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Rice Law Office Blog

This blog reviews important legal issues including: personal injury, employee compensation, workers compensation, discrimination and wrongful termination.

Worker's Compensation: 5 is the Magic Number

The number of employees at a firm significantly alters the rules and regulations governing the way those employees must be treated.  For workers compensation, the number to know is five.  For example, all employers with five or more employees are required to develop temporary alternative work opportunities for their injured employees. This means if an employee is injured on the job and has physical limitations as a result, the employee is entitled to return to work in an accommodated position which takes into account the work injury. If the employer is unable to provide the temporary alternative work then the employee may be entitled to total disability benefits. This makes sense because the employee is capable of working in some capacity and would be back to work if not for the fact that the employer is unable to provide the necessary accommodation. The number five is also relevant when it comes to reinstatement of employees who have suffered a work injury. Employers with five or more employees must reinstate an injured employee back into his or her former position of employment upon request as long as the position still exists, is available and the employee is not disabled from performing the duties of that position with reasonable accommodations. This right to reinstatement extends 18 months from the date of original injury and provides important job protection for injured workers.  There are some exceptions to the right to reinstatement, but for most employees it means that their job must be held open, even if it is temporarily filled by another employee, during the period of absence due to a work injury.  Temporary alternative duty (TAD) provides protection for an employee while the employee is still disabled but able to work in some fashion, while reinstatement provides the opportunity to return to the employee’s original position even if the employee still requires some reasonable accommodation for the employee’s limitations. If you have questions about your right to return to work after a serious work injury, contact Attorney Rice for a free telephone consultation, or visit our website.
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My Injury Case: What To Do and What To Expect-Practical Tips and Answers to the Most Common Questions. Part II

PART TWO

Tell Me: How Can I Afford an Injury Attorney, What is a Contingent Fee, What will My Injury Attorney do first and What Is My Case Worth?This is part two of our three part article, My Injury Case: What To Do and What To Expect-Practical Tips and Answers to the Most Common Questions. In part one we addressed the initial phone consultation and office meeting and gave you inside tips as to what questions you should ask to improve your outcome. In this, part two of our discussion, we answer some of the most common questions clients have: How Can I Afford to Hire an Injury Attorney, What is a Contingent Fee and What is My Case Worth? We also address what happens after you hire an attorney.In Part three, we will explain what is means to "settle" your case and discuss the considerations that go into deciding whether your case will settle or go to trial and what you can do to help your case along.

QUESTION #1: How does the Attorney get paid? I don't have enough money to pay for all this!ANSWER:

In almost all strong personal injury cases Attorneys will offer their clients a contingent fee agreement. We do this at Rice Law Office in most personal injury case and also in worker's compensation, Social Security and some employment cases. This means your attorney will be paid by keeping a percentage or portion of the final settlement or court award resulting from your injury. In a contingent fee arrangement, you are not expected to pay your attorney and hourly rate for his or her services. Essentially, the attorney gets paid only if and when you get paid and that fee comes out of your award. This contingent fee arrangement should be described in writing so there will be no misunderstanding about the fees your attorney will charge or how much your case will cost.

QUESTION #2: If I hire an attorney to represent me in a personal injury claim caused by the negligence of another, what will my attorney do first?ANSWER

Once you hire an attorney, they should handle all the phone calls, leg work and paperwork for you. After the initial office meeting (addressed in our first article) our office usually takes the following steps to begin:

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My Injury Case: What To Do and What To Expect:Practical Tips and Answers To the Most Common Questions

PART ONE: I'VE BEEN INJURED IN AN ACCIDENT,

You've been injured and you are in pain, the bills are coming in, you're missing work, the doctors are talking in another language and you don't know what to do.  To make matters worse, you are getting phone calls now from insurance adjusters and you're not even sure who they are. Are they from your insurance company or the other guy's company?  They want to take your statement or maybe, they are offering you money to "settle", what are you supposed to do?  On top of it all, your boss is calling and asking when you will be back- you're worried you might lose your job while you are out recovering.  It's too much to deal with and the stakes have never been higher.  YOU NEED HELP. 

THERE IS HELP OUT THERE AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE RICH TO GET IT.

First, you start by contacting an injury lawyer who will give you a FREE CONSULATION to discuss your injury claim.  Ok,  but then what? In this three part article we will empower you with the information you need to protect yourself and your loved ones. We will give you insider Tips and actual Questions you can ask your attorney to improve your outcome.

We will tell you what you can do, and what to expect if you have been injured and need help. In this first article we'll tell you about what you should expect from the initial call and that first the office visit with an injury attorney. We'll also give you practical tips and actual questions you can ask to help choose an attorney.  In the next article we will tell you  how you can afford an attorney without paying an expensive hourly rate  and explain what your attorney will do for you in the initial stages of representation. Finally, we will address common questions clients have about case value, demands and settlement.

