Rainwater, Holt & Sexton | Injury Law Blog

MONTHLY CHARITY GIVEAWAY WINNER – Easterseals

by Mike Rainwater | February 8th, 2017

january-2017-easter-seals

Since 1944 Easterseals Arkansas has been helping Arkansans with disabilities and special needs. Easterseals helps individuals and families with everything from child development, to physical therapy, to job training. Because of the work Easterseals is doing in the community many people with disability are able live fuller lives. Today Easterseals helps more than 20,000 people each year. To read more about Easterseals check out the article in the new Soiree Magazine about the upcoming Easterseals Arkansas Fashion Show fundraiser.

Our monthly charity giving is one of our favorite things to do. Each month employees nominate and vote on a charity in the community they would like to help. Throughout the month employees “donate” by buying snacks and drinks that the firm subsidizes. All the proceeds from the snacks are then matched by the firm. We are honored to have such great employees that not only pick out wonderful organizations, but also help by donating all month long.

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH ALL THE WORKERS’ COMP FORMS?

by Laura Beth York | February 8th, 2017

There is no shortage of forms on file with the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission. In fact, there are forty-two (42) forms on file. Many times employers present injured workers with forms to sign. Do they have to sign it? Do they understand what they are signing? Have they been provided with all the pages that go along with the form? How does signing a form effect their claim?

For example, employers usually provide the employee with a Form-N, which gives the employer notice of an injury. Employees should always provide notice of any injury to their employer, but they should keep a copy of any forms that they sign for their records. Not only does the second page provide important information, but it is deemed so important that the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission requires that the workers’ compensation insurance company prove that they provided the injured worker with both pages of this document.

We understand that these forms can be confusing. Often times injured workers’ need assistance in determining if the forms that are being provided to them are necessary and if they might have a negative impact on their claim. A Rainwater, Holt & Sexton workers’ compensation attorney can help you to navigate these forms and make sure that all of your rights are protected.

Your Employer May Not Be Able to Help

by Mike Rainwater | February 7th, 2017

In Arkansas, we have a lot of family owned companies. Whether they’ve been around for generations or recently incorporated, these homegrown businesses are a big part of what makes our state one of the greatest in the south. Working for such a company often feels like working for yourself. You’re probably on a first name basis with the owners, know each other’s families, and invest in each other’s lives outside of work. So when a workplace accident occurs, the impact can be felt throughout the company.

Of course the owners want to do right by you and your family, but their arms may be tied. The insurance company that handles their workers’ compensation claims can dictate the level of benefits you and your family receive. If it’s not nearly enough for you to get by, there’s not much your employer can do to change it. That’s why it’s always important to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney before signing anything from the insurance company.

We understand that speaking with an attorney can feel like you’re betraying your employer, but you’re not. Your employer can’t demand that their insurance company do right by their employees, but a workers’ compensation attorney can.

If you’ve been injured on the job, contact our Arkansas workers’ compensation attorneys today for a free consultation. We’re ready to help you get the workers’ comp benefits your family needs so you can put this accident behind you.

Is an Independent Medical Examination Really … Independent?

by Mike Rainwater | February 6th, 2017

One of the first steps when filing a workers compensation claim is to visit the treating doctor for examination of your injury. However, your treating doctor is not the only one that will likely examine you – your employer’s insurers are allowed to contract an independent medical examiner (IME) to examine you, too. The purpose of independent exams are to act as a cross-reference, ensuring workers are not exaggerating their injury.

Although the word “independent” is in their title, IMEs are not completely sovereign from the insurance company. In 2009, the New York Times found in a review of case files, medical records and interviews that IME reports tend to benefit insurers.

Who Becomes an Independent Medical Examiner?

Independent medical examiners are often semiretired physicians who are older and no longer treating patients. The only requirements to become an IME are to have a state medical license and be authorized in a specialty.

Physicians can make appointments for independent exams on their own time, maintaining their own schedule and freedom. Very little equipment is needed and there is no physician-patient relationship, absolving the IME of potential liability. Overall, it can be lucrative part-time or full-time work for a physician looking for flexibility.

