Monday, August 21, 2017

What Should I Do If I’m Injured on the Job?

If you sustain an injury in the course and scope of your employment in the state of Minnesota, you have certain rights under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act. Here is a very basic, step-by-step checklist to follow after an injury to ensure your rights are protected.

Step 1: Report your injury

  • When your injury occurs, make sure your supervisor knows about it. Notifying your supervisor can be as simple as writing an email stating the date of your injury, how and where your injury occurred, and which body parts were affected. 
  • When you return to the station or firehouse, make sure that a First Report of Injury is filed. Minor injuries can quickly turn into major injuries and there are strict reporting guidelines under the Minnesota Workers Compensation Act. It is important to be covered in the future, so make sure to report ALL of your injuries. 
  • An employer may require you to fill out a supplemental injury report, such as a supervisor’s report, incident report, IOD or JD. You should complete these reports. Also make sure a First Report of Injury is completed. The First Report of Injury form is necessary in the context of workers’ compensation. 


Step 2: Seek treatment for your injury

  • If you sustain an injury while on duty you must seek treatment in order to protect your rights. This can be as simple as a visit to the emergency room, urgent care or to your family physician. Filling out an IOD is not enough.
  • An employer may require that you make an appointment with a physician of their choosing, but you have the right (and should) choose your own doctor for purposes of ongoing care.


Step 3: Ensure the bill is paid by the workers’ compensation insurer

  • Once one bill is paid on your behalf by the workers’ compensation insurer it is deemed an admitted injury. This means that for the rest of your life your rights are vested under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act and the statute of limitations does not apply. 


Step 4: Call Meuser Law Office, P.A. to review your options

  • We offer police officers and firefighters free, no-obligation consultations in person or over the phone at any point throughout the claims process. We pride ourselves on representing those who spend their lives protecting and serving the public, and are happy to answer any questions you may have about your potential claims. 

Don’t wait to get an attorney involved if you have a Minnesota workers’ compensation claim. The process can be complex and you want to be sure you receive the full benefits you are entitled. Contact Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free no-obligation consultation and claim evaluation. At Meuser Law Office, P.A. we keep our clients informed of the process as well as what to expect each step of the way. Call us today at 1-877-746-5680.

Ashley Biermannby Ashley Biermann
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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sustained an Injury in the Line of Duty?

If you have sustained an injury in the line of duty, you may be entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of benefits. There are several types of benefits available to Minnesota’s first responders who have been injured in the line of duty, depending on the individual circumstances of the case. It can be complicated to coordinate all the different types of benefits to ensure you are maximizing your financial recovery. Working with an attorney who is experienced in this area of the law is in your best interest.

Types of Benefits Available for Injured Peace Officers:

Workers’ Compensation:  Under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act, injured police officers may be entitled to medical, vocational, and wage loss benefits. These benefits include, but are not limited to, temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent total disability, permanent partial disability, vocational rehabilitation services, and retraining benefits. Wage loss benefits are based on the officer’s earnings 26 weeks before the date of injury, from all sources of employment. Many departments also add in injured on duty time to the work comp benefits or allow officers to add in a portion of stored sick or vacation time.

Covered medical treatments include but are not limited to: doctor appointments, chiropractic care, surgery, injections, massage therapy, physical therapy, mental health counseling, prescriptions, pain programs, and acupuncture. Medical care must be both reasonable and necessary for services to be covered. Injured employees are also entitled to medical mileage as well as the reimbursement of certain types of attorney fees.

PERA Duty Disability:  PERA Duty Disability Benefits entitle police officers injured in the line of duty who are no longer able to perform the normal duties of a police officer to 60% of the officer’s “high five” earnings, 60 consecutive months of the member’s highest wages, through age 55 or 5 years from the date of filing, whichever is longer. In order to qualify injured officers must have sustained an injury performing inherently dangerous duties specific to police officers. Additional requirements apply to police officers with injuries over two years old applying for Duty Disability benefits.