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CAR ACCIDENT? HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Question:I was in a car accident and the insurance company for the other driver has already contacted me. Is it okay for me to give them a statement?

Answer:No, not if you have been injured. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, you should first seek an experienced personal injury attorney before giving any statements to the insurance company.

Question:I was in a car accident two weeks ago and the insurance company for the other driver has already offered to pay me for my injuries. Is it okay for me to take the check?

Answer:It may be, but first you should consult with a personal injury attorney. It is possible that the insurance company is simply offering to assist you with your ongoing medical bills or make payment for your damage to your vehicle, but they may also be attempting to make an offer in settlement. Acceptance of that payment may require that you sign a release of all claims. Depending on the circumstances, especially if you have been injured, it would not be wise to sign any kind of release or accept payment without first consulting an attorney. Once you have released your claim, any additional treatment, injuries or loss wages will not be covered by the insurance company. So, while a quick payment may seem tempting, there may be huge consequences attached. That check today may leave you with huge bills to pay tomorrow. Be patient and be smart because if it seems to good to be true... it probably is

Question:I’ve Been Hurt in a Car Accident, How Do I Know if I Have a Case?

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WHAT IS NEW HAMPSHIRE DOING TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY FROM MEASLES?

With the recent outbreak of measles on the rise across the country questions about immunization requirements have become a hot topic of debate.

At present no cases of measles have been reported in New Hampshire in this recent outbreak, but how likely is that to change? According to a recent story by WMUR's Josh McElveen, Health officials attribute New Hampshire’s clean health record largely to an immunization rate that is among the highest in the country. (published 2/4/15, www.WMUR.com).  The State Department of Health and Human Services, indicates more than 97% of school age children in New Hampshire have received the state required immunizations for diseases ranging from the measles to polio.

So what is the law regarding immunization of children in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire requires mandatory vaccination for children attending School or daycare in New Hampshire, with two permitted exemptions: religious and medical. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services website www.dhhs.nh.gov details New Hampshire's mandated vaccinations and provides guidance as to the standards for medical and religious exemption.

Medical exemptions are available to parents or legal guardians of a child for whom immunization against a particular disease may be detrimental to the child's health. In order to obtain a medical exemption certificate the parent or legal guardian must acquire written documentation from a licensed physician or authorized healthcare provider that certifies that immunization against a particular disease may be detrimental to the child's health. The exemption shall exist only for the length of time, in the opinion of the physician; such immunization will be detrimental to the child. Moreover, an exemption from immunization for one disease shall not affect other required immunizations. In other words, an inability to undergo one particular type of immunization does not automatically entitle a child to an exemption from all immunizations across the board.

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SUPER BOWL OFFICE BRACKETS: FUN, SOCIAL, SUPER ILLEGAL?

In the United States, certain sporting events are ingrained into the very fabric of national culture- each year, hundreds of millions of people tune in for events like the Super Bowl and College Basketball’s March Madness. One common phenomenon is the office betting pool or bracket- often a lighthearted and social activity- however it is important to consider the legal status of this practice. Despite the fact that every year billions of dollars are wagered in unofficial office pools during the Super Bowl and March Madness, your office gambling is likely illegal.

Statutes in almost every state prohibit office gambling pools, and in every state but Nevada, gambling on college sports is illegal all together. Despite the questionable legal status of these office pools, they persist across the entire country.

Estimates suggest that 50 million American’s participated in March Madness office pools this year, with over $2.5 billion on the line

Some estimates suggest that total betting on the Super Bowl was over $10 billion this year

College football wagers are estimated to total over $60 billion

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MIND-BODY CONNECTION: DEPRESSION AND ITS ROLE IN MAXIMIZING SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

MIND-BODY CONNECTION: DEPRESSION AND ITS ROLE IN MAXIMIZING SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

While it is certainly possible to receive social security based upon one impairment alone, it is not likely. Most cases are won by individuals suffering from multiple impairments, both physical and mental. The fact is, our mind and body are connected and chances are if one isn’t functioning correctly, the other is also impacted.

Indeed, claimants who suffer from a severe disabling condition almost always have accompanying depression and/or anxiety. When you consider the effects of a serious injury or condition, this outcome should be expected. Serious injuries and medical conditions inevitably lead to altered work routines, additional financial pressure because of lack of income, as well as changes in the types of social, athletic and recreational activities in which you can engage. This creates stress and anxiety which can be disruptive in personal and family relationships.

Moreover, the strong medications used to treat chronic pain often effect sleep patterns and even cognition. Lack of sleep combined with powerful pain medications can affect concentration- many patients have described feeling like they are in a fog, or just "not themselves" any more.

