Bliven Law Firm, P.C.

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Serving all of Montana for over 25 years

Bliven Law Firm, P.C. is a Montana personal injury law firm located in Northwest Montana serving all of Montana. A group of experienced, dedicated professionals who care about their clients’ needs. Our Montana personal injury attorneys have over 25 years of experience in aggressively pursuing the goals of our clients.

Two Food Recalls You Need To Know About Right Now

When shopping for groceries this week, you’ll want to be extra-careful—per recent food-safety warnings issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), two separate recalls are currently in effect. Though no resulting illnesses have been reported as of this writing, the FDA is advising consumers to throw away or return all affected products for a full refund.

First up, look out for some varieties of baby spinach and mesclun leafy greens from Satur Farms, of Cutchogue, New York. On Jan. 23, 2019, Satur Farms voluntarily recalled specific lot numbers of these greens because of possible Salmonellacontamination. This was identified after routine product sampling performed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and New York Department of Agriculture, the two states in which the items were distributed to retailers. You’ll want to keep an eye out for the following batches: Spinach Lot #18494, Spinach Lot #18513, and Mesclun Lot #18520.

The affected retail products have been packaged in plastic clamshell containers labeled with the Satur Farms brand name, in 5-ounce, 10-ounce, and 16-ounce sizes. The food-service versions of these products are packed in sealed poly bags of various sizes (more information on those sizes can be found here)…Read More

Perdue Recalls 16,000 Pounds Of Kids’ Chicken Nuggets Due To “Undeclared Allergens”

On Monday, Jan. 28, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a recall on one of your child’s favorite foods — chicken nuggets. According to the USDA’s notice, Purdue is recalling just over 16,000 pounds of kids’ chicken nuggets due to “undeclared allergens” and other misrepresentations of ingredients.

Any time a recall is issued on food, it’s best practice to dispose of any product you have that could be affected. In this case, Perdue is recalling the products because the chicken nuggets contain milk, something the USDA calls a “known allergen,” and it’s not declared on the product label.

Right now, the affected packages are the 12 oz. of “PERDUE Fun Shapes Chicken Breast Nuggets” with a use by date of March 11, 2019, and lot codes 17009010 – 19009010. The products have an establishment number “P-369” inside the USDA mark of inspectionRead More

More Than 164,000 Pounds Of Ground Turkey Recalled; 52 More People Sick In Deadly Salmonella Outbreak

(CNN) – Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales Inc. is recalling about 164,210 pounds of raw ground turkey products due to the possibility of salmonella contamination, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said Friday.

The recall was announced as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 52 new cases of illness associated with the outbreak. This brings the number of illnesses to 216 people across 38 states since the outbreak began in November 2017. Eighty-four people have been hospitalized, and one death has been reported.

In addition, the Public Health Agency of Canada said Friday there have been 22 cases of illness in four provinces. The illnesses occurred between April 2017 and this November, but nearly half of the illnesses began in October and last month. Five patients have been hospitalized, and one person died…Read More

Summertime In The Flathead Valley

Each year, summertime in the Flathead Valley draws millions of people from all over the world. It is not only the unparalleled beauty and grandeur of Glacier National Park that people come in droves to witness and experience, but also the small town charm of the nearby mountain towns like Bigfork, Whitefish, Lakeside, Polson, and our own Kalispell.

Kalispell has no shortage of summertime festivities. Thursday! Fest, Picnic in the Park, the Northwest Montana Fair and Rodeo, Arts in the Park, and farmers markets are just a handful of family-friendly activities tourists and residents alike look forward to attending. All of these events have one thing in common: They are a place to gather with family, friends, and neighbors to try new foods and sip on cold drinks while most likely listening to fantastic music by talented local artists.

More often than not, those attending these events will have a wonderful time and return home with full bellies, lighter wallets, and fond memories. Sadly, that is not always the case. Earlier this week, a Georgia couple were nearly fatally injured when an alleged drunk driver sped through heavy traffic and struck them with his car on a sunny evening on the main road in nearby Whitefish, Montana. The male victim was impaled on a willow tree branch 15 feet off the ground and his wife was found on the ground below the tree. They are both very fortunate to be alive, and it is incredible that the drunk driver injured only 2 people. The story could be much worse.

Alleged Drunk Driver Hits 2 Pedestrians In Downtown Whitefish

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. There is a dark side to the social entertainment the Valley and any town in America has to offer. Our quiet mountain towns become more populated and where there are more people, there are generally more negligent and careless people, and as a result, there are generally more accidents. Whether you are a visitor or a resident, is important to be aware of your surroundings and practice caution when you are enjoying time out in any one of the Valley’s towns.

