WORKERS' COMPENSATION - SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY - MEDICAL MALPRACTICE - PERSONAL INJURY - PERS

Archive for 2017

Does Scarring Affect My Personal Injury Case?

Ohio law allows injury victims to seek monetary damages for permanent and severe scarring. The legal term and standard for severity is “substantial physical deformity,” which is something a judge or jury must decide after hearing testimony and expert’s opinions. Scarring can also be used as grounds for arguing that the court should waive the statutory $250,000 cap on non economic damage awards in civil lawsuits.

This three-sentence answer to the question of how scars affect cases handled by Cleveland personal injury lawyers requires quite a bit of unpacking to make sense to someone who is not an attorney or insurance company representative. In this blog post, we will focus on three key aspects of personal injury claims related to scarring:

  • How scarring can occur,
  • What kind of scarring can meet the legal standard for being “a permanent and substantial physical deformity,” and
  • How a personal injury lawyer in Cleveland can argue that scarring compels a person or company to pay damages to the victim.

 

Personal Injuries That Leave Scars

Any damage to the skin has the potential to leave a visible reminder. Deep cuts, burns from fires and chemicals, and compound fractures are the most common causes of the types of scars that merit filing personal injury claims. Each of those types of injuries can result from traffic crashes, falls, defective and dangerous products, and botched surgeries/medical malpractice.

 

Scars as Deformities

Damage to muscles, joints, and organs like lungs are treated separately from visible scars. So, while a scar might limit a victim’s range of movement, impair breathing, or cause pain, those factors are not used when applying the deformity standard.

To merit compensation and damages, a scar generally needs to be large and unsightly. Facial scarring and scarring that prevents wearing shorts, skirts or short-sleeved shirts can provide grounds for filing personal injury claims.

 

Claims Stemming From Scars

Heavy scarring and scars that cannot be hidden often can cause mental and emotional distress. It can also make it difficult to form new friendships, date, maintain a marriage, or find a job. These problems are very real, but it is impossible to assign an exact dollar figure to the harms imposed by scars left by another person’s negligence or recklessness. Hence, the request for non economic damages.

During a civil trial that involves scarring claims, a Cleveland personal injury lawyer will present testimony from his or her client regarding how the scars make living their life to its fullest difficult or impossible. Statements from family members, co-workers and friends can also help support claims for damages, as can expert opinions from psychologists, doctors, social workers, and therapists.

If scars from an accident, medical error, or malfunctioning product are ruining your life, considering contacting a Cleveland, Ohio personal injury lawyer to discuss ways to hold the responsible party financially accountable. The attorneys with Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman offer free consultations to potential clients, so call us at (800) 678-3318. We also take requests for appointments online through this contact form.

Are Breathalyzers Always Right?

No, breathalyzers are not always right.

In fact, the handheld devices some police use after stopping drivers for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol produce results so unreliable that Ohio courts do not recognize the readings as scientifically valid evidence at all. Anyone facing trial for operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI) in or around Columbus owes it to him or herself to hire an experienced Columbus DUI attorney to challenge breath test results.

 

Refuse Requests to Blow Into a Portable Breathalyzer

Columbus police and Ohio State Highway Patrol officers are allowed to carry and use alcohol breath-testing devices. They can consider the results when deciding to make an initial arrest and order additional alcohol and drug testing at a state-certified laboratory. They cannot, however, submit a reading from a portable breath-testing device to a court as evidence to support an OVI conviction.

The kinds of devices most people picture when they think “breathalyzers” are simply too inaccurate to provide evidence of intoxication. They are either too sensitive, misidentifying structurally similar chemicals as the ethyl alcohol in beer, wine, and liquor, or too easily misused and misread, falsely confirming a decision the arresting officer has already reached.

Agreeing to blow into a portable alcohol breath testing device can only make things worse for a driver suspected of driving drunk. Since Ohio laws do not make it illegal to refuse roadside breath testing, drivers should say something like, “I prefer not to blow into a breathalyzer, officer,” when asked.

 

Question Breath Tests Done at Labs

Despite mistrusting field tests for alcohol on the breath of OVI suspects completely, Ohio courts place great faith in breath-testing results obtained at certified medical facilities and police stations. Many of the same problems exist, however.

Suspects who cannot generate the lung power to register a readable result can be accused of noncompliance and charged — falsely — for test refusal. Beyond that purely physical problem, blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) measured by doing analyses of people’s breath can be artificially raised by what an individual ate recently, use of mouthwash, vomiting, and even a high fever.

A Columbus traffic lawyer will explore all such confounding factors, as well as how the officer conducted the testing. Police must follow a script when request a breath sample and explain the consequences of refusing to comply. If the required information is not shared with a suspect, test results may be thrown out.

A Columbus traffic defense lawyer will also check to see if the breath-testing equipment used at the lab was recently serviced and used correctly. Any breakdown in procedures that are spelled out in great detail by state judges and regulators can provide grounds for requesting that OVI charges be dismissed.

 

Worry About Ignition Interlock Devices

 

A sentence for an OVI conviction frequently includes an order to install an ignition interlock device in each vehicle owned and driven on a regular basis. Such devices are often called car breathalyzers because they shut off the engine unless the driver blows an alcohol-free breath sample into the device. Samples are required when the vehicle is started and every 15-30 minutes while the vehicle is running. An alarm sounds when a breath sample is required. Ignoring the demand for a breath test or registering a positive BAC stops the vehicle and generates a report for the people monitoring compliance.

The person under sentence for OVI must pay for the installation of the ignition interlock device, pay to have it checked and calibrated every two weeks or each month, and pay to replace a broken or defective device. When calibration slips, false positives become more likely, which increases the risk for rearrest and sentencing for more jail time and other sanctions.

If you need help from a DUI defense attorney in Columbus, Ohio, talk to a Columbus traffic attorney now.

Occupational Diseases That May Lead to Workers’ Comp

When your job makes you sick, you may qualify for benefits from Cleveland Workers’ Compensation (OWC). The state disability program makes qualifying with an occupational disease difficult, though. Preparing the workers’ comp application with the help of a lawyer who has represented many other people who grew too ill to continue working can improve the chances for receiving payments to replace lost wages and to support medical treatments and ongoing therapy.

