Are you unable to work because of a disability? Get the answers you need on Social Security Disability to protect your rights
Keefe Disability Law has compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions in response to the overwhelming number of people who need help with the Social Security Disability process in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. If you are disabled and need help with disability benefits, read on to learn how to protect your legal rights.
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Can I make money doing my hobby and continue to qualify for Social Security disability?
Your medical condition prevents you from working. While your daily activities have changed significantly, you still have a hobby that you enjoy. Perhaps you enjoy crafts that you can do from the comfort of your home, maybe you are a gifted graphic designer and you can do a few projects at a time, or maybe you have a knack for fixing broken appliances.
You can’t turn your hobby into a steady income because of your disability, but can you sell your goods or services on the side and earn a little money.
How Much Money You Can Earn While Receiving Social Security Disability
Typically, the Social Security Administration does not consider your hobbies when determining whether you can work. However, if you get paid for what you consider to be a hobby, then your hobby is relevant in the Social Security disability eligibility or continued disability eligibility determination.
The Social Security Administration must find that you are completely disabled and unable to support yourself by working before it begins sending you Social Security disability benefits.
More specifically, the Social Security Administration must find that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity.
The amount that you can earn and still qualify for Social Security disability benefits changes annually. For example, in 2020, substantial gainful activity, or the amount that you could earn and still qualify for benefits, was set at $1,260 per month for non-blind Social Security disability recipients and $2,110 per month for blind Social Security disability recipients.
If you want to make money at your hobby, however, it is not enough to make sure that your earnings are below the substantial gainful activity threshold. While you can’t make more than the substantial gainful activity amount, you need to be careful that the Social Security Administration doesn’t think that you are purposefully holding back on earning an income so that you remain eligible for disability benefits.
In making its determination, the Social Security Administration may consider things such as:
- The circumstances under which you did the work. These circumstances could include but aren’t limited to whether you did the work at home and any special accommodations that you had at home to make doing the work easier.
- Your “work” hours. If you work on your hobby during non-traditional work hours or require frequent breaks, then you may not be able to go back to work even if you can make some money with your hobby.
- Special assistance you receive at home. Are you able to complete all of the work that it takes to make money at your hobby independently, or are other people involved in the making, advertising, selling, and managing of the endeavor?
The Social Security Administration should consider all of the information that you provide when determining whether you can work and whether you are disabled.
Is the Benefit of Earning Money Worth Risking SSDI Benefits?
You, like many other Social Security disability recipients, may have trouble making ends meet with just your monthly disability payments and existing assets. Additionally, or alternatively, you may suffer emotionally if you are not working. Part-time self-employment from home doing a hobby that you enjoy may be just the answer for you.
If you choose to pursue earning an income from your hobby and receive Social Security disability benefits, then we encourage you to make sure that all of your rights are protected. Our experienced Metro Boston Social Security disability lawyers are here to help you. We want you to lead the most fulfilling life that you can. If earning money from a hobby is part of your plan, then let’s talk about how you can do that without jeopardizing the fair Social Security disability benefits that you’ve earned during your years of work.
Call us or contact us through this website to learn more today. We would be happy to meet with you by phone or in person for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Can I qualify for Veterans disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits?
The good news is that, yes, you may qualify for Social Security disability and Veterans disability benefits at the same time, and you may receive benefits from both programs.
However, each program has its own definition of disability and its own eligibility requirements. Therefore, qualifying for one program does not automatically qualify you for the other program, even if you are a Veteran.
Instead, you need to have your application approved by the Social Security Administration for Social Security disability benefits and the Department of Veterans Affairs for Veterans disability benefits.
Definition of Disability
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs considers someone disabled if the person:
- Served on active duty, active duty training, or inactive duty training.
- Has a disability rating because of an illness or injury that impacts the body or mind. The disability does not need to be a complete disability.
- Got sick or injured, or had an illness or injury worsen while serving in the military.
However, a Veteran who receives an other than honorable, dishonorable, or bad conduct discharge from the military will not qualify for Veterans disability benefits even if the Veteran meets the disability definition described above.
The U.S. Social Security Administration has completely different criteria for determining if someone is disabled. The Social Security Administration doesn’t care where or when you were disabled or if you served in the military, and the Social Security Administration will not accept a partial disability. Instead, a person is disabled if:
- You are totally disabled. If your condition prevents you from earning more than a minimum amount defined as substantial gainful activity, then you may be totally disabled. Partial disabilities are not considered by the Social Security Administration, even if they impact your income.
- You are permanently disabled. Medical professionals must expect your condition to last for at least one year or to result in your death.
- You have paid enough in Social Security disability taxes to qualify for benefits. You must have earned enough work credits to qualify for benefits. The number of work credits that you need depends on your age. However, most adult workers need to have earned 40 work credits with 20 of those credits earned in the ten years immediately before filing for disability.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration are both agencies of the United States government. However, they do not share a common application process. Instead, you need to convince each agency of your eligibility based on that agency’s specific eligibility criteria. That said, if you have a 100% disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, then your Social Security disability application may be expedited, although your eligibility is not guaranteed.
If you think that you meet the disability definition for either program, then your next step is to complete an application for one or both programs.
You Don’t Have to Apply for Disability Benefits on Your Own
Whether you apply for Social Security disability benefits or Veterans disability benefits, you have the right to work with an experienced lawyer who may reduce the frustration and stress that comes with applying for either program.
While there are significant eligibility differences and different application procedures for Veterans disability and Social Security disability, both application processes can be frustrating and stressful. Both government agencies require precise information and may delay or deny applications based on unclear or missing information.
Accordingly, it is essential to work with an experienced disability lawyer to file your application, or your appeal if your initial application is denied. Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers are here to help Veterans and non-Veterans in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire get the Social Security disability benefits that they deserve. We can also direct you to a Veterans disability lawyer if you need one.
To learn more, please read our free book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, and call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
I need to file for bankruptcy protection. What will happen to my Social Security disability payments?
The Social Security disability payments that you receive each month help you financially. Your Social Security disability deposits provide some money to pay for essential things such as food, shelter, heat, and food.
The exact amount of monthly Social Security disability payments depends on your work history and changes slightly from year to year. However, in January 2020, the average monthly Social Security disability payment to a disabled worker was $1,258. Given the high cost of living in the Greater Boston area and throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, Social Security disability benefits are unlikely to pay all of your bills.
You may be in debt. Your next step may be to file for bankruptcy relief so that you can have the fresh start bankruptcy allows. However, you may be worried about what will happen to your Social Security disability benefits if you pursue a bankruptcy case.
Keep Your Social Security Disability Income and File for Bankruptcy
You don’t have to choose between bankruptcy and Social Security disability. In most cases, you can keep your Social Security disability payments and get bankruptcy relief.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcies
Chapter 7 bankruptcies are also known as liquidation bankruptcies. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, your assets that are classified as non-exempt assets are sold and distributed to your creditors to satisfy your debts. Therefore, the question becomes whether Social Security disability payments are exempt assets.
Social Security disability payments may be exempt pursuant to state exemption laws or the federal exemption law. You must decide whether you are going to choose the state exemptions or the federal exemptions when you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Therefore, it is important to let your bankruptcy lawyer know that you receive Social Security disability payments so that all relevant factors can be considered when deciding which exemption list to choose.
Even if your Social Security disability payments are exempt from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there is an important factor that can complicate your case. Most people have their Social Security disability payments deposited into a bank account that also has money from other sources. Whether it is money that was gifted to you or that you earned from a hobby, for example, the money is not all from the Social Security Administration.
