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Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that used to be a key component of many industrial and construction products. Unfortunately, asbestos also happens to be highly-carcinogenic.

Mesothelioma is a slow-growing type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Although this carcinogenic substance has been mostly-banned since the early 1980s, exposure is still possible.

Even people who haven’t worked with asbestos in decades can be at risk of asbestos-related disease. In fact, symptoms of mesothelioma can take up to 40 years to appear. For many people, the diagnosis comes too late.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, what are your options? With diagnoses often coming decades after exposure, what is the statute of limitations on mesothelioma lawsuits? A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is only caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos has long been used for its fire-retardant properties. When microscopic particles of asbestos are released into the air in the form of dust, they can be inhaled, becoming lodged in the lungs or digestive system. These particles can lead to inflammation of the lungs or abdomen, leading to chronic health problems or mesothelioma.

Before the dangers of asbestos were widely known, it was used in everything from brake pads and cement to electric ovens and hotplate wiring. Asbestos exposure is still common in shipyards, oil refineries, power plants, auto repair shops, and in sites involving the construction or demolition of buildings built prior to 1980.

MA Follows the General Tort Statute of Limitations

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you must file a lawsuit within a certain amount of time. This is known as the statute of limitations. Although this time period varies from state to state, Massachusetts does not have a statute of limitations specific to asbestos-related illnesses. As such, the statute of limitations for mesothelioma lawsuits in MA follows the general tort statute.

The general tort statute holds that a lawsuit must be filed within three years of the cause of action, which – in this case – would be the plaintiff’s diagnosis of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease. If the individual dies of mesothelioma, the three year statute of limitations would begin on the date of death, or on the date the heirs should have known about their loved one’s diagnosis, whichever comes first. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

As stated above, mesothelioma symptoms may not appear for decades. As such, if you worked with mesothelioma in the past, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor, even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Pain or pressure in the chest, especially under the ribs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing, especially if painful
  • Strange lumps under the skin on your chest
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Strange lumps in the abdomen

Continue reading

The frequency of traumatic brain injury (TBI) for Americans is eight times greater than that of breast cancer, spinal-cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS combined. TBI is a serious, and potentially-life threatening medical condition that affects an estimated 1.7 million people annually. Of those, about 275,000 will require hospitalization, and approximately 52,000 will die.

Common causes of TBIs include high-impact sports, motor vehicle accidents, and falls. Although TBIs can affect any person at any age, our risk of TBI increases as we get older. Adults age 75 and older have the greatest risk of hospitalization and death from TBI.

Despite its prevalence in the U.S., TBI remains a commonly misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mistreated medical condition. The myths below can lead to improper treatment, irreparable damage, and even death.

Myth #1 -TBI is always preceded by a loss of consciousness.

Recent advances in the medical community’s understanding of TBI have debunked this rather controversial myth. Today, the general consensus among doctors experienced in TBI is that a patient does not need to lose consciousness to suffer a TBI.

Myth #2 – If the individual looks fine and has no immediate symptoms, TBI is not a concern.

A person who has suffered a TBI may retain consciousness, appear healthy, and be able to walk and talk normally. TBI symptoms are often so subtle that the patient simply feels “off,” or slightly different. For some people, TBI symptoms don’t become apparent for weeks or months. Even so, they may have sustained serious internal damage. If untreated, this damage could lead to permanent psychological and neurological problems. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you believe you’ve suffered a TBI.

Myth #3 – Mild TBIs are not a big deal.

Even mild concussions and TBIs can have life-long psychological and neurological consequences. Symptoms of a mild TBI may include headaches, nausea, dizziness, noise and light sensitivity, problems with balance, vision and hearing problems, sleep problems, memory loss, personality changes, irritability, impulsivity, aggression, and depression.

Myth #4 – A TBI will always show up on a brain imaging scan.

Although MRI and CT scans can be helpful, this type of neuroimaging is rarely able to detect the structural differences caused by a mild TBI. These scans may appear normal, even if serious damage has been done. Slight differences, such as axonal shearing, may be too subtle to appear on the scan. That being said, other types of neuroimaging may be more effective at detecting structural differences in the brain. Functional imaging, including functional PET and MRI scans, may detect mild TBI and concussion. Unfortunately, functional testing is rarely used in clinical settings.