Healthcare Continuation under Minnesota Statute §299A.465:  After PERA awards an injured member Duty Disability Benefits or an officer who is over age 55 with over 20 years of service directly applies, an injured police officer is entitled to healthcare coverage through age 65 as if the officer remained with the department. If the officer had family coverage at the time of the injury, his or her family also retains healthcare coverage. Extrapolated over the course of the benefit, this benefit is frequently worth over $500,000. Similar requirements apply to police officers applying for Duty Disability benefits.

Personal Injury:  If police officers are injured in the line of duty due to the negligence of a third-party, such as a person resisting arrest or a negligent driver in a motor vehicle collision, injured officers may bring a civil claim against the negligent party and in motor vehicle cases, claims against under-insured and uninsured motorist insurance policies. These claims include monetary recovery for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, past and future wage loss, past and future medical treatment, and are in addition to PERA and work comp benefits. If the injuries are so severe that the officer is no longer able to return to work as police officer, he or she may be entitled to very significant sums in addition to PERA/MSRS disability benefits, healthcare continuation benefits, and Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits.

Here are a few more things you may not know:

PTSD is covered under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act. PERA and MSRS also recognize PTSD as a covered disability for Duty Disability benefits and healthcare continuation benefits under §299A.465.
Work comp benefits and personal injury monies are non-taxable. PERA Duty Disability benefits are non-taxable until the age 55 or until the benefit converts to a regular retirement benefit.
Unless there is a dispute, attorney fees are not charged in workers’ compensation cases. Attorney fees in personal injury and work comp cases are contingent. Unless we recover monies on your behalf we do not charge a fee.
Strict time limits exist as to when injured officers may bring a workers’ compensation, personal injury, or PERA/MSRS disability claim.

Contact Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free, no-obligation case evaluation and consultation. The knowledgeable attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. take the time with each client to help determine which benefits under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act you are entitled as well as discuss PERA Duty Disability benefits and Healthcare Continuation Benefits under Minnesota Statute §299A.465. Call us today at 877-746-5680.

Mary Beth Boyceby Mary Beth
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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Employee Who Separates from Date of Injury Employer Due to PERA Duty Disability Remains Entitled to Wage Loss Benefits

Accepting an award of PERA Duty Disability Benefits does not prevent firefighters, police officers, deputy sheriffs, and corrections officers from receiving wage loss benefits, including temporary partial disability benefits under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act.

A member approved for PERA Duty Disability benefits must separate from his or her position covered under the applicable plan, Police and Fire or Corrections, before receiving benefits. Members are encouraged to work in a different capacity. PERA Duty Disability benefits are not the same as PERA permanent and total disability benefits, members may work and still receive work comp benefits, PERA benefits, and income from a new employer. When the member begins working with a new employer and earns less than from the previous city or county employment, he or she will be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits from Minnesota workers’ compensation.

Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits are wage loss benefits available to injured workers under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act who are able to return to work, but at a reduced wage because of his or her work injury. TPD is available for a total of 225 weeks but no more than 450 weeks after the date of injury. TPD is paid out at a rate of 2/3 of the difference between what the employee was making at the time of the injury or average weekly wage and the reduced earnings. Like other work comp benefits, TPD benefits are non-taxable.

In order to receive TPD injured workers must:

(1) Suffer a work-related injury
(2) Experience a loss of earning capacity as a result of that injury
(3) Be able to work, subject to restrictions
(4) Experience an actual loss of earning capacity

It is well settled law that “[a]n injured worker is not forever bound to his employer in order to retain his entitlement to benefits.” Boutto v. U.S. Steel Corp., slip. Op., No. WC06-288 (W.C.C.A. July 18, 2007). This means that an injured employee does not have to continue to work for the date of injury employer as a prerequisite to receiving work comp benefits. Anything less would force injured workers to be at the mercy of the employer.