The comingling of money in one bank account makes it hard for the Chapter 7 Trustee to determine which money is Social Security disability income and which money is from other sources. The Trustee may decide that it is impossible to figure out how much of the money is from Social Security disability and, therefore, the entire bank account may be non-exempt and used to pay your creditors. This problem may be avoided if you keep Social Security disability payments in a separate bank account.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcies
Chapter 13 bankruptcy works differently than Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you keep all of your assets and pay your creditors through a court-approved monthly repayment plan over a three- to five-year period. Your income and expenses are considered when a repayment plan is created. Your Social Security disability income may be exempt from the income that is considered when determining your ability to repay your creditors.
Talk to a Social Security Disability Lawyer to Protect All of Your Rights
Your bankruptcy lawyer will make sure that Social Security disability payments and other exempt assets are protected during bankruptcy. However, you may have other concerns about your Social Security disability payments, such as:
- Can you work and receive Social Security disability payments?
- When will your Social Security disability payments end?
- Are you receiving the right amount in Social Security disability payments?
- Why is the Social Security Administration reviewing my claim, and what do I need to do about it?
Our Boston area Social Security disability lawyers encourage you to contact us as soon as you have a question. Don’t wait for the Social Security Administration to take away your benefits. Instead, let’s work together to make sure that there is no interruption in the benefits you receive.
To learn more, please contact us through this website or by phone at any time. We would be pleased to offer you a free consultation by phone or in person to discuss your legal options.
What happens if you apply for Social Security disability and your job no longer exists?
The Social Security Administration will find that you are disabled if your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you’ve done in the past or another type of work.
However, what happens if the work that you did no longer exists and you aren’t qualified to do any other type of work for which there is currently a demand?
Jobs Change Over Time
The jobs available in the workforce change over time. For example, some jobs from the 20th century, such as switchboard operators, elevator operators, and film projectionists are no longer necessary because of technological advancements. Other jobs, such as milk delivery, have fallen out of fashion. Some of the skills used in some of these jobs are easily transferred to other occupations, but others are not as easy to apply in different situations.
Jobs in the National Economy
When deciding whether you can do the work that you used to do or another type of work, the Social Security Administration must consider whether you can do work that currently exists in the national economy. Your physical ability, mental ability, and vocational qualifications are considered when determining what kind of work you can do.
Generally, work exists in the national economy if the jobs exist in significant numbers in the region where you live or in several other regions in the United States. There must be a significant number of jobs in one or more occupations that have requirements that you can meet. While the federal regulations do not establish a specific number as “significant,” the regulations are clear that a few “isolated” jobs that exist in “very limited numbers in relatively few locations outside of the region where you live are not considered work which exists in the national economy.”
When the Social Security Administration determines whether jobs exist in the national economy, it considers information from the:
- Dictionary of Occupational Titles, published by the U.S. Department of Labor
- County Business Patterns, published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census
- Census Reports, from the U.S. Bureau of the Census
- Occupational Analysis prepared for the Social Security Administration by State employment agencies
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Vocational experts or other experts if there is a complex issue, such as whether your work skills can be used in other work or occupations.
If jobs that you can do exist in the national economy, then you are not disabled even if you are unemployed because:
- You can’t get work
- There isn’t enough work in your local area
- The hiring practices of employers prevent you from working
- Technology has changed in the industry
- Cyclical economic conditions temporarily make work unavailable
- There are no job openings
- You don’t want to do a particular kind of work.
Additionally, the Social Security Administration will not consider the following in determining whether work exists in the national economy:
- If there is work in your immediate geographic area
- Whether a specific job vacancy exists
- If you would be hired if you applied for a specific job
The Social Security Administration must follow the specific regulations for determining if work exists in the national economy, as described above. However, the information that you provide or that your Social Security disability attorney presents in your application or appeal may influence the outcome of your Social Security disability case.
What Else You Need to Know About Social Security Disability Eligibility
A determination of your eligibility may be made without the Social Security Administration ever considering whether your job still exists in the national economy. For example, if your disability is included in the Listing of Impairments, then it is presumed that you cannot work.
Learn more about your Social Security disability rights and how to protect them by browsing our free library of articles or contacting our Boston area Social Security disability application lawyers today to schedule a free consultation.
I had a heart transplant a year ago or longer, and I still can’t work. Do I qualify for Social Security disability benefits?
Getting a heart transplant is a significant procedure. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes how important it is that you make a full recovery, which is why it automatically approves heart transplant recipients to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for the first year.
If you still can’t work after one-year post-surgery, then you may reapply for Social Security disability benefits. This time, however, there is not a specific heart transplant listing in the Listing of Impairments that applies to you. Instead, you will need to prove that you qualify for benefits pursuant to a different section of the Listing of Impairments or that you can’t work because of the severity of your disability.
Heart Transplant Complications
Complications may occur if your body rejects the new heart, if the new heart fails, or if you experience significant side effects from transplant medications. While some of these complications are acute and happen soon after heart transplant surgery, other complications occur over time. Even at one-year post-transplant, you are still at risk.
Some of these complications are so severe and common that they are included in the Listing of Impairments. For example, you could experience:
- Coronary artery disease (Listing 4.04). Coronary artery disease, also known as ischemic heart disease, occurs when blood flow to the heart is reduced because of narrowed arteries. Not everyone with coronary artery disease qualifies for benefits, but if you meet the qualifications of Listing 4.04, then you will qualify for benefits.
- Heart failure (Listing 4.02). If you are diagnosed with chronic heart failure, you are on medication, and you meet the severity requirements included in the listing, then you qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
- Heart Arrhythmia (Listing 4.05). You may be eligible for Social Security disability if you have recurrent arrhythmias that occur despite treatment and meet the severity requirement of the listing.
- Kidney Damage (Listing 6.00). Heart transplant medications can damage your kidneys. If you experience a kidney condition that falls under Section 6.00 of the Listing of Impairments because of your heart transplant medication, then you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
- Thin bones, which may cause bone fractures (Listings 1.06 and 1.07). Heart transplant medication may cause your bones to thin. If you suffer a significant fracture of your femur, tibia, pelvis, a tarsal bone, or an upper extremity bone, then you may qualify for Social Security disability if you meet the requirements of Listing 1.06 or 1.07.
- Diabetes (Listing 9.00). The medications that you are on to keep your body from rejecting your heart transplant may cause diabetes. If this happens to you and you meet the requirements of Listing 9.00(5), then you should qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
- Cancer, especially skin cancer or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (listing 13.03 or 13.05). Anti-rejection medications can make you more susceptible to some kinds of cancer. If you suffer skin cancer or lymphoma from your medication, or for any other reason, and you meet the Listing of Impairments requirements, then your Social Security disability benefits should continue beyond one-year post-transplant or begin again once you are eligible for benefits.
Other conditions such as high blood pressure or an infection may also result in a permanent disability.
Even if your condition is not listed above, you may still qualify for benefits if you can prove that you can’t work because of your physical condition.
Are You Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?
Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers will thoroughly review your claim and consider all of your legal options.
If, at any point during your first year of Social Security disability eligibility, you think that you might be unable to go back to work, then we encourage you to contact us right away so that we can minimize any disruption in your benefits. Likewise, if you develop any complications after your first year of benefits expires, then you may still have a successful Social Security disability complication.
To learn more, contact Keefe Disability Law today for a free, no-obligation consultation about your rights. Additionally, if you know someone on the heart transplant list or who is recovering from a heart transplant, please share this article with them as a way to show your support.
Will I qualify for Social Security disability benefits if I have atrial fibrillation?
You may or may not qualify for Social Security disability depending on your unique medical condition.
Any time something prevents your heart from functioning normally, you risk side effects and complications. Atrial fibrillation, called “AFib” for short, impacts your heart rhythm. If your doctor has diagnosed you with AFib, the upper chambers of your heart might not be pumping blood normally, and you could suffer serious health complications such a stroke or heart failure.