 

Qualifying Conditions

OWC maintains a schedule of occupational diseases that, when accurately diagnosed and clearly linked to on-the-job exposures and activities, can qualify a person to receive workers’ comp benefits. That list includes

  • Poisoning by lead, mercury, phosphorous, arsenic, benzol and its derivatives, gasoline, benzine, naphtha, volatile petroleum products, carbon disulfide, wood alcohol, carbon dioxide, brass, zinc, manganese dioxide, radium, potassium cyanide, or sulfur dioxide
  • Asbestosis (i.e., lung disease, but not mesothelioma, from breathing in asbestosis)
  • Berylliosis (i.e., lung disease from breathing in beryllium)
  • Silicosis (i.e., lung disease from breathing in silica/sand)
  • Anthrax, which can be contracted from cattle or soil
  • Glanders, which is a livestock disease, particularly in horses, that can pass to humans
  • Tenosynovitis and prepatellar bursitis (i.e., inflammation of fluid-filled sacs around joints)
  • Chrome ulceration of the skin or nasal passages
  • Skin cancers caused by contact with or exposure to toxic and caustic substances such as carbon, pitch, tar, or tarry compounds
  • Eye cancers caused by contact with or exposure to toxic and caustic substances
  • Lung diseases caused by contact with or exposure to toxic and caustic substances
  • Infections caused by oils, cutting compounds or lubricants, dust, liquids, fumes, gases, or vapors

 

Generally, OWC will not consider a single exposure or isolated assignment sufficient to haves caused a disease that keeps an Ohio employee out of work for an extended period. Exceptions can be made for massive exposures like the kind that can occur during an industrial accident.

In addition to the scheduled conditions, the OWC will consider awarding workers’ comp benefits to firefighters who develop lung cancer or respiratory illnesses, police officers who get diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, and anyone who has evidence of long-term exposures to the following:

  • Extreme cold
  • Extreme heat
  • Sudden changes from low temperatures to high temperatures
  • Loud noises
  • High-frequency noises
  • High atmospheric pressure
  • Steady vibrations
  • Radiation
  • Infectious organisms

 

A final set of conditions that may qualify for workers’ comp benefits are repetitive motion disorders. Carpal tunnel syndrome from contorting one’s hands is probably the best-known repetitive motion disorder, but a disabling condition due to constant bending, lifting and twisting can develop in any muscle group, tendon, ligament or joint.

Consulting with both an experienced occupational health physician and a knowledgeable Ohio workers’ compensation lawyer when questions exist about whether a condition will qualify is always a good idea. Acting quickly in preparing a workers’ comp application is also necessary.

 

Statute of Limitations

The OWC enforces a 2-year statute of limitations for filing workers’ compensation applications. The clock usually starts when symptoms force the applicant to stop working or when a diagnosis is confirmed. In the few instances when an extension of deadline for submitting a claim is granted, it only lengthens the statute of limitations by 6 months.

The application should go to OWC with as much medical evidence, personal work history, wage information, and therapy details as possible. Collaborating with an Columbus workers’ compensation lawyer will help ensure that the initial application packet is as complete as possible. Partnering with a legal representative early in the process also offers the applicant a ready ally should it become necessary to appeal a denial of workers’ compensation benefits.

A free consultation with a workers’ comp attorney based in Cleveland can be requested by filling out this online form. Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman lawyers can also be reached by phone at (800) 678-3318.

An Overview of Our Legal Practice Areas

Attorneys in the Cleveland, Ohio, law firm offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman handle a wide array of disability cases, insurance claims, and civil lawsuits. We always represent plaintiffs because we welcome opportunities to fight for victims of on-the-job accidents, injuries, wrongful deaths, and mistreatment by insurance companies and retirement plans.

 

Workers’ Compensation

 

Nearly all employers in Ohio are required to participate in the state’s program to pay medical expenses and replacement wages to workers who suffer injuries, get killed, or develop illnesses while on the job. Worker’s comp benefits do not arrive automatically, however. Companies and agencies often dispute claims, and the applicant must demonstrate that the injury, loss of life, or disease resulted directly from something done as part of their official duties or assignments. Partnering with an experienced Cleveland workers’ compensation attorney can be essential to securing payments that make it possible to recover enough to start working again or to survive without an accustomed paycheck.

 

Social Security Disability

 

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program provides payments to people who have physical or mental conditions that leave them unable to work for 12 months or longer. Conditions likely to result in death can also qualify people for SSDI benefits.

 

The federal long-term disability program is open to adults who have made contributions to Social Security, usually through automatic deductions from their wages or salaries. Children of Social Security-eligible adults can also qualify to receive SSDI benefits.

 

Disabled individuals with little income and few financial resources may also qualify for Supplemental Security Income or SSI. Applying for either SSDI or SSI can be complicated and time-consuming. Denials of benefits frequently occur for technical reasons. Working with a Cleveland Social Security disability lawyer can increase the likelihood of receiving benefits.

 

Long-Term Disability and Short-Term Disability

 

Insurance companies look for reasons to deny claims. Choosing the most-appropriate policy in the first place can prevent some problems from occurring, but taking full advantage of contracted coverages can prove difficult. For these reasons, the long- and short-term disability attorneys with the Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman law firm in Cleveland, Ohio, welcome opportunities to consult with clients looking to purchase insurance and with clients who need to hold insurers to their contractual obligations.

 

Personal Injury

 

From car crashes to defective products and improperly maintained stairs, risks for injuries and deaths caused by others’ negligence abound. Receiving compensation and monetary damages from the person or organization that failed to protect the victim’s health or life can take years and a court case. Hiring a dedicated personal injury lawyer or wrongful death attorney to conduct an independent investigation, to interpret and apply relevant laws and regulations, and to deal with insurance representatives or defense lawyers can make all the difference in holding the responsible party financially accountable.

 

Medical Malpractice

 

Patients and their family members trust healthcare providers and healthcare facilities with their physical and emotional well-beings. Negligence or recklessness by a doctor, surgeon, nurse, pharmacist, dentist, clinic, or hospital does more than break that trust; it makes people sicker and, sometimes, takes lives.