It should come as no surprise that serious physical disabilities are often accompanied by depression and anxiety. What you may not realize, is that it is crucial these mental health symptoms are included in the social security disability application. In determining whether an individual’s physical or mental impairment are of a sufficient severity in order to be eligible for social security benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must consider in accordance with the law (42 USC § 423(d)(2)(B) the combined effect of all of the individual’s impairments.

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Disabled Veterans Applying for Social Security

Disabled Veterans Applying for Social Security

Disabled veterans may be eligible for both social security and veterans disability benefits at the same time, and its important to pursue both options to maximize benefits. Since Veteran Affairs (VA) compensation, or service connected disability, is not based on income, veterans are potentially eligible to receive VA compensation and social security disability (SSDI) simultaneously. Pension benefits are part of the need-based program, and are very similar to supplemental social security income (SSI) offered through the Social Security Administration. While veterans must establish that they suffer from a service connected disability in order to be eligible for VA compensation, veterans who have very little or no income and who are disabled based on non-service disabilities, may also be entitled to compensation under the VA pension plan. Social Security Disability (SSDI) and VA compensation typically offer more generous benefits than either SSI or VA pension. However, it is certainly worthwhile to be aware of these other need-based programs.

One significant difference between social security disability and veterans disability is that claimant doesn’t need to establish the total disability in order to be eligible for VA disability compensation. In general, the Social Security Administration only pays benefits to people who are totally disabled, not partially disabled, or suffering from short-term disability. Claimants are considered disabled if they cannot do work that they did before and if social security decides that the claimant cannot adjust to other work because of his or her medical condition. In addition, the claimant’s disability must last or be expected to last for 12 months or in some cases be expected to result in death. This is not the case with the VA disability compensation. In fact, most veterans who receive VA compensation do not receive a total disability rating. Veterans can receive a compensation rating as low as the 10% level. As mentioned above, another major difference between the two benefit programs is that while the VA only considers service connected disabilities (for VA compensation), the Social Security Administration will consider all impairments regardless of whether they are service related or not.

Establishing a compensable disability rating for purposes of VA benefits may actually improve your chances for being deemed eligible for social security benefits; the higher the rating, the more likely you are to be successful in your bid for social security. In fact, it is the rule in some circuits that VA ratings are entitled to "great weight" when determining a claimant’s application for social security disability. This is because another federal agency has already found that you are either incapable of work or you are at a level where full-time work would be very difficult.

Finally, keep in mind a social security claim for survivor benefits based on the death of a veteran also constitutes a VA claim for death benefits. They are said to be received by the VA at the same time as they are received by the SSA. In seeking death benefits or disability benefits, it is absolutely vital that claimant contact both the Social Security Administration and the Veterans Administration to explore all of the benefits available.

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October is a busy Month- here's the update!

Its been a busy month at Rice Law Office with speaking engagements, a busy litigation calendar and radio spot with WEMJ. 

Attorney Rice had the honor of being invited to speak at the State NEA teachers' fall convention earlier this month, followed by a presentation for the New Hampshire Bar Association the next Friday, where she spoke about employment litigation from the Plaintiff's point of view.  She was joined by a panel of employment attorneys from both sides of the table, representing the issues most important to employers and employees alike.  The month was capped off with a guest spot @WEMJ1490 radio for open mic with Pat Kelly, where Anne and Pat talked about the ins and outs of employment law basics, here in New Hampshire. 

At the NH bar seminar Anne talked about the intake process and how critical it is to choose cases carefully and then to consider what is best for the client as the driving force for moving forward. Trial attorneys love to litigate, its what we do, but for most "normal" people the process can be stressful, expensive and time consuming.  There are alternative routes to resolution and good counsel should talk to clients about different ways to get the best outcome, with the least time, stress and cost. We should talk to clients about all the remedies available, including disability insurance, retirement, social security, worker's compensation as well as options for litigation like, claims for wrongful termination, discrimination, or wage violations and the like. 

Each type of claim has its pros and cons.  Some take longer, some are harder to prove and some have greater or lesser remedies available.  A claim for discrimination or wrongful termination can take years to bring for example, but disability insurance, unemployment or worker's compensation may provide a faster source of income to tide an employee over in the meantime.   Employees need to know how they will pay their mortgage and keep help insurance pending litigation, but law suits take time!  As employment attorneys we need to help sustain our clients as they await justice by providing information, resources and other options for help.

It starts with listening.  It's important to listen to clients to help them determine which choice might be best.  Employees who are hurt at work, treated poorly or fired, often feel like they have lost all control.  Their world is turned upside down when their job is at risk.  The truth is, our jobs define our schedule, our security and sometimes who we are.  When a job is threatened or pulled out from underneath us, it is frightening and it affects every aspect of our lives and the lives of our family. 