Symptoms of AFib
You may have AFib without any symptoms, or you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty with heavy manual labor
If you experience any of these symptoms, your doctor should give you medication to help. If that still does not work, you might need a pacemaker to keep your heart rhythm regulated.
Getting SSDI With AFib
If your treatment works to control the symptoms of AFib, you will not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, if you have other symptoms that go beyond what the medication or a pacemaker can treat, then you might qualify to receive SSDI.
Since AFib is a type of heart arrhythmia, it may be evaluated pursuant to Section 4.05 of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book Listing of Impairments. To qualify for benefits pursuant to this section of the Blue Book, your AFib must:
- Be irreversible, uncontrolled, and recurrent. In other words, your condition is not controlled by medication, a pacemaker, or other medical interventions.
- Cause episodes of fainting or near fainting despite treatment. A near-fainting episode, also known as a near syncope, is not just a feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness. Instead, it is a period of altered consciousness.
- Be documented by resulting or ambulatory electrocardiography or another appropriate medically acceptable testing that occurs at the time of fainting or near fainting to establish the medical connection between AFib and fainting or near fainting episodes.
Section 4.05 Isn’t the Only Way to Qualify for Benefits
Section 4.05’s requirements are precise, but they aren’t the only way you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. You may also qualify for benefits if your Social Security disability application proves that:
- Your AFib is equal in severity to another Blue Book listing. If you can prove that your AFib impacts your life to the same degree as another listing, then you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
- Your AFib is expected to prevent you from working for at least 12 months or result in your death. To make this determination, the Social Security Administration will consider whether you can do any work, not just the work that you did before your AFib diagnosis.
If you qualify for Social Security disability benefits in any of these two ways, then two things must happen before you receive benefits. First, you must fully complete an honest and accurate Social Security disability application. Second, you must provide appropriate documentation, which includes, but is not always limited to, information about your diagnosis, treatment plan, prognosis, work history, and education.
Some of the medical documentation that you will need may include:
- Chest x-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, or CT scan results
- Electrocardiogram results
- Holter monitoring results
- Echocardiogram results
- Electrophysiological testing and mapping results
- Blood test results
- Exercise tolerance test or stress test results
- Tilt table test results which show your blood pressure and heart rate respond to gravity
- Detailed information about how your fainting episodes are connected to your AFib
- A detailed list of every treatment you’ve treated and its effect on your body
- Reports about any AFib related operations or hospitalizations you have had
Additionally, you will need a detailed report from your doctor that describes how AFib impacts your life.
Find Out If You Qualify for SSDI With the Help of an Experienced Disability Lawyer
Remember, not everyone with AFib will qualify for Social Security disability. When applying for disability benefits with a complicated condition like AFib, it is especially important to work with a Social Security disability attorney on your application. Fill out our online contact form or call us directly, and we will be in touch soon with more information for you.
Will psychotherapy notes be considered if I apply for Social Security disability?
You know what’s going on with your health. You know that your physical or mental condition prevents you from working. However, before you receive Social Security disability benefits, you have to convince the Social Security Administration that you are disabled.
You Will Need Medical Evidence
The Social Security Administration is not going to find you eligible for Social Security disability benefits just because you say that you are disabled. Instead, you must provide evidence to convince the Social Security Administration that you meet the requirements of a disability described in the Listing of Impairments, your disability is just as bad as one of the conditions in the Listing of Impairments, or you can’t work because of your disability.
Some of the most important pieces of evidence that you must provide are medical evidence. The specific medical evidence depends on the nature of your disability. For example:
- If you have cancer, then medical records from your oncologist may be crucial
- If you have a heart condition, then medical records from your cardiologist may be essential
- If you have a mental health condition, then medical records from your psychologist or psychiatrist may be critical to your disability determination
While you may be willing to share the details of your diagnosis, treatment plan, and prognosis with the Social Security Administration, you may be reluctant to share your psychotherapy treatment notes with anyone.
What Are Psychotherapy Notes?
According to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), psychotherapy notes include notes recorded in any way by a mental health professional that document or analyze the contents of conversation during a private counseling session or a group, joint, or family counseling session. These notes must be separate from the rest of an individual’s medical record.
However, psychotherapy notes do not include medication prescription and monitoring, the start and stop times of counseling sessions, the modalities and frequencies of treatment, clinical test results, or summaries of diagnosis, functional status, treatment plan, symptoms, prognosis, or progress. Instead, psychotherapy notes are limited to the therapist’s documentation or analysis of private conversations.
Psychotherapy Notes Are Not Medical Evidence
The Social Security Administration’s guidance to healthcare professionals about psychotherapy notes is clear. The agency states explicitly, “Social Security recognizes the sensitivity and extra legal protections that concern psychotherapy notes (also called “process” or “session” notes) and does not need the notes.”
The Social Security Administration goes on to provide three options for mental health professionals. Mental health professionals who keep psychotherapy notes may:
- Send medical records without psychotherapy notes, if psychotherapy notes are kept separate from medical records.
- Disclose all records, including psychotherapy notes, if psychotherapy notes are not kept separate from other parts of the medical record. Alternatively, the medical provider may choose to blackout or remove parts of the record that would be considered psychotherapy notes and could be kept separately by the mental health provider.
- Prepare a special report describing in detail the critical current and longitudinal aspects of the patient’s treatment and functional status.
Your Social Security disability will advise you about the evidence needed to establish eligibility.
Protect Your Privacy and Your Social Security Disability Eligibility
You shouldn’t have to choose between protecting the privacy of your therapy notes and receiving Social Security disability benefits. Instead, we invite you to contact our experienced Social Security disability lawyers today for a free phone screening about your Social Security disability eligibility.
If you qualify for Social Security disability, then our lawyers will gather all of the relevant evidence, complete your application, and advocate on your behalf throughout the eligibility process. The majority of initial Social Security disability applications are denied, and we can help you avoid preventable errors that prevent you from getting the benefits you’ve earned. Call us or complete our online contact form if you are applying for Social Security disability in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Massachusetts and let’s talk about your rights and how we can help you.
What is the maximum amount I can receive in Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits?
Money is tight. You can’t work because of your workplace injuries, and you are wondering how you are going to make ends meet.
Workers’ compensation may be an option for you, but you may be wondering how much money you will receive. We can’t give you a specific dollar amount by answering an FAQ, but we can explain the maximum amount you can receive, the minimum amount you may receive, and how your particular benefits should be calculated. We can also encourage you to call us for a free consultation about your specific benefits.
Minimum and Maximum Amounts of Workers’ Compensation
Your specific workers’ comp benefits will depend on your injury and the income you made before you got hurt. We will discuss how workers’ comp is calculated below. However, first, we want to review the maximum and minimum amounts of workers’ compensation in Massachusetts.
- The minimum amount of workers’ compensation an injured worker may receive is 20 percent of the average weekly wage in Massachusetts.
- The maximum amount of workers’ compensation an injured worker may receive is 100 percent of the average weekly wage in Massachusetts.
The specific dollar amounts change on October 1 of every year and are determined by the deputy director of the division of employment and training. For example, in 2019, the maximum rate was $1,431.66, and the minimum rate was $286.33. Therefore, everyone who is eligible for Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits between October 1, 2019, and September 30, 2020, received no less than $286.33 per week and no more than $1,431.66 per week.
How Your Workers’ Comp Benefits Will Be Determined
Your workers’ compensation benefits are subject to the maximum and minimum amounts described above, but there is a wide range between the maximum and minimum amounts. The specific amount of workers’ compensation that you collect will depend on your wages in the year before your work injury. In other words, you will earn a percentage of your wages that may not be less than the minimum amount of workers’ comp set by law and not more than the maximum amount of workers’ comp set by law.