 

Holding people and institutions accountable for medical malpractice requires showing that a duty to the patient was breached, that harm resulted directly from the breach, and that the person or organization named as the defendant failed to meet professional or regulatory standards. Most victims of medical malpractice lack the knowledge and resources to prove these things, so enlisting the assistance of a hardworking medical malpractice attorney is necessary.

 

Intentional Torts

 

Intentional torts are usually crimes. When a person or company intends to harm someone, the victim can file a civil lawsuit for monetary compensation and damages. Sometimes, punitive damages and reimbursement can also be sought.

 

Examples of intentional torts include assault, fraud, theft, trespassing, and libel. Succeeding with a claim requires proving both that harm occurred and that the defendant intended to inflict the harm. That is, the plaintiff needs to collaborate with an intentional tort attorney to show the cause/motive and the effects.

 

State Pension and Disability Disputes

 

State and local government employees, public school teachers and staff, state university faculty, and public hospital staff do not pay into Social Security. Instead, they rely on plans like the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS), and the School Employees Retirement System (SERS) for pensions and disability benefits. The plans generally insist that potential beneficiaries apply for Social Security benefits first when any SSDI, federal retirement, or SSI eligibility may exist. Consulting with a knowledgeable OPERs, STRS, or SERS attorney can prevent false starts and ease the navigation of a process seemingly set up to discourage applicants.

 

We invite anyone who needs help in one of the above areas of civil law to contact our Cleveland Ohio law firm for a free consultation. Appointments can be scheduled by calling (800) 678-3318 or completing this online contact form.

Understanding Good Samaritan Laws Ohio

Ohio enacted its Good Samaritan Law in 1977 to make it easier for bystanders, especially trained medical personnel who are outside their hospital or clinic and off-duty law enforcement officers, to render first aid to victims of accidents and people suffering sudden health problems. Officially titled “Liability for Emergency Care,” section 2305.23 of the Ohio Revised Code states

 

No person shall be liable in civil damages for administering emergency care or treatment at the scene of an emergency outside of a hospital, doctor’s office, or other place having proper medical equipment, for acts performed at the scene of such emergency, unless such acts constitute willful or wanton misconduct.

 

Ohio’s Good Smartian Law covers all people who rush to assist victims. It prevents, say, a person who suffers broken ribs while receiving CPR from bringing a personal injury lawsuit. It also protects a nurse from a medical malpractice lawsuit if she fails to save the life of a car crash victim after stopping at the scene of an accident.

 

The Good Samaritan Law also generally prevents medical malpractice lawsuits against on-duty EMTs, paramedics, police, firefighters, and emergency room doctors and nurses. Only committing gross negligence or intentionally causing harm to an injured person would make a health care provider who was working a paid shift liable for an injury or death.

 

Another wrinkle to the Good Samaritan Law is that it complements Ohio’s hit-and-run statute. The Ohio Revised Code uses the term “hit-skip” to describe such wrecks. A provision of the hit-skip statute places a legal duty on the at-fault driver to render first aid when their own physical condition enables them to do so. Without the Good Samaritan Law, an Ohio driver who fled the scene of an accident in which another person suffered injuries could potentially have a legal defense for allowing the victim to suffer because a lawsuit could be filed for making things worse.

 

Individuals can lose the protection of the Good Samaritan Law, however. The second paragraph of section of O.R.C. 2305.23 makes it clear that no one can

 

  • Demand payment before rendering first aid,
  • Intentionally harm an accident victim or a person who is already experiencing a medical emergency, or
  • Ask for payment after an emergency unless the payment goes to a health care organization for which they work and for which they were on duty at the time.

 

To sum up, Ohio’s Good Samaritan Law enables and encourages all people to assist their neighbors in need. As personal injury and medical malpractices lawyers in Cleveland, Ohio, the attorneys with Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman see all the time the harm people do via acting irresponsibly. We are glad that the Good Samaritan Law increases the opportunities for Ohioans to step up and lend a hand when necessary.

 

If you have questions about any law related to personal injury, wrongful death, workers’ compensation, Social Security disability, or the intentional infliction of harm, ask a Cleveland lawyer by calling Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman at (800) 678-3318. You can also request a free consultation online.

Long-Term Disability vs. Social Security Disability Ohio

As disability lawyers in Cleveland, Ohio, the attorneys with Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman never find it helpful for our clients to think in terms of “long-term disability versus Social Security disability.” Rather, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is one long-term disability program among many. It is true that SSDI offers such benefits to the greatest number of disabled Americans, but it must be stressed that is just a single such option.

 

We discuss SSDI and the related federal program of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in greater detail elsewhere on our website. The most important thing to know about SSDI and SSI are that the person who applies must have paid into the Social Security program or be the legal dependent of someone who has. Almost as important, qualifying for federal disability benefits and income replacement payments is usually difficult, requiring extensive medical records and reams of paperwork.

 

A few other essential facts about SSDI and SSI are the following:

 

  • Federal disability benefits are awarded to people with a physical, mental, or emotional problem that leaves them unable to work for a year or more, or which has a high likelihood to prove fatal in the near future.
  • SSI payments are based on current income from all other sources, financial investments, and belongings that can be sold for cash.
  • People do not need to be disabled to qualify for SSI payments, but many SSDI beneficiaries also receive federal income support.
  • A family member, trusted caregiver, or representative of a residential care facility can be designated to receive SSDI benefits and SSI payments for a profoundly disabled person.

 

Disabled individuals and their families need to look beyond SSDI and SSI if they are Ohio public school employees, individuals who worked at a state university or community college, someone who worked in state, county, or city government. The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, or OPERS, and similar public sector retirement plans take the place of Social Security for these people. Applying to OPERS or a similar retirement system poses unique challenges that a knowledgeable Cleveland social security disability lawyer can help a disabled person overcome.

