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NY workers’ comp reform plan may reduce benefits to workers

The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board has just released a new proposal on how permanent impairments will be evaluated. According to the board’s chair, the proposal “will incorporate advances in medicine that result in better healing and outcomes for injured workers to use in evaluations and determinations for schedule loss of use awards.”

Unfortunately, it’s not clear how advances in medicine will be accounted for in schedule loss of use awards, which are payments for permanent impairments.

As the chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Alliance pointed out, advances in medicine are already taken into account because they improve outcomes for injured workers. “For example,” he said, “if the modern approach to a surgery leaves the patient with greater mobility and strength than the way it was done 20 years ago, then they would correspondingly get a lower ‘schedule loss’ rating today than they did then.”

Citing a lack of transparency in the board’s process, the Workers’ Compensation Alliance released the results of a survey indicating that many workers feel their schedule loss benefits are already too low. The Workers’ Compensation Alliance is a coalition of workers’ comp attorneys and injured workers in New York.

Some 1,500 injured workers, a little over half of whom had a schedule loss award, responded to the online survey. 69 percent said their schedule loss evaluation was already too low under the current guidelines. 75 percent felt their overall award was inadequate to compensate them for their injury.

One weakness of the survey was that it’s not clear how many respondents were members of the Workers’ Compensation Alliance. That said, the organization does not lobby for attorney fees but only to preserve due process rights and benefits for workers, according to its chairman.

The chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Alliance also pointed out that New York workers’ comp premiums have been cut by 4.5 percent recently. This resulted in about a half billion dollars in savings for employers. This may indicate successful lobbying efforts by employers, as may another change. The Workers’ Compensation Board is currently working on releasing a new formulary for what prescription medications will be covered under workers’ compensation in New York. That is expected to save employers another $100 million or more.

“Given that picture, it is difficult to comprehend the argument that employer costs are skyrocketing and that worker benefits must be slashed,” said the chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Alliance.

Scary: OSHA releases 2017’s Top 10 workplace safety violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has analyzed its files and determined what dangerous conditions were most prevalent at work in fiscal year 2017. As is often the case, many (but not all) of the violations were focused in the construction and industrial fields.

Here are the Top 10 most common workplace safety violations this year, based on the number of citations:

10. Faulty electrical wiring, including the improper use of extension cords. 1,405 violations (down from 1,937 last year).

9. Lack of appropriate fall protection training. 1,523 violations. The gear won’t save you if you don’t know how to use it properly.

8. Machine guards disabled or removed. 1,933 violations (down from 2,448 in 2016). Common industrial and construction machines require guards to protect workers from sparks, nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and more. These are often intentionally removed to promote efficiency and ease of use.

7. Forklift use and training violations. 2,162 violations (down from 2,855 in 2016). Every three years, drivers of powered industrial trucks must receive training, certification and reevaluation.

6. Improper use of ladders. 2,241 violations (down from 2,625 last year). This can include using ladders of insufficient height, failure to set them up properly or even stacking ladders on objects.

5. Lack of training and inspections in lockout/tagout procedures. 2,877 violations (down from 3,406 last year). When machinery can start up unexpectedly or release hazardous energy during maintenance, lockout or tagout procedures are put in place to protect workers.

4. Respiratory protection violations. 3,097 violations (down from 3,573 in 2016). Respirators are masks meant to protect workers from airborne particles and hazards. The violations included failure to have a written plan for respiratory protection and failure to conduct regular medical examinations on workers who use respirators in their work.

3. Scaffolding violations. 3,288 violations (down from 3,900 in 2016). Typical violations include improper setup and construction of scaffolding, lack of guardrails, and unsafe access points to scaffolding surfaces.

2. Poor hazard communication. 4,176 violations (down from 5,665 last year). Whenever a company uses hazardous chemicals, it must have a written hazard communication plan. Additionally, they must ensure that all containers are labeled, train employees on their proper use, and provide material safety data sheets to workers.

1. Fall protection violations. 6,072 violations (down from 6,906 in 2016). Typical violations include failure to provide guards for open sides and edges, which keep workers from falling.

The great news is that violations were down in all areas that were on the Top 10 list last year. The not-so-great news is that there are still hundreds or thousands of violations in these basic areas every year — which can cause serious injury to workers.

