L&E Attends Annual Florida Workers’ Advocates Conference
This past week the attorneys of L&E attended the annual Florida Workers’ Advocates (FWA) conference in Orlando. FWA is an organization committed to protecting and defending the rights of injured workers throughout Florida, and it has truly become an invaluable platform for many civil justice attorneys throughout our state. We are proud of the work put in by FWA and its many members who spend a significant amount of time in Tallahassee and away from their loved ones.
“The World will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch & do nothing.”
And always remember, Hurt? We Help
Employee Spotlight: Debbie Higel
Twenty-six years ago, in May of 1991, Debbie joined Lancaster & Eure and she has been an integral part of our firm ever since. In 1990 Debbie graduated from Manatee Junior College with an Associate of Science degree and went on to complete the Certified Legal Assistant’s exam in 1991. In addition, she regularly attends legal seminars and other conferences specializing in Workers’ Compensation to maintain her CLA status. She currently resides in Venice, FL.
At Lancaster & Eure, we are lucky to have someone as focused on the clients and passionate about assisting our team as Debbie and we thank her for her service!
Today we focus our Employee Spotlight questions on Debbie to learn more about her accomplishments and what motivates her to excel:
What do you like most about your job?
Lancaster & Eure has always been very supportive to their employees in the office and with their personal lives. They encourage continued education and provide their employees the opportunity to grow. I feel fortunate to have found a position with L&E.
What would you say have been your major contributions to the firm this year in your job?
I have been able to assist our new employees in learning how to do different aspects of their positions.
What aspect of your position at Lancaster & Eure gives you the most personal satisfaction?
When I am assisting clients with their settlements and they finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and they get a feeling of relief that they will no longer have to deal with the WC insurance companies in their lives.
Tell us something that might surprise us about you?
I love to fish. I caught a 300 pound blue marlin while fishing off the coast of Hawaii. Also, I was a rowing coxswain and I competed in many regattas where our crew was very successful. I am currently a US Rowing referee. I work at many regattas each year.
How do you define success?
I define success as being reliable. Reliable to my employer, husband, and family.
What is the best place you’ve traveled and why?
For our wedding anniversary my husband and I took a cruise to French Polynesia. We traveled to Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahaha, and Rhiatea. It is so beautiful there. The diving was phenomenal and the people were very friendly.
What is your favorite thing to do?
I love being with my husband and I love to cook.
Accidents with Self-Driving Cars
Self-driving, autonomous cars are a hot topic these days, and quite possibly the wave of the near future. With society headed in that direction, who would you turn to if you were injured by a self-driving vehicle?
This article explores the issue of government regulations concerning self-driving cars and if the companies who own these vehicles should ultimately be held liable.
Click here to read the full article: http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170328/self-driving-car-crash-comes-amid-debate-about-regulations
Attorney David Wieland Published in Florida Bar’s Winter 440 Report
We are proud to share the Winter Edition of the News & 440 Report, featuring one of our very own attorneys as guest editor: David Wieland, along with his esteemed family members. 50 Years, 3 Generations. Click here, http://www.flworkerscomp.org/…/2-ne…/72-news-440-winter-2017, to read the articles.
Bill Introduced to Help First Responders With PTSD
Currently, psychiatric only injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not covered under Florida’s Workers’ Compensation law. The law currently forbids, “payment of benefits under [the workers’ compensation law] for mental or nervous injuries without an accompanying physical injury requiring medical treatment.” Section 440.093(1), Florida Statutes (2015).
Following the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL first responder Gerry Realin was diagnosed with PTSD after having to carry almost 50 bodies out of the club. However Mr. Realin was denied workers’ compensation benefits because he did not sustain a physical injury that required medical treatment. While this might seem like an arbitrary distinction to most, the effect is a total denial of benefits and forcing Mr. Realin to go entirely without compensation while trying to recover from the trauma he sustained.
Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) recently introduced a bill that seeks to extend protections for psychiatric only injuries to first responders like Mr. Realin. While the introduction of the bill is by no means a victory for injured workers, it is a step in the right direction to provide protection to those who put their own lives on the line on a daily basis to protect all others.
Labor Fight Extends to UberEats
Following the unprecedented rise in popularity of the ride-sharing service Uber, lawsuits were filed across the country challenging Uber’s designation of their drivers as independent contractors. Up until recently, Uber’s sister company UberEats, a delivery service for local restaurants available in cities across the nation, was spared from these type of labor challenges.
However, a lawsuit was recently filed in Tampa challenging the designation of the delivery drivers as independent contractors. The lawsuit contends that the drivers are employees of UberEats and are being deprived of benefits ranging from minimum wage protections to workers’ compensation insurance. Currently the attorneys representing the plaintiff are seeking class action status indicating that the class could include over 1,000 drivers.