 

A third set of options for long-term disability exists for many people through their health insurance and life insurance policies. Each policy is different, and long-term care and income support provisions are often separate coverages people need to add to basic policies or purchase as standalone policies, but personal insurance usually pays out in addition to any federal or retirement plan benefits. Consulting with an experienced disability lawyer will help clarify choices for coverage and provide guidance when invoking long-term care and income replacement provisions.

 

The disability lawyers in the Cleveland, Ohio, offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman welcome opportunities to help people explore all their options regarding SSDI, SSI, retirement plan benefits, and long-term care insurance coverage. We offer no-cost, no-obligation consultations, and we can come to you if traveling presents too many challenges. To set up an appointment, call (800) 678-3318 or connect with us online.

How an SSDI Applicant’s Functional Limitations Are Judged

Qualifying to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits depends on having what the Social Security Administration considers “marked” or “extreme” functional limitations. The limitation can be physical, mental, or both, but they must be judged serious enough to prevent the applicant from working 8 hours a day for five days a week at a job he or she has the training and experience to perform.

 

SSDI adjudicators — the case officers who recommend approving or denying a long-term disability claim — assess each applicant’s residual functional capacity, or RFC. This is defined in a Social Security guidance document as “an individual’s ability to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities in a work setting on a regular and continuing basis.” Evidence for assigning a score to an applicant’s RFC comes from the following sources:

 

  • Medical records that include diagnoses, prognoses, and results from occupational therapy
  • The applicant’s personal descriptions of symptoms
  • Laboratory findings
  • Descriptions of symptoms and the applicant’s functioning from parents or a spouse, teachers or employers, and other people who know the person

 

An SSDI adjudicator may also request demonstrations of certain physical and mental functions, with those tests being conducted and reported by a health care provider named by the SSDI program.

 

When an applicant for federal disability benefits claims to have limits on his or her physical function, the adjudicator will grade the applicant on the ability to perform sedentary, light, medium, or heavy tasks while engaging in any of the following activities:

 

  • Bending from the waist
  • Crawling
  • Bending at the knees
  • Adapting to extreme temperatures or sudden changes in temperature
  • Spending time in sunlight or under bright indoor lights
  • Breathing unfiltered air
  • Typing
  • Writing
  • Reaching for objects
  • Manipulating objects
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Speaking

 

When an SSDI applicant claims mental limitations, the RCP will reflect the person’s abilities to:

 

  • Follow instructions
  • Maintain concentration
  • Adhere to a schedule
  • Complete tasks without constant supervision
  • Make appropriate decisions
  • Interact with people appropriately
  • Accept the kinds of criticism and correction normal to any job
  • Tolerate work-related stress
  • Report to work on time
  • Meet expectations for personal cleanliness

 

In addition to giving points for each degree of functionality on the listed criteria, the SSDI adjudicator considers the RCP in relation to the type of work the SSDI applicant has done in the past and is qualified to do in the future. For instance, a carpenter or factory worker may be able to so sedentary typing work, but the person could still be determined to have an extreme limitation because physical disabilities make returning to a construction site or production line impossible.

 

Collecting, organizing, and presenting all the evidence needed to support a federal disability claim can be difficult and time-consuming. Working with a Cleveland Social Security disability lawyer will help ensure an initial SSDI application is as complete as possible. Enlisting the help of an experienced disability attorney early in the process will also give an applicant a knowledgeable and ready ally should appealing a denial of benefits become necessary.

 

Let the Cleveland Social Security disability lawyers with Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman know how we can be of assistance. Schedule a free consultation online or call us at (800) 678-3318.

Workers’ Compensation for Emotional Distress

Ohio’s workers’ compensation program will provide benefits to a person who develops a mental disorder or emotional problem because he or she suffered an injury or contracted an occupational illness on the job. Workers’ comp in Ohio, however, does not directly cover job-related stress, anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

The distinction regarding what counts as a “compensable” — eligible for benefits or compensation — emotional or mental disorder is written into the Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.) and has been upheld by several Ohio Supreme Court decisions. The most-recent major statement by the highest court in Ohio comes from Armstrong v. John R. Jurgensen Co., which was decided in 2013.

 

Armstrong was a dump truck driver who, in 2009, suffered serious neck and back injuries when a speeding driver hit him from behind at a yield sign. The person who caused the wreck got pinned under the dump truck, and Armstrong believes he saw the person die.

 

After exhausting workers’ compensation benefits for his physical injuries, Armstrong worked with an Ohio personal injury lawyer to file an extension on the grounds that he suffered PTSD. That secondary claim was rejected on several appeals, and the Ohio Supreme Court also ruled against Armstrong when he asked the justices to rule on the question of whether section 4123.01(C)(1) of the O.R.C. explicitly “limits workers’ compensation coverage for psychiatric conditions to those conditions caused by the claimant’s compensable physical injury.”

 

The justices did uphold the rejection of the PTSD workers’ comp claim, finding that “pursuant to the plain language of [the statute], a claimant must sustain physical injury or occupational disease as a prerequisite to recovering workers’ compensation benefits for a mental condition. A psychiatric condition is not a workers’ compensation injury except when the condition has ‘arisen from an injury or occupational disease sustained by that claimant.’”

 

The justices went on to write: “The General Assembly may determine that mental conditions that develop contemporaneously with compensable physical injuries, or that arise out of the same accident or occurrence as the physical injuries, should be compensable, and amend the statutory language accordingly. Absent a mandate from the General Assembly that such conditions are compensable, however, we will not expand workers’ compensation coverage to them.”

 

To take that out of legalese, Armstrong’s PTSD did not qualify him for workers’ compensation because it developed at the same time as his neck and back injuries. If a crippling depression had befallen him during a protracted treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery process, he might have succeeded with his claim for extended disability benefits. Success would not be guaranteed, but the workers’ compensation people could not have declined his application out of hand.

 

Working with an Ohio personal injury lawyer who has experience representing injured and ill workers will help establish timelines and causation for emotional distress or mental disease. Compiling valid diagnoses, organizing psychiatric and counseling records, and putting together a narrative that clearly communicates the connection between a work-related accident or exposure and subsequent mental and behavior issues are all necessary to convince workers’ comp case reviewers.

