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Rice Law Office Blog

This blog reviews important legal issues including: personal injury, employee compensation, workers compensation, discrimination and wrongful termination.

Always see a doctor right away if you have been in a car accident.

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 It's important to see a doctor right away after you've been involved in a car accident even if you think you didn't sustain any injuries. 

 
In the moments and hours after a traumatic injury people go through a period of shock. The body reacts by sending chemicals and messages throughout your system aimed at helping you get through the initial stages of the crisis.  Pain is the loud voice that tells us to get help, but it can also interfere with thinking, so when your body senses it's in survival mode, it has the ability to reduce pain or even mask it all together. As a result, some people feel no pain right away, despite having been injured. 
 
Although this natural defense mechanism is helpful at first, it can backfire if you don't undergo a medical evaluation. You might feel fine right away, but still be injured. In the hours and days that follow, as the adrenaline wears off, the pain comes through, but in the meantime, you have been nonetheless injured all along. 
 
Going without immediate medical treatment could mean a missed opportunity for early intervention which could make your injury worse or your recovery period longer. 
 
 
Not all serious injuries resulting from car accidents or serious falls are immediately noticeable. Shock and your body's reaction to it, can mask your injuries for days or even weeks after an accident. This is particularly true in the case of traumatic brain and head injuries, but also injuries to the back, neck and spine. 
 
You may also overlook the potential impact of the emotional trauma you just went through. It's natural to experience emotional distress when you go through a trauma, particularly in cases where you may have witnessed the serious injury or death of another individual or worse, a loved one.  This emotional distress could lead to psychological damages if not treated, as it weighs on your mind and takes its toll. 
 
The best course of action  in a serious accident is to see a doctor right away, regardless of whether you are in pain or think you've been injured. 
 
The doctor will be able to examine you thoroughly and conduct any tests necessary to assess whether you've been injured in the accident, even if your body is doing its best to mask your symptoms. 
 
If, by the time you get to the hospital, you've begun to feel any discomfort or pain, or if the doctor determines that you have been injured, then he or she will be able to treat your injuries early and proactively to improve your odds of a full recovery.
 
Still, despite this practical advice, we understand many people don't want to bother with seeing a doctor when they believe their accident was just minor. If feels like a lot of fuss, attention, and maybe even a waste of time and energy. 
 
The problem is, if you fail to seek medical attention right away, and it turns out later that you did suffer an injury, in addition to the health risks you could incur, there can also be legal and financial consequences.  
 
In order to get insurance coverage to help you recover from your damages, including your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering, you will need to prove that you were injured as a result of the negligence of another person.  
 
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Car Accidents in New Hampshire: What do I do?


 

Car accidents are a serious public health hazard in the United States. In every year since 2010 there has been more than 30,000 fatalities on the road. While traffic deaths in the U.S. had been declining in recent years, we are currently on pace for the deadliest year on the roads since 2007 when there were more than 41,000 deaths from traffic accidents.

Car accidents in New Hampshire have seen a 61 percent increase in fatalities so far this year. This is the second highest rate of increase in road deaths in the country, trailing only Vermont.  New Hampshire has launched several programs aimed at reducing accidents on the road, but for now drivers should be aware that it's a particularly dangerous time to be on the roads.

Fatalities may be the most severe outcome of traffic accidents, but there have also been more than 2.2 million non-fatal injuries from car accidents through the first 6 months of 2017. These injuries can be costly in terms of medical care and treatment, but can also lead to missing time at work and other disruptions at home and in our communities.

 

If you are unlucky enough to be in an accident its important that you know how to respond. The New Hampshire DMV lists some helpful tips on its website, but the key things to know are:

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Tips for Car Seat Safety in the Summer Months

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With summer here and school out, more and more of us are on the move in cars with kids in tow. 

As our little ones travel back-and-forth between daycare, camp, the beach and play dates, they'll also find themselves riding in other people's cars. According to the Center for Disease Control, 150 children between ages 0 and 19 are being treated in emergency departments across the country for injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes every hour. With this in mind, it's important that we do everything we can to keep our children safe from road traffic injuries. Thankfully, there are small steps we can take which have a huge impact in securing that our children will get from place to place safely this summer. One of most obvious places to start is with our childrens’ car seats.