The percentage of workers’ compensation that you can receive depends on how badly you are hurt. Specifically, you may recover:
- 60% of your average weekly wages for the 52 weeks leading up to your injury if you suffer a temporary total incapacity. You may receive temporary total incapacity benefits for up to 156 weeks.
- 75% of the amount that you could recover if you had a temporary total incapacity. You may receive temporary partial incapacity benefits for up to 260 weeks.
- 66% of your average weekly wages if you are totally and permanently incapacitated by your work injury. These benefits may continue for as long as you are disabled.
Additionally, important workers’ compensation benefits such as medical care, vocational rehabilitation, and scarring or loss of function benefits may be available to you and are not subject to the minimum or maximum amounts of workers’ compensation allowed by Massachusetts law.
Make Sure You Get the Workers’ Compensation You Deserve
There are so many factors that go into determining an injured worker’s workers’ comp benefits. You want to get the most you can get up to the maximum amount allowed by law, and we want to help you do that. However, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer does not want you to get the maximum allowed by law. Instead, the insurance company wants you to accept as little as possible in weekly benefits so that it keeps as much money as possible for itself.
Our experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers know how to negotiate with insurance companies, and we will fight to get you the fair benefits that you deserve, up to the maximum allowed by law.
Please contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with our workers’ comp lawyers. We will review your claim, advise you of your rights, help you make the right decisions for your financial future, and fight to get you the benefits that you’ve earned. Call us, start a live chat with us, or fill out our online contact form to learn more.
Can I receive workers’ comp benefits if I have a pre-existing condition?
Few of us are lucky enough to get through life without any medical injuries or conditions. Even if our illnesses or previous injuries are under control, they may make us more likely to be hurt in future accidents.
Your pre-existing conditions do not, however, prevent you from getting fair workers’ compensation benefits if you are hurt at work in Massachusetts.
What Is a Pre-existing Condition?
As the term suggests, a pre-existing condition is any illness or injury that you had before getting hurt at work. Some examples of pre-existing conditions that may be made worse by your regular work responsibilities or a workplace accident include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Back injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Neck injuries
- Arm or hand injuries
- Leg or foot injuries
- Knee or elbow injuries
- Mental health conditions including anxiety and depression
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer will likely try to deny paying you the workers’ compensation benefits that you deserve if you have one of these, or any other, pre-existing condition.
You Can Recover for Your Work-Related Injury
Massachusetts law allows most workers to recover for work-related injuries. To protect your recovery, however, it is essential to understand your rights. Massachusetts workers have the right to recover for work-related injuries regardless of whether they have pre-existing conditions, but the cause of your pre-existing condition is important. Specifically:
- If your pre-existing condition is a work-related injury that was compensable under Massachusetts workers’ compensation law, then you are eligible for workers’ compensation even if you aggravate that injury at a new job.
- If your pre-existing condition is not a work-related injury, then you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if your subsequent work injury is a major cause of your current injury, disability, and need for medical attention. A major cause does not have to be a predominant cause. Workers’ compensation will pay only for your work-related injury and not for any disability or medical attention that you need because of your pre-existing condition.
Figuring out how much of your current condition is due to the new work-related injury rather than a pre-existing condition is often challenging. You will need evidence, including medical records, to convince the workers’ compensation insurance company that you deserve compensation for your injuries.
Why You Need a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Massachusetts
You have a lot at stake. Workers’ compensation may pay a portion of your lost income, all of your medical bills, and provide other benefits. Without workers’ compensation, you are on your own for all of these costs.
Since you had a pre-existing condition at the time of your work-related injury, you should expect the following potential complications in your current workers’ comp case:
- The workers’ compensation insurance company may request an independent medical examination. You must comply with the insurance company’s request, but you should not stop seeing your own doctor for treatment.
- The workers’ compensation insurer may say that you have a combination injury. A combination injury is one that includes both a pre-existing condition and your current work-related injury. If this happens, then you have the burden to prove that your work-related accident was a major reason for your current disability and medical care so that you can receive compensation.
- Your workers’ comp claim may be denied. If this happens to you, then you should be ready to file a workers’ compensation appeal. Appeals can be complicated and may include different stages such as conciliation, conference, hearing, Reviewing Board proceedings, and an appeal to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals.
Our experienced Massachusetts workers’ comp lawyers will gather all evidence including but not limited to emergency room records, medical records, employment records, and incident reports. We will make persuasive arguments to help you get the benefits that you deserve either in negotiations with the workers’ comp insurer or through a formal appeal, if necessary.
Call us or fill out our online contact form to have us contact you today. Let us schedule a free consultation and discuss how to protect your rights.
Why didn't the FDA prevent my asbestos-related cancer from Johnson & Johnson baby powder?
We trust the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect us from potentially harmful substances that we put in our bodies. As the name of the agency suggests, the FDA regulates food, over-the-counter medications, and prescription drugs that are available to consumers in the United States. Specific safety standards must be satisfied before food or medicine can be sold.
But Talcum Powder Is Not a Drug
Instead, talcum powders, such as Johnson & Johnson’s talcum-based baby powder, are classified as cosmetics.
The FDA’s authority to regulate cosmetics is limited to the authority that the United States Congress explicitly gives the FDA. Currently, federal law does not require cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients (except for color additives) to have FDA approval before being sold in the United States.
However, specific federal laws such as the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act do apply to cosmetic products used in interstate commerce. For example, the FDA could take action against a cosmetic manufacturer if:
- There is a contaminant that may make the cosmetic harmful
- The cosmetic is improperly labeled or handled
Therefore, while the FDA does not have to approve cosmetics that go on the market, it does have the authority to request a voluntary recall to get some dangerous cosmetics off the market.
What Happened With Johnson & Johnson’s Talcum-Based Baby Powder?
According to a Reuters investigation, the FDA has relied on the cosmetic industry to self-report on the safety of talcum-based baby powder for the last half-century. The agency claims that it does not have the authority to require manufacturers to conduct any asbestos tests or to report the results of any tests to the government.
Instead of conducting its own tests, the FDA relied on the word of the manufacturers until recently. Recently the FDA did pay for its own tests of 11 different cosmetics that contain talcum powder. The tests included Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and resulted in the recall of 33,000 bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder.
As of January 2020, however, the FDA has refused to issue warnings about potential asbestos contamination in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder or other cosmetics containing talc. The FDA has said, however, that no amount of asbestos is known to be safe and that it will encourage cosmetic product recalls even when only small amounts of asbestos are found in a product.
The Reuters investigation indicates that the FDA had plans to require specific testing for talc powders and cosmetics, but abandoned those plans in the 1970s. If the agency had reached a different decision, then the public may have known about the potential asbestos contamination and the possible health risks earlier and lives may have been saved.
Do You Have Cancer From Asbestos Found in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder?
The FDA did not protect you. Johnson & Johnson did not protect you. Now, you are suffering from ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.
While no one can undo the harm that you’ve already suffered, your doctors may help treat your cancer, and our experienced lawyers will fight hard to help you with your legal and financial recoveries.
It may be challenging to prove that Johnson & Johnson's baby powder caused your cancer. However, other people with ovarian cancer and mesothelioma have successfully sued Johnson & Johnson and recovered millions of dollars for their injuries. Their recoveries often include compensation for past and future medical bills, lost income, out-of-pocket expenses, physical pain, emotional suffering, and punitive damages that are designed to punish Johnson & Johnson for what happened.
Our New England baby powder injury lawyers are here to make sure that your rights are protected. We will gather all of the necessary evidence and fight hard to help you make a fair recovery. Call us today or fill out our online contact form to have us contact you.