Independent Medical Examiner Bias

Some critics think that insurers hire IMEs who dispute worker’s doctors more frequently, giving them an incentive to side with the insurer. According to a 2009 New York Times article*, one doctor claimed that doctors have to give insurers what they want or else they’ll be out of work. In the same article, a New York Times review is cited as finding that exam reports are “routinely tilted to benefit insurers by minimizing or dismissing injures.”

Further, independent medical examiners could see up to 50 patients a day, leaving them very little time to examine a patient or record the examination. Some doctors don’t record a word of the exam – instead, they submit a checklist to a company that handles paperwork for independent medical exams, who in turn drafts a report that the doctor only has to sign to attest to the accuracy.

If you have questions about your workers compensation claim or feel that an unfair outcome was reached during your independent medical exam, discuss the situation with a Little Rock work injury lawyer.

*Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/nyregion/01comp.html

The Top 6 Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

by Mike Rainwater | February 4th, 2017

Senior citizens are some of society’s most vulnerable and they can’t always fend for themselves, or defend themselves. For those living in nursing homes, abuse can take on many forms – from unsanitary living conditions to unresponsive managers. If you have a loved one living in a nursing home, it’s important to understand the signs of abuse to protect them. Look for these six signs of abuse:

1. Changes in personal hygiene or appearance efforts

Maintaining personal hygiene is the most basic type of care. A noticeable change in appearance or hygiene could signal that the patient is not getting the daily attention required and deserved.

2. Malnutrition, dehydration or sudden weight loss

This signals that the patient is not getting proper fluid and nutrition, which can lead to long-term health problems.

3. Unexplained injuries

If your loved one has injuries that he or she cannot explain or that the nursing home staff cannot explain to your satisfaction, it could signal that the patient is not being monitored – or something worse.

4. Withdrawn or unusual changes in behavior

Unexplained changes in behavior can be a sign that there is something unsatisfactory about the living environment or signal deeper signs of distress.

5. A change in interaction with nursing home staff

If your loved one suddenly changes the way they feel about nursing home staff, it could be a sign that an incident has occurred.

6. Environmental hazards in patient’s room

If there are dangers in the room that haven’t been addressed, it can be a sign that nursing home staff is not taking proper care of your loved one.

If someone in your life has been the victim of nursing home abuse, take action to protect them. Anything but a comfortable, safe and healthy living situation is unacceptable. If you’ve seen signs of abuse, contact Arkansas’s attorneys for nursing home neglect to discuss the situation.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death After an Auto Accident?

by Mike Rainwater | February 2nd, 2017

In 2015, there were 32,000 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). After a car accident involving a death, a wrongful death claim can be made against the negligent party that caused the person’s death.

Wrongful Death Defined

Wrongful death occurs because of the negligence of others. When someone acts negligently, they fail to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or harm to others. A wrongful death in an auto accident can happen if, for example, a driver fails to stop at a red light and collides with another car or a driver drives the wrong way on a one-way street harming others. In these instances, the driver is not abiding by traffic laws, failing to use reasonable care while operating their vehicle.

Who Has the Right to File a Claim?

Not just any grieving party can file a wrongful death claim when a loved one dies – they must have a specific relationship to the deceased. Generally, those who can file a wrongful death claim in Arkansas include:

  • The survivng spouse,
  • The surviving children,
  • The surviving parents or siblings.

Be prepared to prove your relationship to the deceased with a wedding license, birth certificate or copy of the will, depending on your relationship.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim

In an Arkansas wrongful death claim, the grieving family can seek compensation for:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Lost wages and income
  • Emotional duress
  • Lost financial contributions
  • Loss of companionship

If you’ve lost a loved one in an auto accident due to the negligence of someone else, contact the Arkansas auto accident lawyers at Rainwater, Holt and Sexton for a free consultation.

Common Problems With Medical Records in Disability Cases

by Sydney Brown | February 1st, 2017

The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires you to prove, primarily through medical records, that you are disabled. This sounds simple enough at first glance, but have you ever actually seen your medical records? Odds are, your medical records contain many, if not all, of the common problems we see in disability cases. The good news is that you can take steps to help prevent these problems from continuing to appear in your medical records. Although there are many potential problems, this article will focus on the most common areas of concern: 1) complaints and side effects, 2) physical examinations, and 3) doctor recommendations.