Workers’ Compensation Archives Reasons why workers’ compensation claims are denied

Being injured at work is bad enough – being denied workers compensation benefits makes it even worse.

Many workers’ comp claims are denied on the first application. Often, the denial has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the claim, and a significant percentage of individuals receive benefits after being denied on the first application.

Why are claims denied?

So what can go wrong with a workers’ comp application? Here is a list of some of the common reasons why applications are denied.

  • The injury was not reported to the employer in a timely manner. Many states, including New York, have deadlines for reporting work-related injuries. The New York Workers’ Compensation Board says employees should report injuries to a supervisor immediately. Then, within 30 days of the accident, employees must inform employers of the accident, in writing.
  • The application was not filed in time. Applications in New York must be filed within two years of the accident.
  • Your employer is disputing the claim. Employers dispute claims for many reasons, but here’s one example: there were no witnesses and the employer does not believe the injury occurred at work.
  • Your injuries are not eligible for benefits.
  • You have not sought medical treatment yet for your injuries.
  • The insurance company determines that you were working as a contractor and you were not an employee.

Sometimes the denial could be the result of clerical error or a simple misunderstanding of the facts of your case.

What is the next step?

If or when you are denied benefits, it is crucial to think logically and make good decisions regarding how to proceed.

The denial letter will tell you why your claim was refused. After an application is denied, the next step is to appeal. At this point, it is very important to not make any mistakes – your financial and physical health could hinge on making a well-reasoned objection to the benefits denial. Hiring an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who will fight for your interests typically is a wise move.

Be proactive in your high-asset divorce

If you have made the decision to split from your spouse then you have a lot on your mind. You worry about the children. You question what the future will bring. You sit in your room and look around. The life that you’ve built will be dismantled and then reassembled. Pieces of your life will be packed into boxes. You start to think about everything you own. Perhaps you consider what you will keep and what he will take.

You can’t help but wonder how the divorce will impact you financially. Will he try to take something that you think is yours? What about child support and alimony?

You might want to create a statement of net worth. This document outlines your finances and expenses. It can help with determining how assets are divided and any support obligations.

In order to complete the statement you will need:

  • Any financial statements-investments, loans, etc.
  • A list of household expenses-utilities, insurance, etc.
  • Tax returns-from the past three years
  • Expenses that your children require-extracurricular activities, care costs, etc.
  • A list of personal assets-jewelry, antiques, etc.

You will want to prepare yourself for the divorce. You will want to make sure you know as much as possible about your finances. If you think that your spouse may try to hide any assets, you should be vigilant.

As you delve into your finances, you can watch for these red flags:

  • Your spouse becomes secretive and wants total control over money
  • Financial statements no longer arrive at home, but are forwarded elsewhere
  • Your spouse opens a PO box
  • Your spouse opens new accounts and doesn’t tell you
  • Your spouse changes spending habits
  • Financial documents start to get stored and filed in a new way

These behaviors don’t necessarily mean your spouse is hiding assets. You should try to communicate with your spouse. Ask questions regarding these items. If you do suspect that your spouse is hiding assets you should seek professional assistance. Do your best to adequately prepare yourself for the divorce. Keep your children and their emotions in mind as you take action to build a new future.

6 key car accident statistics

You know how common car accidents are, but you still get on the road every day to drive to work. As a young professional, just 25 years old and starting your career, you don’t usually worry about it. You’ve never been in a serious accident, and, even though you see the news reports every day, you don’t think it will happen to you.

The reality, though, is that accidents don’t discriminate. Safe driving can help you avoid them, but nothing can eliminate your risk entirely. Below are six key stats that you should know:

  1. A full 10 percent of deadly accidents stem from distracted driving.

This statistic comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, while looking at the numbers for 2013. Distracted driving, which includes texting and driving, took 3,154 lives. A total of 424,000 people were hurt, meaning that distracted driving accounted for 18 percent of all accidents involving injuries.

  1. More than a third of all drivers fall asleep while driving.

The AAA Traffic Safety Foundation did a study that claimed a full 37 percent of people have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving at least once. They claim that tired drivers are involved in 13 percent of serious injury accidents and 21 percent of deadly crashes. Even drivers who don’t fall asleep could have slower reaction times when they are tired.