 

We all know it's important that we make sure our children are properly buckled up in a car seat. However, it can be a challenge to install a car seat correctly and even more of a struggle sometimes to wrangle wiggly kids into their restraints.  As a result, friends or caregivers who are tasked with transportation this summer but who aren't as familiar with your car seat, might have a hard time tucking your children in safely. 

 

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What workers’ compensation benefits am I entitled to if I get injured at work?

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Employees who suffer an injury at work may be eligible for additional coverage and workers' compensation benefits.  It’s important to be informed right from the start to get the greatest protection possible.

 

Worker’s compensation benefits include:

Wage replacement benefitsPayment for medical bills Job protections Payments for permanent injuries

 

In addition, some cases end up settling for what is called a lump sum settlement.  This is only entered into when both sides agree and it usually involves a final payment with an agreement to end the right to many of the benefits. 

The process for making a claim begins when the employee files a first report of injury to give notice to their employer of the fact that an injury took place at work. This notice then triggers a claim being filed with the Worker's Compensation insurance company who will then review the claim and make a determination as to whether they will cover the claim or not. 

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Personal Injury Blog Part 3: When can personal injury claims be combined with a claim for workers' compensation?

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When an employee gets hurt during and in the course of work, it is usually true that the "exclusive remedy" for the worker’s losses comes from the workers' compensation laws and the workers' compensation insurance company. However, that isn't entirely true. While the employee’s exclusive remedy against the employer comes from workers' compensation (assuming the employer carries workers' compensation insurance), the employee may also obtain damages or benefits from another person who is not the employer and who is responsible for the damages suffered. This is what's known as a "third-party claim."

 

Workers’ Compensation As The “Exclusive Remedy” for Injuries At Work.

Usually, if an employee gets hurt at work, the employee can make a claim for workers' compensation, but the employee cannot file a lawsuit against the employer. This is generally thought of as a good thing, because it means that employees who are hurt at work typically do not have to file a lawsuit with the time and cost that entails in order to get benefits.  Lawsuits are tough, and in order to get paid under a personal injury claim, the injured person has to prove that someone else was negligent and responsible for the injury. That’s a problem for two reasons.

 

First, not all injuries at work ARE caused by someone else. Often they are just bad luck, or might even be due to the employee’s own mistake.  Under workers’ compensation, these injuries are covered regardless of whose fault it is or if there is any fault.  As long as the injury is work related, it is covered, and that is a tremendous benefit. Second, personal injury cases can take years. In the meantime, the injured person might not be able to work, and the medical bills will continue to stream in.  In a personal injury claim (for an injury that happens outside of work), there is no built in coverage to help pay medical bills or to cover the lost wages that occur while the lawsuit is going on.  If the injured person doesn’t have health insurance, they are in a difficult place, as they can’t force the other person to pay for those bills until they can prove their case and show the other person was at fault. Similarly, lost wages are not paid as they occur, but only after settlement or a favorable judgment in court.  Last but not least, there is no guarantee of job protection for a person who is out of work for an extended time during the pendency of a personal injury law suit. 

As a result, people with serious injuries that occur outside of work have to hope they can prove someone else was liable, but they also have to figure out how to hold on financially while the lawsuit is pending.  This can be a huge stress, as the courts are backed up and this process can take time.

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Workers' Compensation - The clock is ticking if you are injured at work in NH 

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Most employees know that if they are hurt during and in the course of work that they are likely entitled to workers' compensation benefits to help them with their lost wages and medical bills as a result of their personal injury. Few employees are aware, however, of the time limitations for providing a notice of personal injury or filing a workers' compensation claim and the consequences of late filing are huge.

 

Employees who fail to complete a notice of injury or fail to also file a workers' compensation claim within the appropriate time limits might lose out completely in their benefits if they are not careful. 

Here is what you need to know about filing a notice, claim and appeal if you get hurt at work:

 

Notice of injury.  

Claims for workers' compensation injuries begin with something called a "notice of injury."

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Personal Injury Blog Series - Part 2: What is a personal injury claim?

Personal Injury Blog Series - Part 2: What is a personal injury claim?

A Personal injury claim arises when there is a physical, mental or emotional injury, which occurs as a result of negligence on the behalf of another individual, business or other entity. Typically, personal injury claims arise out of "accidents" such as auto accidents, traffic accidents or slip and fall accidents where a person is injured due to the negligence of another. 

