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Phoenix Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Arizona court awards interest following workplace accident

One often overlooked issue in workers' compensation cases is the amount of interest that an insurance company should pay on benefits awarded following a serious workplace accident. In this respect, the Arizona Supreme Court recently held that an insurance company is on the hook for interest from the moment that an insurance company knows about the workplace accident and the subsequent workers' compensation claim.

The Arizona Supreme Court's holding applies to death benefits, which the Court described as a "liquidated claim," that is, a claim with a readily discernable value. In this case, a man died four years after an on-the-job injury, but his widow alleged that his death was nonetheless at least partially attributable to that injury. The insurance carrier denied the claim in 2009 but, after years of litigation, was told by a court that it had to pay the claim in 2013.

Helping Arizona workers get the correct amount of lost wages

Last week's post on this blog discussed the maximum amount of benefits for lost wages an employee in Arizona can receive for a work-related injury. Perhaps even more importantly, the post also mentioned that sometimes, employers and employees can get in to a dispute about how much an employee was earning in wages prior to his or her injuries.

Although figuring wages for traditional full-time employee is usually easy enough, for people who are paid as contractors or by-the-job, the task can be a little bit more difficult. Because it is in dispute, an employer may want to push the envelope and deny certain benefits for lost wages in an effort to save money.

Is there a maximum amount I can receive for lost wages?

Arizonans who get injured while on the job are, generally speaking, entitled to two benefits under the state's workers' compensation laws. First, they are entitled to have their medical bills compensated in full. Second, they are entitled to receive compensation for lost income if they wind up missing work for more than seven days because of an on-the-job injury.

However, the replacement income benefit has an important catch. Under Arizona law, no matter how much one actually makes, he or she can only bring home workers' compensation equal to two-thirds of his or her overall wages. Moreover, the law presumes that a person makes no more than $4,185.78. Again, this is without regard to how much an individual actually makes.

How employers can protect construction workers

Arizona construction workers who repair and build this state's roads face a great deal of danger every day that they go to work. In addition to the usual hazards of a construction zone, workers also have to contend with traffic passing very close their workspace.

Particularly when motorists get impatient and travel through a work zone too quickly, the proximity of the flow of traffic to a construction site can lead to severe construction accidents. Although it is true that those driving by the site have an obligation to be careful, employers also bear accountability for the safety of their employees.

Arizona Forestry Division settles ADOSH fine

In the aftermath of a deadly fire that took the lives of 19 firefighters almost exactly two years ago, the Arizona Forestry Division has settled a complaint filed against Arizona's administrative agency for workplace safety, ADOSH.

ADOSH originally assessed $530,000 in fines against the Forestry Division, claiming that the Division showed more concern for protecting land than for preserving lives when they did not evacuate the firefighters. Judging by reports, it appears that the Forestry Division agreed to make internal changes that would improve firefighter training and otherwise better ensure the safety of the Division's firefighters. The Division will also pay $10,000 to seven of the victims' families.

Helping people get the correct workers' compensation award

Last week's post discussed how in Arizona, workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy for a Phoenix-area employee who gets hurt on the job. This means that, in exchange for being virtually guaranteed compensation to cover medical expenses and lost wages, a worker gives up his or her right to sue the employer for "non-economic" items like pain and suffering.

While some might wonder why there would be a dispute about medical bills and wages, both of which are relatively easy to quantify, in fact disputes over workers' compensation are rather common. Employers and insurance companies naturally want to keep their costs down, and for this reason many will litigate workers' compensation claims.

The 'exclusive remedy' doctrine and its exceptions

As this blog has mentioned before, in Arizona, a worker's "exclusive remedy" against his or her employer for injuries that he or she incurred while on the job is workers' compensation. While this will pay for medical expenses and a portion of a person's lost income, workers' compensation will not pay for other non-economic items like emotional distress or pain and suffering.

Nevertheless, under the exclusive remedy rule, a worker will have to be satisfied with his or her workers' compensation benefits, because Arizona law prohibits him or her from suing his or her employer in court following a workplace accident. In effect, the worker trades off his or her right to sue for some guaranteed compensation that he or she should get through the workers' compensation system.

Am I an 'independent contractor' or an employee?

For those who work in Arizona's factories and other businesses, whether a person is an "independent contractor" or an employee can make all the difference in the world with respect to how a person gets compensation for any workplace injuries.

With respect to its employees, an Arizona company must provide workers' compensation benefits on a no-fault basis that will cover the employee's medical expenses and lost income. However, not everyone a company pays for work is by that mere fact an employee. With respect to these other people, usually called independent contractors, an employer does not have to provide workers' compensation.

Arizona safety agency investigating state prison system

When residents of the Phoenix metropolitan area think of workplace hazards, the first thing that may come to mind are things like dangerous or defective machines, holes, sharp objects, unsteady piles of items or other inanimate dangers.

However, Arizona workers and employers need to remember that sometimes a safety hazard can arise on account of another human being who chooses to behave dangerously or even aggressively. Violent and aggressive behavior can lead to an employee suffering a serious personal injury.

How our office can help injured construction workers

Construction workers in Maricopa County, Arizona, put themselves at risk each workday in order to provide for their families. An Arizona construction site is usually a very busy place, and it is also a place full of dangerous conditions. A construction worker is particularly prone to a fall. Moreover, a worker can also injure himself or herself while lifting, or while being around heavy machinery or a power tool.

Furthermore, workers may not experience a one-time "serious" injury, but they may instead gradually have to wear their bodies down doing the same task over and over. While they do not occur in an instant, these repetitive injuries can also be debilitating.

Serving the Following Areas

Jerome, Gibson, Stewart, Stevenson, Engle & Runbeck, P.C., provides experienced representation for workers' compensation and Social Security Disability cases in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, Glendale, Peoria, Avondale, Casa Grande, Flagstaff, Prescott, Tucson and Yuma, and throughout Maricopa County, Pima County, Pinal County and Yavapai County, and all of Arizona.

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