  1. Over 10 million accidents aren’t even reported.

It does stand to reason that many unreported accidents don’t involve injuries, but it’s still interesting to note that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes at least 10 million wrecks never get called in. This indicates that the odds of an accident could be far higher than stats suggest.

  1. Just under a third of all accidents involve speeding.

Speed limits vary from road to road, but drivers always like to push those boundaries. In 29 percent of deadly crashes, speeding was a factor. That stat comes from 2013. It’s higher for younger drivers. For instance, for men from 15 to 24 years old, about 35 percent of deadly accidents involved a speeding driver.

  1. Alcohol is involved in about 31 percent of deadly accidents.

That stat also is from 2013, when 10,076 people lost their lives. It was trending down at the time, compared to 2012, but was still a significant factor — and remains one today.

  1. Almost 2,000 injuries happen after one driver runs a red light.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also said that over 900 people are killed annually in these accidents. Roughly 50 percent of those who are killed are pedestrians and those in the cars that are hit, while the other 50 percent are the drivers who run red lights.

As you can see by reading these statistics, many accidents take place in such a way that you can’t do anything to prevent them. Another driver can be drunk or distracted, run a red light, and hit you on the way to or from work, even when you’ve made no mistakes. Regardless of age or your driving record, it’s important to know about your legal rights to compensation if you’re injured in a crash.

How will divorce or separation affect your taxes?

If you will be finalizing your divorce or legal separation this year, you need to know how changing your marital status will affect your taxes. We can’t give legal advice or cover every topic in a blog post, but a few of the major issues include how alimony and child support are treated, contributions to individual retirement accounts, and name changes.

Child support is not considered taxable income and cannot be deducted by the paying party. However, if you have children, you should know that you may be able to claim them as dependents. Generally, the custodial parent gets to claim the children as dependents. The custodial parent is defined, for IRS purposes, as the parent with whom the child lived for the greater part of the year.

However, you may negotiate different arrangements for claiming dependents as part of your divorce or separation agreement. If the parent who will be claiming the dependents is not the custodial parent, the custodial parent must sign Form 8332 (or a similar statement) and the claiming parent must attach it to his or her return.

Alimony, meaning spousal support or maintenance, is different. According to the IRS, alimony is considered taxable income to the recipient and can be deducted by the payer. There are a couple of important things to keep in mind. First, payers can deduct alimony whether or not they itemize their deductions. Second, alimony is not subject to tax withholding, so recipients may end up with a surprise bill at tax time. To avoid that, you can make estimated tax payments ahead of time, or you can increase how much in taxes is being withheld from your paychecks.

Contributions to IRAs are also affected by divorce and separation. If your divorce decree or separate maintenance agreement is finalized by the end of the tax year, you will only be able to deduct contributions made to your own traditional IRA. In past years you may have deducted contributions made to your former spouse’s IRA, as well, so note the change.

Name changes are common after divorce and separation. If you decide to make such a change, the IRS says to notify the Social Security Administration. The name on your tax return must match your Social Security record, and a mismatch could cause processing problems and delay your refund.

Whatever your situation, your divorce attorney can provide specific answers to your questions or refer you to an appropriate expert.

A reverse mortgage may help some divorcing couples with housing

The Society of Actuaries says that Americans are living longer. Statistically, half of all women and a third of all men who are in their 50s today will live to 90 years of age. Among married couples, there’s a 50-percent shot that one of the spouses will live to 92.

If you’re unhappy in your marriage, that’s a long time to be miserable. And indeed, as longevity trends upwards, more people in the Baby Boom generation are getting divorces. This trend is often referred to as “gray divorce” — divorce over 50.

The issues involved in a gray divorce can be different from other couples’ experience. Most people in their 50s no longer have small children to raise, so child support and custody recede as crucial issues. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the top issues of dispute in gray divorces are:

  • Alimony
  • Division of retirement accounts and pensions
  • Division of business interests
  • Division of the family home and other real estate

That’s not terribly surprising. Recent research by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University points to the fact that divorce after 50 could put ex-spouses behind when it comes to retirement security. Even dividing the family home may yield less than each spouse needs individually for a comparable living situation.

