Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Welcome, everybody. It is that time of the month for Work Comp Today where Dave and I and one of our colleagues get together and talk about what’s important, what’s going on in the world of independent contractors, employers and employees.
And we’ve got our buddy, George Townsend out of Virginia. George, thank you for making some time for us today. We’re looking forward to our conversation with you.
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: I’m very happy to be here.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Each month we try to bring on a colleague or friend from different parts of the country. We are blessed to have the current President of the national organization that we so proudly belong to. Share a little bit about WILG and introduce George, and then we will get started.
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: We’re glad to have George Townsend with us today. George practices worker’s comp law throughout the state of Virginia, and he is a member of WILG. And not only is he a member, but he is the President elect of WILG. George worked his way up the office of rotation in a leadership role. WILG is a national organization comprised of worker’s comp lawyers throughout the country.
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: I’ve been practicing worker’s comp and representing injured workers for almost 30 years now. It’s the only kind of law that I’ve practiced. I actually clerked at our Workers’ Compensation Commission while I was in law school. So I walked out of law school graduation knowing how to try a worker’s comp case in Virginia, which was a great asset. It’s really a passion of mine, representing injured workers.
Insurance companies and big employers, they’re really just a bunch of bullies trying to push people around. And I don’t like bullies.
As President elect of WILG, that’s a great honor. It’s a fantastic organization. It has many benefits and resources that they offer to lawyers and law firms. It’s a fantastic group of about 1,100 attorneys right now. It’s a brain trust, that if you encounter something that you’ve never seen before, you throw it out on the list serve and you’ll get ten responses about how to handle it.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: That’s one of the benefits of this organization. And George, we appreciate your leadership already and looking forward to this next year being so productive.
Well, fellas, as we do each month, let’s get into the articles. They’re from all over the country. They’re current information, current issues and topics that are, again, impacting independent contractors, employers and employees.
Professional Athletes and Workers’ Comp
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: The first one, I think is pretty timely, whether you are an NBA fan or not, it comes from the professional sports ranks – the NBA. The Phoenix Suns is already preparing for life without injured Chris Paul.
Chris Paul, for those who don’t know, is a star player for the Phoenix Suns, and he was injured recently in a game. He hurt his thumb in a game. What I don’t know is in what state that this occurred. I don’t know if it was home in Arizona or in Houston where the Rockets play, and sometimes that makes a big difference. But, Dave, I want to start with you. We don’t have professional athletics in Alabama, per se. We have minor league baseball, and now about to have some football, but we don’t have the major league levels. I don’t know if that really matters for this discussion.
If you have a professional athlete. What you don’t think about is who covers their bills, who pays for the medical care, who pays for the time that they’re off and those things. If this were to happen in Alabama, what do you think takes place? Who pays for it?
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: So whether he’s a professional athlete or he’s a guy working at a factory, if he gets hurt, what does he need? He needs medical treatment. That’s first and foremost, it’s just getting the medical treatment.
And I would imagine as an NBA player, he’s got access to the best medical treatment, best medical facility, and physicians around to get him back to work as quickly as possible so he can get back playing at an all-star level. So medical treatment is first and foremost.
He will continue, I would imagine, to get paid his very large salary as well while he’s off work recovering. So he shouldn’t take a hit there.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: One thing I thought about that he has that most employees, probably in Virginia and Alabama, don’t have. He has a collective bargaining agreement, a Union, that spells out what happens. And I’m sure those terms address these concerns that we’re talking about.
But, George, I want to ask you, if this happens in Virginia, and his thumb does not heal to the plate or to recover to where he can go back being the Allstar guard that he is. What would a Virginia employer say if they can’t and don’t want him back on their roster any longer?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Well, in Virginia, worker’s comp does not protect your job at all. They don’t have to keep you. They don’t have to bring you back. Interesting, the Washington Commanders are a Virginia Corporation. So all their players are Virginia employees and are covered under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. You have to be certified by the Players Association to be able to represent them. That’s highly sought, but rarely given. We see that and read opinions about these sports stars. If they did lose their salary or their payment, because sometimes they get paid by game and I’m sure it is in the agreement that if you’re on the injured reserve list, you still get paid. But we have a maximum compensation rate here in Virginia, we pay two thirds of the annual pay, but that wouldn’t come close to touching two thirds of their salaries.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: What’s it in Alabama? Is it like 950? or so?
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Just under 1,000?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Virginia is about 1,200.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: I don’t mean to make fun. But these professional athletes’ salaries are just so out of this world, compared to the average Joe and Jane. There’s no comparison.
