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March 2015 Archives

Farming is Dangerous Work

In Monday's Star Tribune was a tragic report of a death in Renville County of a 53-year-old farmer who was crushed by the tractor tire he was trying to change.For every 100,000 farm workers, about 25 are killed each year and 243 are injured. 5% of those injuries result in some sort of permanent disability. The National Safety Council also reports that of the approximately 3.1 million people who work on America's 2.3 million farms and ranches, 1300 die each year and 120,000 are injured. This makes farming one of the most dangerous occupations in America, right behind underground coal mining.Sadly, many farm fatalities involve children. The National Center for Farmworker Health estimates that between 180,000 and 800,000 agricultural workers in the United States are under 18 years of age and more than 300 of these children die each year in farming related accidents.In 2012 the United States Department of Labor tried to ban children under the age of 16 from operating any kind of power driven farm equipment, including tractors, and to prevent children under 18 from working in grain silos, feedlots or stockyards. This effort was rejected.Farms also enjoy special protection from workers compensation laws in Minnesota. Injured workers often have little or no recourse. There are, however, many successfully reported cases against equipment manufacturers whose farming equipment causes or contributes to injury due to poor design. The only way to determine if that is true in a particular case is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Smoke Detectors That Don't Detect Smoke?

The most commonly used smoke detector in homes utilizes ionization technology to sense the presence of a fire in the home. This type of smoke detector represents about 95% of the smoke detector market. The reason that should concern you is because this type of smoke detector is very poor at actually detecting smoke, which it turns out is the most common killer in house fires.On January 15, 2015 the Minnesota State Fire Marshal's office issued its annual report disclosing that 41 people died in house fires in Minnesota in 2014. Of those 41 deaths it is safe to assume that the vast majority were from smoke inhalation.Smoke alarm manufacturers have known for decades that ionization smoke alarms are very poor at detecting smoke, and that many house fires now are of the type where smoke, not flame, is the predominant indicator of a fire. This is because most house furniture, carpeting, draperies, etc. (the kind of stuff that burns) is made of synthetic materials such as polyurethane, which is an oil-based product that gives off huge amounts of smoke, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide when it burns. It does not burst into flame as quickly as older home furnishings which were mainly made of cotton or similar natural materials.In litigation, smoke detector manufacturer's representatives have testified that ionization smoke detectors will take 30 minutes or longer to sound once a smoldering fire has started. 30 minutes is enough to kill everyone in the house.The other type of smoke detector is one which operates on photoelectric sensing technology. In order to provide the best protection for you and your family you should consider buying and installing (and properly maintaining) both types of smoke detectors in your home.

The Medical Records Rip-Off

Medical records are absolutely essential to someone like me if I am representing an injured person. The medical records often tell the tale of the extent of the injuries, the amount of the pain, etc. It is therefore almost impossible to represent someone adequately without obtaining copies of all of the medical records from all of the treatment received following the injury, and he usually copies of medical records going back at least five years before the injury in order to be able to compare the person's condition before and after the incident.When I started practicing law in the mid-1970s it was a fairly simple process to get copies of a client's medical records. A short letter to the medical provider along with a medical authorization form, and the records in question would be produced within a week or two, usually for a charge of between $.10 a page and $.25 a page, which at that time for some relationship to the actual cost of photocopying. However, commencing in the early 1980s companies called "records retrieval services" sprang up. They went to medical providers and entered into agreements with them saying that they were the exclusive source for copies of any medical records from that medical provider. Armed with these exclusive contracts they instantly began charging one dollar or more per page, plus a retrieval fee of $15-$18, plus sales tax, plus postage. It is important to note that no value was added. These are the exact same records that were being copied for $.10 a page before they claim along.Since that time, while the cost of photocopying has gone down dramatically, the price of getting copies of medical records has continued to escalate. Charges of $1.25 a page or not unusual. Because the client ins up paying for these costs out of their share of the settlement, this sort of nonsense easily costs clients hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in every case.Fortunately, the United States Department Of Health and Human Services has passed rules which took effect recently as part of the HIPAA and HITECH acts. These new rules and regulations prohibit medical providers or these records retrieval services from charging retrieval fee's or making a profit by selling patient's medical records back to the patient. They are now restricted to charging for the actual cost incurred in either making the photocopies or transferring the medical records on to a CD, DVD, or flash drive. And they can charge postage. All it takes to accomplish this is a letter from the patient, signed by the patient, directing that the records be copied in an electronic format and delivered to the patient's lawyer.These new rules and regulations will save injured people in Minnesota millions of dollars in the coming years.