Where there is a personal injury claim, the victim may be entitled to compensation for damages resulting from the injury such as payment for medical bills, lost wages and compensation for pain and suffering.  Often there is insurance available to cover these losses.

To bring a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for damages resulting from an injury, the injured victim must establish that:

The other person involved in the accident had a "duty" to the victim which was "breached" due to "negligence" (or intentional wrongful acts) and which thereby resulted in injury and damages. 

Each of these terms has a particular meaning under the law which can vary from our common sense understanding. Therefore, most people find having a personal injury attorney can be a valuable resource in determining if they have a claim and if so, in managing the claim process. 

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Personal Injury Blog Series - Part 1: What types of injuries might require a personal injury attorney’s help?

Personal Injury Blog Series - Part 1: What types of injuries might require a personal injury attorney’s help?

When you are injured, through no fault of your own, often times it’s the result of someone else’s negligence. Whether it be a car accident someone else caused, a dog bite from a loose dog, an accidental slip and fall on the grocery store’s wet floor or some other form of painful bodily injury; the fact is, you wouldn’t have been injured, if somebody else had been taking care of their responsibilities. 

 

If you are wondering whether or not you should seek a personal injury attorney, here are four great questions to ask yourself in the process:

 

As a result of your injury, have you had to seek medical care? If the answer to this question is “yes”, then you should definitely consider the help of a personal injury attorney. Serious injuries usually result in huge medical bills and even if you’re lucky enough to have health insurance, you still have co pays and deductibles because of an injury someone else caused. The good news is the person who caused your injury may have liability, motor vehicle or home owner’s insurance which is intended to cover just this kind of loss and an attorney can help you with your claim.

 

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What Damages Am I Entitled to Recover if I’m Injured in a Car Accident?

If you were injured in an automobile accident which was not your fault, you may be entitled to payment for your medical bills, damage to your vehicle, pain and suffering, lost wages, permanent injuries, and for other expenses incurred as a result of your injury. But that's only half the story. Usually, victims of car accidents leading to serious physical injuries also have significant lost time from work that puts wages, benefits, and job security at risk.

If you've been seriously injured in an automobile accident which results in lost time from work, medical bills, or lasting injury, you will want to immediately consult with an attorney who is experienced in BOTH injury and employment law to ensure you get the most protection available. An experienced injury/employment attorney will consider all the resources available to address your injury, but also to help you with your loss of income during the healing process. 

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NH Chief Justice Tina Nadeau Champions Drug Court System

NH Chief Justice Tina Nadeau Champions Drug Court System

New Hampshire is currently considering legislation that would expand the “drug court” system, which proponents say are more effective in reducing crime and fighting addiction. The drug courts offer an alternative to incarceration for high-risk drug offenders by providing a program with treatment, accountability, and supervision.

Tina Nadeau, chief justice of the New Hampshire superior courts, has come out as a strong and vocal advocate for the drug court system. Judge Nadeau has pointed towards evidence that drug courts reduce crime and save money by providing an alternative to expensive incarceration. The issue is particularly pressing given the current opioid epidemic facing the state.

New Hampshire currently has six drug courts, but is looking to increase this number to eleven. In 2007, Texas enacted a drug court system that led to reductions in parole violations and crime rates while saving the state billions in prison costs. Judge Nadeau cited the example, and said “if Texas can do it, we can do it.”

New Hampshire needs to confront its drug abuse problem head on, and this means honestly addressing the problem in ways that will lead to positive results. Rather than jailing drug abusers, we need to help them find treatment—it’s cheaper and more effective. Judge Nadeau’s bold stance in support of drug courts is one we should all support.

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Injured Workers Should be Wary of Opioid Prescriptions

Injured Workers Should be Wary of Opioid Prescriptions

New Hampshire is currently in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and the problem can be traced in part to high rates of prescription for opioid painkillers. New Hampshire ranks third in the country in terms of prescription rate for high-dose and long-acting opioid pain relievers according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There has been a great deal of effort expended on reducing unnecessary opioid prescriptions across the country and more particularly in NH. This June, Senator Kelly Ayotte co-sponsored a law that would create a “Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force”. At the state level, New Hampshire established a prescription drug monitoring program in 2012 that is still in the implementation process.

Patients can be their best first defense against prescription drug addiction by being informed, asking doctors if there is an alternative to narcotic pain medication and understanding whether the dosing is optional or required. Patients often think they have to take the meds as prescribed, but if they asked, they would find many narcotic prescriptions are only by choice and need not be taken as often or for as long as the bottle says.