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Right, these players are really fighting over the lifetime medical benefits. You see them tear up knees and stuff. And then down the road 10 or 20 years from now, they’re going to need knee replacements. They want all that covered.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: We’ve covered that a little bit. That could take a whole show, frankly, about the fights of professional athletes for their medical care going forward. But let’s put a pause in the Chris Paul article. Let’s move on to the second one.
Data Shows Decrease In US Occupational Fatalities
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: And the title is data shows decrease in US occupational fatalities. And the 2020 numbers that came out, it shows the lowest, I think, since 2013. And that’s a move in the right direction. George, again, sticking with Virginia in mind, is that a trend that you’re aware of in Virginia as well? Or is Virginia not showing what the trend is for fatalities annually?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: No, I have seen that a lot. We’re a big advertiser. We’re not a big firm, but we put a lot into advertising and all over the state. We definitely have seen, in the last 25 years, a decrease in catastrophic injuries and fatalities. And I think it’s that the larger employers put so much emphasis on safety and discipline. The workplace has become so much safer with technology and everything. And so, we would often see a handful of fatality cases and another handful of catastrophic injuries every year. Now, maybe one a year. COVID changed that a little bit. We’re going to talk about COVID here in a little bit, too I have probably four or five death cases now that are COVID related, but they’re going to dissipate.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: I agree with what all you just said about the reasons for the decrease in the fatalities. But I think you both would agree with me, that not only yourselves and your firms, but the work of many members of our organization have willed, the hard work. And the success in the cases that they have pursued in the past, based on these fatalities, stands notice to these companies who try to skate by not doing the right things for their workers. So I don’t never want to discount the hard work and the excellent work that lawyers do on the behalf of the families who are survivors. I wanted to make sure that we brought that up as well.
David, are you also seeing this to be the case? I know I am. I echo what George said. We don’t see nearly as many fatalities or catastrophic cases. And again, that may be partly pandemic influenced. But they’re still there.
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: I know. That’s wonderful news about the decrease in fatalities. I’m curious to see if that is the result of the pandemic. Meaning less people working in facilities in 2020, and part of 2021. We are interested to see what those next numbers reflect. If there’s still a decrease or flat changes?
COVID-19 & Workers’ Compensation Laws
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Well, fellas, let’s move on to our third article. Third, article COVID-19. Workplace liability may include work comp, and torts. This is a unique set of circumstances. It’s a unique fact pattern. Dave, I’m going to let you lead us off here. It’s coming out of California. We have to make sure that we acknowledge that. But tell us, share a little bit about this unique fact pattern in lawsuit.
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Yeah, so in California, the employee was allowed to bring a wrongful death claim against her employer for the death of her husband. But her husband did not work for the company. The employee alleged that her company’s COVID-19 prevention measures were inadequate, causing her to be exposed and infected at work. And then she unknowingly exposed her husband to COVID-19. He contracted it from her, and then he died. So she gets COVID at work, comes home and affects her husband, and he dies. And then she turns around, sues her employer for wrongful death. Very interesting.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: George, the employee alleged that her company’s COVID-19 prevention measures were inadequate, causing her to be exposed. And as we all know, for these cases, tracing it back to the origin, the original exposure, that’s so very difficult even for the best of medical observations and scientific minds who look at these cases. How does this play out to be a successful case for this woman in California?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Well, putting on my swami hat, and gazing into that crystal ball, I would say she’s fortunate to be in California, where a lot of things are much more liberal, including their judicial system. It would not fly in Virginia, I don’t think. She would have a hard time in Virginia, without our presumption proving that she got sick from work. It’s such a high standard. In Virginia, you have to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, not only that you got it from work, but that you didn’t get it anywhere else (like standing in line at the Food Lion or something). So that’s almost an impossible standard to get over. I’ll tell you something. In Virginia, when COVID hit, my wife (she is a respiratory therapist), she treated COVID patients for the last two years. I told her when things started shutting down, I said, you can go to two places. You can go to work. And you can come home. I will take care of everything outside of the house, all the errands, everything shopping everything. So that if you got COVID, and I don’t have it, the only place you could get it is work. And so that’s how it is in Virginia. I don’t see bringing the wrongful death action. I don’t think it would withstand the demurrer.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: David, if this is brought in Alabama, and even if you have some medical testimony, giving the opinions that there’s a connection there, do you really think it’s going to survive summary judgment on a circuit court level these days?