This is especially the case when injured workers leave the date of injury employer as a result of PERA awarding PERA Duty Disability benefits. “The fact that the employee accepted an early retirement incentive from his employer for reasons unrelated to his injury or that he remains physically able to perform his previous job is not relevant to the question of whether the employee’s actual loss of earning capacity is causally related to the work injury.” Id. “[I]t is well settled that termination from employment for reasons not connected to the work injury does not preclude an award of temporary partial disability benefits.” Id.

Employers and insurers hate having to pay employees wage loss benefits who separate due to his or her PERA Duty Disability and will look for any excuse to cut off the payment of such benefits. Attorneys may have to file claim petitions or send letters to demand payment.

Meuser Law Office, P.A. is one of the few workers’ compensation law firms in the state of Minnesota that also handles PERA and MSRS disability claims. We’ve successfully represented hundreds of State Patrol, police officers and firefighters throughout the state for both workers’ compensation and PERA/MSRS disability claims. Sitting down with us for a consultation to learn more about your potential claims is a lot like financial planning. We can explain what rights you have and make recommendations to you in terms of how to best protect your rights to those benefits. The knowledgeable attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. can help make the process easier to navigate. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 1-877-746-5680.

Mary Beth Boyceby Mary Beth
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What if the Critical Incidents Which Cause PTSD Happen Prior To October 1, 2013?

Frequently, Minnesota police officers, firefighters, and corrections officers worry that they may not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits arising out of his or her employment because the critical incidents pre-date October 1, 2013. Due to the nature of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), classifying PTSD as a specific injury with a specific “exposure” date may be illogical, especially in cases involving police officers who participate in many traumatic events during the course and scope of their employment. The law changed in Minnesota on October 1, 2013. PTSD is now compensable as a strictly mental-mental injury. The date of injury in these cases are particularly important because the date of injury determines what benefits are available to injured employees.

1. Minnesota Statute §176.011, subdivision 15, defines PTSD as an occupational disease

PTSD may also be considered an occupational disease. Therefore, the applicable date of injury is the date the employee became disabled or diagnosed, not a single specific traumatic exposure under Minn. Stat. §176.66, subd. 1. The employee’s entitlement to benefits is established by the law in effect on the date of disablement, not the law in effect on the last date of exposure. Stillson v. Peterson & Hede Co., 454 N.W.2d 430 (Minn. 1990). As set forth in Criterion G of the DSM-5, the diagnostic tool used to diagnosis PTSD as required by Minnesota Statute 176.011, subdivision 15(d), in order for an employee even be diagnosed with PTSD, the employee must experience a later functional disturbance or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of function. Many officers are exposed to traumatic events, but not all officers develop PTSD as they may not ever experience a functional impairment.

2. Minnesota Statute §176.011, subdivision 16, also allows PTSD to be defined as a Gillete type injury 

The date of injury in Gillete cases is the date of disablement and include ascertainable events that evidence the culmination of a disability, which include the date the employee initiated medical attention, date of a definite diagnosis, when the treating doctor determined the condition was work-related, and when the employee sought regular medical care. Schnurrer v. Hoerner-Waldorf, 345 N.W.2d 230 (Minn. 1984); Schaffer v. Minn. Orchestra, 53 W.C.D. 341 (1995); Reel v. Loftness Specialty Farm Equipment, slip op. (W.C.C.A. February 3, 2004); Neff v. Supervalue, Inc., 71 W.C.D. 217 (W.C.C.A. 2011); Cramer v. United Parcel Services., 72 W.C.D. 519 (W.C.C.A. 2012). As set forth in Criterion A in the DSM-5, PTSD may develop from the exposure to one or more traumatic events. It is questionable whether a physician could even pinpoint to a degree of medical certainty which event accounts for what percentage of the employee’s overall PTSD; therefore, the date of disablement is the logical date of injury.

3. A date of injury before October 1, 2013 does not bar an employee’s claim for benefits arising out of his or her PTSD post October 1, 2013

Even if an employee developed PTSD before October 1, 2013, his PTSD prior to October 1, 2013 would constitute a pre-existing condition. If subsequent traumatic events were substantial contributing causes or factors to the worsening of the condition, then his condition after October 1, 2013 would be compensable.

