Wednesday, July 30, 2008

All About Claims...August 2008 Newsletter

The Division of Workers Compensation has just put out its latest newsletter. They call it "All About Claims" and though it is late July they have it as August 2008. That is close enough for me. Anyway this is an excellent newsletter that I wish was published more often. In this latest one they review some new law/procedural matters (on apportionment and aggravation) and also present to the public photos and information about some Judges. It highlights Judge DeMarino who is highly capable and experienced. The Judges noted are handling prehearings and settlement conferences as promptly and wisely as they can. I appreciate their involvement in these areas. Otherwise we'd be left with a slower and more adversarial system. Their mere presence in a settlement conference makes the parties and the attorneys far more amenable to a reasonable compromise. Clients who are present come away with a more realistic understanding of the process and what has to be considered in a compromise. Anyway read the newsletter here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Conflict of Interest Recent Case

On July 24, 2008 the Colorado Court of Appeals issued a case dealing with conflict of interest. The claimant was involved with the Division IME process. The DIME doctor received over 1/3 of his income from the insurance company as a regularly used provider and advisor to the insurance (Pinnacol). A DIME doctor is supposed to be truly independent and medically provide an opinion on treatment and impairment. He or she is not a treating doctor who is often designated by the employer/insurance to treat a claimant. Here the DIME doctor had close ties with the insurer but not on the specific case itself. The ties were from other activities although anyone receiving 1/3 of your income from contractual arrangements would seem pretty close to an insurer. The Court of Appeals determined this was not a conflict of interest and upheld the DIME doctors opinion in the case. Now many of us, even claimant attorneys obtain much income from insurance companies although we obtain it in an adversarial way (we battle with them). But having close contractual ties does seem to be at least an apparent conflict of interest. The mere receipt of money from insurance companies is not a conflict because if it were nearly all doctors would be deemed in a conflict of interest situation. So it is not an easy task to assume a conflict of interest exists from dealings with the insurance. It can be a question of fact but I am personally uncomfortable with the decision. If an attorney had a rather close relationship with an insurer he would likely not take a case against them. But doctors are not usually adversarial and getting paid by insurance does not mean there is a conflict. Anyway read the case here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Free Consultations

Many attorneys in the injury and disability field state that they offer free consultations or a free initial office visit. That makes sense because most of the injured or disabled do not have the means to pay $100 or $200 or $300 or more to even see an attorney. Such a visit often takes more then one hour to be thorough. Usually mine take 1 1/2 hours as I really like to review much at the meeting. The paperwork, medical records or related legal/correspondence have to be reviewed to get an accurate picture. So talking by telephone is simply not good enough. The same with emails...just not good enough. Looking at the documentation and chatting is important to shed light on the situation. Is there some sort of catch to this free appointment? Absolutely not. It is free no matter whether you or the attorney do anything further. Of course it is also a way for the attorney to eventually earn fees but that is down the line. However do not expect the attorney to discuss other legal problems not related to your claim. The one thing that does amaze me is when someone calls and wants a free consultation but it is not something we handle or where we are not available for an appointment. When that happens most people understand and just keep seeking someone who can help them. But a few seem to think that "free" means they are entitled to it or an attorney has to see them. Nope. It just means the consultation or appointment is free when it is set by us. It is not required an attorney must consult with you only that if he does then it be free.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Colorado Minimum Wage

As of January 2008 the minimum wage in Colorado is $7.02. The federal law has minimum wages going to $6.55 an hour as of this week and to $7.25 an hour by next July 2009. Colorado's will likely be higher by then. So if you are making $15000.00 a year you are over the minimum wage! Still many business owners complain and may even cut back on their employees. Costs are rising. For example in the pizza business costs of the food items are going up just as they are in the grocery store. So either a business owner will try raise prices or cut back. This all seems rather sad to me. The problem with service industries is that it is not as profitable as manufacturing can be. Our growth was for a long time tied to manufacturing and that is now going downhill as it is outsourced to other countries. That leaves us with more low paying jobs. Some then sought wealth in finance and global corporations. We all know of the quite high compensation in those areas at least until the recent slowdown in the economy. But the average american sure isn't benefiting from this as he downsizes his house, his vehicle, his job. This is just my observation but it does make you wonder how it will all play out.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Recent National Hot Topics in Workers Comp

I am posting a link to a website maintained by insurance interests. The information there makes us aware of the status of workers compensation in the nation. As expected claims are down over the last ten years as of 2006. That is the last year they provided data. It is interesting to see what is happening in other states. Of course insurers complain about rising medical costs and the efforts in some states to increase benefits but that has always been the case. I am beginning to wonder if this downturn in claims is the result of industry fleeing the country for production in foreign countries. As American laboring jobs are lost there are less claims too. The workplace is safer if the higher paying job is gone and now you are a greeter or in customer service. The news and comments at this site provide a broader perspective on injuries in America and what some states are doing. Click here to visit the site.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Dose of Reality

Lately it seems I am seeing people who have seen some ads and called attorneys who imply it is fast, simple or suggest that you'll get big bucks in your claim. The reality is that if you have a workers compensation claim not all mean big bucks. Also fast or simple likely means only that the call to the attorney is fast or easy...the claim itself is not fast or easy unless it is a late in the process. You don't select your attorney by watching slick ads that seem like short infomercials. How do you do it? First you ask around of people you trust. But that is just one part of it. Then you look for solid information. The best place might be online where you can check websites or blogs about the attorney. I mean many of us now shop online right? We review products and obtain information that helps us to save or get the best product at the best price. So search by the type of claim and your location or search by name or search by your problem or when in doubt search by whatever you wish. Do not disregard ads or the yellow pages but when you locate a possibility then follow through with an online search. Information can be your friend in trying to locate an attorney. Then if you can get an appointment does the attorney answer your questions? Does he take time with you? And...does he tell you the problems too? You want the whole picture not some simple promise to take care of you. I suggest you do this as soon as possible and then decide who is right for you. The reality is that every claim has its upside (reward) and its downside (risk) and you need to be informed not sold a bill of goods. As for some ads...don't they remind you of a barker at a carnival? You know the guy who says come over here we have an easy game to play and the prize is huge. And it's fast and easy too! Advertising is not all bad and can help in the information gathering process but the key is getting real information not a sales pitch. Search and select based on reality not pie in the sky.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Quick Note About Posted Links

In some stories or postings I've made I will put a link to the story or article of interest. However sometimes the posting which can be current at the time no longer is available due to the passage of time. Usually with court cases that is not a problem because they are kept posted for 2 years or longer. But every now and then a perfectly good link becomes unavailable. This can happen with news articles or if the website I am sending you to has changed. If you are really interested in the link you might try going over to the way back machine at and they may be able to go back in time to the old link.