Unfortunately, misclassifying workers as independent contractors is a problem that has existed for years in Florida and can have a large impact on an injured worker’s ability to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. If you or your loved ones have experienced issues with employment classifications, contact our office to speak with one of our attorneys regarding your rights. Each attorney gives every client unique and personal attention. Call us for a free consultation (941) 365-7575, or, feel free to contact us online.
Ideas on How to Reform Workers’ Compensation
Recently, one of our fellow members in Florida’s Workers’ Advocates (FWA) an advocacy group of workers’ compensation claimant attorneys which fights for the rights of all injured workers in Florida, wrote a guest column for Florida Politics providing some ideas on how to reform the workers’ compensation law. The ideas center around balancing the interests of injured workers and employers to create a fair policy that will work for both parties.
Some of the ideas include: Creating a competition based system for setting workers’ compensation insurance rates, allowing some direction of control by the injured worker in their medical care, and ensuring that the injured worker has proper access to courts to fight for benefits that have been wrongfully denied.
State Officials Reveal Increased Accidents With Red-light Cameras
As the debates begin to ramp up in the legislature over the effectiveness of red-light cameras, a new report reveals increased accidents at intersections with red-light cameras.
After reviewing 148 intersections in 28 cities across Florida, it was found that accidents increased by 10% compared to accidents before the red-light cameras were installed. The report does reveal some decreases in certain accidents, such as those involving non-motorists were down about 20%. However, the debate still continues over whether red-light cameras are helping to keep Floridians safe or are they merely acting as cash creators for the state.
While Thanksgiving is a holiday rightfully focused on giving thanks for all of the positives in our lives, it is also a time to experience the traditions and tastes unique to each and every family. In that sense, some of our members of the Lancaster & Eure family wanted to share some dishes that they will be enjoying with their families this Thanksgiving. Make sure to comment either here or on our Facebook page with which dish you enjoyed the most!
Dina shared the following Oyster Dressing recipe passed down by her mother:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 8 cups dry bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 3 cups oysters, liquid reserved
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add celery and onion; cook and stir until tender, about 5 minutes. Mix in the bread crumbs and parsley and remove from the heat. Add the oysters and eggs, and season with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and thyme. Stir in enough liquid from the oysters to moisten and mix everything thoroughly. Transfer to the casserole dish.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the top is toasted and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
And not to be outdone, Stacey from our Personal Injury department shared the following 3 recipes:
Corn and Bacon Casserole
- 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
- 1 can cream-style corn, undrained
- 1 package Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
- 1 cup sour cream
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- 1/3 cup diced onion
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I use a little a more)
- 3 slices bacon, crumbled
- ¼ cup Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Melt butter in saucepan, sauté onion for a couple of minutes in butter until softened.
- In large mixing bowl combine both cans of corn, corn muffin mix, sour cream, shredded cheese, bacon, diced tomatoes and butter/onion mixture from saucepan.
- Mix thoroughly all ingredients.
- Pour into a greased 9×9” pan. Bake 55 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes prior to serving.
- 1 pkg frozen country-style hash brown potatoes (I use 1 pkg and about andother cup from a 2nd pkg)
- 2 cans cream of chicken soup
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 16 oz sour cream
- 2 cups crushed cornflakes
- 2 cups shredded cheese
- 2 sticks butter
- Melt butter in saucepan, lightly saute onion until softened. Remove from stove and then mix in soup and sour cream. In large mixing bowl combine all together hashbrowns, cheese, soup, sour cream and onions.
- Pour in greased 9 x 13. Bake at 350, uncovered, for 45 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the top is lightly browned
- Mix crushed cornflakes and 1 stick melted butter together in a pan until lightly golden brown just enough to coat all the cornflakes. Pull casserole from oven the last 5 minutes and pour the cornflakes on top of casserole and put back in over for 5 min. Watch the oven so the cornflakes do not burn.
Ham and cream cheese Rolls
- 1 to 2 packs thinly sliced cooked ham ( I use the rectangular ham-Plumrose Deli Sliced Premium Ham)
- 3 package cream cheese, softened
- 1 bunch green onions finely chopped
- 1 ½ heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise
- In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, green onions and mayo. ( I microwave for approximately 45 seconds, stirring frequently until smooth)
- Lay the ham slices on a flat surface and spread mixture over ham slices.
- Tightly roll the ham slices into thin logs, starting with a short side.
- Place the ham logs in a container and put in freezer for 20 until harden and then slice them. (This makes it easier to slice) Slice the logs into 1/4 to 1/3 inch wide rings.
- Arrange rings flat on a large serving platter.
A Dish and a Message for Thanksgiving
As we are less than a day away from Thanksgiving we wanted to share a recipe from one of our newer members, Kimberly, who also shared the following message:
“I grew up not really celebrating holidays but last year was the first time that I made a dish for Thanksgiving dinner. Even though a Tatertot Casserole may not be a ‘traditional Thanksgiving dish’ it holds a special place in my heart as the first dish I made for a Holiday. Plus it was delicious too!”