Medical records are broken down into distinct sections. The first section is for subjective complaints, meaning the reason you are at the doctor’s office and the problems you are having. The second section is for objective observations. This is the portion of the record that contains the doctor’s physical examination notes. The third section is for any diagnoses for your medical condition(s). And finally, the fourth section is for the doctor’s plan of action. This is where your doctor will document if they are sending you to a specialist, if they are prescribing new medications, or if they want to send you out for further testing.

Problems With Complaints and Side Effects

The subjective complaint section of your medical records is crucial. SSA will look here, first. What do they look for? In short, everything. SSA wants to see what you are telling your doctor about your own symptoms and side effects. Did you come into the office with back pain because you injured yourself moving furniture, or did you simply twist the wrong way and it caused excruciating pain? Do your medications make you sleepy? Dizzy? Nauseous? Did the injection or surgery you had improve your pain?

The biggest problem here is that when you are disabled, you have to go to the doctor frequently. Frequent doctor’s visits lead to you just wanting to get the visit over with and get back home. So what do you say when the nurse or doctor asks why you’re there? “I’m here for my medication refills,” or “I’m here for my follow up.” You give quick, short answers to your doctor that yes, your medication is helping you. Even if it isn’t. And so, your medical records reflect those answers and that’s it.

When this happens, SSA holds that against you. SSA frequently cites to a claimant’s own statements to their doctor to help justify denying their case. For example, if you say you’re at the visit for “medication refills,” SSA says that your medication must be controlling and relieving your conditions because you aren’t complaining of pain or continued symptoms. If you never mention your medication side effects to your doctor, SSA uses your medical records to prove that you don’t actually experience side effects to the level you explain to them. So, how do you fix this?

Open up to your doctor or nurse at every appointment. Always say exactly what is happening with your mind or body, talk about the side effects from your medications, and rate your pain, symptoms, or improvement on a scale of 1-to-10. If you feel like you are repeating yourself every time you see the doctor, then you are probably doing an excellent job at fixing this common problem in medical records!

Physical Examinations

Physical examinations, or the objective observations of your doctor, are an equally crucial section of your medical records. SSA looks here to see whether your doctor physically sees that you have problems standing, squatting, bending, walking, gripping, getting on or off of the examination table, etc. The biggest problem here is that in many office visits, you’re already sitting when the doctor comes into the exam room. Then your doctor sits down and talks to you but doesn’t actually watch you walk, see you bend over, look at your spasming muscle, or even put their hands on you.

When your doctor doesn’t do these things, often times your medical records still reflect that he or she examined you. That’s right. And why is this a problem? Because odds are, that documented physical examination that never really happened likely says that everything looked normal. Walking? Normal. Bending? Normal. Strength? Normal. Breathing? Normal. When examinations appear normal in your records, SSA uses them to prove that your reports of pain or limitations are not as bad as you are reporting.

This is, thankfully, the easiest fix of them all. Be an advocate for yourself and make your doctor examine the things that you know are wrong. If you can’t bend over very far because of your back pain, show your doctor. If you walk with a limp, show your doctor. If you have swelling, show your doctor. And do this every time you get medical treatment, even if you’ve shown your doctor the very same things before.

Doctor Recommendations

Doctors don’t always write down what they tell you. Your doctor may tell you not to do certain activities, such as lifting above ten pounds. Or, the doctor tells you to go out and get a cane to help you walk. They might even tell you that they think you are disabled and should apply for disability. If your doctor does not write these things down, SSA says that it must not have happened.

Simply get your doctor to give you that information in writing for your own records. Then, give a copy of that record to your disability lawyer.

As you can see there are many factors that go into proving a disability with the SSA. Call Rainwater, Holt & Sexton to speak with an attorney and get help with your claim.

Who Can Be Held Liable In A Truck Accident Case?

by Mike Rainwater | January 31st, 2017

Determining liability in a truck accident case is not as straightforward as it might first seem. Unlike a simple traffic accident, more players are involved including the driver, the owner of the truck, the entity that leased the truck from the owner and possibly others.

Who Regulates Trucking Accidents?

State and federal laws regulate truck accidents. In addition to each individual state’s department of transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determine and enforce trucking laws and regulations.