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: That’s tough. It’s a tough case to win. In Alabama, they’re a bit based on some of the laws passed last year. I don’t know. It’s just a tough case.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: This will come as no surprise to you. But Alabama does not have a presumption for anyone or anything. I know that a lot of people are going to be monitoring this case. But California does have the most. I don’t want to use the word liberal, but they have the widest approach to these cases, really of acceptance, I think of anybody in any state in the country. So we’ll see what comes out of there. But it’s a tough case.
Mid-State Man Recovering After Being Run Over By Customer At Job
Well, fellas, let’s move on to our number four article for this week or this month. “Mid-State Man Recovering After Being Run Over By Customer At Job.” It sure is an interesting set of facts to try to show a liability here. Let’s go over the facts a little bit. And then let’s talk about what type of cases could spin from this, besides work comp.
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Well, in this case, there was an employee that was checking off co-workers to make sure that everything was proper. And apparently an argument ensued. And one of the employees tried to just drive away and the injured worker tried to stop them and got run over. In Virginia, the sole remedy would be workers’ compensation. He would not be able to bring an action at law toward action against his coworker. He could only file for the workers’ comp. We see that happen a lot, believe it or not. It often happens to people backing out of their parking spaces at the same time. Bam. So it’s not as rare as you think. But to get run over. That’s a little extreme.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Let me change some facts on you, Dave, a little bit as we do in most of these articles. It’s not a co-worker. It’s a client or a customer who works for a completely different company. And that driver got mad because they were now going to be late to their next pickup or delivery. They tried to speed away not filling out the proper paperwork that was being asked by the eventual injured worker. In Alabama, do you potentially have third party claims against that driver and or their company that they work for?
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Yeah, if the other driver did not work for the same company, worked for a different employer, then the injured worker could sue that person or their company for negligence. So the injured worker would have a worker’s comp claim, they would have a third party case, or a case for negligence against the other driver. In this case, that happened in Pennsylvania that we’re talking about, the driver that ran over this employee was also charged with criminal charges, two felony counts of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor charge of recklessly endangering another person. So she’s going to be charged criminally as well for her behavior.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: You know, there’s got to be a security video camera that must have caught this. Just a very sad situation. Hopefully there’ll be some type of medical recovery by this person, but it really just seems bad right now.
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Well, guys, I can foresee his claim being denied. A safety rule violation, willful misconduct – he probably has had training. You don’t try and stop the vehicle with your body.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: So, again, that’s and that’s where the video may tilt that one way or another, right? For sure.
Does Chipotle Drug Test It’s Employees
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Alright, fellas, let’s move on to number five, David’s favorite restaurant, not even a second place. Does Chipotle drug test its employees? As we were talking about this a little bit beforehand, I think I’m more concerned whether or not they’re washing hands. But anyway, fellas, let’s talk about it, do big companies drug test their employees before they hire them or after they hire them? After they get hurt on the job? Before we get into this, George, I want to talk about Virginia for two minutes about this. Is it mandatory? Is it state required that potential new employers do drug tests before or after the offer?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: It is not required. There are some employers that do that. I think there are some occupations. And if you have a federal contract, you know you’re a construction company that’s doing governmental work. I think that it is required. But you know, Mom and Pop store on a corner, they don’t have to and typically don’t anymore. Even the Walmarts and the Targets. I never see anything about a pre-employment drug test. But as soon as they get hurt, that’s the first thing that has to happen – is getting a test.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Is that part of the protocol in Virginia? That after someone gets hurt on the job that they’re drug screened, within, what 24-36 hours after the event?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: It’s usually almost immediately. I mean, the first thing they do is they put them in a car and take them down to the med-express for an urinalysis. And then if it’s a serious injury and the rescue squad comes, then they just tell the hospital to make it happen.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Well, Dave, to the extent that you can trust the Reddit thread, (I want to make sure we preface that) it appears that a national employers like Chipotle, don’t drug screen before they hire you. And I don’t know maybe it’s a savings on the front end, but it certainly seems like it’s a big waste of money on the back end if they end up hiring people who are habitual drug users.
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: You have to also consider the fact that recreational marijuana is legal now in so many states. If that drug use is not impacting a Chipotle worker’s productivity or their job performance, then what does it matter? I think that’s one of the things that these companies are taking into consideration. Obviously if they are operating heavy machinery, working heights, and construction areas, that’s a completely different thing. But as soon as they get hurt at work, yeah, they’re going to be tested.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Let’s take this scenario, one more step. You get hurt on the job working for Chipotle. You get drug screened, and it comes back positive not for marijuana but for some illegal substances. In Alabama, David, how could that impact your worker’s comp claim?
