Monday, April 22, 2013

Social Security Judges File Lawsuit Claiming Poor Work Conditions

April, 18 2013 -- Social Security Administrative Law Judges and their union filed a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration on Thursday in federal Court in Chicago, alleging that the agency's productivity goals in fact constitute an illegal quota that pushes judges' workloads beyond the capacity of what they can realistically handle.
The lawsuit alleges that the agency requires administrative law judges to decide between 500 and 700 cases per year, which averages out to over two decisions per workday. The judges claim that the goals are too high, and force judges to make decisions too quickly. The lawsuit essentially puts in question the integrity of the Social Security disability hearing process. The fact that the people in charge of the process are raising the issue makes it all the more serious.
The lawsuit alleges that judges are supposed to keep meet their quotas, regardless of how complicated their cases. Many case files are 500 or more pages. Judges can be disciplined for failing to meet their quota, even to the extent of facing removal proceedings.
The lawsuit describes a "system in crisis," but according to a spokesman from the Social Security Administration, the lawsuit is really nothing more than the complaints of judges who do not want to be accountable for getting their work done. According to the agency, it is really only a very small number of judges making the complaint, despite the fact that the judges' union represents 1,400 administration law judges. Those judges are hired by the agency, but act independently in deciding cases.
The disability appeals hearing for Social Security is critical for those who've been denied in earlier rounds of the application process. It is important that those coming in for hearings have the opportunity to present their evidence and that judges have the opportunity to make the best decision possible. Having an advocate throughout this process can make a big difference, but the fact that some judges point to a lack of integrity in the process is certainly concerning.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

In the 2011-2012 Session of the Indiana General Assembly, Public Law 69-2012 was passed allowing D felons to reduce their past mistakes and have them entered as Class A Misdemeanors.  (See new I.C. s 35-50-2-7).
In order to reduce a Class D Felony conviction and have it entered as a Class A Misdemeanor:
1.  The offense cannot be of a sexual or violent nature (as defined in I.C. 11-8-8-5);
2.  The offense did not result in bodily injury to another person;
3.  The offense did not involve perjury or official misconduct.
4.  At least three (3) years must have passed since the sentence was completed (if any);
5.  At least three (3) years must have passed since any other obligations were satisfied; and
6.  The defendant has no pending criminal charges.
If you meet these criteria and would like to have your Class D Felony conviction reduced to a Class A Misdemeanor in Indiana   

Attorney Fort Wayne Indiana.


Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorney

Medical malpractice accounts for a least 100,000 deaths each year and possibly many more, according to various reports. The number of tragic injuries due to malpractice is even greater. Indiana is not immune from these statistics.
Medical Malpractice Injuries can be costly and deadlyThe medical malpractice process in Indiana is complicated and the patient has an up hill battle with the medical malpractice claim. First, the patient needs to file a complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance stating the alleged medical malpractice. Once the complaint is filed, a panel of doctors is established which reviews the medical evidence and render an opinion regarding whether the defendant doctor deviated from the applicable standard of medical care.

It is important to know that while not every bad outcome is caused by negligence, the unfortunate truth is that too often health care providers fail to adhere to the applicable standard of medical care when rendering medical services to their patients.
If you believe that you or a loved one may have been the victim of medical malpractice, you should contact a Fort Wayne Indiana personal injury attorney who handles medical malpractice cases. 
Attorney Nate Hubley is a Fort Wayne personal injury lawyer and offers a free consultation to help you get started in pursuing the compensation you need and deserve for your medical malpractice claim.
Attorney Nate Hubley is a Fort Wayne injury attorney who will handle your medical malpractice case on a contingency fee basis. If there is no financial recovery: there are no attorney's fees. Remember, Attorney Nate Hubley offers free home and hospital visits upon request

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Four Stages of the Social Security Disability Process

When filing for Social Security Disability benefits, it is important to know what you are dealing with and how the disability process works. Specifically, there are four stages in the disability process. The first stage involves filing an application for Social Security Disability benefits, completing the initial interview at the Field Office, undergoing the medical evaluation, and receiving a decision from Social Security regarding your application.

If Social Security denies the application, then you will receive a letter indicating as such and informing you of your rights to appeal the denial decision. When you appeal the denial, the Field Office will review the medical evidence and evidence in the record and either confirm or reverse its decision. If Social Security confirms the decision, it will send a letter to that affect and inform you of your rights to appeal to the Hearing Office for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge.

The first two stages are conducted by the Field Office. After the second denial, and if the case is appealed, the case will get transferred to the Hearing Office, also known as the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review ("ODAR"). At this point, it is recommended that you retain a Fort Wayne Indiana Disability Attorney to represent you at the disability hearing.

The disability attorney will be able to review the evidence in the record, identify the missing gaps, take steps to fill those gaps and do everything necessary to prepare your case for a successful outcome. The disability attorney will also prepare the disability claimant for the hearing, then represent you at the hearing.

If you have been denied Social Security Disability benefits, contact a Fort Wayne Indiana Social Security Disability Attorney for a free case review and free consultation and advice.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Permanent Total Disability Benfits Under the Indiana Worker's Compensation Act

Under the Indiana Worker's Compensation Act, injured workers are normally entitled to three (3) different types of benefits, including: (1) medical treatment at no cost to the injured worker; (2) wage replacement benefits, commonly known as Temporary Total Disability ("TTD") benefits; and (3) compensation for any permanency of the work-related injury that is calculated by looking at the Permanent Partial Impairment ("PPI") rating assigned by the treating doctor.