 

If you believe you have a claim for worker’s compensation, consider contacting a personal injury lawyer at the Cleveland, OH, offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman. We have helped many people navigate the workers’ comp system, and we charge nothing for an initial consultation. To schedule an appointment, call (800) 678-3318 or reach out to us online.

Do I Need an Attorney for This? How to Know

You almost definitely need an attorney to provide advice and representation on the legal problems you face; it does not matter what the problem is or who you are.

 

We recognize that this answer comes across as glib — and possibly unhelpful. We also know it has been given in many other contexts. Still, we can say with assurance that as soon as you ask, “Do I need a lawyer?” you have your answer. Which is nearly always “yes”.

 

Attorneys exist because legal difficulties need resolving. If everyone understood all the financial, statutory, regulatory, and emotional aspects of every circumstance, attorneys would have no reason to practice. Since no one possesses perfect and absolute knowledge of all (or even a single) things, everyone can potentially benefit from consulting with and retaining the services of a lawyer.

 

Even lawyers hire other lawyers when they become parties to lawsuits, property sales, or business deals. Gaining outside perspective, tapping into a broader pool of knowledge and experience, and even just paying someone else to read all the fine print that it is so easy to talk yourself out of reading always pay off. Missed details, incomplete understanding, and poor strategy cost people in legal situations. Bringing in a lawyer to cross all the t’s, explain all the angles, and suggest the best course of action offers essentials protections and increases the likelihood of achieving the best outcomes.

 

Plus, and this can never be ignored, the other side has its lawyers. Viewing legal matters as an arms race does no one any favors, but making sure you enter a board room to conduct negotiations, sit down to give a deposition, or appear in court with a dedicated legal ally spares you certain defeat.

 

A question we can give a much more-precise answer to is whether you need a Cleveland, Ohio, attorney from Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman. That answer is “maybe,” and we welcome your further inquiries.

 

We represent clients in cases that involve

 

  • Social Security Disability Insurance
  • Supplemental Security Income through Social Security
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Personal injuries, particularly those caused by car and truck crashes, defective and dangerous products, and slips and falls (i.e., unsafe properties)
  • Medical malpractice, including nursing home neglect and abuse
  • Wrongful deaths from any cause
  • Short- and Long-term disability
  • Ohio Public Employees Retirement System disability and retirement benefits, as well benefits issues with other state-based retirement plans for school and government workers
  • Intentional torts, which happen when a person or organization purposefully inflicts harm via assault, fraud, or some other kind of likely criminal behavior

 

Criminal, employment, family, real estate, and business law matters will need to be taken up by other attorneys. Know, though, that legal assistance is available for whatever problem you have.

 

If you need help with a disability, injury, or retirement plan issue, contact the Cleveland, Ohio, offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman to let us know if we might be of service. We offer free consultations, so call us at 1-800-678-3318 or connect with us online to schedule an appointment.

Medical Negligence vs. Medical Malpractice: What’s the Difference?

Medical malpractice is medical negligence.

The may not seem like an answer to the question posed in the title, but it stands as the best explanation. There really is no difference in the overwhelming majority of cases.

Proving medical malpractice requires showing that a health care provider or facility acted negligently or recklessly in ways that caused harm. Reckless behavior by a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist is relatively rare. One example would be performing surgery while drunk or under the influence of drugs. A reckless hospital or clinic could be operating without a license. Both of those examples could also be prosecuted as crimes.

Medical negligence is less alarming, but often no less dangerous. It is also more difficult to prove, which is why anyone who believes they have suffered from medical malpractice should hire a lawyer who has years of experience handling such cases.

Patients do not always recover. Sadly, patients sometimes die despite every best effort from medical professionals and institutions. To account for these realities, judges and juries ask the following five questions when deciding whether medical malpractice occurred:

  • Did the patient suffer an injury or death?
  • Did the doctor, nurse, pharmacist, hospital, or clinic named as the defendant owe a duty of care to the plaintiff (i.e., a duty not to behave negligently while providing medical services to this specific patient)?
  • Did the defendant act in a negligent way by violating standards of care or professionalism?
  • Did the injury or death occur because a person or organization acted negligently?
  • Would the injury or death have occurred regardless of what the defendant did or failed to do?

 

The second two questions are the toughest to answer. In fact, Ohio laws and rules for medical malpractice complaints require plaintiffs to provide testimony from one or more qualified expert. An expert witness must be a licensed health professional who provides essentially the same services as the defendant and who can establish that he or she can speak knowledgeably about what standard of care the plaintiff could have expected to receive considering the plaintiff’s physical condition and location, as well as the relevant regulations, medical literature, and practice guidelines.

One of the primary services an Ohio medical malpractice lawyer offers clients is arranging testimony from expert witnesses. An attorney will also help a victim of medical negligence find appropriate rehabilitative care while working to identify and hold accountable all the individuals and organizations that failed the patient.

You can request a free meeting with a medical malpractice lawyer in Cleveland, OH, by calling Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman at (800) 678-3318. We will come to you if your health makes visiting our offices difficult, and we may also be able to conduct an initial consultation via computer if you contact us online.

Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits You May be Entitled To

One of the many reasons applying for and receiving workers’ compensation benefits in Ohio is so difficult is that payments can come in many different forms. Succeeding with a workers’ comp claim depends in large part on asking for what the Ohio Workers’ Compensation office considers the “right” type of benefit. And that determination depends on a consideration of factors that include what kind of injury or occupational illness the applicant suffered, what symptoms developed, whether the person named as the victim is alive or dead, and how the incident that led to the injury or illness occurred.

 

Consulting with an experienced Cleveland workers’ compensation attorney early in the workers’ comp benefits application process will help ensure all the proper questions are answered. A lawyer who knows how to navigate the Ohio workers’ comp system will also make sure that appropriate and sufficient medical evidence, as well as all necessary reports from supervisors, co-workers, and other relevant groups, are submitted to the people who need to see them by the deadlines on which the documentation must arrive.