New medical studies are showing that the body may actually become acclimated to narcotic medications, leading to increased sensitivity in pain receptors and a greater reliance on medication for pain management. Many studies show that alternate pain management treatments are as effective as opioids without the risk of addiction. Each case is unique, but patients should be proactive in understanding the treatment they are receiving. 

It’s important to listen to your doctor, but if you’re being prescribed high-dose opioids for pain relief you need to be informed and engaged in determining if this is the best course of treatment. Ask about dosage, risks, and alternatives to be sure you are receiving the best care.

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U.S. Military Mishandling Mental Illness

U.S. Military Mishandling Mental Illness

Is the U.S. military in the dark ages when it comes to the treatment of mental health illnesses among its veterans? Some critics would say yes based on its recent discharge rates of veterans suffering from mental health disorders for alleged “misconduct”.

Since 2009 the U.S. military has discharged over 22,000 soldiers for misconduct when in fact, they may have only been displaying expected symptoms caused by their military service and injury.

These dismissals come despite a law passed in 2009 requiring that the military consider carefully whether the misconduct leading to discipline was a manifestation of a service related injury such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Further, this is happening despite the devastating impact which this kind of dismissal has on veterans. Dismissal for misconduct results in the loss of health and retirement benefits and can make it very difficult for these veterans to find future employment.

The irony is that these are the very soldiers who are most in need of these benefits. Instead of giving them the care and support they need in the wake of their service and injury, the military is abandoning them according to an NPR story titled Missed Treatment and released in October of 2015. The NPR piece examined the military’s treatment of veterans suffering from mental health conditions and found that despite the 2009 law, dismissals of these veterans for “misconduct” are still widespread. 

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PTSD and Employment for Veterans Returning Home

PTSD and Employment for Veterans Returning Home

A recent ruling from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has expanded protections to allow for extended recovery for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The decision from the Eleventh Circuit Court means that protections for injury or illness must now include PTSD. Employers are required to accommodate veterans who need extended recovery time for PTSD, reflecting the growing appreciation and recognition for this serious challenge.

The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs estimates that between 11% and 20% of all U.S. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. Department of Defense data indicates that 2.5 million men and women were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2013, meaning there are 275,000-500,000 veterans who have struggled with PTSD as a result of the two conflicts. 

Military veterans enjoy certain protections and privileges when it comes to reemployment following a period of military service. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) all enshrine this status in statutory law. 

Under USERRA, an employee returning from a period of uniformed service lasting longer than 180 days has 90 days to apply for reemployment following the completion of their service, at which point the employer must allow the returning employee to resume work.

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My Injury Case: What To Do and What To Expect-Practical Tips and Answers to the Most Common Questions. Part II

PART TWO

Tell Me: How Can I Afford an Injury Attorney, What is a Contingent Fee, What will My Injury Attorney do first and What Is My Case Worth?This is part two of our three part article, My Injury Case: What To Do and What To Expect-Practical Tips and Answers to the Most Common Questions. In part one we addressed the initial phone consultation and office meeting and gave you inside tips as to what questions you should ask to improve your outcome. In this, part two of our discussion, we answer some of the most common questions clients have: How Can I Afford to Hire an Injury Attorney, What is a Contingent Fee and What is My Case Worth? We also address what happens after you hire an attorney.In Part three, we will explain what is means to "settle" your case and discuss the considerations that go into deciding whether your case will settle or go to trial and what you can do to help your case along.

QUESTION #1: How does the Attorney get paid? I don't have enough money to pay for all this!ANSWER:

In almost all strong personal injury cases Attorneys will offer their clients a contingent fee agreement. We do this at Rice Law Office in most personal injury case and also in worker's compensation, Social Security and some employment cases. This means your attorney will be paid by keeping a percentage or portion of the final settlement or court award resulting from your injury. In a contingent fee arrangement, you are not expected to pay your attorney and hourly rate for his or her services. Essentially, the attorney gets paid only if and when you get paid and that fee comes out of your award. This contingent fee arrangement should be described in writing so there will be no misunderstanding about the fees your attorney will charge or how much your case will cost.

