The Blog

Banks Law named one of top Philadelphia workers’ compensation law firms

PHILADELPHIA – Nov. 15, 2018 – Banks Law has been recognized as one of the top workers’ compensation law firms in the region, according to the 2019 “Best Law Firms” rankings from U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers.

Firms are ranked in specific tiers and, according to the press release; the firms included in the rankings are recognized for “professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers.”

Banks Law was ranked in Tier 1 for Workers’ Compensation. Those 2019 Tier 1 rankings are featured in the November “Best Law Firms” General Counsel Publication.

For more information regarding this year’s rankings, click here.

 


 

Banks Law was founded in 2013 by Halmon “Sonny” Banks and has developed a reputation as one of the most reliable firms in the Philadelphia area, due to its outstanding personal service and its aggressive litigation style.

And for more information regarding Banks Law, go to www.bankslaw.com or contact the firm at 215-561-1000.

View Comments

Banks Law Settles $2.5 million Workers’ Compensation Case

Banks Law is very pleased to announce that we recently negotiated one of the largest workers’ compensation settlements in Pennsylvania, if not the country. In a decision dated 9/13/2017, Judge Audrey Timm approved a $2.5 million dollar ($2,556,815.00 to be exact) C & R in the case of Vincent Burgese v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. The C & R hearing was held before the Judge on 9/11/2017. The settlement was negotiated at a voluntary mediation with Judge Tina Rago on 7/17/2017. The settlement resolved Mr. Burgese’s open medical claim only as his wage loss claim was previously settled by firm founder, Halmon “Sonny” Banks on 3/30/2012 for $275,000.00. The million dollar deal included upfront cash and an annuity (via a MSA) payable over Mr. Burgese’s life-expectancy.

Mr. Burgese was hurt at work on 1/10/2003 while working for the University of Pennsylvania as a housekeeper. He started working for the University in 1988. He severely injured his lower back when he lost his balance and fell down stairs. He hasn’t worked since the accident except for a five (5) week period when he tried to return to work following his first back surgery. The University accepted Mr. Burgese’s claim by way of a Notice of Compensation Payable (NCP) describing his injury on the document as a herniated disc at L3-4. Mr. Burgese eventually had 2 surgeries on his lower back in February 2003 and in June 2006. The latter surgery was done to implant a spinal cord stimulator to try and address his severe lower back and leg pain. Neither surgery gave Mr. Burgese significant relief. He continues to have severe lower back and leg pain twenty-four (24) hours a day, seven (7) days a week. He is forced to take a multitude of medications including Percocet, Oxycontin, Xanax, etc in conjunction with the stimulator that was surgically implanted. He also uses a TENS unit, a special mattress to help him sleep and, he was prescribed a scooter to help him get around. Mr. Burgese is only 51 yrs old. He was 36 yrs old at the time of his injury which means Mr. Burgese has had to deal with crippling lower back pain most of his adult life. Mr. Burgese has 7 kids who he couldn’t run, jump and play with because of his back injury. In addition to his weekly workers’ benefit of $608.94 per week, he was awarded SSD benefits in 2005 due to his inability to work in any capacity because of his lower back.

Mr. Banks has represented Mr. Burgese since February of 2005. He successfully defended Mr. Burgese before both the WCJ and WCAB in several rounds of litigation over the years when the employer tried to reduce Mr. Burgese’s benefits through a Labor Market Survey (LMS) and an Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE). Mr. Banks was successful in 2009 in getting Mr. Burgese’s compensable work injury expanded to include a second herniated disc at L4-5, multi-level lumbar radiculopathy, depression and ED.

This settlement allows Mr. Burgese to finally re-gain control of his life rather than have the employer and their workers’ compensation insurance carrier dictate his every move. He is finally at peace after an almost fifteen (15) year battle to simply get what he was entitled to. The entire Banks Law team wishes Mr. Burgese and his family the very best in the future.

View Comments

OFFSETS, CREDITS and MORE; OH MY!

Congratulations! Your case has been decided by a Workers’ Compensation Judge, and you’ve won! You are now receiving workers’ compensation benefits every week. Everything is smooth sailing now, right? Sadly, this is very wrong. Normally, when a suit is brought against a defendant, the final outcome concludes the entire case. In Workers’ Compensation, there are many methods the Employer has at its disposal to try and stop, or reduce, your benefits even after your injury has been accepted as work related. Even if a Judge grants your claim, the Employer will likely use one of these methods, to try and stop or reduce your benefits. This means, every time an Employer tries to stop or reduce your benefits, you’ll end up back in Court. Just because your claim was accepted doesn’t mean all litigation is over.

