Friday, May 29, 2009

Do Minnesota Construction Workers and Union Members Need to Work In Unsafe Work Places?

NO! As recently reported on WCCO Television, construction workers in Minnesota face enormous risks of work injuries.

There's a lot of construction going on in downtown Minneapolis this summer from roads to the new ball park and everything in between.
One project at the top of the Target Center is causing controversy on the ground. Union roofers marched around the Target Center Thursday. They said non-union workers are facing unsafe conditions on this job. Union members shot night video to show there are no lights on while workers transform the top of the Target Center from concrete to a green, environmentally friendly roof. "Trabajamos en la noche obscuridad," said Celso Alvarado. "We work at night in the pitch dark," explained a translator. Alvarado has worked for Stock Roofing for five years. He said there were other safety violations – including no lines on safety harnesses, no safety goggles and no dust masks. Stock Roofing's president said the job at the Target Center is difficult because they can't do work when there is a show or concert. That means that more work is done at night. The company insisted it complies with all safety standards. The roofers union wanted city officials to take some of the blame. They said the city accepted a bid from a non-union company instead of doing business with unions. "Shame on those local officials who allow contractors to cut costs by putting workers in harm's way," said Rob Snider of United Union of Roofers, Local 96. "In this case the lowest bid was in fact $2 million below the next lowest, so a major savings for the green roof," said Mike Christenson, Director of Minneapolis Community Planning & Economic Development. "Having said that, we will accept no shortcuts on safety." Since workers filed their complaint, the company has added more lights for night work. Workers are ahead of schedule. They will begin planting up on the roof at the end of June and work is expected to be finished by the end of July.

When construction workers are injured on the job, they are entitled to special treatment under Minnesota's workers compensation statute. However, they are also subject to a very unfair arbitration program called the Union Construction Facilitation Program. If you are an injured Union or Construction worker, you should contact a experienced workers compensation attorney with Minnesota Disability and Atkinson Law Offices. Thomas Atkinson has nearly two decades of experience and has appeared before this unique Facilitation program many times over the years. Attorney Atkinson has "secret" tips he uses to avoid the pitfalls of this biases unfair system. Contact him directly if you are an injured union or construction worker at 651-324-9514.

Friday, May 22, 2009

If I'm Involved In A Car Crash While Working Can I Sue The Driver AND Collect Workers Compensation Benefits?

Absolutely YES! Though Minnesota Workers Compensation benefits are "primary" over No Fault Insurance benefits you may still bring a personal injury action against the at fault party. In addition, there are other benefits that workers compensation will not cover and your no fault carrier is obligated to pay; ie household chores, regular home maintenance such as yard work, etc.

If you are a traveling employee or coming or going from a business trip you are covered from your home and back. This is different than most work related injuries where you only have coverage on the physical job site. Accordingly it's important you talk with an experienced workers compensation attorney who understands ALL of your rights and potential benefits.

At Atkinson Law Offices and Minnesota Disability we work with a select group of personal injury law firms to maximize your recovery of both workers compensation and personal injury benefits. Attorney Thomas Atkinson has handled thousands of workers compensation matters over his nearly two decades of experience and recognizes the importance of coordinating both your workers compensation and personal injury benefits. Call me Minnesota Disability and Atkinson Law Offices today at 651-333-3636.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I Received A Severance Package From My Employer. Can I Still Bring a Claim For Workers Compensation Benefits?


In the current economy many employers are looking to eliminate costs wherever possible. Unfortunately for Minnesota employee’s who are currently working in light duty positions or returned to work with physical restrictions as the result of a Minnesota Workers Compensation injury, you are a target for downsizing. The laws are suppose to protect you from losing your job merely because you had a work injury but some employers do ignore these laws and terminate you anyway.

As a part of these layoffs, employers often offer voluntary resignations or severance package that purport to pay your benefits for a short period of time or offer a lump sum payment in exchange for a “full release of any and all claims”. A client recently asked me whether he was therefore precluded from pursuing his workers compensation claim. The answer is absolutely NO! Employment releases, including those with a voluntary resignation and/or full release of claims do not prevent you from pursuing an action for Minnesota Workers Compensation benefits.