If you or someone you know suffers from PTSD due to a work-related accident or traumatic incident, you should consult with an attorney experienced in this area of the law. At Meuser Law Office, P.A., we have represented many clients with PTSD, including police officers, firefighters, first responders and correctional officers. We understand this nuanced area of the law and work with our client to ensure you receive the full benefits you are entitled. Contact Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a no-obligation consultation today. Don’t let the insurance company unfairly deny you benefits as a result of their misinterpretation of the law surrounding PTSD in Minnesota. Call us today at 1-877-746-5680.

Mary Beth Boyceby Mary Beth
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Friday, July 14, 2017

PERA Permanent and Total Disability vs PERA Duty Disability

PERA Duty Disability benefits and PERA Permanent Total Disability benefits entitle qualified members to 60% of the member’s average salary over his or her five highest-paid consecutive years of service, which is the equivalent to a retirement benefit based on 20 years of service. If members have in excess of 20 years of qualifying service he or she will receive an additional 3% for every year in excess of 20 years.

Police Officers and Firefighters injured in the line of duty face advantages and disadvantages when deciding to apply for PERA Permanent and Total Disability or PERA Duty Disability benefits.

(1) Requirements

PERA Permanent and Total Disability:  Members must demonstrate that they were disabled in the line of duty while performing inherently dangerous duties specific to the position covered by the plan and are unable to continue working in substantial gainful employment.

PERA Duty Disability:  Members must show that they were disabled in the line of duty while performing inherently dangerous duties specific to the position covered by the Police and Fire Plan. Members may be released to work in another capacity but are not able to fulfill all the normal duties of his or her date of injury position.

(2) Survivorship

PERA Permanent and Total Disability:  If the Duty Disability is total and permanent, the member is eligible for automatic survivor protection until age 55 or 5 years after the disability occurs, whichever is later. Survivor protection means should you die the spouse will receive a portion of the member’s disability pension for a set amount of time.

PERA Duty Disability:  If the member is approved for Duty Disability he or she may elect a survivorship option, such as single life, 50% or 100%. The monthly disability benefit is then reduced based on the option to pay for the elected survivorship option, which then functions like life insurance for the disabled member. When the Duty Disability converts to a retirement benefit, either in 5 years or at age 55, whichever is later, then the member may re-elect and change his or her survivorship option.

(3) Taxation

PERA Permanent and Total Disability:  The base 60% of the member’s five highest consecutive years of his or her salary remains non-taxable for life; however, the member’s benefits stemming from service in excess of 20 years is taxable.

PERA Duty Disability:  The base 60% of the member’s “high five” is non-taxable until the disability benefit converts to a retirement benefit. Benefits attributable to service in excess of 20 years is taxable, even when categorized as a disability benefit.

(4) Workers’ Compensation Offsets

PERA Permanent and Total Disability:  If PERA approves a member for permanent and total disability benefits, he or she remains in disability status for his or her lifetime and the benefit never converts to a retirement benefit.

If the member cannot work on a substantial gainful basis than he or she will not be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits in workers’ compensation benefits.

The member would likely be deemed “permanently totally disabled” in the workers’ compensation context as well. Permanent total disability benefits in work comp are completely offset by PERA disability benefits. Members frequently receive more in PERA disability benefits than they would be entitled to receive through work comp. Therefore, if members receive PERA permanent and total disability benefits they may not be entitled to any wage loss benefits from work comp.

PERA Duty Disability:  If PERA approves a member for Duty Disability benefits, then he or she is able to receive wage loss benefits from work comp in addition to his or her PERA benefits.

The member may receive work comp, PERA, and work in a different capacity. If he or she earns less money than the member did before the injury, then he or she may be entitled to temporary partial disability benefits. If these three sources of income are over 125% of the members “high five” income then the PERA benefit is reduced a dollar for every three dollars.