What is Fournier’s gangrene?
Gangrene is a medical condition that occurs when your body’s tissue dies. Fournier’s gangrene is a rare type of gangrene that begins in your genitals and the area around them, but that can spread to other parts of the body. Men, women, and children can develop Fournier’s gangrene, but it is most common among men.
Immediate medical treatment is required to treat Fournier’s gangrene. Without it, the condition can be fatal. Therefore, there are some essential facts that you should know about Fournier’s gangrene—especially if you take an SGLT2 inhibitor such as Invokana to control your diabetes.
Fournier’s Gangrene Symptoms and Diagnosis
Fournier’s gangrene begins as an infection of the scrotum, penis, or perineum, which can spread to other areas like the thighs, stomach, chest, and bloodstream.
Symptoms of Fournier’s gangrene which require immediate medical attention include:
- An unpleasant or rotten smell
- Skin that turns a reddish-purple or a blue-gray color
- Popping or crackling of the skin when it is touched
- Rapid heartbeat
If your doctor suspects Fournier’s gangrene after a physical exam, then your doctor will likely take a tissue sample that will be sent to a lab for testing. Additionally, blood tests and medical imaging tests, such as an MRI, CT scan, ultrasound, or x-ray, may be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Fournier’s Gangrene Treatment and Prognosis
Treatment for Fournier’s gangrene includes:
- Antibiotics. Antibiotics are a necessary part of treatment for Fournier’s gangrene, but antibiotics are not enough to resolve the condition on their own.
- Surgeries. Surgery, and often multiple surgeries, are required to remove the dead tissue. Reconstructive surgeries and skin grafts may also be necessary.
Even with treatment, however, the condition may be fatal. Many people who survive the infection will live with chronic pain and sexual difficulties.
Warnings Issued About Some Diabetes Medications
Most people live their entire lives without ever getting Fournier’s gangrene. When the condition does occur, it can happen because of a bladder infection, urinary tract infection, or hysterectomy.
In December 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the public that Fournier’s gangrene occurs more frequently among people taking SGLT2 inhibitors than other diabetes medications. Specifically, the FDA received:
- Twelve reports of Fournier’s gangrene among patients taking SGLT2 inhibitors over a five-year period, from March 2013-March 2018. Seven of the 12 reported cases were men and five were women. All 12 patients developed Fournier’s gangrene within months of starting an SGLT2 inhibitor. Additionally, all 12 patients were hospitalized and required one or more surgeries. One patient died.
- Six other cases of Fournier’s gangrene among people taking medication to treat diabetes over a thirty-year period. All six patients were men.
Accordingly, the FDA required that a new warning be added to the prescribing information and patient medication guide of all SGLT2 inhibitors, including Invokana.
A study published in the June 4, 2019, Annals of Internal Medicine, also found an increased risk of Fournier’s gangrene among people with diabetes who were taking SGLT2 medications. Researchers identified 55 cases of people who developed Fournier’s gangrene while taking SGLT2 inhibitors from March 1, 2013 through January 31, 2019. In comparison, only 19 cases of Fournier’s gangrene were reported among people who took other drugs to control diabetes from 1984 through January 31, 2019.
Fournier’s Gangrene Lawsuits
If you have been diagnosed with Fournier’s gangrene or if your loved one has died from this disease while taking Invokana or another diabetes medication in the SGLT2 family, then you may be entitled to a legal recovery.
You may be able to recover for all of your medical expenses, lost income, physical pain, emotional suffering, and other costs. However, you will have to fight for your fair recovery, and your time to pursue a drug injury lawsuit is limited by law.
We don’t want you to leave any compensation on the table. You’ve already suffered enough. Let our experienced attorneys provide you with a free and honest review of your claim. Schedule your free consultation by starting a live chat with us now or calling us at any time.
When should I call a Roundup® injury lawyer?
Not everyone who used Roundup® needs to contact a Roundup injury lawyer. However, if you have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, another type of lymphoma, or leukemia and you used Roundup, then now is the time to call an attorney.
What Happens When You Call a Roundup Lawyer
Once you contact a Roundup lawyer claiming that you have cancer from Roundup exposure, you can expect the attorney to schedule a free initial meeting with you. At that meeting, the lawyer will ask you questions, such as:
- How or where did you use Roundup?
- How long, or over how many years, did you use Roundup?
- What is your medical diagnosis?
- How has your cancer impacted your life?
- What is your prognosis?
Additionally, you can ask the lawyer your own questions at this meeting. Your questions may include:
- How long have you been practicing law?
- Why do you think I should pursue a Roundup lawsuit?
- How will my case work?
- What will be expected of me during litigation?
- What could be included in my recovery if my case is successful?
- Do you have any client reviews or testimonials that I review?
- What do you know about Roundup safety studies and warnings?
The goal of the meeting is for you and your lawyer to get to know one another, for your lawyer to assess your potential claim, and for you to decide whether you trust this lawyer to represent you.
Don’t Wait Too Long to Make the Call
Every state, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, has a statute of limitations that gives you a time by which you must file a lawsuit. If you file a Roundup cancer case after this deadline expires, then the defense can file a motion with the court to dismiss your case and you won’t recover any damages.
Don’t take this risk. Instead, contact the local lawyer of Keefe Disability Law today for a free, no-obligation consultation. You can reach us any time by phone, by starting a live chat, or by filling out our online contact form.
What is preemption?
According to the United States Constitution, federal law must be followed by every state in the nation. That means that states can only enact laws that do not contradict federal law. This frequently complicated and nuanced legal concept is known as preemption, and it is often relevant in medical device injury cases.
Preemption in Medical Product Injury Cases
Preemption is a defense raised by medical device manufacturers in some medical device injury cases. The medical device makers argue that they cannot be sued if they followed the requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Specifically, the preemption defense is often used when the medical device in question was approved through the FDA’s premarket approval (PMA) process. Before marketing a Class III medical device, the medical device manufacturer can get premarketing approval from the FDA. The medical device makers argue that as long as they follow all of the FDA’s requirements, they should not be legally responsible for injuries that result from their products.
A 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case established that the preemption doctrine applies to medical devices that the FDA decides are safe and effective during the PMA process. According to the court, once a medical device has PMA approval, state safety regulations that are different from or more stringent than federal safety regulations cannot be enforced. However, the court left open the possibility that state regulations that are the same as federal regulations may be enforceable if someone is hurt by a defective medical device.
Preemption of Essure Claims
In 2002, Essure got conditional pre-market approval from the FDA, and many women were given the option of a permanent form of birth control without surgery. Instead, during a doctor’s office visit, a woman could have a coil implanted in each fallopian tube. Over a few months, scar tissue would develop around the coils and prevent pregnancy.
Unfortunately, Essure had potentially dangerous side effects that many women didn’t know about before they consented to the procedure. Some of these women suffered significant pain, perforation of the uterus or fallopian tubes, migration of the coils into other parts of the body, and unintended pregnancies.
Some women began to file injury lawsuits. Bayer argued, however, that their claims should be preempted and not heard because Essure had PMA approval from the FDA.
Judges in California and Pennsylvania held that some claims against Bayer could move forward according to state laws because the state laws were the same as federal laws. These decisions allowed women to bring lawsuits against Bayer claiming negligent failure to warn, breach of warranty, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation.
Does Preemption Apply in Your Case?
Preemption is a powerful defense that could prevent you from making a fair legal recovery in your medical device injury case. Before you pursue a claim, you deserve to know about the strengths and weaknesses of your potential claim so that you can decide whether or not to seek justice.
