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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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April is National Social Security Month!

April is National Social Security Month!  The Social Security website has provided five steps to assist in your financial security.

Step One: Allows you to get to know your Social Security and explains how Social Security is more than just retirement benefits.

Step Two: Allows you to review and verify your earnings by logging into or creating an account through my Social Security.  Please note that in order to be eligible for disability, retirement, and Medicare benefits you need to have earned 40 work credits.  $1300.00 = 1 credit and an individual can earn up to 4 credits a year.

Step Three: Shows how to calculate and estimate your social security benefits.  Planning for retirement can be tedious, however, social security has devised a system to assist in determining how long someone will have to work in order to live comfortably in their retirement.

Step Four: Shows how to apply for benefits.  The Social Security Administrations does accommodate all individuals and allows those who cannot leave their home to apply by phone as well.

Step Five: Allows you to manage your benefits and control your benefits when you need to via your my Social Security account.

Click the link below to review additional information regarding the above five steps.

https://www.ssa.gov/agency/5-steps-toward-your-financial-security/

 

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The Importance Of Medical Treatment For Disability Claims

Medical evidence is a key factor for any disability claim, whether it is workers’ compensation, social security, etc.

The consistency of one’s medical treatment is very important. The length of time and frequency can be helpful to a Judge deciding your case. If there are gaps in your medical care, it’s less likely a Judge will rule in your favor. It’s harder to convince a Judge that you are disabled if you don’t take the time to address your injury with your doctor. The more you treat, the more medical documentation there is to support your claim.

Be open and honest with your treating physicians. Be sure to tell your doctor any and all symptoms you are experiencing. It’s also very important to advise your doctor of any injuries you sustained. Many Claimants leave out factors because it’s not their primary reason for their visit or think it’s not relevant.

Apart from this affecting your legal case, this may affect your condition for the rest of your life.

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Worker’s Compensation: Fact vs. Fiction

1) I tell you negative things about your case because it is important. TRUE.   At some point in time after your workers’ compensation case has gone to court, you are going to be given the opportunity to settle your case. Part of settling your case is evaluating all the pros and cons to our arguments. We determine the value of your case (for settlement purposes) based on many things, but in part how strong we believe our arguments are. Because litigation is uncertain, it is important to know your chances of having a Judge decide your case in your favor versus the certainty of settlement.

2) I can help you with more than just your case. TRUE!

I am a counselor at law so I can give you advice on where you should go for medical treatment, whether you have the right to sue anyone else other than your employer, and whether you can protect your job while you are out of work.

3) I hate it when you call. FALSE, FALSE, FALSE!

I love to talk about your case with you. I really do. Your case is why I have a job. I put time, energy and brain power into your case. If you have questions, I want to answer them. My goal is that you are comfortable and informed of the process every step of the way in your workers’ compensation case.

4) Your past is important. TRUE

I ask about past injuries because I need to know if your injury is an aggravation of a condition you had before your work related injury, or if you were completely asymptomatic before you were hurt making your injury acute/new or, traumatic. By the way, both types of injuries, aggravations and new/acute injuries, are compensable under the PA Workers’ Compensation Act though how the claim is litigated depends on the type of injury involved.

5) I filed for Workers’ Compensation benefits and have a hearing scheduled. I’ll get my benefits awarded at that first hearing. FALSE.

Unfortunately this is false. If your Employer denies your workers’ compensation claim, you will have to file a Claim Petition and go to court to obtain wage loss and medical benefits. Your petition will be heard by a Judge who will ultimately decide whether he/she believes you were injured and, whether the injury disabled you from work. Both the injured worker and the employer have the opportunity to present evidence to the Judge. Litigation takes time. It can take a year or more before the Judge issues a decision. This is one of the many reasons it is so important to have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney represent you. Your attorney can make sure this process goes as quickly as possible and, that the best case is presented to get you the workers’ compensation benefits.

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