Several federal regulations exist to aide in determining liability. Any company that owns a trucking permit is responsible for all accidents involving a truck that has its name displayed on the vehicle. Prior to this regulation, trucking companies would attempt to avoid liability by pinning it on the driver or other parties.

Additional federal and state laws mandate proper rest for the driver, maximum weight permissions, quality control of trucks and safely transporting hazardous waste. If these laws are broken, it can prove negligence, therefore determining liability.

Determining Liability in a Truck Accident

To win a truck accident case, you need to prove that the driver, truck company or others were at fault and are responsible for your injuries. To prove fault, you’ll need to prove one of the entities involved broke the law, causing the accident and showing negligence – for example, that the truck driver ran a red light, or that the truck company hired an unqualified driver.

Because commercial vehicle accidents can be quite complicated, you should consult an experienced Arkansas truck accident attorney to determine what legal route should be taken and what parties are at fault.

Considering Bankruptcy? You Can Make Things Right

by Mike Rainwater | January 30th, 2017

Living paycheck to paycheck is simply part of life for many in Arkansas. When everything is going right, you have enough to pay your bills and perhaps a little left over. But when things go wrong, your financial situation can quickly deteriorate and leave you wondering how you’re ever going to again make ends meet.

At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, we’re amazed at just how quickly a family’s financial situation can go south. Whether it’s due to a series of unfortunate events or one life-changing circumstance, a family who has never had financial trouble can quickly find themselves thousands of dollars in debt with creditors breathing down their necks. If that sounds like your situation, rest assured that you and your family have options.

To most people, the word bankruptcy means something negative. Truth is, it’s a process by which you make things right, financially, so both you and your creditors can move on to more productive things. Our system of commerce depends upon it. That’s right, our system of commerce actually wants people to declare bankruptcy when they need to. That way, creditors can know if a debt is actually collectible or not.  If not, then all agree it needs to be discharged.  If part of a debt can be paid, then all agree a plan needs to be implemented to pay that part over time. In the Bankruptcy Code, this process is called a wage earner plan. It is a court-ordered debt consolidation plan with the benefit of discharge of that part of debts that cannot be paid. Filing bankruptcy is not about fear, shame or guilt. It is about doing the responsible. It is about clearing out uncollectible debt. It is about getting overwhelmed debtors off the sideline and back in the game of American commerce.  It’s about helping creditors identify what debt not to pursue, so they will not waste any more time and money pursuing uncollectible debt. Filing for needed debt relief — to be administered through the bankruptcy court — is something that is good for you, good for your creditors and good for America.

If you have fallen on financial hard times, call our experienced Arkansas bankruptcy attorneys today for a free consultation. If you’re considering filing bankruptcy in Arkansas, there’s a lot you need to know before you get started. Just call us. We’ll work to optimize your bankruptcy claim, so that you and your family can start again on the right foot. We will give you the information you need to take the right next financial steps. Don’t hesitate; contact us today.

The Tactical Reason to Call an Attorney

by Mike Rainwater | January 27th, 2017

At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, we know why it is vital for an accident victim to call an attorney after a serious car accident. First of all, there is a financial reason. According to available statistical data analyzed for insurance companies, on average, car accident victims get more money with an attorney than without. A practical reason is that the personal injury attorney takes care of the heavy lifting so that you can focus on how to get better. And, there’s also a tactical reason, which most accident victims aren’t aware of—the other party likely may already have a lawyer on their side.

Automobile insurance companies provide an attorney to represent their policyholder (and to protect the company’s profits) in the event of a personal injury lawsuit. That attorney is provided automatically, and done without additional charge to the at-fault driver. But, when you are the accident victim, don’t expect your insurance company to do the same. The insurance company for the accident victim has no skin in the game. Thus, your insurance company won’t be paying for an attorney to represent you—to protect your best interests. You’re on your own.

Make no bones about it—a personal injury claim is a fight, and most often, that fight will come down to who you have on your side. The driver who hit you may already have a legal team on their side. Why wouldn’t you do the same?

If you’ve been injured, call our experienced Arkansas car accident attorneys today for a free consultation. Don’t go into the fight without help. Contact us today and get the full weight of our experience fighting for you.

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