The lawyers of Keefe Disability Law are committed to providing you with a thorough and honest review of your Essure or other medical device claim. The medical device manufacturer did not give you all of the information that you needed to consider all of your options and make a sound decision that was in your best interest—that shouldn’t happen to you again.
Therefore, we will provide you with an honest review of your potential claim so that you can decide whether you want to join or move forward with a mass tort medical device lawsuit. If you do have a case against a medical device maker, then we will fight hard to get you the compensation for your past and future medical expenses, lost income, out-of-pocket costs, physical pain, emotional suffering, and other damages that you deserve.
Call us or start a live chat with us at your earliest convenience to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an attorney in our Natick law office.
Who takes Invokana?
Invokana® is an oral medication used to treat adults with type 2 diabetes. A doctor may prescribe Invokana for one of three reasons:
- To regulate blood sugar
- To reduce the likelihood of heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular-related death in adults with type 2 diabetes who have cardiovascular disease
- To reduce the risk of end-stage kidney disease and decreased kidney function in adults with type 2 diabetes and diabetic kidney disease, or nephropathy, who have a certain level of protein their urine
Before taking Invokana, you should thoroughly review the benefits and potential risks of the medication with your doctor. It is especially important to discuss:
- Your other medications
- Over the counter medications that you take, including vitamins
- Your medical history including amputations, heart disease, risks for heart disease, blocked or narrowed blood vessels, nerve damage in the leg, diabetic foot ulcers, kidney problems, liver problems, urinary tract infections or urinary problems, diet, pancreas problems, alcohol use, and allergic reactions to medications
Who Should Not Take Invokana
According to Invokana’s website, Invokana should not be taken by people:
- With type 1 diabetes
- With diabetic ketoacidosis
- Who have severe kidney disease and are taking Invokana to lower their blood sugar
- Who are on kidney dialysis
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
Additionally, Invokana is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat people under the age of 18.
How to Know If Someone Is Taking Invokana
You likely know if you are taking Invokana. If you have any questions about your own prescriptions, then you can contact your doctor or pharmacist to confirm your medications.
If your loved one is conscious and alert, then you can ask your loved one about his medications. However, if your loved one is seriously ill or has died, then you will need to get the information another way. Your loved one’s power of attorney may be able to talk to the doctor or pharmacist or request a copy of your loved one’s medical records so that you can confirm his medications.
Invokana Injuries and Recoveries
Invokana helps many people manage the health risks of type 2 diabetes, but like most medications, it also has risks. When medication risks are fully disclosed to doctors and patients, then patients can make informed decisions about whether they want to accept the risks.
However, many people have sued Johnson & Johnson, the maker of Invokana, alleging that they were not warned about potentially serious or fatal side effects, including:
- Amputations. People with diabetes have an increased risk of amputation. However, the risk of amputation is even higher for people taking Invokana. Johnson & Johnson first warned people of this risk in May 2016 and added a black box warning about it a year later in May 2017.
- Fournier’s gangrene. This serious condition is caused by an infection around the genitals. It can occur in both men and women. In some cases, Fournier’s gangrene can be fatal. Johnson & Johnson warned the public of this risk in August 2018.
The plaintiffs in Invokana cases allege that they were hurt by Johnson & Johnson’s failure to warn them of these risks before they suffered from them. They are fighting for fair recoveries of past and future medical expenses, lost income, out-of-pocket costs, physical pain, emotional suffering, and other losses, and if you’ve been hurt by Johnson & Johnson’s failure to warn about Invokana side effects, then you may be able to pursue a similar recovery.
If you or a loved one suffered a serious Invokana side effect before a warning was added to the drug’s label or insert, then we encourage you to contact Keefe Disability Law today for an honest case review. We will thoroughly review your claim and provide you with all of your legal options so that you can make an informed decision about your next legal steps. Call us today to schedule your free initial consultation.
Why are women filing Essure lawsuits?
Essure seemed like the best option for many women. Without surgery and without taking daily medication, women could enjoy the benefits of birth control. A doctor could insert two small coils into a woman’s fallopian tubes during an office visit. Over time, the coils would cause scar tissue that prevented sperm from reaching an egg and thereby prevent pregnancy.
Unfortunately, for some women, Essure caused significant health problems due to Bayer’s alleged negligence, and, for these reasons, they are now seeking legal relief.
Some of the injuries suffered by women after Essure implants were caused by:
- Migration of the coils. Women allege that the Essure coils moved out of their fallopian tubes and cut into other organs.
- Breaking of the coils. Women allege that the Essure coils broke after implant, and the broken pieces caused them injury.
- Corrosion of the coils and nickel allergies. Before July 2011, it was recommended that women be tested for nickel allergies before an Essure implant. However, the medical device maker presented studies to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that showed a minimal amount of nickel and the warning was removed. The medical device label was changed to indicate that Essure could be an option for women with nickel sensitivity. Yet, women with nickel allergies have suffered injuries when the Essure coils corrode and release nickel into the bloodstream.
- Corrosion of the coils and autoimmune conditions. Metal exposure may cause a dangerous autoimmune reaction.
These injuries caused severe physical pain, significant emotional suffering, unwanted pregnancies, and in some cases, death. Women who have filed lawsuits allege that their health, jobs, and marriages have suffered due to Essure injuries.
Lawsuits Claim Negligence Caused Essure Injuries
Women who suffer Essure injuries are filing lawsuits against Conceptus, the company that originally manufactured Essure, and Bayer, the company that bought Conceptus in 2013.
The lawsuits claim that Conceptus and Bayer were negligent and that their negligence caused injuries. Specifically, the women filing lawsuits allege things such as:
- Negligent training. Essure lawsuits allege that Bayer failed to provide adequate training for doctors. Specifically, it is alleged that Bayer used Essure Simulator Training rather than hands-on training and did not verify that doctors completed any training before using Essure on patients.
- Negligent consideration of adverse events. Essure lawsuits also allege that Bayer failed to notify the FDA of adverse events and failed to consider adverse events when it marketed Essure.
- Negligent failure to warn about potential problems. Essure lawsuits further allege that Bayer failed to warn doctors and patients of known risks or risks that should have been reasonably known when it marketed Essure to the public through its website and other marketing methods.
Take Action Quickly After an Essure Injury
Essure is no longer sold in the United States. However, Bayer did not admit any wrongdoing or acknowledge any safety issues when it took Essure off the market, and women who suffer Essure injuries may still pursue legal recoveries.
All lawsuits, including Essure lawsuits, must be filed before the statute of limitations expires. To protect your rights, we encourage you to contact a mass tort lawyer as soon as possible for a free and confidential review of your potential claim.
Our mass tort lawyers are committed to protecting the rights of women hurt by Essure in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. To us, you will never be just another number on a long list of women hurt by Essure. Instead, we will get to know you, and we will fight hard to get you the unique medical device injury recovery that you deserve.
You did not have all of the facts about Essure before you decided to use this form of birth control. Now, we want you to have all of the facts so that you can make an informed decision about whether to pursue legal action. Call us, or contact us via this website, to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Why should I hire a local lawyer for my mass tort case?
No one you know has been in this situation before, and you don’t know whom to trust. To recover damages from the pharmaceutical company that hurt you, you are going to need the help of a mass tort attorney, but whom are you going to hire? Without a personal recommendation, do you go with the attorney advertising on television or with someone else?
Choose a Local Mass Tort Lawyer Dedicated to Your Success
A mass tort case isn’t an individual personal injury case or a class action case. Instead, it has benefits of both types of legal actions. When you pursue mass tort litigation against a pharmaceutical company, you get to share in discovery and litigation costs, as you do in a class action case. However, your lawsuit will be decided independently as it would in a personal injury case.