QUESTION #2: If I hire an attorney to represent me in a personal injury claim caused by the negligence of another, what will my attorney do first?ANSWER

Once you hire an attorney, they should handle all the phone calls, leg work and paperwork for you. After the initial office meeting (addressed in our first article) our office usually takes the following steps to begin:

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My Injury Case: What To Do and What To Expect:Practical Tips and Answers To the Most Common Questions

PART ONE: I'VE BEEN INJURED IN AN ACCIDENT,

You've been injured and you are in pain, the bills are coming in, you're missing work, the doctors are talking in another language and you don't know what to do.  To make matters worse, you are getting phone calls now from insurance adjusters and you're not even sure who they are. Are they from your insurance company or the other guy's company?  They want to take your statement or maybe, they are offering you money to "settle", what are you supposed to do?  On top of it all, your boss is calling and asking when you will be back- you're worried you might lose your job while you are out recovering.  It's too much to deal with and the stakes have never been higher.  YOU NEED HELP. 

THERE IS HELP OUT THERE AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE RICH TO GET IT.

First, you start by contacting an injury lawyer who will give you a FREE CONSULATION to discuss your injury claim.  Ok,  but then what? In this three part article we will empower you with the information you need to protect yourself and your loved ones. We will give you insider Tips and actual Questions you can ask your attorney to improve your outcome.

We will tell you what you can do, and what to expect if you have been injured and need help. In this first article we'll tell you about what you should expect from the initial call and that first the office visit with an injury attorney. We'll also give you practical tips and actual questions you can ask to help choose an attorney.  In the next article we will tell you  how you can afford an attorney without paying an expensive hourly rate  and explain what your attorney will do for you in the initial stages of representation. Finally, we will address common questions clients have about case value, demands and settlement.

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CAR ACCIDENT? HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Question:I was in a car accident and the insurance company for the other driver has already contacted me. Is it okay for me to give them a statement?

Answer:No, not if you have been injured. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, you should first seek an experienced personal injury attorney before giving any statements to the insurance company.

Question:I was in a car accident two weeks ago and the insurance company for the other driver has already offered to pay me for my injuries. Is it okay for me to take the check?

Answer:It may be, but first you should consult with a personal injury attorney. It is possible that the insurance company is simply offering to assist you with your ongoing medical bills or make payment for your damage to your vehicle, but they may also be attempting to make an offer in settlement. Acceptance of that payment may require that you sign a release of all claims. Depending on the circumstances, especially if you have been injured, it would not be wise to sign any kind of release or accept payment without first consulting an attorney. Once you have released your claim, any additional treatment, injuries or loss wages will not be covered by the insurance company. So, while a quick payment may seem tempting, there may be huge consequences attached. That check today may leave you with huge bills to pay tomorrow. Be patient and be smart because if it seems to good to be true... it probably is

Question:I’ve Been Hurt in a Car Accident, How Do I Know if I Have a Case?

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NOT IN THE MEDICAL RECORD? THEN YOUR DISABILITY DOESN’T EXIST

In the early days of my practice, one of my partners used to say, "unfortunately, if it is not in the medical record, it doesn’t exist." While this is not entirely true, the best evidence in a disability case is often found in the form of medical documentation, and the only way to get that evidence, is to go to the doctor.  However, for most people who are unemployed and without income or health insurance, getting necessary medical documentation can seem like an impossible task. 

It feels like a no-win argument, right? I mean, how can I possibly afford to go to the doctor to document every physical condition?  I'm sick or injured so I can't work; when I lost my job, I lost my health insurance and without an income, I don't have the money to pay for expensive doctor appointments, but without the doctor appointment, I don't have the records and without the records, I can't prove I'm eligible for disability so I can't get health coverage or disability benefits!  It seems insane, we know.   

Every day we see clients making choices between medical care and groceries. When you don’t have enough money to pay the rent or put food on the table, there really is no choice: you forgo treatment. The problem is, this can become a huge obstacle to your claim for benefits. Claimants who tell the judge they are in constant pain but who do not seek treatment may not come off as credible.  If you are injured or hurting, you need to be able to prove that with more than your word; it is vital that your testimony is supported by the medical record.   

What’s the answer? You must begin building a medical record. Even if you haven’t been going to the doctor regularly up until now, it is absolutely vital that you begin doing so immediately. It will be hard if you don't have health insurance, but there is help out there and you will need it.  See if you are eligible for Medicaid or Obama Care and speak to your doctor or hospital, because almost every county has a clinic or a hospital that will see patients at reduced cost if you truly aren't able to afford care. If you are a veteran, go to your local VA and definitely go to your local welfare office in your county and also in your town.  You can also check with your church or place of worship if you have one, as they might have a fund to help in cases such as yours.  There are resources out there, but you will have to work to find them. 