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: If you test positive for an illegal drug, for alcohol, then the burden is on the employer to show that that was the cause, or that it contributed to the accident. If the employer determines that it contributed to the accident, then the employer is still responsible for paying for medical benefits related to the accident. But there’ll be no compensation paid to the injured worker.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: George, what about in Virginia? Is there a similar impact or is it different?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: It’s different. In Virginia, there is a presumption that if you test positive, that you are intoxicated at the time of the accident, and it is the cause of the accident. Now, that’s rebuttable. And usually, it just takes the injured worker to say, ‘Yeah, I had marijuana in my system, because I do it in the evenings when I’m not working. And I wasn’t intoxicated at the time.’ You call the supervisors and try to determine was he intoxicated? And if they try and say, ‘Well, I don’t know, that’s it.’ Then you can say, ‘Well if he was would, you would let him do what he was doing?’ You kind of put it back on them that way. So, in Virginia, though, the drug test has to be analyzed by a certain certified lab. Any lab that has a certain certification, that’s about six or eight letters, I’m not sure what it is off the top of my head, but I can often keep those drug tests out because they didn’t have the proper lab certification.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: It’s all just like any of these workers’ comp cases where there’s a question about compensability. It’s all facts specific. It all comes down to who said and saw and did what.
Florida Teacher Falls After His Leg Went To Sleep
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: And fellas let’s move on to our last article of this month. I hate to chuckle again, but “Florida Teacher Falls After His Leg Went To Sleep” was not considered compensable. Sustained a broken left femur when he lost his balance and fell after his leg had gone to sleep while he’d been sitting at his desk, and rose to assist a student. David, are you surprised at all by this ruling? Or would you have found this to be compensable?
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: I can’t argue with the Florida Appellate Court rationale here. Which was this, they said that clearly the accident occurred in the course of his employment. But that’s not enough to get workers’ comp benefits in Florida nor in Alabama. Where the case turned in the favor of the employer and against the employee was that the Court held this could have occurred anywhere. Essentially, that it wasn’t specific to his employment. I’m reading here, it could have been triggered at any time by normal everyday movement outside of work. He failed to show that the risk to his leg falling asleep arose from his employment.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Idiopathic conditions are not recognized in Alabama and I suspect. George, does Virginia follow the same line of thought?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Yes, the only saving factor would be if based on the configuration of the classroom and he fell and hit his head. You could say, ‘Well, look yes, he would have fallen anywhere, but he only got hurt because he was in this specific area.’ That’s what we try and do in Virginia for those idiopathic falls.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: In order to find some compensable you’ve got to be able to show the uniqueness, unique qualities about the employment setting, the environment, the job responsibilities. Not that this could have occurred while at a mall, or in your front yard or wherever. Now, that’s not to take out of consideration working from home cases that we’ve talked about. That’s not this scenario. This is clearly in the brick and mortar school when this occurred. But interesting, go ahead, George.
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: I have kind of a light-hearted example. This is a real case. There was a woman working in a school. It was after hours, and she was one of only a couple people there, and she’s pushing a cart down the hall. There’s video of this. And all of a sudden, she is thrown to the side, like she’s being tackled. And our theory of the case was the school was haunted and she got injured by a ghost. Because it was on video, it wasn’t like she just stumbled to the side, she was thrown against the wall. And there it is on video. I just looked at the defense attorney and said, ‘Well, how do you explain it? You know, it’s a ghost.’ And it was convincing enough that we settled the case.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: That’s some lawyering right there, my friend. That’s awesome. Sometimes you’ve got to think outside the box.
How Do Lawyers Get Paid In Virginia For Representing Clients In Workers’ Comp Matters?
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Well, fellas, that concludes our six articles of current topics and current news. As we do the last part of our show, we want to do some comparisons about the Alabama system, the workers’ comp Act and the processes and procedures, how we do things to help our clients with our guests, Virginia. So George, the first one I want you to take the lead on this one, and Dave will take the second one. How do lawyers get paid in Virginia for representing clients in workers’ comp matters?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: It’s on a contingency basis. We get a percentage of what we get for our clients. If we go to a hearing, and we win, then the workers’ comp judge, (we call them Deputy Commissioners), they decide what a fair fee for our services is. If we do not prevail at the hearing, we don’t get paid.