One tool that may help older divorcing couples is the reverse mortgage. We recommend seriously considering the option, but only after a serious discussion with your divorce attorney or a financial planner. No financial tool is right for everyone, and reverse mortgages may have downsides in your situation.

What could a reverse mortgage be used for in a divorce? Often, one member of the divorcing couple wants to remain in the family home but can’t afford to buy out the other spouse’s interest. If the spouse who wants the house qualifies, they could take out a lump-sum distribution from a reverse mortgage and use it to pay most or all of that buyout.

Whether you choose that path or sell the home and divide the proceeds, a reverse mortgage-for-purchase could allow one or both spouses to buy another home at a lower initial cost.

The reality is that divorce often entails a degree of financial loss as one household is divided into two. People who divorce younger have longer to recoup that loss. Older people who divorce have to find ways to reduce their monthly bills — and ideally, they should have some investments that provide cash income. In the right circumstances, a reverse mortgage may turn a monthly bill into a cash generator.

What to do after an accident

Accidents happen every day, at work, school or even while you are just strolling down the sidewalk in Buffalo. Often, they happen because of someone else’s negligence. When you suffer an injury because another individual was careless or reckless, like a distracted driver, you should not have to bear the burden of high medical expenses, lost damages and the repairs to your own vehicle. If the other driver had decided it was more important to text while driving, you would not have a broken arm, whiplash and a strained back.

After an accident caused by a driver that was negligent or reckless, many people choose to file a personal injury so that they can recoup the damages they suffered. If you are considering pursing a personal injury claim, then read further for information about the first steps in a claim.

Collect evidence

Once you have received the appropriate medical aid for your injuries, it is time to prepare your case. Gather evidence about the accident. This includes photographs, your resulting medical records and bills, and witness statements. In addition, write down everything you can remember about the accident. Once you have sufficient evidence, it is time to send notice to the person against whom you will be filing the claim.

Providing notice

While there is not specific timeframe within which you must notify the defendant of the claim, it is typically best to take legal action as soon as possible. The longer you delay, the longer it will take to resolve your claim. Once you provide notice to the at-fault party or parties, then you can take your time with the negotiation and settlement process.

Filing a lawsuit

You will have to file your lawsuit within the time limits prescribed by New York’s statute of limitation laws. Your attorney will be able to advise you on the best time to file the suit so that you do so within legal time limits. If the settlement process seems to be dragging on and it seems like the other party is purposely delaying it, take it as a sign that it is time to file a lawsuit. However, keep in mind that if you wait too long and try to file outside the state’s statute of limitations, the court may throw out your case.

If you have suffered injuries due to a car accident with a negligent driver, you may need to file a lawsuit in order to recover all of your damages and expenses. As soon as you have sufficiently recovered from your injuries, it is time to start the process so that you can get the compensation you deserve.

5 Qualities to Look for When Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney

People who v5 Qualities to Look for When Hiring a Personal Injury Attorneyiolate the law on a fairly regular basis know authorities will probably catch up with them someday. As a result, the most strategic offenders—typically those who break the law to earn a living, whether by shoplifting, selling drugs, or engaging in prostitution—have a criminal defense lawyer on speed dial. But no one ever plans on needing a personal injury attorney, so many accident victims don’t know where to turn for representation.

When time is of the essence—and it always is following unanticipated injuries—finding the right attorney to represent you can seem overwhelming. But if you know the qualities to look for in an accident lawyer, narrowing down the options will be much easier. These qualities include:

  • Relevant experience;
  • A positive reputation;
  • Accessibility;
  • Integrity; and
  • Trial experience.

If you were hurt in a preventable accident and need a law firm in New York that meets all of the above criteria, turn to LoTempio P.C. Law Group. Our compassionate personal injury attorneys have more than 200 years of combined experience in legal practice.

We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take your call. Dial 716-855-3761 to schedule a free consultation.

Read on to learn more about the qualities you should look for in a personal injury lawyer:

1. Relevant Experience

Personal injury law is a sweeping practice area that includes everything from medical malpractice and nursing home abuse to workers’ compensation and premises liability. Most personal injury actions involve motor-vehicle collisions; however, that doesn’t mean every practicing attorney knows how to resolve every type of car accident claim.