You may not be employed, but you have a lot of work to do and for now, your job is to seek out and get services for your physical and mental disabilities.  You must establish a relationship with a doctor, and attend follow up visits as well as any referrals which are made to see specialists. Whether you are applying for social security or private disability, they need to see records of your condition and care over time, not just once or twice. 

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Motorcycle & ATV Accidents

It's that time of year when riders take that last sweet ride of the season in the open air and think about putting the bike away until next spring.  As you close things up for the season, its a good time to be sure you are not just protecting your vehicle, but that you are taking care of yourself and your riders too.  We all know motorcycles are less stable and less visible than cars and sure, it follows that they're more likely to be in a crash, but did you know that according to the NHTSA the fatality rate for motorcyclists in 2006 was 5.5 times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants?  While motorcycles account for only 3% of all registered motor vehicle and 0.4% of vehicle miles traveled in 2006, 4810 people died in motorcycle accidents in 2006.  This is fun that comes with a risk.  We all know that, but are we all fully protected?  What would happen if you were hurt riding? 

According to the NHTSA, motorcycle drivers and their passengers are more exposed and thus they are more likely to suffer general bodily injury, head injury and more serious injuries then a comparable impact involving automobiles. It makes sense then to learn that when motorcyclists are injured, through no fault of their own, they are typically awarded higher damages as a result of their high medical bills, extensive pain and suffering and the lost wages they incur.

The problem is, even when a claim is valid, motorcyclists face the obstacle of prejudice and the public perception that they are reckless drivers. This means it is all that more important that if you or your loved one is hurt as a result of a motorcycle accident, you seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney as soon as possible in order to maximize the chances for success in obtaining all the compensation to which you are entitled.

At Rice Law Office, our attorneys will help you through this difficult time, providing support by dealing with the insurance companies, attorneys, and other accident parties so you can focus on what is important, getting better and getting back to your life. The attorneys at Rice Law Office provide tough and compassionate representation, directed at moving your case forward and obtaining full compensation for you and your family. We will fight to get every dollar allowed by law and work to resolve your accident case faster with less stress and less anxiety.

If you have questions, call Rice Law Office now for a free, no obligation telephone consultation at (603) 528-5299.

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The Five Benefits Available To Injured Workers In NH