If the member is deemed “permanent and totally disabled” in the workers’ compensation context, then the member’s PERA Duty Disability benefits are offset until the PERA benefits convert to a retirement benefit.

If you are considering applying for PERA Duty Disability or PERA permanent and total disability benefits contact the attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free, no obligation consultation. Each case is unique you may be sacrificing hundreds of thousands of dollars if you apply for the wrong benefit. Our knowledgeable attorneys will help you understand the often confusing PERA Duty Disability benefit law and ensure you receive the full benefits you are entitled to. Call us today at 1-877-746-5680.

Mary Beth Boyceby Mary Beth
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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Meuser Law Office, P.A. Attorneys Speak at the St. Paul Firefighters Union Meeting

Ron Meuser, Mary Beth Boyce and Ashley Biermann of Meuser Law Office, P.A. were proud and honored to speak at the St. Paul Firefighters IAFF Local 21 Union membership meeting on June 6th & 7th, 2017 held in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The St. Paul Firefighters Local 21 has been representing St. Paul’s bravest since 1918. They are dedicated to making sure their members have the safest working conditions, fair wages and benefits, and provide the best fire, rescue and paramedic services in Minnesota.

Ron, Mary Beth and Ashley met with firefighters each day and spoke about the complex issues Minnesota’s first responders face when they are dealing with an injury sustained in the line of duty. Topics included the types of benefits available to our state’s first responders who are injured in the line of duty, including workers’ compensation, PERA Police and Fire Duty Disability, Continuation of Health Insurance Benefits Minn. Stat § 299A.465, as well as unique situations. Ron, Mary Beth and Ashley also presented information regarding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and firefighters, including the new workers’ compensation rules that govern PTSD claims, as well as complex coordination rules that apply specifically to Minnesota’s peace officers who receive Duty Disability and workers’ compensation benefits.  The attorneys also fielded many great questions from the attendees regarding the coordination of benefits, timing of filing for benefits and PTSD claims.

Meuser Law Office, P.A. is one of the few workers’ compensation law firms in the state of Minnesota that also handles PERA and MSRS disability claims. We’ve successfully represented hundreds of Minnesota first responders for both workers’ compensation and PERA/MSRS disability claims. Sitting down with us to learn more about your potential claim is a lot like financial planning. We can explain what rights you have and make recommendations to you in terms of how to best protect your rights to those benefits. The knowledgeable attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. can help the often-complex process easier to navigate. Contact us today for a free no-obligation consultation by calling 1-877-746-5680.

Ron Meuserby Ron Meuser
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What Is the Superseding Intervening Cause Defense In My Workers’ Compensation Case?

The superseding intervening cause defense is one of the few defenses in Minnesota workers’ compensation law that can result in a complete bar to all benefits claimed that are attributable to the superseding event. The next natural question is, what is a superseding cause? Insurers argue that a wide range of activities constitute a superseding intervening cause, but that does not mean the court will agree. The central question to determine whether the event was a superseding intervening cause is, was the employee acting unreasonably when the event occurred? If the employee is deemed to have been acting unreasonably when the event occurred, the event will be deemed to be an independent cause of disability and the employee will lose all workers’ compensation benefits.

What? ‘Unreasonable’ is a pretty broad standard, what are some specific examples of how the court ruled in these cases?