Going after a major motor carrier following a truck crash calls for a different strategy than pursuing compensation from a drunk driver. And if you were hurt in some other kind of scenario, whether by slipping and falling or using a defective product, for example, you need to find a lawyer who has experience proving liability and damages in those kinds of cases specifically.

2. A Positive Reputation

A firm that truly cares about its clients will have good standing in the community. You can learn about a practice’s reputation by asking around, reviewing online rating sites, and reading testimonials and reviews from past clients.

3. Accessibility

Even the best personal injury attorneys are useless if you cannot reach them. Accident victims deserve lawyers who will respond to their calls and emails in a timely fashion. As a client of LoTempio P.C. Law Group, you will have a direct means of contact to your attorney, and you will be able to reach our office 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

4. Integrity

Be wary of attorneys who promise to resolve your claim for a low flat rate. These lawyers are unlikely to put in the time and effort needed to investigate your case thoroughly and prepare for all eventualities.

You should also avoid anyone who promises to achieve a particular outcome for your case. Legal proceedings are unpredictable, and there’s no way to guarantee a sizable settlement.

5. Trial Experience

Most personal injury claims are resolved before reaching trial; however, there’s always the chance that your case will end up in court. If it does, you’ll want a seasoned litigator by your side. The accident lawyers at LoTempio P.C. Law Group have extensive trial experience and are ready to represent your interests in court if necessary.

Call 716-855-3761 to Speak with a Personal Injury Lawyer in New York

If you’re looking for a New York personal injury attorney who has all of the above qualities, contact LoTempio P.C. Law Group. Our seasoned lawyers have helped thousands of clients resolve high-stakes wrongful death claims and complicated personal injury cases. Call 716-855-3761 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free consultation.

What Are the Penalties for DWI in New York?

What Are the Penalties for DWI in New York?In the state of New York, a conviction for DWI or DWAI has both direct and indirect costs, which might include fines, license reinstatement fees, lost wages, and higher insurance premiums. When you consider that even a first-time offender could face jail time, though, the associated expenses might be the least of your worries.

Fortunately, even if you failed a chemical test, there may be a defense that works in your favor. A criminal defense lawyer from LoTempio P.C. Law Group can assess your situation and explain potential defense options.

We provide aggressive representation in a variety of cases including:

  • DWI;
  • DWAI;
  • DWAI drugs;
  • DWAI combined influence;
  • Aggravated DWI;
  • Chemical test refusal; and
  • Violations of New York’s Zero Tolerance Law.

Call 716-855-3761 to schedule a consultation with a DWI attorney in New York. In the meantime, read on for a brief overview of New York’s DWI penalties:

1. Mandatory Fines

Anyone convicted of driving while intoxicated has to pay a mandatory fine. The total amount will depend on the severity of the violation.

For example, a motorist who violates the Zero Tolerance Law, or drives with a BAC of between 0.02 and 0.07 despite being younger than 21, will have to pay a civil penalty of $125. Someone who receives a third DWI conviction within 10 years, on the other hand, can be ordered to pay up to $10,000.

2. Incarceration

A conviction for either DWI or DWAI may carry a jail sentence—even if it is your first offense. For DWAI, the maximum jail term for a first-time offender is 15 days. A first-time conviction for DWI, however, can result in a jail sentence of up to one year. The incarceration term increases with subsequent offenses. In New York, the “look-back period” for alcohol-related driving charges is usually five or 10 years, depending on the type of offense.

3. License Suspension or Revocation

Every alcohol-related driving violation will result in a license suspension or revocation. The shortest suspension, 90 days, applies to motorists convicted of a first-offense DWAI. New York residents who are convicted of DWI out of state can also expect a 90-day license revocation. The longest license revocation period is up to 18 months and applies to third-offense DWAI convictions and second-offense DWI convictions.

Discuss Your Case with a DWI Lawyer in New York

If you are facing DWI or DWAI charges, contact LoTempio P.C. Law Group to discuss your case. A New York criminal defense attorney on our team will evaluate the circumstances of your arrest to determine the most strategic way to proceed.

We understand how easy it is to feel hopeless after being charged with an alcohol-related driving offense. There’s a lot at stake, and the penalties of a conviction can have a profound impact on your future. Fortunately, there may be a defense strategy that results in reduced charges, reduced penalties, or the outright dismissal of your case. Call 716-855-3761 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a consultation.

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