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BEWARE: IRS PHONE SCAM

There is a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country and it is targeting NH residents as well. 

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. These scammers may even have caller ID numbers that appear to be from the IRS, the court or the police Deprtment and their tactics are aggressive.

Don't fall prey to this scam. 

Here's what you need to know:

The IRS does not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer, says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel.“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”

People should know that according to the IRS, the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail and not the phone.

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NOT IN THE MEDICAL RECORD? THEN YOUR DISABILITY DOESN’T EXIST

In the early days of my practice, one of my partners used to say, "unfortunately, if it is not in the medical record, it doesn’t exist." While this is not entirely true, the best evidence in a disability case is often found in the form of medical documentation, and the only way to get that evidence, is to go to the doctor.  However, for most people who are unemployed and without income or health insurance, getting necessary medical documentation can seem like an impossible task. 

It feels like a no-win argument, right? I mean, how can I possibly afford to go to the doctor to document every physical condition?  I'm sick or injured so I can't work; when I lost my job, I lost my health insurance and without an income, I don't have the money to pay for expensive doctor appointments, but without the doctor appointment, I don't have the records and without the records, I can't prove I'm eligible for disability so I can't get health coverage or disability benefits!  It seems insane, we know.   

Every day we see clients making choices between medical care and groceries. When you don’t have enough money to pay the rent or put food on the table, there really is no choice: you forgo treatment. The problem is, this can become a huge obstacle to your claim for benefits. Claimants who tell the judge they are in constant pain but who do not seek treatment may not come off as credible.  If you are injured or hurting, you need to be able to prove that with more than your word; it is vital that your testimony is supported by the medical record.   

What’s the answer? You must begin building a medical record. Even if you haven’t been going to the doctor regularly up until now, it is absolutely vital that you begin doing so immediately. It will be hard if you don't have health insurance, but there is help out there and you will need it.  See if you are eligible for Medicaid or Obama Care and speak to your doctor or hospital, because almost every county has a clinic or a hospital that will see patients at reduced cost if you truly aren't able to afford care. If you are a veteran, go to your local VA and definitely go to your local welfare office in your county and also in your town.  You can also check with your church or place of worship if you have one, as they might have a fund to help in cases such as yours.  There are resources out there, but you will have to work to find them. 

You may not be employed, but you have a lot of work to do and for now, your job is to seek out and get services for your physical and mental disabilities.  You must establish a relationship with a doctor, and attend follow up visits as well as any referrals which are made to see specialists. Whether you are applying for social security or private disability, they need to see records of your condition and care over time, not just once or twice. 

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Motorcycle & ATV Accidents

It's that time of year when riders take that last sweet ride of the season in the open air and think about putting the bike away until next spring.  As you close things up for the season, its a good time to be sure you are not just protecting your vehicle, but that you are taking care of yourself and your riders too.  We all know motorcycles are less stable and less visible than cars and sure, it follows that they're more likely to be in a crash, but did you know that according to the NHTSA the fatality rate for motorcyclists in 2006 was 5.5 times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants?  While motorcycles account for only 3% of all registered motor vehicle and 0.4% of vehicle miles traveled in 2006, 4810 people died in motorcycle accidents in 2006.  This is fun that comes with a risk.  We all know that, but are we all fully protected?  What would happen if you were hurt riding? 

According to the NHTSA, motorcycle drivers and their passengers are more exposed and thus they are more likely to suffer general bodily injury, head injury and more serious injuries then a comparable impact involving automobiles. It makes sense then to learn that when motorcyclists are injured, through no fault of their own, they are typically awarded higher damages as a result of their high medical bills, extensive pain and suffering and the lost wages they incur.

The problem is, even when a claim is valid, motorcyclists face the obstacle of prejudice and the public perception that they are reckless drivers. This means it is all that more important that if you or your loved one is hurt as a result of a motorcycle accident, you seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney as soon as possible in order to maximize the chances for success in obtaining all the compensation to which you are entitled.

At Rice Law Office, our attorneys will help you through this difficult time, providing support by dealing with the insurance companies, attorneys, and other accident parties so you can focus on what is important, getting better and getting back to your life. The attorneys at Rice Law Office provide tough and compassionate representation, directed at moving your case forward and obtaining full compensation for you and your family. We will fight to get every dollar allowed by law and work to resolve your accident case faster with less stress and less anxiety.

If you have questions, call Rice Law Office now for a free, no obligation telephone consultation at (603) 528-5299.