In a mass tort case, you also have control over your own settlement or court case. Therefore, it is essential to hire an attorney whom you’ve met face to face and whom you trust to provide you with the legal representation that you need.
At Keefe Disability Law, we:
- Answer our clients’ phone calls. You won’t be frustrated by leaving a message that is not returned. We do everything possible to have a member of our legal team answer your call and talk to you. If that is not possible, then you will receive a call back quickly. Nationwide, one of the biggest frustrations with lawyers is the lack of return phone calls. We never want you to feel that frustration with our law firm.
- Partner with you. The more that we know about you, your medical condition, and your medical treatment, the more we can help you with your recovery. We want to know exactly how the medication or medical device hurt you so that we can fight for your full and fair recovery.
- Fight for your just recovery. We won’t stop fighting until you have received compensation for all of your past and future medical expenses, lost income, out-of-pocket costs, physical pain, and emotional suffering. Additionally, we will fight to hold the pharmaceutical company accountable by advocating for punitive damages, when appropriate.
Beware of Some National Mass Tort Attorney Advertisements on TV
A 2018 study found that pharmaceutical injury lawyer television advertisements that look like health warnings could mislead consumers. Some consumers stop their medications without the advice of their doctors after seeing these ads.
Additionally, many mass tort attorneys who advertise on TV have large national legal practices. Their size provides them with a large marketing budget to reach potential clients, but it does not give them the opportunity to provide clients with the personal attention they deserve.
Call Our MA NH RI Mass Tort Law Firm for a Free Consultation
You may never meet your attorney if you decide to hire someone who advertises nationally, but if you have been hurt in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or New Hampshire, then you have the opportunity to meet with a mass tort lawyer close to home.
Our mass tort law firm represents people in all kinds of pharmaceutical mass tort cases, including cases where people were hurt by potentially dangerous medications, such as:
- Proton Pump Inhibitors
Our mass tort lawyers also represent people injured by defective medical devices, such as:
- Defective hip replacements
- Defective knee replacements
- IVC filters
- Hernia mesh
Additionally, our mass tort attorneys will represent people hurt by personal care products, such as Johnson & Johnson’s talcum-based baby powder and Monsanto’s Roundup® weed killer.
If you have been hurt by any of these medications, medical devices, or products, and you are a Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island resident, then we encourage you to contact Keefe Disability Law today for a free, no-obligation consultation about your rights. Your time to file a mass tort case is limited by law. Talk to a local lawyer directly before you decide who to hire to represent you in a mass tort action.
What is the difference between a class action case and a mass tort case?
Mass tort and class action cases are not the same. While both types of legal cases involve many plaintiffs with similar injuries from the same product, class actions and mass tort cases work differently, and the potential outcome for plaintiffs in each case is different. If you are injured by a defective medical device or dangerous medication, then it is important to know which kind of case might bring you the financial recovery that you deserve.
How Class Action Cases Work
A class action case allows all of the people with similar injuries from the same product to work together as one plaintiff. Class action cases must be established by the court. According to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a class action may be established if the following four criteria are met:
- There are so many potential plaintiffs that joining them is impractical
- There are questions of law or fact that are common to all of the plaintiffs
- The claims and defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims and defenses of the whole class
- The representatives of the class will represent the interest of the class fairly
Individuals can opt-in or choose to be part of the class of plaintiffs. Acting together as one plaintiff, the individuals with injuries can share in the costs of discovering evidence, hiring legal counsel, hiring expert witnesses, and other litigation costs.
Since there are often many people in the class of plaintiffs, a representative plaintiff, also known as a lead plaintiff, may represent the group’s legal interests, but all plaintiffs will share in the damages awarded by the court or negotiated in settlement talks just as they share in litigation costs. A plan of distribution is typically developed and approved by the court to determine how much the plaintiffs will receive and the order in which they will be paid.
How Mass Tort Cases Work
Mass tort cases are different. In mass tort cases, like in class action cases, many injured people come together to sue a defendant for their injuries from the same product. However, in mass tort cases, the plaintiffs do not join together as one class.
Each plaintiff must file an individual lawsuit, and each plaintiff will obtain a personalized recovery.
Mass tort cases may be consolidated before one judge in a process known as multidistrict litigation (MDL). MDL allows one judge to preside over discovery and pretrial matters in cases that are alike. If a settlement is not reached, however, the case may go back to its original court for trial.
Benefits of Mass Tort Lawsuits
There are several benefits to joining a mass tort lawsuit rather than bringing your own case against a pharmaceutical company or another defendant. In a mass tort case, you:
- Get an individualized recovery. Your potential damages will be based on your own losses.
- Share in the costs of discovery and litigation. By sharing costs with others who have been hurt, you may have the financial resources to get the information you need from a large and well-funded defendant.
- May get a quicker recovery. Mass tort cases often move through the courts faster than individual cases.
- Can have your own attorney. You hire the lawyer whom you want to represent you and not the attorneys hired by other plaintiffs whom you’ve never met.
Contact a Mass Tort Lawyer If You Suffer a Pharmaceutical Injury
There are a lot of complicated legal decisions that need to be made to protect your recovery if you have been hurt by a medication, medical device, or another product.
Our dedicated legal team is here to help you if you have been hurt in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or New Hampshire. We will thoroughly review your claim and advise you of your rights—free of charge. In addition to providing free consultations, our mass tort attorneys are paid on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you only owe legal fees if your claim is successful.
To learn more about your rights, your legal options, and your possible recovery, please fill out our online contact form or call us directly to schedule your free, no-obligation case evaluation.
What are the Monsanto Papers?
One of the key issues in Roundup® lawsuits is what Monsanto, the company that makes Roundup®, knew about the product’s safety and when it knew it. The Monsanto Papers is a collection of texts, emails, memoranda, studies, and other documents that were discovered during Roundup® litigation that identify what Monsanto knew about the possible dangers of Roundup® and when the company knew this critical information.
What Is in the Monsanto Papers?
In 2017 and again in 2019, information from the Monsanto Papers became declassified, and they are now available to the public.
In 2018 an article entitled The Monsanto Papers: Poisoning the Scientific Well was published in the International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine. The study’s author looked at 141 declassified documents in the Monsanto papers to see if Monsanto was influencing how scientific studies about the safety of glyphosate were reported. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Roundup®. The study found that:
- Monsanto sponsored ghostwriting of articles published in toxicology reports and the media.
- Monsanto interfered with the peer-review process of its research.
- Monsanto created a website that appeared to be an academic website, but that was not an academic website to defend its products.
Additionally, the Monsanto papers reveal:
- Monsanto wrote articles and claimed that they were written by research scientists who did not write them.
- Monsanto was informed that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) would issue a finding that glyphosate is potentially carcinogenic before the IARC’s finding was public. This allowed Monsanto to prepare a response before the news became public.
- Monsanto may have influenced the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) review of glyphosate safety.
- Monsanto failed to disclose information about how the human body absorbs glyphosate.
Together, the information in the Monsanto Papers indicates that Monsanto knew Roundup® could be a serious health risk and took steps to hide the risk from government regulators and the public.
Why the Monsanto Papers Matter
The Monsanto Papers may provide valuable evidence in your case if you have developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma from Roundup® exposure. Specifically, the texts, emails, memoranda, and other documentation may show that Monsanto knew of the Roundup® risks and failed to warn the public about those risks.
However, the Monsanto Papers alone will not be enough to prove your case. To recover damages, you will need to prove that Roundup® caused your cancer. Your attorney may use documentation of your history of Roundup® exposure, your medical records, other documentation, and expert testimony to make this critical connection for the court.
Fight for the Recovery You Deserve
Several people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma from Roundup® use have successfully pursued lawsuits, and they have been awarded millions of dollars—or more—in damages.