Many ways exist that allow your Employer to reduce your benefits, simply by filing some forms with the bureau of workers’ compensation. This type of reduction of your benefits is called an Employer credit/offset. Simply, the Employer can reduce the overall amount of workers’ compensation wage payments they make if you receive certain types of income, in addition to Workers’ Compensation.

The Employer can reduce, or take a credit/offset of your benefits, for the receipt of the following types of income:

  1. Severance
  2. Wages Earned with a new Employer
  3. Social Security Retirement
  4. Short/Long Term Disability Benefits
  5. Unemployment Compensation Benefits
  6. Pension

There are certain procedures the Employer must follow before reducing your benefits. The Employer must send you a notice telling you they are going to reduce your benefits. This notice gives you 20 days before the reduction takes place. Further, there are times the Employer is not allowed to take a credit/offset for your receipt of other benefits. For example, if you receive Social Security Retirement Benefits before your work injury, these benefits will not reduce your workers’ compensation. This is why we tell clients that they need an attorney even though they are already receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Without an attorney’s guidance, and knowledge, the Employer can take credits that they might not be entitled to.

It is important to tell your attorney whether you are receiving any other benefits because of your work injury. The Employer will send you verification forms every six months to find out if you are receiving other benefits for your work injury that might offset/reduce your workers’ compensation. You must complete these Employee Verification forms. If you don’t, your employer can automatically suspend your wage loss benefits until you complete these forms.

View Comments

Do claimant’s get reimbursed for travel expenses under Worker’s Compensation?

Unfortunately, a work-related injury can be financially disturbing for many workers and their families.  You will not receive workers’ compensation benefits if your claim is denied.  Even if your work-related injury is accepted, many injured workers struggle, because, depending on your pre-injury wages, normally your worker’s compensation benefits are 2/3 of your gross income.  For some people who live paycheck to paycheck, reduced wages can be a financial hardship.  

Worker’s compensation injuries involve a lot of medical treatment.  People often ask if travel expenses are reimbursed by the Carrier.  There is a persuasive argument that the carrier should reimburse your travel costs.   Unfortunately, following the issuance of an appellate case, Helen Mining Co. V. WCAB, 616 A.2d 759, the law changed.   If necessary medical treatment is not available in your area, and you can prove that it’s absolutely necessary to travel out of the state for treatment, there’s a good chance that your expenses should be reimbursed.  

“The other rare exceptions were carved out in Helen Mining Co. v. WCAB (Tantlinger), 616 A.2d 759 (Pa.Cmwlth. 1992), in which the court said:

  1.  If treatment is available locally, the claimant is not entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses except in exceptional circumstances;
  2.  If treatment is available locally and the claimant chooses a physician outside the local area, the claimant is not entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses;

3.  If treatment is not available locally, the claimant is entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses as long as the claimant travels to a facility where others are or would be referred.”

View Comments

What You Need To Know About Social Security Disability

Social Security benefits are not just for disabled adult workers.  Children under the age of 18 years old may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The requirements to receive SSI benefits are very different for children.  In order to be awarded SSI benefits, it must be shown that the child has at least two “marked” limitations or one “extreme” limitation in six areas of functioning.  These six areas are:

  1. Acquiring and Using information
  2. Interacting and Relating to Others
  3. Attending and Completing Tasks
  4. Moving About and Manipulating Objects
  5. Caring for Self
  6. Health and Physical Well-Being

A “marked” limitation seriously interferes with the child’s ability to initiate, sustain, or complete independent tasks.  An “extreme” limitation is a limitation that very seriously interferes with the child’s ability to initiate, sustain, or complete independent tasks.  Most SSI cases involve children who suffer from ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and other diagnoses that cause behavioral issues.  However, physical issues such as uncontrolled seizures, severe asthma, and serious orthopedic issues may interfere with one or more of the six areas of functioning.

As with any disability matter, it is crucial that the child maintain regular medical treatment with his or her physicians and mental health providers.  It is also extremely important that all medications prescribed by a medical doctor are taken as prescribed and on a regular basis.  Official school records, report cards, Individualized Evaluation Plans (IEPs),  and school attendance/lateness logs can be very helpful.

Because the Social Security Administration denies many child SSI claims each year, it is crucial that you do not go at it alone.  The attorneys at Banks Law will be happy to speak with you regarding your child’s SSI case and answer any questions you may have.

