As this year ends and the New Year dawns upon us, we would like to extend our heartfelt greetings and best wishes to all our valued clients, vendors and partners in other law firms, and doctors and their staffs who make what we do possible. We hope this message finds you in good health and high spirits.
Despite all of the challenges you and we have faced in the past year, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to being a voice for those who might otherwise be voiceless, by providing quality legal services to those who couldn’t otherwise afford an attorney, and it truly has been a good year despite the challenges we’ve all faced in 2023.
2023 was a year that tested our resilience and adaptability. Despite the uncertainties, we stood together as a firm and with you and thanks to the cooperation of those doctors and their teams, our vendors, and unwavering dedication and skill of our team, we accomplished some amazing things.
This year we helped out nearly 500 people who were looking for assistance with some kind of legal need. Some hired us as clients, others we referred to other highly skilled and qualified law firms and agencies to help them get where they needed to go.
Thanks to the dedication, skill and commitment of our team, we attended over 268 administrative hearings for our clients at the Industrial Commission of Ohio, winning the vast majority of them. Including bringing a nearly twelve year fight for one client to successful conclusion with out client being granted lifetime Permanent Total Disability Benefits. Working with our partners at the Law Offices of Rusell Gerney we were able to help hundreds clients with cases before a number of Common Pleas Courts, and won a huge fight against a major local car manufacturer at the Court of Appeals. Russ also successful help dozens upon dozens of clients with Unemployment, Personal Injury and Social Security Disability cases.
And these victories paid off. We were successful in getting the Workers’ Compensation system of the State of Ohio, at a time when it becomes harder and harder to prevail each day, to pay our clients and their doctors millions and millions of dollars in Medical Treatment and Money also known as Indemnity Benefits.
One of our goals to is to provide a place to let men and women with talents live out their calling to help working people. And while we will miss them, we saw two of our staff reach retirement and go off to enjoy a well earned rest.
In addition, Kurt serves on the Lucas County Board of Elections and thanks to their team and Kurt and his fellow board members Lucas County was able to hold an unprecedented five elections this year, despite many obstacles including one that violated Federal and State laws due to it’s timing.
With the invaluable support and trust you placed in us, we overcame obstacles and thrived, which is a testament to the strong relationships we've built. As we step into the New Year, we are committed to further expanding our ability to help you. Our team of experienced attorneys will continue to stay updated with the latest legal developments, ensuring that we provide you with the most accurate and effective counsel. Rest assured, we will remain at the forefront of legal trends, enabling us to deliver unparalleled service and guidance.
In 2024, we are excited to broaden our reach and deepen our impact within the legal landscape. We are going to be undertaking a major upgrade in our firm’s technology that will allow us take care of you even faster and more efficiently, and keep you update on the progress of your case via text messages, email and more.
In addition, working with our partners, we are going to launch a YouTube channel so we can educate the public on issues in all of our areas of practice. It has always been a key value of ours to educate our clients on the legal system and on your cases to be a partner with us in making the tough decisions on your legal need. And we hope these videos will serve as a valuable resource to our clients and beyond, empowering people to make informed decisions and navigate the complexities of the legal world.
At our law firm, excellence is not just a goal; it is a way of life. We are steadfast in our commitment to providing you with exceptional legal services tailored to your unique needs. Our team of talented staff combines their expertise with a deep understanding of your individual circumstances, ensuring that you receive personalized attention and that together we achieve the best possible outcomes.
As we say goodbye to 2023 and embrace the opportunities of the future, we extend our warmest New Year's greetings to you. We are grateful for the trust you have placed in us and look forward to continuing our partnership in the coming year. May 2024 be a year filled with peace, prosperity, growth, and success for all of us. Remember, we are here to support you every step of the way. In honor of the New Year we will be .
On December 29, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed into law the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was born.
OSHA’s mission is to "assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance."