 

The Basics on Qualifying for Workers’ Comp

 

Before going into detail about what types of workers’ comp benefits are available for which purposes, it helps to understand what the basic qualifications for any benefits at all are. Briefly, an applicant must meet four criteria

 

  • Get injured or fall sick on the job or while performing work-related activities;
  • Have proof that the disabling condition is primarily physical in nature, rather than psychological or emotional
  • Have proof that the injury or illness did not result from the applicant ignoring safety rules, breaking state or federal laws, or being impaired by drugs or alcohol; and
  • File a claim within two years of the incident that caused the injury or occupational illness.

 

Collaborating with a Cleveland workers’ compensation attorney to clear these hurdles makes sense, especially since a great deal of paperwork must be completed. An independent investigation may also be required, and a lawyer will know how to make sure that any investigation is conducted fully and fairly.

 

Two-Sentence Explanations of Various Workers’ Comp Benefits

 

Using the terminology of the Ohio Workers’ Compensation office, a person can qualify for one or more of the following types of benefits.

 

  • Temporary total: This most-commonly awarded benefit represents a proportion of the injured or ill worker’s pay at the time of the disabling incident. It is intended to tide people over until they recover enough to return to work.
  • Scheduled loss: An amputation, hearing or vision loss, or complete loss of function in a body part qualifies a person for a fixed, usually lump sum, payment. The amount of a scheduled loss benefit is set by statute and cannot be negotiated.
  • Percentage of permanent partial award: This can be a one-time or ongoing payment for an injury that does not fully heal or an illness that does not completely resolve. Recipients of this benefit, abbreviated as %PP, generally work but have limited range of motion in one or more limbs, have lingering health problems that prevent strenuous effort, or have lost their ability to function in high-stress environments.
  • Permanent total disability: The beneficiary cannot return to work at all. Receiving this benefit requires passing an in-person examination and hearing conducted by workers’ comp officials, and requalifying is often necessary.
  • Disabled Workers’ Relief Fund: This provides supplements to permanent total disability payments. Funds are allocated to raise a recipient to a minimum cost of living.
  • Change of occupation: Industrial workers, miners, police personnel, and firefighters with specific disabling occupational illnesses can qualify for this benefit. The money can be used to support retraining or to supplement wages when a person takes a lower-paying job.
  • Facial disfigurement: This one-time payment, capped at $10,000, is awarded as compensation for scars or damage to the face or head that is so severe that it makes returning to work at a sufficient wage difficult. The facial disfigurement award is made separately from and in addition to any other workers’ comp benefit determination.
  • Wage loss: Individuals who must take lower-paying jobs after partially recovering from a disabling injury or illness may qualify for wage supplements. Proof must exist that the reduced earnings from work stem directly from the workers’ comp-eligible disability.
  • Living maintenance wage loss: Similar to wage loss benefits, these payments are contingent upon completing a rehabilitation plan. Working for pay is also required.
  • Living maintenance: Individuals on disability who are currently participating in a rehabilitation plan instead of working can qualify for living maintenance. These payments replace temporary total benefits.
  • Violation of specific safety requirement: When an employer breaks a law or regulation put in place to protect workers’ lives and health, an injured employee or the dependent of an employee who got killed can seek a monetary award. This is not a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Death claims: A spouse or dependent child can collect workers’ comp benefits after a husband, wife, or parent gets killed on the job or dies from an occupational illness. Death benefits can be paid even if a person received workers’ compensation payments while still alive.

 

A Cleveland workers’ comp lawyer can negotiate lump sum payments for any of these benefits. Also, some advance payments from likely or scheduled awards can be requested for paying household bills, equipping a home with ramps and other disability accommodations, and buying or retrofitting a vehicle for handicap access.

 

You can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a Cleveland workers’ compensation attorney by calling Agee, Clymer, Mitchell & Portman at (800) 678-3318. You can also request an appointment online. We will come to you if you are too injured or ill to visit us.

Common Types of Birth Injuries Caused by Malpractice

Some of the most common serious birth injuries to newborns are

  • Brachial plexus palsy, which is also known as Erb’s palsy and is usually caused by excessive stretching of the neck during delivery. Damage to the nerves that control movement and feeling in the shoulder, arm and hand leave the child unable to use the affected limb. Daily physical therapy is often needed to fix the problem.
  • Bone fractures due to rough handling or complicated delivery.
  • Cephalohematoma, which is a lump on the top of the head where blood has collected. The condition itself is harmless, but it can indicate other problems caused by the misuse of forceps or a vacuum during delivery
  • Cerebral palsy, which is a lifelong physical and/or mental developmental disorder that can be caused by problems during fetal development or by the improper restriction of air to the baby during labor and delivery.
  • Facial paralysis caused by nerve damage, which can result from mishandling forceps during a vaginal birth or a scalpel during a caesarean section.
  • Intracranial hemorrhage, which is bleeding inside the skull and possibly life-threatening. If a hemorrhage is not detected and stopped quickly during labor and delivery, the baby can die, go blind, become paralyzed, or suffer brain damage.
  • Spinal cord injuries, which, like bone fractures, can be caused by rough handling or birthing complications.

Mothers are also at risk for birth injuries. Women who receive insufficient monitoring and care during labor and delivery can suffer seizures and strokes from spikes in blood pressure (preeclampsia), life-threatening blood loss, or infections from improperly sterilized equipment.

Fortunately, birth injuries occur rarely. Across the United States, only about 5 in 1,000 newborns suffer any physical or brain injury during delivery. Mothers are even safer. U.S. birth injuries rates for women are lower than 1 in 1,000.

When a birth injury does occur, however, it devastates a family. Not only does the mother or child suffer from what could be a preventable medical error, the victim can face a lifetime of pain, physical disability, intellectual deficits, and therapy. When such a tragedy happens in Cleveland, Ohio, partnering with a medical malpractice lawyer to secure compensation and monetary damages represents the best way to achieve justice. In some cases, payments for the emotional distress experienced by the child or the parents may also be warranted.

Proving a Birth Injury Resulted From Medical Malpractice Is Difficult

Succeeding with any type of medical malpractice claim requires proving three things:

  • The health care provider, hospital, or clinic named as the defendant owed you a duty to protect you from harm.
  • The defendant failed to meet that duty by acting negligently or recklessly.
  • The injury you suffered resulted directly from the negligent or reckless act.