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The Five Benefits Available To Injured Workers In NH

The FIVE Benefits Available to Injured Employees Under NH Worker's Compensation Law If you're an employee hurt at work, you are entitled to protection under the Worker's Compensation statute, but what does that really mean? Well, it comes down to Five Basic Catagories of Protection and here they are: 1).    Lost Wages. The law says, If you are hurt at work during the course of your employment, you are entitled to compensation for your lost wages which you suffer as a result of your injury. That's great, right? Well, sort of. The reality is, there are all sorts of exceptions and limitations to the law. First off, your lost wages are based upon your average weekly wage earned over the 26 to 52 weeks before your date of injury. The bad news is, you will not be compensated for that raise you were just about to receive as future raises aren't taken into account.  The good news is, The law entitles you to use the highest average weekly wage within that 26 to 52 week time period. That means, if you worked a lot of overtime in weeks 36 through 52, for example, there is a way to take that into account and to use those weeks to your advantage when calculating your highest average weekly wage. A worker's compensation attorney can help you get the information you need and to communicate with the Worker's Compensation carrier to get you the highest compensation rate to which you are entitled.This is really important because you will be compensated for your lost wages at a rate of 60% of that average weekly wage. That's 40% less than what you were earning when you got hurt! This sounds like quite a blow, but it's not quite as bad as it sounds because your Worker's Compensation benefits are tax-free. While it's doubtful injured employees are being taxed at a rate of 40%, once you calculate in your employer's withholdings for federal income tax, Social Security and the like, many employees find that their Worker's Compensation benefit is really only about 10 to 15% below their actual take-home pay. Still, that's a heck of a hit for most people, who need every penny of their paycheck to make ends meet. Another surprise to many injured workers is the fact that lost wage benefits are limited in time. Although employees are entitled to receive 60% of their average weekly wage for the time period that they are out of work due to an injury, if the injured employee is given even a partial return to work, those benefits will likely be limited to five years.  So, for example an employee who has significantly lost the use of his right hand as a result of a work injury, may be released to work light duty in a job that doesn't require the use of his right hand. For mechanic or an iron worker that may mean the end of a career, but the Worker's Compensation carrier will argue that there are other jobs that this employee can perform and therefore the carrier will seek to reduce benefits upon return to work and may seek to terminate benefits at the end of five years, even if the employee still has limitations after that time period. A good worker's compensation attorney can explain these benefits in greater detail and work with you to maximize both your compensation rate and the time period for which you are eligible for ongoing pay. 2).     Reimbursement for Medical Expenses  Injured employees are entitled to receive reimbursement for medical expenses which are reasonable, necessary, and related to the work injury.  The key to receiving this benefit is twofold; first employees have to make sure that they explain to their medical provider how they were hurt and do this in the very first appointment and every appointment thereafter. Second, employees must be sure that each medical provider completes the required Worker's Compensation medical form accurately and completely. The fact is, medical reimbursement is not automatic, employees are only entitled to medical reimbursement where the medical records demonstrate that the treatment is reasonable necessary and related to the work injury. This means your doctor must document how you got hurt, indicate if your condition is caused by your work injury, and explain how he comes to that conclusion. It's your job to help make sure that this information is included in your records, if you hope to get your medical bills paid by the insurance company. Every medical provider in the state of New Hampshire is required to complete a Worker's Compensation medical form for each employee treated as a result of a work injury. These forms provide basic information about how you got hurt, whether you can go back to work, and if so, whether there are any limitations placed on you as a result of your injury. These forms also ask the doctor whether your condition is related to the work injury which you suffered. This last piece of information is absolutely critical to an employee's ability to get Worker's Compensation coverage. Unfortunately, doctors are busy and sometimes forget to fill these forms out completely, which results in inaccurate and/or confusing documentation which can hurt an employees claim. You can increase your chances of getting bills paid and avoiding a denial if benefits by simply reviewing that form after every appointment. You are entitled to a copy of that form and most offices provide it to you on your way out the door. Just take a moment to look it over before you leave the office to be sure that it has been completed in its entirety and that it accurately reflects what you and your doctor talked about. If the doctor forgot to fill in the description of your injury or markdown limitations which he described to you during the office visit, you need to bring this to the attention of his staff and ask for a correction BEFORE you leave the office. For some people, this might feel uncomfortable, but remember, filling out these forms completely and accurately is as important to the doctor and the insurance company as it is to you. Simply be direct, clear and polite in bringing the omission to your doctor's attention. In most cases, the staff will immediately and happily correct any oversight or errors on that form. The fact is, in order for the doctors to receive payment for your visit, they need those forms to be filled out correctly and they will likely be pleased that you brought any omissions or errors to their attention. You're helping the Worker's Compensation insurance company as well. The insurance company must rely entirely on how that form is filled out to determine if you are entitled to reimbursement for the charge. So remember, If The Worker's Compensation form doesn't accurately reflect your appointment, it's your job to ask the doctor to complete or correct that form so that it does!  3).   Job Protections  The third category of Worker's Compensation coverage is job protection. In New Hampshire, employees who were injured during and in the course of their employment, are entitled to temporary alternative duty and reinstatement.  