The Bureau of Labor Standards of the Department of Labor had originally worked on some work safety issues since its creation in 1922. Economic boom and associated labor turnover during World War II worsened work safety in nearly all areas of the United States economy, worsened work safety in nearly all areas of the United States economy, but after 1945 accidents declined for a time. New influence and power for labor unions played an increasingly important role in worker safety post-World War II. But in the 1960s, increasing economic expansion again led to rising injury rates, and the resulting political pressures meant a new agency needed to be created.
Understanding the OSH Act:
The OSH Act, enacted in 1970, was a landmark legislation aimed at safeguarding the health and well-being of American workers. Its primary purpose was to establish comprehensive regulations for workplace safety and health standards across various industries. Since its inception, the OSH Act has empowered workers by granting them the right to a safe working environment free from recognized hazards.
The Role of OSHA:
OSHA, an agency operating under the U.S. Department of Labor, is tasked with enforcing the regulations outlined in the OSH Act. Their mission is to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for all employees. OSHA achieves this through inspections, investigations, and the establishment of safety standards. Injured workers can rely on OSHA to hold employers accountable for any violations that compromise workplace safety. By filing complaints with OSHA, injured workers can initiate investigations and prompt corrective actions.
NIOSH's Contribution to Workplace Safety:
Working in tandem with OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) focuses on research, education, and prevention strategies to reduce workplace hazards. NIOSH conducts scientific studies, develops guidelines, and provides recommendations to improve workplace safety. Their expertise helps inform OSHA's regulatory decisions and ensures that worker protection measures are based on the best available evidence.
How OSHA and NIOSH Benefit Injured Workers:
For injured workers, OSHA and NIOSH serve as vital resources throughout their journey towards justice and compensation. OSHA's enforcement actions can result in penalties and corrective measures, holding employers accountable for their negligence. Injured workers can seek support from OSHA in investigating incidents, addressing hazards, and understanding their rights under the OSH Act. Additionally, NIOSH's research and recommendations contribute to the development of safer work practices, reducing the risk of future accidents and injuries.
OSH Act coverage:
The OSH Act covers most private-sector employers and their workers, in addition to some public-sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. Those jurisdictions include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Wake Island, Johnston Island, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands as defined in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
State plans are OSHA-approved job safety and health programs operated by individual states instead of federal OSHA. Federal OSHA approves and monitors all state plans and provides as much as fifty percent of the funding for each program. State-run safety and health programs are required to be at least as effective as the federal OSHA program. Sadly Ohio isn’t one of the 22 states and territories that have such a program.
Rights and responsibilities under OSH Act law
Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. By law, employers must provide their workers with a workplace that does not have serious hazards, and they must follow all OSH Act safety and health standards. Employers are obligated to identify and rectify safety and health problems. The OSH Act further requires that employers must first attempt to eliminate or reduce hazards by making feasible changes in working conditions, rather than relying solely on personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, or earplugs. Examples of effective ways to eliminate or reduce risks include switching to safer chemicals, enclosing processes to trap harmful fumes, or using ventilation systems to clean the air.
Employers must also:
Inform workers about chemical hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets, and other relevant methods..
Provide safety training to workers in a language and vocabulary they can understand.
Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
Perform tests in the workplace, such as air sampling, required by some OSH Act standards.
Provide the required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers, as employers must pay for most types of required personal protective equipment.
Provide hearing exams or other medical tests when required by OSH Act standards.
Post OSHA citations and annually post injury and illness summary data where workers can see them.
Notify OSHA within eight hours of a workplace fatality and within 24 hours of all work-related inpatient hospitalizations or injuries where sufficient time missed from work has occurred.
Workers have the right to:
Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
File a confidential complaint with OSHA to have their workplace inspected.
Receive information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harm, and the OSH Act standards that apply to their workplace. The training must be conducted in a language and vocabulary that workers can understand.
Receive copies of records of work-related injuries and illnesses that occur in their workplace.
Receive copies of the results from tests and monitoring conducted to identify and measure hazards in their workplace.
Receive copies of their workplace medical records.
Participate in an OSHA inspection and speak in private with the inspector.
File a complaint with OSHA if they have faced retaliation or discrimination from their employer as a result of requesting an inspection or exercising any of their other rights under the OSH Act.