It’s important to know the symptoms of TBI, but it’s equally important to understand that symptoms may not be immediately apparent. If you have suffered any type of trauma to the head, it is in your best interest to seek immediate medical attention. There are many myths about TBI, and some of these misconceptions can lead to long-term or permanent damage. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been harmed due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), slip and fall accidents are the third leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In 2014 alone, nearly 32,000 people died from injuries sustained in a fall. Although slip and fall accidents are the number one cause of workers’ compensation claims, they are even more common in the home or community. Read on for more information about slip and fall accidents at home and in the workplace, and how you can avoid becoming a statistic.

  • Falls are the second leading cause of injury-related fatalities in individuals between the ages of 65 and 84, and the leading cause for those 85 and older.
  • Most fall-related injuries occur at ground level.
  • More than 60 percent of nursing home residents are injured in a fall-related accident annually.
  • Approximately 85 percent of workers’ comp claims cite slipping on slick floors as the cause of injury.
  • Nearly one-quarter of all slip and fall accidents result in at least one month off work.
  • Total costs for workplace slip and fall accidents reach about $70 billion annually.

How to Avoid a Slip and Fall Accident

The risk of being injured in a slip and fall accident rises with age, and is most likely to occur in the home or community. But workplace slip and fall accidents can also be fatal (nearly 600 deaths and 47,000 injuries in 2013). The tips below can help you dramatically reduce your risk of being seriously injured or killed in a slip and fall accident. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident.

  • Clean spills immediately.
  • Wait until freshly mopped floors have dried completely.
  • Walking paths should be clear of all electrical cords, boxes, books, toys, and other clutter.
  • Avoid using small throw rugs. If you must use them, apply non-skid adhesives to the underside.
  • Frequently used items should be stored in easy to reach areas.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes.
  • Furniture should be arranged so as to provide open pathways for walking.
  • Drawers and cabinet doors should be kept closed.
  • Install handrails on staircases.
  • Install gates at top and bottom of staircases if you have little ones.
  • All walking pathways – indoors and outdoors – should be well lit at all times.
  • Check outdoor walkways for damages. Repair as needed.
  • Never stand on a chair or table to reach something.
  • When using a ladder, maintain at least three points of contact at all times (i.e. one foot and two hands or one hand and two feet).
  • A ladder should always be placed on a stable surface.
  • When climbing down a ladder, step one rung at a time.
  • Never lean or overreach when on a ladder.

A MA slip and fall attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

Losing a loved one is amongst the most difficult thing a person can experience. This pain and sorrow may be multiplied if they were killed as a result of the actions of somebody else’s negligence, which may have been entirely avoided. After dealing with the emotional trauma caused by the death, a loved one left in the wake of such a tragedy may wish to pursue a wrongful death suit.

But how does filing a wrongful death suit work? Who may file one? And how may you be successful in such a claim? This guide will help navigate you through these questions.

How much time do I have to file a claim?

“An action to recover damages under this section shall be commenced within three years from the date of death.” – MA General Laws, Chapter 229, Section 2

Recovering from a tragic, wrongful death isn’t something that happens overnight. It is an ongoing process that may require counseling, therapy and much self-exploration before any amount of peace may be achieved. Knowing this reality, the law of Massachusetts allots three years between the death of the individual and the ability of a wrongful death suit to be filed.

Who may file a wrongful death claim?

Following a death, only the representative of the deceased’s estate may serve as a plaintiff in any wrongful death suit. This representative may be appointed in the deceased’s will. However, if the deceased did not leave a will, a family member or other eligible party must petition the court in order to be named the legal representative of their estate.

This representative may be represented by an attorney to assist them with the complex legal issues that come up in any wrongful death suit.

Who may be liable in a wrongful death suit?

Chapter 229 of the Massachusetts General Laws defines a few specific instances where someone would be liable in a wrongful death case, including: anyone whose negligence causes a loss of life, including someone whose job required carrying passengers (such as a bus driver).