If we work out a settlement of the whole claim, we typically get 20%. Unless it’s a large settlement, and we get 20% of the first $500,000. 15% of the next 500,000. 10% of anything over a million. We don’t get paid out of Medicare set asides. That’s free money. It’s limited. Those fees are set by the Commission. They have the authority to regulate all attorney’s fees. But they only do it for claimant attorneys. They say that all fees will be approved by the Commission. It doesn’t say just claimants but that’s all that they do.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: When you get an order approving or finalizing your settlement, is that also written in there what your fee will be?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Yes, it’s an order saying $10,000 in a fee and $625 in costs will be paid directly to George Townsend. And my check comes straight to me and my client’s check goes straight to her.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Last question about that. I don’t know if Dave has questions. But do you have to keep your time? Do you have to prove your work?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: If there is a dispute, like a client fires one attorney and then comes to me and they put a lien against a fee, then the commission will often get involved. If we can’t work out an agreement, we’ll just say okay, just tell us how much time you put into it each and then they will try and come up with something but they really don’t like to do that. And I can’t remember the last time I really had a big fight over fee.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Well, Dave, I know that you’re depressed hearing how George’s paid in Virginia. So share the reality about how we get paid in our cases.
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Well, like Virginia, Alabama is a contingency fee based contract. Unlike Virginia, we are capped, George, at 15%. So our fee never exceeds 15%. We are allowed to take a fee on Medicare. We don’t take a fee on what’s in the MSA though. But we can take a fee on medical there’s no prohibition on on taking a fee on medical but it’s capped at 15% If we do have The court we do have to be approved, we follow a lawsuit we do have to be approved to be the representative of the injured worker. And our fee is supposed to be approved by the court.
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Right? When I started our fees were 15%. In about five years in, they started moving up to 20. For the last 25 years, we’ve been trying to push them up to 25%. And they just say no.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Dave, how do we conclude workers’ comp cases in Alabama? How do they bring to a resolution?
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Most cases are resolved through settlement. So if it is settled, the work comp case has to be approved one of two ways. Either by an ombudsman with the Alabama Department of Labor, or through approval through a circuit court judge. A case can also be finalized through a trial. Where you go and try the case with the circuit court judge and the judge will enter an order determining what the benefits are for the injured worker. So most cases end in settlement, and most of them are approved by the Alabama Department of Labor ombudsman program.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: And George are cases at the circuit court level, that’s also a jury level, but not by jury, or cases. It’s just with a judge. We don’t have dedicated judges who just hear work comp. They may, depending on the county, they may hear everything. But what is consistent throughout the counties throughout the state is it’s at a circuit court level, you’ll have a hearing in front of the judge.
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Yeah, in Virginia, we have a Workers’ Compensation Commission that has three commissioners. And then there’s probably 25 deputy commissioners that actually hear the cases. The three commissioners hear the reviews, and the appeal. I would say the only way to really terminate, conclude a claim, is either to lose it, or to settle it. Because otherwise it just kind of sits there, might be dormant. But it’s still an open claim.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm Interesting. All right, fellas, this leads us to our last topic of our hour. In the last two years, obviously the world has changed. The work comp world has changed, our practices have changed. What has not changed is the fact that we’re still representing injured workers, people who get hurt on the job. I’ll start with you, George, with multiple offices and attorneys around the state, you guys have a vast practice in Virginia. But I know that the main focus is injured workers. In the last, say, 60, 90 120 days what are the most pressing type of matters, cases, injuries are you seeing come across your desk as new clients potentially?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: I would definitely say the the COVID cases. As of July, one of last year, the General Assembly passed a presumption saying that if you’re a healthcare worker, or a law enforcement officer, and you get COVID, it’s presumed to have been work related. So we had to sit on these cases for a year and a half for that presumption to be passed. It takes several months, once you start filing claims, for these cases to get into litigation. Right now, I just had my depositions, and everything has just increased exponentially since March of 2020. I told somebody I hadn’t been this busy since I was a first year associate.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: I’m sure. Dave, what about for you? In the last six months or so are you seeing a certain type of case or more of one particular type of case that you’re dealing with these days?
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Unlike George, I’m not seeing COVID cases. We have a different setup. We don’t have the presumption so we’re not getting COVID calls. What I’ve seen more recently, 60, 90 days is people who have gotten hurt at work, but are having trouble getting medical treatment. Just employers, supervisors, ignoring them. Insurance companies delaying treatment. I know that is somewhat normal. We’re used to that, right. As working with practitioners in doing what we do. But it seems to be an uptick of it. These are not people with rotator cuffs or blown out herniated discs, these are not terribly serious injuries. But they’re people that need medical treatment to get diagnostics. And they’re just getting the runaround. So I’m getting a lot of calls about that. How do I get medical treatment? What do I need to do? I’m calling what’s the next step. So I’m getting a lot of those calls.