File a complaint if punished or retaliated against for acting as a 'whistleblower' under the 21 additional federal laws for which OSHA has jurisdiction.
Temporary workers must be treated like permanent employees. Staffing agencies and host employers share joint accountability for temporary workers. Both entities are therefore obligated to comply with workplace health and safety requirements and ensure worker safety and health. OSHA could hold both the host and temporary employers responsible for any violations.
Whistleblower Protection Program:
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program (WPP) enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 24 other statutes protecting workers who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.
How Well Has OSHA Worked:
A 2012 study in Science found that OSHA's random workplace safety inspections caused a "9.4% decline in injury rates" and a "26% reduction in injury cost" for the inspected firms. The study found "no evidence that these improvements came at the expense of employment, sales, credit ratings, or firm survival” A 2020 study in the American Economic Review found that the decision by the Obama administration to issue press releases that named and shamed facilities that violated OSHA safety and health regulations led other facilities to increase their compliance and to experience fewer workplace injuries. The study estimated that each press release had the same effect on compliance as 210 inspections.
Now Ohio has its own workplace safety regulations. But unlike OSHA regulations they are not researched by anything like NIOSH and are nowhere as often amended. In fact, colleagues who work with both sets of regulations say there are some which are incompatible with each other.
Is OSHA perfect, no, it’s underfunded, therefore not sufficiently staffed, and there are not enough enforcement penalties. But it has made a difference. And every year, those of us who advocate for workers celebrate two days of the year in regard to this, the day it was signed, and in March when the act first took effect. And locally, that is when we celebrate Workers’ Memorial Day. So we can remember the dead and fight like hell for the living.
Has someone you love been saved by these safety measures? We have seen far too many lives cut short or the quality of life destroyed by work injuries. So I personally pray that one day, thanks to OSHA & NIOSH, we’re no longer needed.
But for now, we are here to help those hurt on the job in Ohio. Call us at 419-244-7885. We have over three decades of experience helping people hurt on the job, and offer a no cost, no obligation initial consultation.
Nothing gets some people going these days than saying “Happy Holidays”. For some reason, not assuming someone celebrates the biggest holiday for us this time of year in the US, Christmas, seems to set people off. I have been saying Happy Holidays for this time of year for decades. Why? Because while I’m a Christian, I’m a person living in a country of diversity and in case you don’t know it, there are a huge number of holidays that fall around Thanksgiving until the beginning of January.
On November 28th Orthodox Christians start an Advent Fast. Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas. It’s the Christian faith’s preparation for the birth of our role model and the Son of God in our belief system. My denomination lights a calendar for each Sunday, each with a different theme and some have wreaths on their tables and light them every night at dinner. Orthodox Christians start a fast to prepare themselves on that day.
Bodhi Day is December 8th, the day Buddhists celebrate the historical Buddha and when he found enlightenment. Those who practice Buddhism, and many who follow that path also worship in other ways including mine, use the day to mediate, each a special meal, and focus on kindness towards others.
Hanukkah is a Jewish festival of light. Due to the lunar calendar it moves throughout December but it starts this year in December 8th as well. It celebrates a miracle when oil that should have lasted only one night, supposedly burned for eight days, keeping the Temple lit and holy.
Las Posadas December 16th to 24th is a 9 day celebration of Jesus’ parents Mary & Joseph. It has been a tradition in Mexico back to the 11th Century. And it’s not as popular as it was as some consider it too festive and not somber enough. But guess where the idea of a Christmas Pageant comes from, yep.
On December 21st this year, the Winter Solstice occurs for us in the Northern Hemisphere. Welcome to the shortest day of the year. Darkness out lasts light. Practitioners of Pagan faith celebrate this date with decorations, and I hate to tell you, but decorating a tree was part of this. In fact, it’s likely we as Christians not only picked up the tree thing from here, but the idea of celebrating Jesus’ birthday around this time of year thanks to this. There is historical evidence of a guy named Jesus in that part of the world. But he was born in the spring, not December 25th.