The FIVE Benefits Available to Injured Employees Under NH Worker's Compensation Law If you're an employee hurt at work, you are entitled to protection under the Worker's Compensation statute, but what does that really mean? Well, it comes down to Five Basic Catagories of Protection and here they are: 1).    Lost Wages. The law says, If you are hurt at work during the course of your employment, you are entitled to compensation for your lost wages which you suffer as a result of your injury. That's great, right? Well, sort of. The reality is, there are all sorts of exceptions and limitations to the law. First off, your lost wages are based upon your average weekly wage earned over the 26 to 52 weeks before your date of injury. The bad news is, you will not be compensated for that raise you were just about to receive as future raises aren't taken into account.  The good news is, The law entitles you to use the highest average weekly wage within that 26 to 52 week time period. That means, if you worked a lot of overtime in weeks 36 through 52, for example, there is a way to take that into account and to use those weeks to your advantage when calculating your highest average weekly wage. A worker's compensation attorney can help you get the information you need and to communicate with the Worker's Compensation carrier to get you the highest compensation rate to which you are entitled.This is really important because you will be compensated for your lost wages at a rate of 60% of that average weekly wage. That's 40% less than what you were earning when you got hurt! This sounds like quite a blow, but it's not quite as bad as it sounds because your Worker's Compensation benefits are tax-free. While it's doubtful injured employees are being taxed at a rate of 40%, once you calculate in your employer's withholdings for federal income tax, Social Security and the like, many employees find that their Worker's Compensation benefit is really only about 10 to 15% below their actual take-home pay. Still, that's a heck of a hit for most people, who need every penny of their paycheck to make ends meet. Another surprise to many injured workers is the fact that lost wage benefits are limited in time. Although employees are entitled to receive 60% of their average weekly wage for the time period that they are out of work due to an injury, if the injured employee is given even a partial return to work, those benefits will likely be limited to five years.  So, for example an employee who has significantly lost the use of his right hand as a result of a work injury, may be released to work light duty in a job that doesn't require the use of his right hand. For mechanic or an iron worker that may mean the end of a career, but the Worker's Compensation carrier will argue that there are other jobs that this employee can perform and therefore the carrier will seek to reduce benefits upon return to work and may seek to terminate benefits at the end of five years, even if the employee still has limitations after that time period. A good worker's compensation attorney can explain these benefits in greater detail and work with you to maximize both your compensation rate and the time period for which you are eligible for ongoing pay. 2).     Reimbursement for Medical Expenses  Injured employees are entitled to receive reimbursement for medical expenses which are reasonable, necessary, and related to the work injury.  The key to receiving this benefit is twofold; first employees have to make sure that they explain to their medical provider how they were hurt and do this in the very first appointment and every appointment thereafter. Second, employees must be sure that each medical provider completes the required Worker's Compensation medical form accurately and completely. The fact is, medical reimbursement is not automatic, employees are only entitled to medical reimbursement where the medical records demonstrate that the treatment is reasonable necessary and related to the work injury. This means your doctor must document how you got hurt, indicate if your condition is caused by your work injury, and explain how he comes to that conclusion. It's your job to help make sure that this information is included in your records, if you hope to get your medical bills paid by the insurance company. Every medical provider in the state of New Hampshire is required to complete a Worker's Compensation medical form for each employee treated as a result of a work injury. These forms provide basic information about how you got hurt, whether you can go back to work, and if so, whether there are any limitations placed on you as a result of your injury. These forms also ask the doctor whether your condition is related to the work injury which you suffered. This last piece of information is absolutely critical to an employee's ability to get Worker's Compensation coverage. Unfortunately, doctors are busy and sometimes forget to fill these forms out completely, which results in inaccurate and/or confusing documentation which can hurt an employees claim. You can increase your chances of getting bills paid and avoiding a denial if benefits by simply reviewing that form after every appointment. You are entitled to a copy of that form and most offices provide it to you on your way out the door. Just take a moment to look it over before you leave the office to be sure that it has been completed in its entirety and that it accurately reflects what you and your doctor talked about. If the doctor forgot to fill in the description of your injury or markdown limitations which he described to you during the office visit, you need to bring this to the attention of his staff and ask for a correction BEFORE you leave the office. For some people, this might feel uncomfortable, but remember, filling out these forms completely and accurately is as important to the doctor and the insurance company as it is to you. Simply be direct, clear and polite in bringing the omission to your doctor's attention. In most cases, the staff will immediately and happily correct any oversight or errors on that form. The fact is, in order for the doctors to receive payment for your visit, they need those forms to be filled out correctly and they will likely be pleased that you brought any omissions or errors to their attention. You're helping the Worker's Compensation insurance company as well. The insurance company must rely entirely on how that form is filled out to determine if you are entitled to reimbursement for the charge. So remember, If The Worker's Compensation form doesn't accurately reflect your appointment, it's your job to ask the doctor to complete or correct that form so that it does!  3).   Job Protections  The third category of Worker's Compensation coverage is job protection. In New Hampshire, employees who were injured during and in the course of their employment, are entitled to temporary alternative duty and reinstatement.  