View Comments

Homeless Veterans Assistance

 

There are approximately four hundred homeless veterans within the City of Philadelphia.  Many of these veterans have served our country overseas and have returned with a number of physically and mentally disabling conditions.  In that, the veterans are unable to continue to maintain gainful employment leaving them no choice but to take to the streets.  Unfortunately, these individuals are unaware of the amount of resources they have access to.  Below are two links that offer help to our homeless veterans.

This information is provided directly from the Veterans Affairs and offers health care, housing assistance, employment assistance, foreclosure assistance and advises on how to apply for same.

http://www.benefits.va.gov/persona/veteran-homeless.asp

This link is for the VMC (Veterans Multi-Service Center), which is the only non-profit agency in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas that offers services to all veterans, including the homeless.  The VMC also offers job opportunities, assistance with GI Bills, information on presumptive disabilities and supportive services for veterans and their families.

http://www.vmcenter.org/?gclid=CLy3idSP1NICFQ-BswodJEoBJA

View Comments

Home Car Modifications

Did You Know…? In some cases injured workers’ are entitled to have modifications of their home or vehicle paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance company?

Generally, Section 306(f) of the PA Workers’ Compensation Act, provides for payment of reasonable medical expenses that are related a person’s work injury. These services include, among other things, surgery, medicines, supplies prosthesis, chiropractic care and even massages and acupuncture. Until the employer can establish that any or all of this care is not reasonable or necessary, bills for related medical treatment must be paid no later than 30 days after the insurance company receives the bill from the doctor. The Workers’ Compensation insurance company is only responsible for paying for treatment related to the claimed work injury. If you break your ankle at work, do not expect the workers’ compensation insurance company to pay for treatment for an unrelated heart condition.

In some cases, a person’s injury is so severe, that she might need more assistance than traditional medical care. What happens if a person is so severely injured that she can no longer drive? What happens if a person is so severely injured that she can no longer climb stairs to her own bedroom? In special circumstances, the Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier may be liable to pay for modifications to an injured workers’ home or vehicle, when necessary, because of a work related injury.

The Courts in Pennsylvania have found that the remodeling of a home and modification of an automobile should be treated as necessary orthopedic appliances, that are eligible for payment. Enterprise Rent-A-Car v. WCAB (Clabaugh), 934 A.2d 124 (Pa.Cmwlth.2007). In one situation, PA Courts found that modifications to a vehicle weren’t enough to help an injured worker, and ordered the insurance co. to pay for the purchase price of a special van that could be outfitted with wheelchair lift. Griffiths v. WCAB (Seven Stars Farm, Inc.), 943 A.2d 242 (Pa.2008). The costs required to retrofit a van with hand controls and other modifications are the employer’s obligation under the Act. Petrilla v. WCAB (People’s Natural Gas), 692 A.2d 242 (Pa. 2008). Other medical supplies the insurance carrier is normally responsible for paying for include, wheelchairs, walkers, chair lifts, special beds ect.

Whether you can force the Workers’ Compensation insurance company to pay for modifications to your home or vehicle depends on the unique circumstances surrounding your work injury. Insurance Companies normally do not pay for these expensive items without a fight. That is why it is always important to have an experienced attorney protect your rights, and to fight for your best interests.

View Comments

Pursuing PTSD Claims

As a VA attorney, I speak to many potential clients who wish to pursue claims for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  For VA purposes, PTSD occurs when a veteran experiences a traumatic event while in the military.    According to the VA, the symptoms of PTSD include “reliving the event, avoiding places or things that remind you of the event, a shift to more negative thoughts and feelings, feeling numb, and feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)”.  Often times these symptoms can arise many years after the traumatic event.

A lot of people believe that only veterans who experienced a traumatic event during combat can get VA benefits for PTSD.  This is false.    Banks Law has been successful in litigating PTSD claims involving events such as a physical altercation while in the military, sexual harassment by superiors, and near death experiences while in training.

It is important to remember that if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD and you feel it is related to the military, you must get treatment for it so that there is enough medical evidence to support your case.

If you feel you may have a VA claim for PTSD, please call Banks Law.  Our attorneys would be happy to discuss your case with you.

The article below is a great example of how a paratrooper was awarded PTSD from a non-combat event.  After 43 years, he was finally awarded PTSD as a result of a botched parachute jump:

https://www.armytimes.com/articles/after-43-years-the-army-is-finally-recognizing-this-paratroopers-ptsd

View Comments