BTW, on the same day, December 21st, and running to December 25th is Pancha Ganapati. This is a Hindu celebration that honors Lord Ganesha, the Patron of the Arts and the Guardian of culture. Spiritual disciplines are practiced each day. And people are encouraged to make amends to others, settle debts, discuss and encourage art, and make your home beautiful.
Kwanzaa December 26th to January 1st is a week long celebration of African heritage created to honor that culture among those who are the decedents of those taken from Africa in slavery. Each day celebrates one of seven core principles including unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
December 31st and January 1st are New Year’s Eve and Day. And in our culture it’s time to celebrate the end of one year and beginning of a new one. The ball dropping in Time’s Square is not the only countdown to Midnight. Locally, about 45 minutes away in Port Clinton we have a Walleye (a predator fish on the Great Lakes) Drop. In my wife’s family, who are from Texas, they have a tradition of eating Black Eyed Peas for good look on New Year’s Day. My Mom’s family was very German and it was pork and sauerkraut. My family itself has been going out, like my Mom’s, to a Chinese Buffet for years.
January 6th is one of my favorites. Now depending on culture, it’s either called Epiphany, Theophany (Eastern Christian) or Three Kings Day (Puerto Rico and other Hispanic Cultures). In case you don’t know, the 12 days of Christmas isn’t a countdown to Christmas Day. It starts with Christmas Day and ends on this day. It’s the day to celebrate the Three Magi, sometimes called astronomers, kings or wisemen, making the journey to visit Jesus and give his family gifts on his birth. I spent several years in Puerto Rico, and I can tell you kids would get their presents on January 6th, as that’s when Mary & Jesus got their gifts. BTW, in the biblical story, they don’t visit the baby and his family in a manger. And don’t get too deep into what their visit does to King Herod and his response if you want to keep your Christmas cheer.
So, you can absolutely say Merry Christmas to me. I am a Christian. But if I’m not sure, and because I know that this isn’t even close to a complete list, I will say Happy Holidays to you, unless I know you are one too. We’ll be open until December 22nd. And then off on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. But no matter which, if any, of these Holidays you celebrate, we hope you have what the main theme is of all of those days, a time of light, of peace, of family and hopefully joy.
Sadly, one of the most common forms of workplace injury and death has come to be workplace violence. You can barely turn on the news most days before you hear about a workplace shooting. But it’s not just guns that injure and kill people on the job. Don’t get me wrong, people with guns do have the ability to injure and kill more of their co-workers than any other means.
Sometimes, it can be something as simple as a piece of rebar, also known as reinforcing bar, a thick & heavy steal bar. Now rebar has a very necessary use in construction. It helps reinforce concrete and masonry work to reinforce walls and allow them to maintain integrity during periods when the other materials become more or less pliable.
But in May of 2013 it was used as a nearly deadly weapon. One of our clients, Robert, was finishing up his shift as a truck mechanic. His company has several facilities in our area. Earlier in the day, he and a driver had a verbal argument at one of the yards. Later in the day, the co-worker decided to get his revenge for the slights he felt he suffered earlier. He picked up a piece of that rebar steel on the ground, walked up behind Robert and struck him repeatedly, pretty much from head to toe.
The co-worker was arrested and sent to prison for a long time. But Robert was left with serious injuries to his entire back, his arms, his skull, and his brain. Along with the very serious effects of this traumatic brain injury, he began to suffer from very understandable issues with Depression and a Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia (a fear of leaving places where you feel safe). Worse still his doctors did not understand Ohio law, as he lived in Michigan, and were running up medical bills that were going to be difficult at best to get paid, and left him without any money yet paid for his time off work.
Two and half months after he was injured, he hired our office. Within sixty (60) days of hiring our office, we had his claim allowed, his time off work benefit aka Temporary Total (TT) flowing, and we were working on issues involving his medical bills and pay rate for benefits. His doctors did all they could, and after fending the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation off for nearly eight and a half years, the inevitable happen. Robert’s Temporary Total benefits were terminated. But that was the beginning of our fight for Robert to be cared for the rest of his life.