In the following situations, the court ruled there WAS a superseding intervening cause, which cut off the employee’s benefits:
  • The employee sustained injuries to his left and right shoulder at work. He did not miss work following this injury and he did not have any physical restrictions. Subsequently, he sustained a right shoulder injury when he fell on the ice and a left shoulder injury when he fell off of a small step stool at home. Following the at-home injuries, the employee missed time from work and underwent shoulder surgery. Hendrickson v. Potlatch Corp., 43 W.C.D 212 (1990). 
  • The employee sustained a low back injury at work, which required two surgeries. After the second surgery, the employee was caught shoplifting on two occasions and was seen running away from the scene. After these shoplifting incidents, the employee sought additional treatment for the low back, including a spinal fusion. Winkelman v. Sandoz Nutrition (W.C.C.A. 1992).
  • The employee sustained a work injury in 1981. By 1987, the employee had nearly returned to “normal” until she was in a motor vehicle collision resulting in further disability. Austin v. Coca-Cola Bottling (W.C.C.A. 1991).
  • The employee sustained a work-related low back injury, which required surgery and the employee had ongoing problems. Eleven years later, the employee was playing softball in the snow and sustained another injury requiring surgery. Cummins v. Ryan Construction Co., 37 W.C.D (1984).
  • The employee sustained a work-related injury, underwent surgery, completed a retraining program and returned to employment. Subsequently, the employee was roller skating and sustained a non-work related injury to the same area of the back. Gaspers v. Minneapolis Electric Steel Castings, 290 N.W.2d 743 (Minn. 1979). 
In the following situations, the court ruled that there was NO superseding intervening cause, and therefore the employee’s benefits were payable/awarded:
  • The employee injured a knee in a badminton game and the cast applied to treat this non-work related injury aggravated his previous, work-related back injury. Eide v. Whirlpool Seeger Corp., 109 N.W.2d 47 (Minn. 1961).
  • The employee sustained a work-related injury to an arm. Subsequently, the employee moved a couch at home, which was outside of physical restrictions. The employee testified that the non-injured arm was used to move the couch away from the wall. Johnson v. Waseca Independent School District No. 829 (W.C.C.A. 2003). 
  • The employee sustained a work-related eye condition, which made him more vulnerable to re-injury. The employee subsequently walked into a door jamb at home and required surgery on his eye. Michlitsch v. Michlitsch Builders, Inc. (W.C.C.A. 2006).
  • The employee aggravated a previous work injury when the employee slipped and fell on ice outside of the home. Scholz v. LeBistro CafĂ© (W.C.C.A 2007). 
Now remember, context is important for each of the examples listed above. The court will not rule that every employee playing a game of badminton was acting reasonably at the time. Similarly, it will not rule that every fall off of a step ladder will constitute a superseding intervening cause. Much of the court’s determination on this issue depends on the employee’s medical history, the extent of previous treatment relating to the work injury, the employee’s physical restrictions, and the extent of the new injury and treatment.

The knowledgeable attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. will be able to distinguish or analogize to the cases listed above, in addition to similar cases on the subject matter, to support your claim and fight to get you the benefits to which you are entitled.

The Legal Standard – in a Nutshell

The defense of superseding intervening cause is a defense that uses negligence principles. The court must determine whether the employee was acting unreasonably when the event occurred. If the employee is acting unreasonably when the event occurred, the event will be deemed an independent cause of disability and the employee can be denied benefits.

If the court determines that the employee was performing a normal activity of everyday life, the event will not constitute a superseding intervening cause. The Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals held that when a work injury creates a permanently weakened physical condition and the employee’s subsequent normal activities aggravates that underlying condition, the resulting medical treatment is compensable. The proper test to determine whether an incident is a superseding intervening cause is the substantial contributing cause test, not the “but for” test. In other words, it is not enough for the insurer to argue that but for Sally falling on the ice at home, she would not have needed back surgery. In this example, the insurer would have to show that Sally’s initial back injury at work was not a substantial contributing cause or factor for her present disability. It is also important to note that the burden of proof is on the employer to show that the work injury is not a substantial contributing cause or factor to the present disability in the context of this defense.

Don’t wait to get an attorney involved if you have a Minnesota workers’ compensation claim. The process can be complex and you want to be sure you receive the full benefits you are entitled. Contact Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free no-obligation consultation and claim evaluation. At Meuser Law Office, P.A. we keep our clients informed of the process as well as what to expect each step of the way. Call us today at 1-877-746-5680.

Ashley Biermannby Ashley Biermann
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