In Minnesota your right to pursue workers compensation benefits is protected under state law and ONLY a workers compensation judge appointed by the Governor at the Office of Administrative Hearings may approve an agreement to waive or close out workers compensation benefits. Minnesota has created a somewhat paternalistic workers compensation system that mandates approval of any limitations on an injured workers ‘ rights to workers compensation benefits.

If you sustained a workers compensation injury and lost your job, you may still be entitled to wage loss and rehabilitation benefits including retraining. Contact attorney Thomas Atkinson at Atkinson Law Offices and Minnesota Disability for a free consultation. Free means just what is stated, you pay nothing directly to our office even if we prevail and obtain a recovery for you. Contact Tom Atkinson at 651-324-9514 or View our web site at

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What Happens If I'm Never Able To Return To Work?

The Minnesota Legislature changes our laws every few years resulting in significant changes to the benefits you are entitled to under Minnesota’s Workers Compensation Act. In Minnesota, your benefit rights depend on your date of injury. Just because your friend or neighbor is entitled to a certain weekly wage benefit, your rights may be based on a different set of rules.

During the last decade one of the biggest changes we have seen is entitlement to permanent total disability benefits. Permanent total disability (PTD) benefits are wage loss benefits available when an employee is unable to work as the result of a work injury for an indefinite period of time. Despite what you may read, it doesn’t mean that a judge must find that you can NEVER work again. This is a far less stringent requirement and a legal rule overlooked by attorneys who merely dabble in Minnesota’s complex workers compensation system.

If I am PTD, how long am I entitled to benefits?

If you are permanently and totally disabled prior to October 1, 1995, you are very likely entitled to wage loss benefits for the remainder of your life. However, for injuries on or after October 1, 1995, employee’s eligibility for permanent total disability benefits usually ends at the age 67, or the state retirement age.

There are other very important factors that the courts consider including age, education and degree of disability depending upon your date of injury. Attorney’s who “dabble” in workers compensation can look up some of the guidelines, but those who have tried these cases up to hearing and to the Workers Compensation Court of Appeals and Minnesota Supreme Court understand the distinctions in presenting a winning argument over merely reciting facts.

Can’t a car accident or dog bite attorney also help me with my work injury?

When you hire an attorney like Thomas Atkinson you will have an attorney with nearly two decades of experience handling some of the most complex workers compensation cases before the courts. I don’t write wills, or help those who have been injured in non-work related car accidents. I limit my practice to workers compensation to enable me to stay on top of the ever-growing laws, rules and regulations that our legislature enacts nearly every year.

If you have an ongoing workers compensation claim and believe that your restrictions have prevented you from returning to employment, I can evaluate your case and determine whether there are vocational or rehabilitation options to assist your return to work. However, if not, I am prepared to assist you in pursuing a claim for permanent total disability. Contact me at 651-324-9514 or tom@mndisability. Visit attorney Tom Atkinson's web site at

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I Have An Admitted Injury, Do I Really Need An Attorney?

There is the possibility that you don’t need an attorney. However, I have NEVER seen an admitted injury case in my private practice where ALL of the benefits due were properly paid to an injured worker! So does it happen or can it happen; theoretically I suppose it can.

Let me give you an example. One of my clients had to fight his case to the Minnesota Supreme Court just to get his injury admitted as a work related injury. This case is now very famous here in Minnesota and you would think with all of the hard work it took to get him his benefits, the insurer would be careful to pay all benefits due on a timely basis.

His former attorney is now retired and I was asked to assist the client with a medical dispute. What I later found out is that many years earlier, the employee underwent surgery to his lumbar spine and bilateral shoulders resulting in a permanent condition necessitating twenty-four hour nursing services.

One would think that the insurer would have paid the minimal amount of permanent partial disability owed to this employee who is now permanently and totally disabled. I’m here to tell you that despite paying for five shoulder surgeries and a back surgery, the insurer never paid ANY permanent partial disability. It was only in reviewing a medical dispute that I discovered this either intentional omission or negligent oversight.

There are very reputable insurance companies and adjusters in this business who will pay a compensable claim without prodding by an employee’s attorney’s like myself. However, there are others who believe in a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy.