Temporary alternative duty is work that takes into account your physical limitations as a result of your injury. Your employer is required to provide you with this sort of accommodated work during the course of your recovery as you transition back to your regular duties. If, for some reason, your employer is unable to provide you with transitional work within your restrictions, then you should be entitled to ongoing Worker's Compensation benefits for your lost wages. In addition to these accommodations during your recovery, your employer is obligated to keep your job open for you for a period of 18 months from the date of your injury; this is true even if your employer had to hire somebody else during the period of your recovery to take over your position! That's right, once your doctor releases you to perform your former duties, with reasonable accommodation, you're entitled to return to your job. If you run into resistance, once it's time to return to work, based upon the fact that you still need some limited accommodations, it will be very important that you have an attorney who will help you to assert this right to reinstatement. You'll need someone who understands your rights under workers compensation as well as under State and federal disability laws, such as the FMLA and the Americans with disability act. An employer who refuses to reinstate an injured employee may be in violation of more than the workers compensation laws; atate and federal disability laws also provide rights to reinstatement and require employers provide reasonable accommodation to make that possible. If you've been seriously injured it's vital that you have a Worker's Compensation Attorney who can counsel you about your rights and protections under the ALL the available employment and disability laws such as The ADA, COBRA, wage and hour laws, family medical leave, laws preventing discrimination on the basis of age race religion nationality gender marital status pregnancy veteran status and the like,  as well as unemployment and Social Security disability benefits. You may also have other insurance available which you will want to consider as well, such as private disability insurance or retirement benefits which may be available upon a determination of disability. 4).    Permanent Impairment Awards Some employees are also entitled to a one time payment for suffering a permanent injury at work. This is called a permanent impairment award. Not all employees who were injured are entitled to a permanent impairment award. Only certain injuries are eligible for this payment and you may need an attorney's assistance to determine if you are eligible for this benefit. If you do have an injury which qualifies for a permanent impairment award you will need to have a medical a evaluation (exam) whereby your doctor indicates that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and then performs a very specific type of examination to document the limitations which you have as a result of your work injury. Each time you were treated, your doctor is asked to indicate on the Worker's Compensation form whether you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and whether your doctor believes you have a permanent impairment.  5).    Vocational Rehabilitation The last major category of coverage offered under New Hampshire's worker's compensation law is vocational rehabilitation. If you have suffered an injury that is so serious and lasting that you are unable to return to your previous job, you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation services, i.e. some sort of assistance in finding new work or even retraining, if necessary. In such cases, you may be assigned a vocational rehabilitation counselor, who will want to meet with you to gather information about your education and work history in order to determine whether you have an ability to return to your previous employment. If it appears you cannot return to your past employment, based upon your physical restrictions, The vocational counselor will then try to determine whether you any transferable skills which would allow you to transfer into other jobs available in the economy. For example, while your last job may have required heavy lifting, if you have a work history that included computer skills, you may be able to transition into a desk job which would not require heavy lifting. If this isn't the case, you might need some additional training, in order to enter into a new profession that better suits your physical limitations. Vocational counselor's are  like any other professional and they vary with respect to style and approach. Often kind and capable resources, these folks are none the less hired by the Worker's Compensation carrier who has a vested interest in finding that you are capable of returning to some sort of work as fast as possible and in the least expensive way possible. Employee should always keep this in the back of their mind as they work with the vocational rehabilitation counselor. Attorneys can help balance the system as they represent the employee and not the insurance company. Vocational rehabilitation has its limitations with respect to the amount of time and money the Worker's Compensation carrier is required to spend in order to assist as injured worker towards rehabilitation and an attorney can assist in maximizing this benefit. However, there are also other vocational rehabilitation services available through the state which can be used in combination with, or instead of, the Worker's Compensation vocational rehabilitation process. This is something your workers compensation attorney can discuss with you. In addition, If you are eligible for unemployment benefits, the New Hampshire Department of employment security is a terrific resource for vocational benefits that would help you find new work after your injury. The more serious your injury, the more likely you will qualify for protection under not just Worker's Compensation laws, but under other employment laws as well. It's important that you ask your workers compensation attorney about these other benefits early on, as some of these benefits cannot be combined with others. If it is likely that you will be out of work for a significant period of time or that you may not be able to return to your old job, it is absolutely vital that you understand your rights with respect to job protection, ongoing health insurance benefits, disability discrimination, accommodation, and other disability benefits which might be available to you. Your attorney will be an invaluable resource for this information.  If you have been seriously injured and have questions about your rights or the benefits to which you might be eligible, you can call Rice Law Office PLLC, for a FREE phone consultation at 603-528-5299. You can also visit our website at WWW.ricelaw-office.com for more articles, frequently asked questions and links to resources.
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Summer Safety

New Hampshire has long been known as an idyllic summer location, offering the complete gambit of summer activities for vacationers and full time residents alike. Lakes, mountains, and beaches in the Granite State attract droves of people during the warm months, and New Hampshire stands up as one of the best summer getaways in the US. Whether you’re boating, barbequing, or lighting off some July 4th fireworks, New Hampshire is a great place to recreate. All of these recreational activities, however, come with risk of injury.

Boating is a dangerous activity, and causes hundreds of fatalities and thousands of serious injuries in the US every year. In 2013 the US experienced:

4,062 total boating accidents

560 deaths

2,620 injuries

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