Temporary alternative duty is work that takes into account your physical limitations as a result of your injury. Your employer is required to provide you with this sort of accommodated work during the course of your recovery as you transition back to your regular duties. If, for some reason, your employer is unable to provide you with transitional work within your restrictions, then you should be entitled to ongoing Worker's Compensation benefits for your lost wages. In addition to these accommodations during your recovery, your employer is obligated to keep your job open for you for a period of 18 months from the date of your injury; this is true even if your employer had to hire somebody else during the period of your recovery to take over your position! That's right, once your doctor releases you to perform your former duties, with reasonable accommodation, you're entitled to return to your job. If you run into resistance, once it's time to return to work, based upon the fact that you still need some limited accommodations, it will be very important that you have an attorney who will help you to assert this right to reinstatement. You'll need someone who understands your rights under workers compensation as well as under State and federal disability laws, such as the FMLA and the Americans with disability act. An employer who refuses to reinstate an injured employee may be in violation of more than the workers compensation laws; atate and federal disability laws also provide rights to reinstatement and require employers provide reasonable accommodation to make that possible. If you've been seriously injured it's vital that you have a Worker's Compensation Attorney who can counsel you about your rights and protections under the ALL the available employment and disability laws such as The ADA, COBRA, wage and hour laws, family medical leave, laws preventing discrimination on the basis of age race religion nationality gender marital status pregnancy veteran status and the like,  as well as unemployment and Social Security disability benefits. You may also have other insurance available which you will want to consider as well, such as private disability insurance or retirement benefits which may be available upon a determination of disability. 4).    Permanent Impairment Awards Some employees are also entitled to a one time payment for suffering a permanent injury at work. This is called a permanent impairment award. Not all employees who were injured are entitled to a permanent impairment award. Only certain injuries are eligible for this payment and you may need an attorney's assistance to determine if you are eligible for this benefit. If you do have an injury which qualifies for a permanent impairment award you will need to have a medical a evaluation (exam) whereby your doctor indicates that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and then performs a very specific type of examination to document the limitations which you have as a result of your work injury. Each time you were treated, your doctor is asked to indicate on the Worker's Compensation form whether you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and whether your doctor believes you have a permanent impairment.  5).    Vocational Rehabilitation The last major category of coverage offered under New Hampshire's worker's compensation law is vocational rehabilitation. If you have suffered an injury that is so serious and lasting that you are unable to return to your previous job, you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation services, i.e. some sort of assistance in finding new work or even retraining, if necessary. In such cases, you may be assigned a vocational rehabilitation counselor, who will want to meet with you to gather information about your education and work history in order to determine whether you have an ability to return to your previous employment. If it appears you cannot return to your past employment, based upon your physical restrictions, The vocational counselor will then try to determine whether you any transferable skills which would allow you to transfer into other jobs available in the economy. For example, while your last job may have required heavy lifting, if you have a work history that included computer skills, you may be able to transition into a desk job which would not require heavy lifting. If this isn't the case, you might need some additional training, in order to enter into a new profession that better suits your physical limitations. Vocational counselor's are  like any other professional and they vary with respect to style and approach. Often kind and capable resources, these folks are none the less hired by the Worker's Compensation carrier who has a vested interest in finding that you are capable of returning to some sort of work as fast as possible and in the least expensive way possible. Employee should always keep this in the back of their mind as they work with the vocational rehabilitation counselor. Attorneys can help balance the system as they represent the employee and not the insurance company. Vocational rehabilitation has its limitations with respect to the amount of time and money the Worker's Compensation carrier is required to spend in order to assist as injured worker towards rehabilitation and an attorney can assist in maximizing this benefit. However, there are also other vocational rehabilitation services available through the state which can be used in combination with, or instead of, the Worker's Compensation vocational rehabilitation process. This is something your workers compensation attorney can discuss with you. In addition, If you are eligible for unemployment benefits, the New Hampshire Department of employment security is a terrific resource for vocational benefits that would help you find new work after your injury. The more serious your injury, the more likely you will qualify for protection under not just Worker's Compensation laws, but under other employment laws as well. It's important that you ask your workers compensation attorney about these other benefits early on, as some of these benefits cannot be combined with others. If it is likely that you will be out of work for a significant period of time or that you may not be able to return to your old job, it is absolutely vital that you understand your rights with respect to job protection, ongoing health insurance benefits, disability discrimination, accommodation, and other disability benefits which might be available to you. Your attorney will be an invaluable resource for this information.  If you have been seriously injured and have questions about your rights or the benefits to which you might be eligible, you can call Rice Law Office PLLC, for a FREE phone consultation at 603-528-5299. You can also visit our website at WWW.ricelaw-office.com for more articles, frequently asked questions and links to resources.
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Summer Safety