However, the law also points out that certain individuals are not liable for certain instances that cause a death, such as a person operating a train killing someone who trespasses and walks on the train tracks. In this case, the deceased was not following the law and the train operator could not be held liable for the unlawful and unexpected actions of such an individual.

How are wrongful death claims paid?

Wrongful death suits which result in compensation being paid out are a burden to be paid by the responsible party. They are distributed to the deceased’s estate, which then must be disseminated according to their will, if such a document had been prepared.

For most wrongful death suits, the limit on damages is capped at $500,000. These damages may encompass damages described as “noneconomic,” which include punitive damages, mental anguish caused by the death as well as pain and suffering sustained as a result of the wrongful death. Continue reading

Mesothelioma is a deadly, highly-aggressive form of cancer that is commonly caused by exposure to a substance called asbestos. Asbestos was used in building and construction for decades, before it became apparent that the toxic substance was causing serious, life-threatening health problems. Unfortunately, mesothelioma symptoms often take years – sometimes even decades – to appear, and the disease is often mistaken for more common, less-serious ailments until it’s too late.

How Does Mesothelioma Develop?

Pleural mesothelioma occurs when asbestos fibers are inhaled into the lungs over a period of time. Fibers become trapped in the pleura, the lining of the lungs, resulting in irritation and inflammation. The inflammation subsequently causes the pleural layers to thicken and a buildup of fluid to occur around the lungs. As such, the lungs cannot fully expand, and the patient may experience chest pain and trouble breathing. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

As stated above, symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis, may take years to appear. Therefore, if you are concerned about past exposure to this substance, it may be in your best interest to consult with your healthcare provider about your risk. Blood tests and X-rays may indicate a problem before symptoms appear. Additionally, if you notice any of the following symptoms, contact your physician immediately:

  • Dry cough
  • Respiratory problems (wheezing, shortness of breath)
  • Pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs)
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Body aches
  • Anemia

What are the Most Common Precursors to a Mesothelioma Diagnosis?

A 2011 study of 221 mesothelioma patients revealed that the disease was discovered in the following ways:

  • 30 percent experienced weight loss
  • 36 percent developed a chronic cough
  • 64 percent suffered chest pain
  • 79 percent experienced shortness of breath
  • 90 percent developed pleural effusions

Misdiagnosis can delay mesothelioma treatment until it’s too late. Physicians may mistake this deadly disease for less-serious conditions, such as COPD, pneumonia, influenza, asthma, and bronchial infection. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to recover damages if you are suffering from mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease. Continue reading

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the membranes surrounding your lungs and abdomen. Between 70 and 80 percent of mesothelioma cases are caused by the inhalation of asbestos particles – a naturally-occurring, fibrous mineral that was used for decades as a fire retardant and insulation in homes and businesses across the world.

Since asbestos was used for decades in every different kind of building possible, the people most at risk for exposure to asbestos are construction workers and demolition technicians who work on renovating or destroying older homes and business buildings. Asbestos is harmless when it is left unbothered, but when asbestos is disturbed, it releases microscopic particles that can enter the body and cause many health issues.

Health professionals have known since at least the 70s that exposure to asbestos could result in negative health complications, but recent studies have shown that even a single exposure event to asbestos could result in developing respiratory and other diseases at some point down the line. Asbestos particles are jaggedly-shaped and do not clear out of the body once they are introduced.

Sometimes symptoms of asbestos exposure do not become apparent in patients until 20 to 50 years after the exposure event, so even if an exposure to asbestos happened a long time ago, please contact Altman & Altman LLP if you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Breathing difficulties, chest pain or a combination of both
  • A general feeling of illness
  • Weight loss
  • Fevers
  • Persistent coughing
  • Night sweats
  • Developing a mass or swelling in the chest cavity
  • Increased presence of fluid in the lungs

The only way to be certain if you are suffering from mesothelioma is to be diagnosed by a doctor, usually through various tests such as MRIs and tissue samples. Sometimes, invasive surgery is required to observe the membranes in your body to determine a diagnosis one way or another.

Should you find out that you or a loved one is suffering from mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness, you may be eligible to make a claim to collect financial compensation for your pain and suffering, as well as money spent on medical bills and money lost due to being unable to work during your treatment.