  • Simple precautions can make a big difference.
  • Know your surroundings.
  • When you cross the street, look both ways and then look both ways again. There are more people drinking and driving in the summertime months and you are more likely to see them than they are to see you.
  • Do not walk off of sidewalks and stay on the streets.
  • Wear reflective clothing if you are walking after dark.
  • Drink responsibly and do not ever get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you even suspect you may have had too many drinks. Uber operates in the Flathead Valley.
  • Keep your children nearby, hold their hands, and don’t let them walk nearest the street while walking on the sidewalk.

Vacations and excursions out and about should never end in disaster or months or years of treatment for injuries. Obeying the rules of the road, both as a driver or as a pedestrian, and paying careful attention to your surroundings can make all the difference.

REPRESENTING THE INNOCENT INJURED – NOT THE INSURANCE COMPANIES AND MAYHEM

When your or a family member has been injured in a car wreck because someone else was negligent or worse – criminally reckless like a drunk driver – having a skilled, experienced, dedicated and caring attorney is key. Having a Montana accident injury attorney and law firm – a solid team – that only advocates for you and folks like you, and not the other side on the other days of the week, is also critically important. Getting in a car wreck in Montana, caused by someone acting like an idiot – can cause all kind of mayhem in your life – medical expenses, lost earnings, inability to engage in activities you enjoy, pain, not being able to sleep at night; it can get downright depressing. Yes, I have been through it as the injured person in the car wreck, the victim of negligence and the insurance company and their profit motives. My experience with the people from the company that advertises about their “good hands” and what happens with the mayhem – has helped make me the advocate for the injured and an attorney dedicated to fight those folks every day. We don’t work from the insurance companies and their minions – only the injured folks. Even before I was injured in a car wreck, and then had to hire my own personal injury attorney to deal with the insurance company, I knew the auto insurance companies were not all they claimed to be. My experience in reality was more bitter and educational than I would have liked, as the insurer denied responsibility, and I was compelled ultimately to file suit and proceed with litigation to get justice. However, once you have been run through the insurance company grist mill as they grind up injured people to increase their profits with the delay, deny, defend tactics – it becomes clear that many insurers are at war with the injured in order to increase profits.

The battle rages against justice by many of the big insurance companies, not just in each claim, but at the Legislature and in the courts. Insurance companies have lobbyists writing legislation to make it easier for them to make more money, deprive the injured of just compensation, and the benefit of the bargain in their insurance contracts. The Montana Supreme Court has to decided cases frequently to interpret the laws passed at the Legislature regarding auto insurance carriers. These insurer lobbyist created bills passed by the Legislature, including anti-stacking legislation, are designed to help the insurance companies make more money by paying less on claims. You will probably recognize the names of the insurance companies in these cases. We don’t take cases from the insurance companies to defend the wrong doers – just the injured people. We don’t defend the insurance companies. However, many of these lawyers that work for the insurance companies actually file lawsuits against the injured people. This is called a Declaratory Judgment action – where your own insurance company sues you. Can you believe it? You suffer a devastating injury in a motor vehicle wreck, or you get run over – literally – and your insurance company sues YOU! Yes, insurance companies can and do file lawsuits against their own insured customers to ask the Court to declare that they are not underinsured or are not covered! This is called a Declaratory Judgment action, and I have seen insurance companies sue injured folks – to ask the Court to declare there is no coverage. Can you imagine that – you get hurt and make a claim to recover for your losses under your policy, and the insurance company adds insult to injury by suing YOU. They do this so that they can not only deny payment, but to try to get the upper hand in the litigation they fight against you to try to prevent you getting the benefit of your insurance policy (that they wrote). We only represent the injured person and their family – not the insurance company. This sets us apart from some other local and Montana law firms that advertise on the internet to represent you in injury claims.

Experienced and skilled attorneys that represent (only) injured person – and who do not represent the insurance companies and defend them on the other days of the week and hours of the day – can help get your the results and fair treatment you deserve and have a dedication and commitment that cannot be matched by the fair weather injury attorneys. We identify with your concerns and problems, not those of the claims adjusters and the insurance companies that hire defense attorneys. When it comes the insurance companies and personal injury battles, an injured person is best served by an attorney that does not have a conflict of conscience about going after the insurance companies and holding them accountable. Consumers need a lawyer that works for consumers every day, not the insurance companies half the week and then represents the “other side” – the consumers and victims of the insurance companies on the other days.