Tatertot Casserole– ready in 40 min. (10 min. prep- 30 min. cook time)
- Ingredients: 1 pound ground beef; 1 pinch salt and ground black pepper to taste; 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup; 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese; 1 (16 ounce) package frozen tater tots
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Cook and stir ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat until no longer pink and completely browned, 7 to 10 minutes; season with salt and black pepper. Stir cream of mushroom soup into the cooked ground beef; pour the mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Layer tater tots evenly over the ground beef mixture; top with Cheddar cheese.
- Bake until tater tots are golden brown and hot, 30 to 45 minutes.
OSHA Updates Recommended Practices for Workplace Safety and Health
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) just released an update to their 1989 guidelines for Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs. The guidelines were created to encourage employers to create programs that prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace. According to OSHA, the key principles are, “leadership from the top to send a message that safety and health is critical to the business operations; worker participation in finding solutions; and a systematic approach to find and fix hazards.”
It is important to note that these guidelines do not create any type of legal obligations for employers and are simply meant to advise employers on ways to improve the health and safety of their businesses and employees.The guidelines are an important factor in helping to protect our workers from suffering avoidable injuries and illnesses due to hazards in the workplace. However, in order to do so, it is still up to the employer to implement and follow OSHA’s recommendations.
The True Status of Florida’s Workers’ Comp System
Recently, the Tampa Bay Times published an article giving a real world perspective on the current status of Florida’s workers’ compensation system. The article highlights the large amount of misinformation on what the recent Florida Supreme Court decisions, in Castellanos v. Next Door Co., and Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, really mean for the injured worker and the system as a whole.
There has been a lot of talk about how the recent decisions are simply a win for attorneys and how the premiums will rise for the employers and go directly into the pockets of attorneys. However, as this article makes clear, the true effect of the Florida Supreme Court decisions is that the insurance companies cannot continue to intimidate and attack injured workers over workers’ compensation benefits with no fear of the consequences. Rather, the decisions make insurance companies accountable for their actions, including needlessly denying an injured workers’ $800 in medical care.
The most thought provoking statement from the article comes from one of the insurance industry’s own experts, “The insurance industry’s own expert witness testified before the justices that he has never heard of a case of an individual prevailing in court without being represented by an attorney.”
Thankfully, the Castellanos and Westphal decisions by Florida’s Supreme Court help to ensure no injured workers in Florida will have to navigate the system on their own. The only question we are left with is whether Florida’s legislature will uphold the rights of injured workers and allow these changes to stand.
1 Year of Making a Difference!
From Our Guest Author, Lancaster & Eure Recycling Czar Pablo:
Lancaster & Eure Celebrates
1 Year of Going Green!
A little over a year ago, Lancaster & Eure proudly implemented a recycling initiative for our offices. The average office worker uses a staggering 10,000 sheets of copy paper every year. We at Lancaster & Eure wanted to do our part in making our world a greener and cleaner place. By recycling, we have cut down on the amount of waste that eventually ends up in local landfills.
Each staff member has a personal recycling bin at their desk to make sure all that can be recycled, will. Every Wednesday all of the paper in the personal bins are combined and taken to the street for pick-up.
Additionally, we have a shredding service come to our office every month to shred the large amount of confidential documents that we, as a law firm deal, with on a daily basis. After these documents are properly shredded, we make sure that all of that paper is also recycled, further reducing our contributions to the ever growing local landfills.
The impact of such a simple and minute change in office culture is astounding. We at Lancaster & Eure wish to continue our endeavor to keep our world healthy for future generations and hope that you will do the same.
“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’tbreathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something.” – Carl Sagan
Lancaster & Eure Helps in Coastal Clean-up
This past weekend, several members of the Lancaster & Eure family joined the Sarasota/Manatee Chapter of the Association of Legal Administration to assist in the Coastal Cleanup at Bayfront Park. The clean-up was part of Sarasota’s continuing program of Keep Sarasota County Beautiful, an affiliate of the Keep America Beautiful Campaign.
Contractors Charged With Employer Workers Compensation Fraud
Employer fraud in Florida’s workers’ compensation system is once again back in the news with a recent bust of 5 contractors in Southwest Florida. As we have discussed before, organizations affiliated with insurance companies try to blame increasing costs in the workers’ compensation system on injured workers supposedly committing fraud to obtain benefits. But based on recent arrests across Florida, the guilty parties are typically employers.
This is especially true when it comes to employers in the construction industry. Failing to properly report employees to their insurance carrier, or failing to obtain the legally required insurance coverage, allows contractors to submit bids for projects at a much lower price than their competitors. This leads to cost savings for the general contractor or head of the project, but those savings come at the expense of the injured worker.
However, even if you are in the unfortunate situation of having an injury at work for an employer without the legally required insurance coverage, there are options available to obtain the benefits that you truly deserve. If you, or your loved one, has suffered a work-related injury, call the experienced attorneys at Lancaster & Eure for your free consultation (941) 365-7575, or feel free to contact us online