We were able to get him into an evaluation for a program known as Vocational Rehabilitation or Voc Rehab for short. This is an intense effort to get our most seriously injured workers back to work. Done right I have seen them return workers to the workplace I never thought would return to work. A few to better paying jobs than they had before.
Unfortunately, despite connecting him to one of the best vocational firms out there, we were not successful in getting Robert into vocational rehabilitation. But we don’t go away easily, and we used that denial against the BWC. We gathered the evidence and filed for the benefit of pretty much last resort in our system Permanent Total Disability (PTD). Now, PTD is not easy to get. They can only consider the allowed conditions in your claim and their affect on your ability to work. They can also consider your age, your educational level and ANY past work. The Social Security Administration believes that if you have not done a job in fifteen (15) years, you do not know how to do it anymore. But BWC’s position is that if you have ever done that kind of work, you can still do it.
In my first few years of practice I had a woman turned down for PTD based upon secretarial skills she supposedly acquired from a job she worked for about six months about 45 years ago. I argued that case up to the Court of Appeals in Columbus and was able to get a new hearing, and eventually won the rehearing, but it wasn’t on the grounds that she had last worked in an office when the typewriters were manual, computers weren’t in many offices, copiers and fax machines didn’t exist, and "I will connect your call" literally involved connecting a wire to a specific opening to connect the outside to an inside extension. My Grandmother, who worked her way up to office manager started in one of those switchboard jobs.
In PTD application hearings, being capable of being a part time greeter at Walmart, a part time ticket taker at a parking lot or movie theater, or even a part time telemarketer would beat us if the doctors the system hired say you could do that kind of work. Well, the ones they hired when we applied for Robert said just that. He could work, he would need some restrictions and accommodations, but with those, he could return to the workforce.
Well we don’t give up easily. We are allowed to hire a vocational expert to look at all of the medical to help a hearing officer to decide if you can return to work or not. We hired the BWC’s vocational expert who said he was not feasible for a return to work based upon what Robert’s doctors had said. We then had her review the Industrial Commission’s physical and psychological doctors. And she wrote an excellent report explaining that no real job met their requirements for an accommodation.
Then we buckled up and got ready for the hearing. Now PTD is one of our most critical decisions in this system. The worker claiming it usually hasn’t worked in many years. Worse, due to the way the laws on Temporary and Permanent Disability are written, most have not received any type of ongoing money benefits for years. And the employer is facing potentially lifetime of the worker exposure that will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. So we skip this issue to the second level or most senior hearing officers the Industrial Commission has.
We had our hearing a little over a week ago. Normally these hearings take 30 minutes and no decision is made at them. And this was no exception. But the hearing officers are generally very fair and reasonable people who do the right thing in their mind. I did have one where the hearing officer made up facts to deny one of these, but that’s a story for another day. Now I will tell you, that given the work we did to get ready and put the proper evidence in the file, the other side had little choice but to admit this is one we should win. But we are never sure until we get the order or record of proceedings.
Well, this morning I walked in to our office to the news that not only did the hearing officer grant our application, but she granted the start of his benefits back to that last date he was paid Temporary Total. So, Robert will get paid his nearly two years of back benefits, and will be entitled to ongoing money for the rest of his life. If he lives to life expectancy, he will have received over One Million Dollars ($1,000,000.00) in money benefits.
It took 23 hearings (so nearly 2 dozen of the orders below), 3,762 days (aka 537 weeks or 10 1/3 years) worth of work, 953 entries into our case management software that helps run the office, writing 167 letters, and reviewing over 1,650 legal and medical documents to get him there. But to quote Robert, “Kurt you and your team busted you’re a$$es to get me here, but you got me here, thank you”. Now, our pay day won’t be a bad one for all of that work, but likely we’ll have earned a fee less than or equal to about 5% of his Permanent Total Disability benefits or $9 per day since he hired us, when all is said and done. But let me tell you, Robert is the kind of person I went to law school to help. And today we’re celebrating a long, and difficult road, navigated to a good ending.