New Hampshire has long been known as an idyllic summer location, offering the complete gambit of summer activities for vacationers and full time residents alike. Lakes, mountains, and beaches in the Granite State attract droves of people during the warm months, and New Hampshire stands up as one of the best summer getaways in the US. Whether you’re boating, barbequing, or lighting off some July 4th fireworks, New Hampshire is a great place to recreate. All of these recreational activities, however, come with risk of injury.

Boating is a dangerous activity, and causes hundreds of fatalities and thousands of serious injuries in the US every year. In 2013 the US experienced:

4,062 total boating accidents

560 deaths

2,620 injuries

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Social Security Benefits and Workers’ Compensation at the Same Time?

Yes, it is possible to be eligible for both workers’ compensation and social security disability benefits. In fact, you may also be entitled to other disability benefits for injuries you’ve suffered at work or in an accident. Injured employees may be eligible for compensation through private disability insurance and/or through employer pension or state retirement disability plans.

Each of these benefit plans may have different eligibility requirements and some of them may take offsets (deductions) if you are receiving benefits under another plan at the same time. Rice Law Office can help with this. Our focus on employment law includes representation in social security, personal injury, workers’ compensation, discrimination and termination cases. Often, employees who are injured at work or elsewhere, become disabled and risk losing their job. The laws which govern these cases can be complicated and it is important to carefully consider your options before ruling out or ruling in any type of claim. The toughest thing about these cases is you don’t know what you don’t know until it is too late and it’s important to call an experienced employment attorney early before your options have been limited by time or lack of information.

At Rice Law office we lend you our experience to even the playing field. With our help, you can take advantage of the benefits you have paid for and earned over the years when you need it the most.

If your hurt, you need to focus on getting better, let us take care of the rest. Call Rice Law Office at 524-5426

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Are Biased Brokers Handling Your Retirement Fund?: The Fight to Heighten Broker Standards for Retirement Savings Investment

A recent Blomberg News article by reporter Robert Schmidt addressed assistant secretary at the U.S. Labor Department, Phyllis Borzi’s fight to tighten the standards for Brokers investing retirement accounts. Below are excerpts from that article.For a full view of the article go to http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-18/cobra-s-mother-takes-on-wall-street-in-fight-over-401-k-s.html

How Americans save for their latter years has changed vastly since Labor first set rules for retirement funds in the 1970s. Many workers had employer-controlled pensions and the 401(k) didn’t exist. Now, pensions are rare and tens of millions of people rely on their 401(k) plans and IRAs, which together hold almost $11 trillion.

According to Phyllis Borzi, assistant secretary at the U.S. Labor Department, those resources are increasingly needed. Some 10,000 people will turn 65 every day from now until Dec. 31, 2030,

Borzi is fighting to protect those precious dollars. She has long argued that people’s retirement savings can be eroded by high fees or imprudent investments recommended by advisers with hidden incentives. She is pushing for brokers to be held to a legal standard that they must act in a client’s best interest, an obligation known as a fiduciary duty.

Brokers are held to a "suitability" standard, meaning they must reasonably believe their recommendation is right for a client. Investment advisers operate under the fiduciary standard, which imposes a much tougher overall responsibility for the customer’s welfare.

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FREE ADVICE ABOUT NEW HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire is preparing to implement the New Hampshire Health Protection Program (NHHPP) that will help provide access to health care coverage to Granite Staters who may have never had insurance before. As the program gets closer to launching, the Department of Health and Human Services is hosting a number of information sessions to talk directly with individuals around the state about exactly what the program means.

For those interested in getting more information regarding the NHHPP, and would like an opportunity to speak with individuals involved from the Department of Health and Human Services, please RSVP to one of the events below:

Meeting Schedule:

·       Keene, Thursday, June 12, Keene Public Library, 60 Winter St., 5:30-7 pm

·       Laconia, Monday, June 16, Laconia Middle School, 150 McGrath St., 5:30-7 pm

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Summer Hiring: What Work Can Teens Do?