Now, our lawyers and the public know more about glyphosate safety and Monsanto’s actions than we did a few years ago, and our Roundup® injury lawyers will fight hard to get each of our client’s the fair recoveries that they deserve.
If you have non-Hodgkin lymphoma from Roundup® exposure, then your damages should include compensation for past and future:
- Healthcare costs. All medical costs including but not limited to medications, surgeries, doctors’ appointments, and hospitalizations should be included in your recovery.
- Lost income. Any income that you cannot earn because of your non-Hodgkin lymphoma should be part of your recovery. This includes wages, benefits, bonuses, and income from self-employment.
- Physical pain and emotional suffering. Your physical pain and your emotional suffering are likely among your most significant damages. These damages can be hard to quantify because there are no receipts or pay stubs to present as evidence. However, your lawyer can offer the right evidence to make sure that you are fairly compensated for your pain and suffering.
- Other compensatory damages. Any other out-of-pocket expenses, including things like transportation costs or funeral costs that are directly associated with your injuries, should be compensable.
- Punitive damages. Monsanto should be held accountable for its actions. Punitive damages seek to punish the defendant rather than to compensate the plaintiff for injuries. However, the practical effect of punitive damages is to provide the plaintiff with additional financial damages. Many of the Roundup® non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases have resulted in significant punitive damage awards.
To learn more about your rights and to protect your recovery, please contact our Roundup® injury lawyers today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Should valsartan have been recalled sooner?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled some lots of valsartan in July 2018 because of reported contamination with the carcinogen N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). The recall surprised and frightened many patients who were taking valsartan to treat high blood pressure or congestive heart failure. The recall alerted them to the fact that their possible exposure to NDMA could put them at an increased risk of developing liver problems or cancer.
While the valsartan recall surprised patients, it did not surprise everyone. Twenty-two other countries recalled valsartan before the United States took action, and at least one FDA inspector had concerns long before the FDA recall.
A Former FDA Inspector Comes Forward
In May 2019, a former FDA inspector told NBC News that he knew of potential problems with valsartan more than a year before the recall occurred. Massoud Motamed worked as an FDA inspector for three years and spent much of his FDA career inspecting drug manufacturing facilities overseas.
By the spring of 2017, Dr. Motamed had more than two years of experience with the FDA. In May 2017, he traveled to Linhai, China to inspect the Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical plant. Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical manufactures the main ingredients in the valsartan that was eventually recalled. Dr. Motamed spent four days inspecting the plant and filed an official report with the FDA that included the following information:
- Facilities and equipment were not properly maintained
- Testing anomalies were not investigated
- “Unknown impurities” were dismissed as lab errors without investigation
Dr. Motamed reportedly recommended that the FDA issue a warning letter to Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical. The FDA refused and instead allowed Zhejiang Huahai to fix its problems independently.
The FDA’s recall didn’t come until July 2018—more than one year after Dr. Motamed’s May 2017 visit to Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical. In January 2019, the FDA issued a press release saying, “… our inspections did reveal systemic problems of supervision that could have created the conditions for quality issues to arise.”
There is a concern that what happened with valsartan at the Linhai, China facility could happen to with other medications made in foreign countries. Approximately 85 percent of the facilities that make ingredients found in U.S. medications are outside of the United States. While manufacturing medication overseas is less expensive, there is also less government oversight, which may make it riskier.
You Can Come Forward If Your Hurt by Valsartan
It is possible that the FDA should have known about the risks and issued a recall of valsartan before July 2018. Either way, it is essential that all valsartan users and their loved ones understand their rights now.
If you develop a liver condition or cancer, or your loved one dies from a liver condition or cancer, after taking valsartan, then you need to know whether the medication that you took was contaminated with NDMA. Your doctor and pharmacist can help you get the necessary information, and an attorney can help you protect your legal rights.
Dozens of lawsuits have already been filed, and many more are expected in the coming months and years. People who took valsartan may not yet be diagnosed with cancer or liver injuries, and their lawsuits may come later.
You took valsartan to improve your health. You were not warned that cancer from NDMA exposure could be a potential side effect. Accordingly, if you do develop cancer after taking a contaminated batch of valsartan, then it is important to contact a mass tort injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Keefe Disability Law is committed to helping every client make a full individualized recovery. We will fight hard for your compensation for medical expenses, lost income, out-of-pocket costs, physical pain, emotional suffering, and other damages. While mass tort cases consolidate some litigation expenses, your recovery will remain unique, and you will remain in control of your case. To learn more, please contact us via this website today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Is Zostavax safe?
You need to prevent shingles, but you also need the vaccine that you take to prevent shingles to be safe. Zostavax has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for more than a decade. However, lawsuits have been filed against Merck, the make of Zostavax, alleging that Zostavax is ineffective at preventing shingles and that the vaccine may cause shingles.
Zostavax FDA Approval
In 2006, Zostavax was approved by the FDA as a shingles vaccine. Zostavax contains the live chickenpox virus that causes both chickenpox and shingles. It is a one-shot vaccine that may be available at doctors’ offices and pharmacies, but it is not the preferred shingles vaccine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Shingrix is the preferred shingles vaccine even though it is a two-shot vaccine rather than a one-shot vaccine. While there is a preference for Shingrix, Zostavax may still be used for healthy patients who are 50 or older if:
- A person is allergic to Shingrix
- A person requests Zostavax
- Shingrix is unavailable, and the person needs or requests an immediate shingles vaccination
A Zostavax vaccine is supposed to prevent shingles for about five years.
Shingles Risk After a Zostavax Vaccine
While Zostavax may be given to people who are at least 50 years old, it is recommended for patients aged 60 years and older. According to the CDC, the vaccine is most effective in people age 60-69, but it also provides some protection from shingles for people who are 70 or older.
Overall, Zostavax is only about 51% effective at preventing shingles and 67% effective at preventing a shingles complication known as post-herpetic neuralgia. Additionally, people may be at risk of developing shingles from this live-virus vaccine.
Shingles Is a Serious Health Risk
It is recommended that every adult age 60 or older receive a shingles vaccine to prevent the pain of a shingles infection and the possibility of serious medical complications.
The CDC estimates that more than 99% of Americans over age 40 have had chickenpox. Shingles develops from the same virus as chickenpox. Thus, even if you don’t remember having chickenpox, it is important to assume that you did have this illness as a child and that the virus is still in your body. After being dormant for many years, the virus can come back as shingles.
Shingles shows up as a painful rash that is often along one side of your torso or your face. Some people also experience fever, headache, and fatigue. The pain may continue long after the rash clears up in a condition known as post-herpetic neuralgia. Shingles can also result in other complications such as blindness if it occurs near the eye, neurological problems if certain nerves are affected, and skin infections if the rash blisters aren’t treated.
People around the country are currently filing lawsuits claiming that they developed shingles after receiving the Zostavax vaccine. Specifically, people who have been hurt are alleging that:
- Zostavax can result in serious injury
- Merck knew that Zostavax could cause shingles during its premarket studies but did not add shingles as a potential side effect on the vaccine’s label for many years
- Recipients of the vaccine were not adequately warned of Zostavax risks
If you were diagnosed with shingles within one year of receiving the Zostavax vaccination, then it is important to find out more about your rights. You could have a potential case against Merck, but your time to file a lawsuit is limited by law.
Keefe Disability Law is currently evaluating Zostavax cases. If you experienced shingles after getting the Zostavax vaccine or if your loved one died from shingles complications after receiving the Zostavax vaccine, then we encourage you to contact us for a free case evaluation. Other people in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or New Hampshire may have suffered similar injuries and we may be able to help you. Your time to pursue an injury case is limited. Call us or start a live chat with us today to learn more.