At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., Kalispell Montana, we do not have divided loyalties, or conflicts regarding who we represent – we only represent the injured, sick, and the disabled. We represent consumers – not the insurance companies – or their customers that cause the wreck and hurt innocent people. Unlike some of our “competitors” who advertise for injury cases from consumers on attorney websites and lawyer websites to represent the injured – but also or usually take work from the insurance companies (and sometimes even advertise their experience working for the insurance companies as being useful experience) – we don’t work for insurance companies – ever. We find that to be contrary to our mission, which is to represent and assist innocent victims of motor vehicle wrecks, and other injuries caused by the negligence and bad acts of others. Can you imagine Darth Vader getting in a X-wing fighter and getting in formation to help Luke Skywalker attack the ‘Death Star’ known as Big Insurance Company? Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? In our opinion, lawyers that help insurance companies deprive injured folks of just compensation and defend the insurance companies (and or those who cause the injuries one day), and then say they are going to go all out for injured party in a different case are just as ridiculous. Make no mistake, insurance is big, big business in the United States, and the insurance companies have huge profits at stake – even in claims in Montana.

When injured because of someone else’s negligence, we urge you to hire a Trial Lawyer, not an insurance DEFENSE trial lawyer that works for insurance companies. Before you call an attorney about your injury case to get help, check out their website, phone book ad or other media presence to find out whether they believe in helping innocent victims of injuries, that they actually believe you should obtain just and fair compensation, as all injury victims should receive. If they do insurance defense work, we submit such lawyers are not the best choice to represent you and care for your needs when you are injured and suffer loss.

MONTANA AUTO INSURANCE COVERAGE – CRITICAL FACTS TV ADS DON’T TELL YOU

Television advertising for auto insurance is so frequent that it would be helpful if it contained more useful and helpful information. While saving you money is so frequently the theme, some commercials actually do talk about getting the right coverage, sometimes even discussing the help of an agent. How many of those ads discuss the need for good uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage? When was the last time you saw a commercial that discussed the need for underinsured motorist coverage? Have you ever seen one? When was the last ad you saw that talked about medical payments coverage? Again, have you ever seen one? Why is this?

Uninsured motorist coverage, and underinsured motorist coverage are some of the most critical coverage a person can buy to protect their family, but it appears to be neglected in the advertising. It certainly appears that it not popular enough with customers or a big enough concern among consumers that the insurance companies find it worthy to advertise on the subject. Montana is a state with a small enough population, that the big companies do not seem to be worried about reaching out to Montana consumers in their ad campaigns, or even particularly concerned about running afoul of our law when it comes to advertising. Our Unfair Claims Practices statute – Montana Code Annotated 33-18-201 – as interpreted by the Montana Supreme Court – places burdens on insurers to make an effort to live up the advertising

http://leg.mt.gov/bills/mca/33/18/33-18-201.htm

33-18-201. Unfair claim settlement practices prohibited. A person may not, with such frequency as to indicate a general business practice, do any of the following:

(8) attempt to settle a claim for less than the amount to which a reasonable person would have believed the person was entitled by reference to written or printed advertising material accompanying or made part of an application

If you insurance company has not lived up to its advertising in how it has addressed or handled your injury claim (or your family) arising from a motor vehicle wreck, contacting a Montana attorney that emphasis personal injury law, notably insurance and motor vehicle injury cases is the right decision.

The time to find out that you do not have enough of the right kind of auto insurance is not after having a wreck where you or your family are injured because of the negligence or reckless conduct of an uninsured, or underinsured, drunk driver. Insurance coverage has to be in place before the crash, wreck or other loss. If you are injured in a car wreck and find out that the at fault driver has no insurance, or simply not enough to address the medical expenses and lost wages, much less other damages, it is like being injured all over again. As the Montana Supreme Court so eloquently stated in the Ridley decision:

One of the most significant obligations that innocent victims of automobile accidents incur and for which mandatory liability insurance laws were enacted, is the obligation to pay the costs of medical treatment. If the insurer has no obligation to pay those expenses in a timely fashion, even though liability is reasonably clear, then the protection provided by Montana’s mandatory liability laws would be of little value.

Medical expenses from even minor injuries can be devastating to a family of average income. The inability to pay them can damage credit and, as alleged in this case, sometimes preclude adequate treatment and recovery from the very injuries caused. Just as importantly, the financial stress of being unable to pay medical expenses can lead to the ill-advised settlement of other legitimate claims in order to secure a benefit to which an innocent victim of an automobile accident is clearly entitled. We conclude that this is not what was intended by the Montana Legislature when mandatory liability insurance laws and unfair claims practice laws were enacted.