Many businesses in New Hampshire are seasonally driven- tourism and summer residents raise the population and bring money into the state each summer.  Finding good seasonal workers is therefore necessary for businesses in order to meet inconsistent labor demand.  Each year, many of these seasonal workers are teens and students who are free during the summer months.  In terms of timing and availability, the fit seems ideal, however hiring teens has its own set of unique challenges due to state and federal youth employment regulations.  The Department of Labor wants minors to have positive employment experiences, but at the same time employers need to assure that these work experiences are safe and appropriate. In order to meet these twin demands, there are limitations and guidelines governing the type of work teens may perform. For example, 14 and 15 year olds employed in the restaurant or food service industries have very specific tasks that they are permitted and not permitted to perform: •They can perform cooking over an electric or gas stove with no open flame.  Cooking over a flame is not allowed.•They are permitted to operate deep fryers, but only those with automatic raising and lowering devices•Cleaning, repairing, or maintaining non-power driven cooking equipment is generally permitted, however these tasks are not permitted on any power driven slicers, processors, or equipment.•Baking is entirely prohibited to 14 and 15 year olds.  This includes everything from weighing ingredients to operating ovens. The current provisions have been in place since 2005, and it is very important to understand the practical implications for employers seeking to hire teens.  Teens can provide low-cost seasonal work, but employers need to assure that they are in compliance with existing regulation.  The list above is far from exhaustive, and when in doubt you should contact Rice Law Office, PLLC for a free phone consultation at 603-528-5299 or visit our website for helpful articles and information.
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In Wake of Scandal VA Chief Out

IN WAKE OF SCANDAL VA CHIEF OUT Today President Obama accepted the resignation of Secretary of Veteran Affairs, Eric Shinseki, after the scandal generated by a report releases this Wednesday.  The report indicated that the Phoenix Veteran Affairs Health Care System manipulated scheduling and broke department policy to conceal delays in medical care.  Worse, in the fall out from the report it became clear that the problem was not isolated to Phoenix, but was systemic and wide-spread. The VA Inspector General found that 1,700 veterans waiting to see doctors were either never scheduled for an appointment or placed on a wait list.  Worse, at least 40 veterans died while waiting to receive medical care from Phoenix VA hospitals.  CNN also reported that VA facilities in Wyoming were instructed to “game the system” so that the clinic appeared to be running more efficiently.  The depth and breadth of the issue launched it to the forefront of national news, ultimately leading to Secretary Shinseki’s resignation today following his address to Congress. Shinseki’s resignation comes in the wake of calls from both leading Democrats and Republicans for his ouster, and raises questions about what direction the beleaguered agency will head under new leadership.  Today’s outcome was far from a surprise for many expert observers- President Obama had previously indicated that he would demand accountability if problems were uncovered in the investigative process.  On Secretary Shinseki’s resignation, President Obama said, “he’s good person who’s done exemplary work on our behalf,” but concluded that “he could not carry out the next stages of reform without being a distraction himself.”  What these next stages of reform will be, and how they will address the issues plaguing the VA, remains unclear. For more information about veteran’s disability and eligibility for social security visit our website.
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Avoiding and Managing Motor Vehicle Accidents

AVOIDING AND MANAGING MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS Driving is one of the single most dangerous activities in the United States- virtually every driver will experience an accident over their lifetime, and motor vehicle accidents remain a leading cause of death among young people.  That said, most Americans continue to rely on their cars for daily transportation.  Given this circumstance, its important to understand how to decrease your risk of an accident, but also, the steps and procedures that need to be observed should an accident occur. On average, drivers will experience an accident every 17.9 years.  Most American start driving at or around age 16, which means almost every driver on the road will be involved with an accident by the time they are 35.  There are, however, a few simple, and logical precautions that can greatly reduce this risk: •Drunk driving remains a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents and fatalities. In 2010, nearly one third of all traffic fatalities involved an alcohol impaired driver.  Avoiding these circumstances is a must.•Distracted driving is a growing cause of accidents, and accounted for nearly 10% of traffic deaths in 2012.  Phones, food, and the radio are all examples of potential driving distractions.•Motorcyclists and pedestrians are involved in a high proportion of fatal accidents.  While driving your car, watch out for motorcycles and walkers- they can be hard to spot, and are more likely to suffer serious injury in an accident.  •Construction sites or other zones with changing traffic patterns, speed limits, and congestion are unusually dangerous.  Be especially aware in these areas. Even if all of these precautions are perfectly observed, the reality is that accidents will still happen. Drivers need to understand the appropriate steps and procedures should an accident occur in order to protect themselves both financially and legally.  Below are a few steps that should always be followed: •Do not leave the scene!  Following an accident, stop your vehicle in a safe space as near as possible to the spot of the accident.  Running from the scene can result in serious consequences, regardless of who is at fault.  You should contact police or other emergency services as necessary.•Exchange information with the other parties involved in the accident, as well as any witnesses.  Relevant information includes name, address, phone number, license plate number, drivers license number, and insurance details.•Reporting the accident to the DMV within 15 days is necessary if there is not a police report filed on scene, and the accident causes injury, death, or more than $1,000 in damages.  The form can be found online, and you should always keep a copy for personal records. All of this can be challenging and stressful.  Most of us drive every day, and staying safe and informed on the roads is very important. In the case of an accident, particularly one resulting in injury or serious damages, you should contact an attorney.
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