Negligence by a doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist, pharmacist, or health care facility comes down to not following widely recognized treatment protocols or adhering to safety regulations. Recklessness could mean providing care while drunk or on drugs.

As an example of how the three criteria for proving malpractice in a birth injury case could be met, think of a baby who had only normal prenatal test results but was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after being born. If evidence shows that the obstetrician who managed the birthing team failed to order sufficient oxygen monitoring or to respond quickly when an airflow problem was detected, a claim for malpractice could succeed. The parent who brought the claim on behalf of the child and an Ohio medical malpractice lawyer would still need to convince a judge or jury that the developmental disorder did not originate in the womb, though.

If you think you might have a birth injury claim, request a free consultation with a Cleveland, OH, medical malpractice lawyer at Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman. Call us at (800) 678-3318 or schedule an appointment online.

What Types of Accidents Cause Personal Injury?

Personal injuries and wrongful deaths result from many causes. They also take many forms, ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and cerebral palsy. Fortunately, victims have undeniable rights to hold the people or organizations that harm them accountable. Parents can seek insurance settlements for injured children, and a designated family member or estate executor can file a civil lawsuit on behalf of a person who needlessly lost his or her life.

Following is a quick summary of the major types of personal injury and wrongful death cases. If you or a loved one has fallen victim to any of these, you may have a legal champion among the attorneys who practice out of the Cleveland, Ohio, offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman. Let us know how we can help by calling (800) 678-3318 or connecting with us online. The initial consultation will cost you nothing.

Car Accidents

Car wrecks, truck crashes, and motorcycle accidents likely come to mind most quickly when anyone hears “Cleveland, Ohio, personal injury lawyer.” This is entirely appropriately because people who hurt or kill others by violating traffic laws, driving recklessly, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs should be made to settle insurance claims, pay compensation for medical bills, and pay damages for pain and suffering.

Medical Malpractice

When doctors, dentists, pharmacists, or nurses fail to follow the best practices for patient care, individuals can spend months or years suffering unnecessarily. Too often, medical mistakes kill. Just a few of the errors health care providers make that can justify a personal injury or wrongful death claim are:

  • Prescribing, dispensing, or administering the wrong drug in the wrong way or at an unsafe dose
  • Operating on the wrong body part or person
  • Providing insufficient care during labor and delivery
  • Leaving sponges or surgical implements inside a patient
  • Misdiagnosing debilitating or deadly conditions by not following standard diagnostic guidelines
  • Allowing a patient to fall or injure him or herself by not providing appropriate monitoring and assistance

Hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes also have legal duties to protect patients. Often, a medical malpractice lawsuit will name both a health care practitioner and the facility that employed the individual who committed the alleged error.

Slips & Falls

Homeowners and businesses must ensure the safety of visitors. “Slip and fall” is the catch-all term for this because the stereotypical case involves a customer slipping on an unmopped floor. The key to succeeding with such a claim lies in showing that the danger was known to exist but not fixed, which constitutes negligence on the part of the property owner or legal occupant. For instance, loose railings, broken steps, building code violations, exposed wiring, and heavy objects stored unsecurely overhead can give rise to slip and fall claims.

Dangerous and Defective Products

Companies that make or sell items that injure, poison, or kill consumers can be sued. Proving intent is not necessary. A plaintiff in a dangerous or defective product lawsuits only needs to prove that a problem should have been noticed and corrected before anyone got hurt.

Intentional Torts

In legalese, a harm is called a tort. This means that an intentional tort occurs when a person wants to hurt someone else and succeeds. Examples of intentional tort include:

  • Assault, which covers both physically harming someone and making credible, actionable threats of physical harm
  • Defamation, which covers libel (in print) and slander (spoken) but is very difficult to prove because public figures and dead people cannot be defamed and evidence must exist that the information was both known to be untrue and shared deliberately to cause harm
  • False imprisonment, which cover private individuals as well as law enforcement personnel and only means making it difficult for the victim to leave a place rather than literally keeping someone locked up
  • Fraud in all forms, ranging from counterfeiting and identity theft to Ponzi schemes and credit card theft
  • Infliction of emotional distress
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Theft, which covers taking anything that does not belong to you without permission and without committing an assault
  • Trespassing, especially when the intent is to commit theft or inflict emotional distress

 

Slips, Falls, and Other Winter-Related Accidents

Tough winters define Cleveland almost as much as hard-luck NFL seasons. The snow and ice that cover northeastern Ohio from early November to late March do more than make Clevelanders pine for spring. They create slip, fall, and car crash hazards that put everyone at increased risks for serious injuries and death.

The Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman personal injury lawyers want residents of Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, and Summit counties to understand the dangers they face from winter weather, as well as their legal options should they get hurt or lose a loved one. Insurance coverage is available for most accidents due to ice, snow. sleet, and slush, but enlisting the help of an experienced Cleveland, Ohio, slip and fall attorney or car accident lawyer may be necessary.

Slippery Stairs and Sidewalks

Local ordinances in every community across the Buckeye State set fines for homeowners and businesses that fail to quickly clear snow and ice from their approaches and entrances. This essential safety regulation does have one interesting twist in Ohio, however.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that a person cannot sue a private homeowner for failing to shovel or put down salt and sand. The justices determined that individuals voluntarily assume risk when they venture out on foot during or after a winter storm. Now, if you break a leg outside your neighbor’s house in Akron, you must rely on your own health or homeowner’s insurance policy to cover medical bills, lost wages and other damages. Consulting with a slip and fall attorney can still be beneficial in that situation because insurance companies always question such claims.

Businesses and employers still have a legal duty to clear their parking lots, sidewalks, and doorways. They are also required to keep their floors as dry as possible. Wet and slippery surfaces must be blocked off or clearly marked if they cannot be easily and thoroughly mopped.

Dangerous Roads and Highways

You probably do not need to be reminded that diving on wintry roads increases your chances of becoming involved in a wreck. Regardless, exactly how much the risk for getting injured or killed may surprise you. Nationally, some 1,300 people die each year on roads and highways covered with snow, ice, or slush. Another nearly 117,000 people sustain injuries that require medical treatment when using roads slicked by winter storms.