Thousands of cases involving exposure to asbestos have been filed in recent years, many of them stemming from exposure events that happened many years ago. Do not feel as though you don’t have a case to make simply because it occurred in the past. The only way to find out if your case is eligible for compensation is to team up with legal professionals who can look at the unique details of your situation.

At Altman & Altman LLP, we have over 40 years of experience handling suits involving everything from personal injuries to negligent companies causing harm. The costs stemming from dealing with mesothelioma can be significant, and without proper legal representation you may have to suffer through these challenges alone. Continue reading

A recent study completed by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute reviewed data on over 18,000 California work injury claims from accidents between 2000 and 2014 that resulted in one or more spinal fusions.

The data showed that 60 percent of the claims made involving spinal fusions started off with an injury that was initially reported as a simple sprain or a strain. In a majority of cases, spinal fusion surgery had to be performed within two years of the initial injury, and 20 percent required at least one additional fusion at some point further down the line.

Men accounted for more than 64 percent of the claims in each year that was reviewed, and men received more compensation through temporary disability and permanent disability, as well as more money for medical treatment than women did.

The second-leading cause for filing a claim after a back injury was cumulative trauma, including mental stress, which made up 14 percent of claims.

What is a spinal fusion?

Spinal fusions are major surgery procedures that seek to alleviate chronic back pain by ceasing the motion of a problematic vertebral segment. In simpler terms, spinal fusions join two problematic pieces of your spine into one larger piece that should, in theory, make chronic back pain better.

A spinal fusion may be necessary because of a degenerative condition that the patient has had since birth, or they may need one because of a traumatic injury that caused a serious injury to one or more of their vertebrae. In regards to this situation, workers who were injured on the job required spinal fusions years after they incurred an injury that they thought – or were told – was just a minor sprain.

Clearly, the spine is not something that can be healed from major injury just by resting it. Surgeons must perform hours of surgery and utilize bone grafts to join the two problematic vertebrae and stimulate a biological response to make the graft grow between the vertebrae, creating one fused bone.

Spinal fusions are incredibly difficult, finicky procedures that do not guarantee success, and may require additional surgeries later on in life. Twenty percent of workers injured in this study required at least one additional fusion surgery. Continue reading

Every year in Massachusetts, hundreds of gas line accidents are caused by contractors, construction workers, and utility companies. In addition to being extremely dangerous, these accidents are costly and can lead to closed roads and other problems. In 2015, an explosion in Springfield injured 18 people and damaged 42 buildings when a utility worker accidentally hit a high-pressure gas line. Unfortunately, these accidents occur with relative frequency. Although most incidents are contained, larger explosions can result in serious injuries and fatalities.

WWLP 22News launched an investigation into these accidents, reviewing state records and interviewing contractors and utility companies. The findings were shocking – between November 2012 and December 2015, a total of 1,434 gas line accidents were reported. That’s an average of more than one accident per day. Outside of Boston, Springfield and Chicopee had the highest reported number of accidents, with Springfield registering 48 and Chicopee registering 50. “There’s so many roads in Chicopee that are under construction, and more work being done, there’s more of an inherent chance that something might get hit,” said Mark Galerneau, Chicopee’s Fire Captain, “If the contractor is doing their due diligence and do what they’re supposed to do I think they can minimize the problems.”

The problem is, employers don’t always do their due diligence, and workers can suffer the consequences. If you have been injured due to employer negligence, it is in your best interest to consult with a MA work injury lawyer as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

Hundreds of Violations Discovered

According to state records, adequate precautions were not taken in 522 of the reported gas line accidents, and the lines were incorrectly marked or not properly maintained in 413 of the accidents. And in many cases, Dig Safe was never called. Dig Safe is a communication network that exists to notify utility companies when excavation work will be performed near their installations, and state law requires that individuals and companies performing excavations call Dig Safe prior to beginning work. Although Dig Safe training is not mandatory, following established laws is. Fines for violating these laws include:

  • First offense: $1,000
  • Second or subsequent offenses within a 12-month period: $5,000 to $10,000

Follow OSHA Regulations to Avoid Gas Line Explosions

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has established excavation requirements to protect workers from accidentally causing damage to underground gas lines. Prior to beginning any type of excavation, workers should:

  • Establish the location of underground gas lines.
  • Contact appropriate utility companies or property owners to establish exact location of underground gas lines.
  • If utility companies or property owners do not respond to the request within 24 hours, workers may proceed with caution with the assistance of detection equipment.
  • Use a safe and acceptable method to determine the exact location of gas lines.
  • When the gas line is located, it should be protected, supported, or removed as deemed necessary for the protection of workers and the local area.