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: We’ve seen an uptick in voluntary payments, and coverage of medical and compensation for six months. And then, the adjuster just goes ghost. Stops answering calls, doesn’t send any more checks, doesn’t authorize any more treatment. A lot of it is with Sedgwick, I don’t know if you’ll have to deal with them? They are the big boy on the block right now. I don’t know, seems to be a conscious decision that, ‘hey, somebody set it in motion is what we’re going to do if you don’t enter into an agreement. And if it’s still ongoing in six months, just shut it down.’
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: In my Sedgwick cases, we don’t have enough adjusters – they’re all quitting. So we’re doubling up our work. It’s making it harder. You’re not getting the response from the adjusters, the claims reps, anywhere close to timely. So what it’s going to do, it’s going to force us to file more lawsuits and get it out of the adjuster hands and hopefully to an insurance attorney who probably is appreciative for the litigation to handle.
But the other type of case that I’ve seen most recently is the employer giving the recently injured worker, a much, much more difficult time about getting back to work as quickly as possible. ‘Go tell your doctor, you need to come back and not have X, Y and Z restriction.’ And the reason they’re being told is ‘we don’t have enough workers, we need you back.’ That’s just what I’m seeing is the employers being less and less tolerant of their injured workers being out and being paid comp and they shouldn’t be at work. So I didn’t know if you guys had seen that as well?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Yeah, I see that.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Well, guys, we have reached the end of our time. I truly enjoy these conversations, we’re talking about timely topics that are making the news. But before we get out of here, as I always do, I want George and David to have final words. I did post the link to the WILG organization website. So if any lawyers, who do our kind of work, that may be interested, you can click on the website there and take a look around. George, I’ll ask you, is there any other way for a potential new member to reach out or to get in touch with the right people to see if it’s right for their practice, regardless of where they are in the United States or even outside the United States?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: Sure. So we have membership dinners around the country, where a group of WILG members will meet like in Chicago, and each will bring one or two non-members that practice workers’ comp representing injured workers. We’ll have one of our vendors, like a Ametros there too. We’ve got one coming up in April in DC that’s going to, hopefully, draw people from Maryland and Virginia and Delaware. And so that’s coming up as part of our cherry blossom conference.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Those those dinners are a lot of fun. We just had a great one a couple of months ago in Bourbon.
David Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Yeah, we sure do. We hosted one in Birmingham. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve been to the ones in Atlanta a couple of times and it’s nice to get together with those folks. I’ll mention something else.
For people who are first-time attendees who are just joining a WILG and they’re going to attend the the annual convention, I think this year, it’s in Arizona at the end of September. There’s actually a scholarship for first-time attendees I think there are some requirements. I think you have to be under the age of 45 and meet some other requirements. But you could attend this annual conference, and your your registration is covered your flight is covered, your hotel stay is covered. So the conferences alone are great. But if you attend on scholarship, it makes the conference even much more enjoyable. So if you’re new to the new the organization, and you’re you’re scared about going or the cost looks prohibitive, don’t be you can apply for the scholarship, this scholarship to attend. And it’s a great way to get to know people from around the country.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Thank you for bringing that up. I was going to say you’ve got some of the best legal minds around the country, just sharing their practice tips, their insights. Plus David and me, we’ll be there. So that’s another incentive. Sure, for most, but George, I’ll give you the final word. But before we call it a day, what is it about WILG that enhances your practice?
George Townsend, HammondTownsend: It is a great source of referrals. It is a great resource for information. It is not only through the actual letter of the law, but also the practice of law and running a law firm. There’s a lot of guidance that’s provided through WILG. That’s just as you said, the knowledge of the people of the membership getting to know these other lawyers. Answering questions like, ‘how did you handle this? And what should I do if this happens?’ It’s just remarkable.
On a lighter note, I echo what David was mentioning regarding our conventions and our regional conferences. They’re at really cool places that many of us would never have an opportunity to go to for such a low rate. So if you just like to travel, this is your organization.
Bernard Nomberg, Nomberg Law Firm: Fellowship and friendship galore. So George, thank you for what you’re doing for the organization. Thank you for being here today.