I am happy to review your file to ensure that you are currently being paid every benefit you are entitled to under Minnesota’s Workers Compensation Laws. There is NO FEE for me to review your claim, contact the insurance adjuster and ensure you are receiving the proper the benefits. You will NEVER pay me a retainer or write an attorney fee check to my office. Work comp attorneys are only paid when we assist the injured worker in getting his/her benefits. In some cases the fees are paid entirely by the insurance company who took a gamble in not paying you the benefits you are entitled. Contact attorney Thomas Atkinson and Minnesota Disability today to discuss your case at 651-324-9514 or

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How Do I Pay For An Attorney If I Don't Have Any Money?

This is one of the shorter sections I will discuss in my blogs because the law is very simple. First, it is ILLEGAL and UNETHICAL for an attorney to request a retainer to represent you in a Minnesota Workers Compensation matter! Do the attorney’s work for free? No, each and every attorney who you may call will charge the same amount as required by Minnesota Statute. You can “shop around” in an attempt to find a bargain, but you won’t find one. Unlike a personal injury attorney who may vary their fee and often charges 33% to 40% of your recovered damages, the fees for workers compensation attorneys are far less and more uniform.

Attorney fees are simply deducted directly from money benefits paid to the injured worker on a “contingency” basis using a state-imposed formula of 25% of the first $4,000 recovered and 20% of the next $60,000. The maximum fee is usually $13,000. Attorney’s fees on medical or vocational disputes are NEVER paid by the injured worker. Minnesota law requires the employer and insurer to pay the attorney directly when there is a dispute regarding medical benefits or vocational rehabilitation.

Under this system you will NEVER pay a retainer or send a check to your attorney as the result of representing you in a workers’ compensation case. The attorney will simply file a request for release of attorney fees at some point AFTER he/she obtains benefits on your behalf. The fees will then be released by the insurer to the attorney directly after he/she files a Statement of Attorney Fees and compensation judge Orders said release and payment. There is no bait and switch as every injured attorney is paid in the same manner.

At Minnesota Disability and Atkinson Law Offices you will be retaining an attorney who has limited his practice to workers compensation and injured worker disputes for nearly two decades. If you shop around, look for an attorney who has at least a decade of significant workers compensation experience to assist you AND will provide personal attention to your matter! Call attorney Tom Atkinson directly at 651-324-9514 or email him at

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

When Do I Need to Tell My Employer I May Have Been Hurt On The Job?

The basic rule is that when you realize your injury is related to work AND you believe that it will cause you to lose time from work you have 180 days to advise your Employer of the injury.

A work injury can be of three types, Gillette, Specific or Occupational Disease. I go three these types of injury in my blog in more detail but to review a Gillette injury occurs over weeks, months or even years until you are eventually disabled; a specific injury are injuries that occur instantly like dropping a hammer on your toe; occupational injuries are often the most complex and can be either specific or Gillette in nature and are usually due to exposures of chemicals or diseases in the work place.

ALL of these dates have exceptions that allow you to provide Notice AFTER 180 days following the development of symptoms. The date of injury is not a straightforward black and white issue. There are thousands of cases dealing with the issue of “culmination of injury”. The Court will typically look for a way to allow a compensable injury as long as you provided reasonable notice of your injury. There are exceptions for occupational diseases or trivial injuries where you may suspect work contributed to the injury but you aren’t sure and your doctor hasn’t definitively linked the injury to work activities. It is important to keep in mind that a physicians job is to assist you in treating your injury and whether it is work related or not is often far down on his/her list of important questions to ask during your brief encounters.

If you believe you may have sustained a work related injury OR your work activities have substantially aggravated a non-work related disability or medical condition you may be entitled to workers compensation benefits. Don’t come to that decision alone. Talk with an attorney whose practice is LIMITED to workers compensation and representing injured or disabled workers. At Minnesota Disability and Atkinson Law Offices I get calls every week from general personal injury attorneys asking questions about Minnesota Workers Compensation Rules. If a personal injury attorney doesn’t have an answer, you shouldn’t expect yourself to have the answer either.

I never charge a fee unless I recover a benefit on your behalf AND even then the fee is paid directly by the insurance company and not you! You will NEVER pay a retainer or fee directly to me for representing you! Call me at 651-324-9514 or email me at