Continue reading

Following an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a Wolcott, Connecticut contractor has been cited for multiple safety violations. When inspectors drove by a work site at 55 Rodgers Lane on May 4, 2016, they observed workers on the property’s roof, without proper fall protection gear. Although they were wearing safety harnesses, the harnesses were not connected to any type of anchor. The inspectors instructed the foreman to remedy the issue, and the workers immediately anchored their harnesses.

During a follow up visit two days later, and another on May 12, inspectors again found workers atop a roof with unanchored safety harnesses. An unanchored harness can actually be more dangerous than no harness at all; it provides a false sense of protection. “This employer exposed its employees deliberately to potentially deadly or disabling falls on multiple occasions, and has a history of fall-related violations at job sites in Connecticut. This is unacceptable,” said Patrick Griffin, OSHA’s local director. “Falls are the leading cause of death in construction work. That won’t change unless employers take seriously their responsibility to provide safe working conditions for their employees.”

OSHA cited M&M Roofing for multiple violations, including:

  • A willful violation for inadequate fall protection.
  • Failure to properly train employees on fall hazards.
  • Improper ladders for the job; for purposes of stability, ladders must extend a minimum of three feet above the next level. The contractor’s ladders did not.
  • Open, unguarded holes in the roof. In 2013 and 2014, OSHA cited M&M Roofing for similar violations at Manchester and Watertown work sites.
  • Failure to provide adequate ladder safety training for workers.
  • Failure to provide adequate eye and face protection for certain workers, specifically those who use pneumatic nail guns and a leaf blower.

For the above violations, OSHA proposed fines totalling $185,194.

Falls – Number One Cause of Construction-Related Fatalities

Of the 899 construction-related fatalities in 2014, 345 were due to falls. In every one of these cases, the death was preventable. OSHA’s “Fall Prevention Campaign” is a great resource for how to prevent serious injuries and deaths due to falls. The campaign includes three main points:

  • Plan ahead: Before the start of any project, employers must determine how the job will be accomplished, what tasks will be involved, and what safety gear and equipment is needed for each task. Cost estimates should include safety equipment.
  • Provide appropriate gear and equipment: Every job requires different equipment. For example, ladders must extend at least three feet about the next level. Some jobs require scaffolds, some do not. Rooftop workers should use personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), but it’s equally important to make sure the harness fits, is in good working order, and is always anchored.
  • Train workers on safe use of equipment: The best safety equipment in the world is useless if the user doesn’t know how it works. Workers should be trained in proper set up and use of all equipment, including ladders and scaffolds, and fall protection systems.

If you are concerned about unsafe working conditions at your place of employment, you can contact OSHA on their toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA. If you have been injured in a work-related accident, contact a MA work injury lawyer today. Continue reading

A tragic accident in Duxbury on Saturday left a 28-year-old man dead. Jason Sanderson, of Carver, was using a chop saw when the saw kicked back, striking him in the neck. Sanderson was rushed to the hospital with a severe neck wound, an injury that later proved fatal. Sanderson died at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Plymouth.  Sanderson and another worker were excavating an underground water line during the construction of a new home at 900 Tremont Street. In a statement, Duxbury Police Sergeant Dennis Symonds, said the accident occurred around 2 p.m. on Saturday.

According to investigators, the chop saw Sanderson was using “became bound”, then popped back, making contact with his throat. The company Sanderson was working for has not been released. The incident is currently under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Duxbury Police Department. No foul play is suspected. If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, contact a MA work injury lawyer today.

Common Causes of Construction Injuries and Death