Archive for February, 2011
John Gibson, a Lubbock, Texas workers’ compensation attorney, filed suit against the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC), on February 21, 2011. Mr. Gibson is seeking a declaratory judgment, permitting him to continue the publication of his blog, dedicated to Texas workers’ compensation law. DWC had sent Mr. Gibson a cease-and-desist letter on February 7, 2011, that cited the Texas Labor Code in requesting him to stop the use of the words “Texas” along with either “Workers’ Compensation” or “Workers’ Comp.”
Mr. Gibson’s petition, available through his website, points out that DWC’s reading of the Texas Labor Code would prohibit virtually any use of these terms by doctors, lawyers, politicians, or other professionals. Among other rationales, Mr. Gibson’s petition states that the statute is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
Andrew Slania addressed medical professionals at the Health Care Provider Billing & Collecting Seminar in Dallas, Texas on February 24, 2011. The seminar, hosted by Rogers, Booker & Lewis and the Injured Workers Pharmacy (IWP), was aimed at doctors providing medical care to injured employees in workers’ compensation claims. The seminar was geared toward helping doctors understand and work within the Texas workers’ compensation system.
Mr. Slania’s portion of the seminar was dedicated to explaining insurance bad faith practices in the context of workers’ compensation claims.
Doyle Raizner extends our deepest condolences to those families who lost children earlier today in a west Houston fire and our wishes that those children who were injured are able to fully recover.
The fire earlier today at a child day care center in west Houston left three children dead with at least four others hospitalized. The facility had been previously cited for violations of the fire code. The state of Texas is reviewing this and other possible violations by the child care center that could have played a role in this disaster.
The Houston Chronicle has more information on the fire available here.
Mike Doyle served as a speaker and instructor at the American Association for Justice’s (AAJ) weekend educational program in New Orleans, Louisiana. The AAJ, along with the Louisiana Association for Justice, hosted an Advanced Depositions College aimed at teaching and strengthening attorneys’ depositional skills. The AAJ’s College featured very limited enrollment, but more information on the course is available here.
On February 16, 2011, Doyle Raizner filed suit against American Zurich Insurance Company (Zurich) and its adjuster on behalf of an employee who was wrongfully denied workers’ compensation medical and income benefits. The employee, a long-time truck driver, injured his back in 2009 while loading his truck. Ultimately, the employee won his case in front of the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation. In the meantime however, he was unable to have any medical treatment for his back due to Zurich’s denials, leading to a worsening of his condition.
Doyle Raizner is proud to serve this injured employee and help him in his continuing struggle against Zurich and its adjuster.
The Texas Department of Insurance on February 11, 2011, released final disciplinary decisions for violations of Division of Workers’ Compensation rules. Among these fines were the following insurer violations:
-Ace American Insurance Company [$48,000]: Failure to comply with TDI orders; Failure to timely pay income benefits; Failure to timely act on medical bill; Failure to accurately report information to TDI.
- CNA Insurance Group (American Casualty Company of Reasing, Pennsylvania) [$25,000]: Failure to timely pay income benefits; Failure to comply with TDI orders; Failure to timely act on medical bill; Failure to accurately report information to TDI.
- Ace (Indemnity Insurance Company of North America) [$68,000]: Failure to comply with TDI orders; Failure to pay medical bill; Failure to explain denial of medical benefits to injured employee; Failure to timely pay income benefits; Failure to pay preauthorized medical bills.
- Lumbermen’s Underwriting Alliance [$4,500]: Failure to timelypay income benefits; Failure to comply with TDI order to pay income benefits.
- XL Specialty Insurance Company [$25,000]: Failure to timely pay income benefits; Failure to accurately report information to TDI.
These are fines paid to the state for violations of DWC rules and the Texas Insurance Code. Doyle Raizner is committed to helping individuals who have been harmed by such violations when they amount to bad faith activity by an insurance carrier. Click here for more information about the wrongful handling of workers compensation cases.
The complete list of fines is available here.
The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) began lobbying for its 2011 legislative proposals on February 1, 2011. In a press release, TWIA noted a number of items that it would like to see changed during the upcoming leglislative sessions. To highlight a few of the proposals:
- Getting rid of appeals procedures with the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). This could be a good idea, but it leaves open the potential of requiring homeowners to go through mediation or arbitration to resolve what is often a frivolous dispute initiated by TWIA. In addition, arbitration would be binding on homeowners, even though it is pitched as a pre-suit requirement.
- Requiring that all claims be brought within two years. Although two years may seem like a long time, a lot of latent damage (such as that to a roof), can manifest itself long after the underlying event. In a latent damage claim, TWIA can then play both sides. For example, if a latent claim is reported 2.5 years after an hurricane, TWIA could (rightfully) blame it on the hurricane, but tell the homeowner that they have filed their claim too late.
- Further limiting the statute of limitations. Right now, extra-contractual claims can be brought for two years, while contractual claims can be brought for four years. TWIA wants to restrict all claims brought against it to two years. TWIA is essentially seeking an exemption that would treat it differently and change statutes of limitations precedent in the Texas legislature.
In light of the changes sought by TWIA, Doyle Raizner reinforces our committment in seeking fairness for Texas homeowners, whether at the legislative level or in the courtroom.
The Harris County courts will conduct a hearing to evaluate whether certain adjustments should be made to the special docket established to handle residential cases arising out of Hurricane Ike. Currently, all residential cases have been consolidated in a special docket for pre-trial purposes before the 11th District Court, Hon. Mike Miller presiding. Judge Miller has entered a standing pre-trial order that governs the handling of Ike claims and establishes a fast track docket to mediation, and has issued a master set of discovery to be used in all matters pending in the Hurricane Ike special docket. The hearing will address whether the following changes to the special docket should be made:
Proposal 1: Eliminate the consolidation of all existing and future residential Ike cases while maintaining the standing pretrial order and master discovery for all residential Ike cases in all Harris County civil courts;
Proposal 2: Leave things as they are except that all cases will be permanently transferred back to the originating court 30 days prior to the first trial setting.
As co-liaison counsel for Plaintiffs appearing in the Harris County Residential Ike docket, Doyle Raizner LLP is evaluating these proposals and welcomes all feedback from other Plaintiff counsel. The hearing will take place on Monday, February 28, 2011 at 3pm in the 11th District Court for Harris County.
More information concerning the Hurricane Ike residential special docket can be found on Judge Miller’s website. For more information about the upcoming hearing, contact Jeff Raizner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier today, a natural gas pipeline exploded at the Enterprise Products plant in Mont Belvieu, near Houston, Texas. Although there are no injuries reported at this time, at least one news report noted that a worker was missing.
Doyle Raizner would like to extend our hopes that, indeed, no workers were harmed in the explosion. Unfortunate accidents such as this explosion highlight the need for an increased focus on worker safety and prompt, complete medical care and compensation for those workers who are injured.
More information about the explosion is available here, from the Houston Chronicle.