Ohio applies the principle of comparative negligence to car accidents. As long as evidence shows that you were less at fault for causing a crash, you can seek an insurance settlement or civil court judgment from the other person who hit you. Making your case for suffering from another driver’s negligence or recklessness will go easier if you partner with a skilled car accident lawyer in Cleveland.

Even Icicles Can Kill

Winter-related dangers come in many forms. Roofs collapse under the weight of accumulated snow. Ice-covered tree limbs snap off and fall on passing pedestrians and vehicles. Even large icicles can take lives after breaking free from building eaves.

Most risks from snow, ice, sleet, and slush can be mitigated by careful drivers and attentive business owners. If you or a loved one does suffer a slip and fall injury or a car accident that you believe could have been avoided, an attorney in the Cleveland offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman may be able to help you hold a negligent or reckless party accountable. To set up a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, call us at (800) 678-3318 or use this online contact form.

What Types of Disability Benefits Can I Receive as an Injured Worker?

A work-related injury or illness may make you eligible to receive benefits from one or more government or private program. Options for making up lost wages, covering medical bills and receiving compensation for the infliction of harm are summarized very briefly below. While each program enforces different rules for qualifying for payments, they all require the submission of extensive paperwork, medical records, and multiple kinds of evidence that show financial need and disability.

You can learn more about what types of benefits you might receive by speaking with a Cleveland, Ohio, disability lawyer at Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman. Call (800) 678-3318 or fill out this contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Ohio Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ comp covers most employees in Ohio. The basic qualifications are

  • The injury or illness must happen while doing work or being engaged in work-related activities.
  • The injury or illness must result in death, result in the loss of a body part or physical function, or make returning to work impossible for a significant amount of time.
  • The employer must pay into the Ohio Workers’ Compensation program.

Payments from workers’ comp are generally capped at two-thirds of the recipient’s monthly wages, but one-time payouts are available for major injuries like amputations and loss of vision. Awards of benefits to living recipients usually come with requirements to participate in therapy and rehabilitation programs and to undergo regular reassessments of the ability to return to work.

Social Security Disability Insurance

SSDI is theoretically available to anyone too disabled or ill to work who has paid into the Social Security system, usually through paycheck withholdings. Qualifying requires being completely disabled or likely to die within 12 months. Extreme financial need may also qualify for Supplemental Security Income.

Working with a disability lawyers in Cleveland, OH, while applying for SSDI and SSI is recommended because even small errors in paperwork can lead to denials for technical reasons.

Short- and Long-Term Insurance

Relying on your own insurance may be possible when you need ongoing health care and some degree of income replacement. Planning ahead, especially for long-term care, is essential for anyone who wants to have this option for short- or long-term disability benefits. Insurance company’s offer many types of policies, and speaking with a disability lawyer about the various provisions could help align coverage with likely needs.

Public Employee Options

State and local government workers in Ohio, including public school teachers and public higher education faculty, do not pay into Social Security from their paychecks and may not be eligible for workers’ compensation. Such employees may need to apply to their retirement systems when they get hurt or fall ill on the job. Programs like the Public Employees Retirement System and the State Teachers Retirement System are not merely pension plans. They also provide disability benefits to participants who qualify. One challenge with accessing such benefits is that holding jobs outside the public sector can make Social Security a first option, even if much more time was spent in a school or agency.

Can an Intentional Tort Be Filed Alongside a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Ohio law makes it very difficult, but not impossible, for an injured worker to succeed with an intentional tort lawsuit against his or her employer. So, while the simplest answer to the question of whether someone who gets hurt on the job can sue his or her company while also pursuing workers’ compensation benefits is yes, that answer is incomplete.

What Is an Intentional Tort?

“Tort” is the legal term for harm. This means that an intentional harm occurs when a person or organization hurts someone on purpose. Knowing that someone would almost definitely get hurt but doing nothing to minimize the danger could also make a person or organization liable for causing an intentional tort. In the context of an injury that might merit a workers’ comp claim and an intentional tort lawsuit, the harm might occur from a manager issuing equipment known to be defective or executives refusing to install railings and other safety measures.

What Does Ohio Law Say About Suing an Employer for an Intentional Tort?

Section 2745.01 of the Ohio Revised Code states

In an action brought against an employer by an employee, or by the dependent survivors of a deceased employee, for damages resulting from an intentional tort committed by the employer during the course of employment, the employer shall not be liable unless the plaintiff proves that the employer committed the tortious act with the intent to injure another or with the belief that the injury was substantially certain to occur.

In plain English, this means that civil court judges will only side with a worker who brings an intentional tort lawsuit against his or her employer if a great deal of evidence shows that the worker was deliberately put in harm’s way or offered no training or means to protect him or herself.

Working with an Ohio intentional tort attorney would be essential to collecting, organizing, and presenting such evidence. At a minimum, building the case would require conducting numerous lengthy interviews with co-workers and managers, inspecting the worksite, analyzing written procedures and work rules, and consulting with all kinds of experts who could assess the risks for harm and offer knowledgeable opinions on why the injury or illness occurred.

How Does Workers’ Comp Relate to an intentional Tort Lawsuit?

Applying to Ohio Workers’ Compensation is completely separate from any legal actions taken to receive compensation and damages for an intentional tort. Despite this, the processes share many similarities, including:

  • The same evidence of the injury or illness and why it developed is used, such as witness accounts and medical records.
  • The employer has the right to contest claims.
  • The injured or ill worker has the right to be represented by an attorney who handles intentional torts and workers’ compensation at all times.

The best way to know if you have grounds for pursuing an intentional tort lawsuit in addition to a workers’ compensation claim is to consult with a lawyer. You can set up a no-cost, no-obligation appointment to speak with an attorney for intentional torts at the Cleveland offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman by calling (800) 678-3318 or completing this online contact form.


Cleveland OH Workers Comp Lawyer
Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman
6100 Oak Tree Blvd., Suite 200, Cleveland Ohio 44131 USA
Tel: (216) 328-2125 Fax: (614) 221-7308 Map