However, in some cases, when the injured worker's impairment is so severe that it might adverely affect his or her ability to engage in competitive employment, the injured worker may have a claim for Permanent Total Disability ("PTD") benefits.

PTD claims arise when the injured worker is unable to perform reasonable forms of work activity, such as a sit down job. In determining whether there is a viable PTD claim, the following considerations are taken into account: the injured worker's age, mental well-being, physical impairment, work experience and acquired skills, education level, and funcational capcity after reaching maximum medical improvement.

Under the Indiana Worker's Compensation Act, a claim for PTD benefits, if successful, provides the injured worker with a maximum 500 weeks of compensation from the employer and makes the injured worker eligible for compensation from the Second Injury Fund.

If an injured worker pursues a claim for PTD benefits, it is important to keep in mind that he or she is only going to recover the PTD benefits and that any previously paid TTD benefits or compensation advanced based upon a PPI rating will have to be credited to the employer and essentially reducing the amount of the PTD claim. However, the injured worker would still be entitled to any claim he or she may have for ongoing or future medical treatment which would be calculated through a Medicare Set-Aside or by way of a medical treatment cost projection analysis.

When it comes to PTD claims, both sides should give a lot of consideration to resolving the matter, rather than to litigate whether the injured worker is entitled to PTD claims. The reason why settlement should be considered is because to litigate a PTD claim, both sides will have to spend a lot of money in obtaining vocational experts and medical opinions.

There is no doubt that there is a lot at stake when dealing with a PTD claim. From the injured worker's standpoint, there is more at stake than for the employer. Unless the injured worker is in advanced age, winning a PTD claim makes it likely that the employee will receive the maximum 500 weeks of compensation from the employer and become eligible for compensation from the Second Injury Fund. The younger the injured worker, the more years of compensation he or she will receive from the Second Injury Fund.

Even if the evidence, including medical and vocational are conflicting, are not conflicting, it can be difficult to settle a PTD claim with a younger injured worker. The employer will not be willing to pay close to the 100% of the 500 weeks of compensation and the injured worker will be hesitant to waive all the potential Second Injury Fund benefits. In situations like this, the injured worker might want to explore other financial resources available to him or her and try to reduce the risks of litigating the PTD claim.

For example, the injured worker might be able to obtain Social Security disability benefits. By settling the PTD claim, the injured worker avoids the risks associated with litigating the PTD claim and by settlement, the PTD claim can be paid in a lump sum, but treated as if it were paid over the remaining lifespan, reducing or eliminating any Social Security offset. As a result, sometimes the injured worker actually obtains more benefit by accepting a settlement rather than litigating the PTD claim. As always, if you have questions about your worker's compensation claim, contact a worker's compensation attorney.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rule of Evidence 702- Pre and Post Daubert Standards

Evidence in civil litigation is governed by the Rules of Evidence (either federal or state). Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence applies to expert witness testimony.

A Vocational Expert ("VE") generally refers to an expert witness who testifies at Social Security disability hearings. The VE's testimony is used by the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") to determine whether a claimant is disabled. Specifically, the VE addresses whether based upon the limitations assigned by the ALJ, whether the claimant can perform their past relevant work, and, if not, whether the claimant can engage in competitive employment. In doing so, a standard is needed to define the specific requirements that the VE's testimony and the VE's methodology must satisfy in order to maintain the integrity of the VE's testimony.

The most well known example of a standard that places a check on the testimony of an expert is Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (or the equivalent rules of the Indiana Rules of Evidence), but before the adoption of Rule 702, American courts relied on the Frye standard.

1. Pre-Daubert: Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), a case discussing the admissibility of polygraph test as evidence.

Before implementation of Rule 702, the Frye general acceptance standard was the established standard for determining the admissibility of expert testimony. This standard required testimony from experts in relatively novel scientific fields to be closely scrutinized and ultimately ruled inadmissible if the expert's conclusions had not yet gained scientific recognition among other experts in the novel scientific field.

2. Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

In 1983, Daubert incorporated into evidentiary jurisprudence the notion that judges act as gatekeepers; this required a judge to determine whether a proffered expert opinion is both relevant and reliable to the issue being sought for admission. Daubert established that federal judges cannot merely defer to a proposed expert on the ground that the expert has good credentials in a field that is atypical or complex.

Any prospective expert evidence that is not both reliable and relevant must be excluded by the gatekeeper because it is speculation rather than knowledge. Eventually, the Supreme Court expanded Daubert by declaring that gatekeepers must ensure that any and all scientific testimony is not only relevant, but reliable, and gatekeepers must apply this rule equally to all expert testimony.

Under Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, courts are expected to filter the good science from the bad science and thus ensure that the proposed expert testimony is supported by appropriate validation.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Overview of Indiana Worker's Compensation Benefits

Additional Resources

If you have sustained an injury at work and feel that you are getting the run around, you may want to consult a worker's compensation attorney to discuss your legal rights. Knowledge is power in these situations.