which results a subsequent mental health issue.  There is currently an exception to this law for police officers who are “subjected to serious physical injury or death through the use of deadly force”.  Under such circumstances, a police officer would not need to sustain a physical injury to bring a claim for resulting mental health issues. 

While such mental health claims are often overlooked or unaddressed, they are no less serious or deserving of attention than traditional physical injuries.  Many workers feel they will be stigmatized by the need to address mental health issues.  This certainly should not be the case.  Work injuries, especially those that take the injured individual out of work for an extended period, are stressful.  It is easy and common for the uncertainty and stress of physical injuries and money concerns in a Workers’ Compensation claim to manifest in the form of depression and anxiety. 

If you feel as though you are experiencing mental health issues related to a work injury, please take comfort in knowing that you can get medical care through your Workers’ Compensation claim to address your mental health needs.  Please do not hesitate to discuss your work related mental health issues with your Workers’ Compensation attorney.  By doing so, you will be helping yourself to a more complete medical recovery.

Frequently Used Workers’ Compensation Phrases

Sometimes, listening to a Workers’ Compensation attorney talk about a case can seem like hearing someone speak another language.  That is because these cases involve legal phrases and abbreviations specific to Workers’ Compensation law.

 

Here is a guide to some of the most commonly used phrases in Workers’ Compensation cases:

 

  • TT – temporarily totally disabled – a person is injured and not capable of any level of work.  This work capacity can only be assigned by a doctor.  A worker with an accepted case who is “TT” relating to an accepted injury will receive a weekly check.

 

  • TP – temporarily partially disabled – a person is injured and is capable of less than full duty work.  This is frequently referred to as “light duty”.  This work capacity can only be assigned by a doctor.  An injured worked who is “TP” may need to work light duty at his or her employer or perform job searches to receive a weekly check.

 

  • PPD – permanent partial disability – a level of disability assigned to a body part after an injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement. This comes in the form of a percentage rating given by a doctor after an examination.

 

  • MMI – maximum medical improvement – the end of reasonable medical treatment for an injury. This occurs when an injured worker’s treating doctor decides that all reasonable medical treatment has been provided for an injury.

 

  • 31-308a- this usually refers to a type of weekly money benefit paid to an injured worker after permanency benefits. These benefits are designed to compensate a worker who is not earning as much money as he or she was making before becoming injured.  The Commissioner has discretion over how much will be paid.

 

  • RME – Respondent’s Medical Examination – medical examination ordered by the insurance company with a doctor of their choosing. This usually occurs when the insurance company wants a separate opinion on a medical question such as whether an injury is related to a work accident or whether medical treatment recommended is appropriate.

 

  • Respondent – the insurance company in a Workers’ Compensation case.

 

  • Claimant – an injured worker in a Workers’ Compensation case.

 

  • CME – Commissioner’s Medical Examination – medical examination ordered by a Workers’ Compensation Commissioner with a doctor of his or her choosing. This usually occurs to resolve a difference in opinion between an injured workers’ doctor and an RME doctor chosen by the insurance doctor.  Think of this as a tie breaker between the Claimant’s treating doctor and the Respondent’s doctor.

 

  • Commissioner – term used to describe the judges in Workers’ compensation cases.

 

  • IME – independent medical examination – another term used to describe an RME.

 

  • Settlement – the closing of a Worker’s Compensation case for a lump sum of money. This means the insurance company will no longer be responsible for payment of money benefits or medical treatment once the case is closed.

 

  • VA – voluntary agreement – Workers’ Compensation form used to indicate that a case or permanency ratings is officially accepted. These official forms are currently printed on green paper.

 

  • Form 36 – Workers’ Compensation form issued by the insurance company to indicate their intent to reduce or change the benefits of an injured worker. If the workers’ attorney objects to this form, it will automatically trigger a hearing to discuss the change requested by the insurance company.

 

  • Form 30C – Workers’ Compensation form used to start a new case. It informs the insurance company and the employer of a claimed injury.

 

  • Form 42 – Workers’ Compensation form sent to a doctor to request a permanent partial disability rating.

 

  • Informal hearing – a meeting between the lawyers for the Claimant and the Respondent before a Commissioner to discuss a specific disputed issue or series of issues in a Workers’ Compensation claim.

 

  • Pre-Formal hearing – an intermediary level hearing in a Workers’ Compensation claim designed to prepare an issue for trial at a Formal Hearing.

 

  • Formal hearing – a trial that will end with a decision by the Commissioner on a specific issue or issues in a Workers’ Compensation case.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis

New England is currently experiencing a wave of mosquitoes that have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).  EEE is a disease mosquitoes can pass to humans that causes swelling of the brain and may result in death.  Connecticut state health officials are currently advising residents to take precautions against exposure to mosquitoes by using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and avoiding the outdoors from between one hour before sunset until dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.  Early symptoms may include high fever, neck stiffness, headache, fatigue, and nausea/vomiting.

https://portal.ct.gov/DPH/Infectious-Diseases/ID-Home/Eastern-Equine-Encephalitis-EEE–Fact-Sheet

https://www.cdc.gov/easternequineencephalitis/gen/pre.html

When an infectious disease is contracted on the job, it may be a compensable Workers’ Compensation injury.  This applies to mosquito-born illnesses, such as EEE, Zika Virus and West Nile Virus, and also to illnesses caused by ticks, such as Lyme Disease.

In Connecticut, a school has been found negligent after it failed to adequately warn and protect a student from an identified insect related illness.