Ridley v. Guaranty National Insurance Company, 951 P.2d 987 (Mont. 1997)

– See more at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/mt-supreme-court/1453789.html#sthash.Doyr5aOV.dpuf

However, many people believe that they have “full coverage” and will have enough insurance for the loss. When folks come into the office after a car wreck and tell us they have “full coverage” the prudent response on our part is to ask them if they have a copy of the declaration sheet, the “dec page” that shows the coverages. While having collision and comprehensive coverage can be helpful and are certainly advisable on most policies – the bodily injury limits, medical payments coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, and underinsured motorist coverage ultimately often have more to do with a good outcome. This is because the ability to pay medical bills and recover for lost earnings are far more important in the longer term – and often the short term – than the coverage to pay to have a vehicle repaired.

If your agent did not properly advise you about under-insured or uninsured motorist coverage, did your agent live up to the advertising of the insurance company? Some large insurers run advertising, and have run advertising touting how helpful an agent is and the company is at making sure you the right coverage. They advertise that agents can help make sure you don’t have gaps in coverage or not enough coverage. If you suffered a loss and your agent did not do so, or if the insurance company changed your coverage without your permission or knowledge, contact us. We seek to hold insurers accountable and live up to their promises in their advertising to their insureds, the customers that pay the premiums.

DOCTORS, NURSES, PHYSICAL THERAPISTS AND PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS – YOUR TEAM – NATURAL ALLIES NOT ENEMIES

After over twenty years in the practice of law, I have not filed a single medical malpractice claim or pursued a claim against a doctor or health care professional for professional negligence. Why is this, since many attorneys that represent injured folks in motor vehicle injury claims and other injury claims also do medical malpractice claims?

Folks in health care fields dedicate their lives to helping the injured, sick and disabled. So have I in the practice of law. It would be contrary to our mission, and that of Bliven Law Firm, P.C., to pursue medical malpractice claims. I did not become an attorney to sue doctors – quite the contrary. My family is composed largely of medical professionals and counselors. At our office, at Bliven Law Firm, P.C., we work with doctors (medical doctors, osteopathic physicians, doctors of chiropractic, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, massage therapists and other health care professionals) to assist our clients in their recovery from their injuries and other losses. A big part of representing injured folks when they are injured in a car wreck is getting their medical bills paid. We work to get the bills paid, so clients can get their treatment and get better.

Here in the Kalispell, in the heart of Flathead County and the Flathead Valley, as in other places in Montana, sometimes hospitals, hospital administrators, and even doctors see attorneys who represent injured people – personal injury attorneys – as an enemy – or perhaps a nuisance at best. Among hospital administrators, and even physicians and their staff, “trial lawyers” are not usually popular. We are used to being viewed with suspicion, and frankly, sometimes just flat out hostility. This occurs even when we have never met or had any contact with the office or provider. Unfortunately, because of what some of our colleagues have done and do, suspicion or concern is not entirely unwarranted in general. As they say, one rotten apple spoils the bushel. Physicians spent a great deal of time and energy practicing “defensive medicine” because they are concerned about getting sued for doing what they believe is right and in the interests of their patient, but something goes wrong. I understand. Medicine is an art as well as a science. Sometimes physicians and therapists doing everything correctly, as they are trained and their experience teaches them is the right approach, but patients don’t get better or have bad outcomes. A bad outcome does not mean the doctor or other health care professional did something wrong, and bad outcomes happen sometimes, even when the provider gave the best care possible. Some lawyers spend a considerable amount of their time and energy suing doctors and other health care professionals, others don’t bother to think about the providers concerns or issues. At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., we do not file medical malpractice claims – doctors, nurses and other health care professionals are our allies and friends – not the enemy or a target.Do physicians or other health care professionals make mistakes that contribute to unfavorable outcomes? Everyone makes a mistake at some point in their life, but even those errors do not mean they are below the “standard of care” or are irresponsible.

How do I know this? I grew up in a home where helping others with our careers was held out as a goal to aspire – and my brother is a family practice physician, one sister is a psychiatric nurse, and the other is a counselor. My mother was a nurse and my father a lawyer, then a judge. He taught me many lessons, including how to work with physicians to help clients in a professional and cooperative manner. Not all physicians and nurses are as highly trained, compassionate, dedicated and hard working as my brother and sister, but I believe most are, or try to be. I have great respect and admiration for my brother and sisters in the work they have done for patients, and sacrifices they have made to be care providers, and to continue to do so. Even my wife is a health care professional, and I have learned much from her, and with her while she did her professional education.

In over twenty years of representing the injured, sick and disabled, and working with physicians and other health care professionals – I have learned a few things about how the practice of medicine works, and the challenges health care providers face. Being a health care professional is challenging and demanding, and requires not just a great deal of education, but many skills and qualities. Generally folks enter these professions because they want to use their talents to help others. Unfortunately the economics of health care delivery has an impact on providers, who generally spend far more time than they wish on administration and paperwork, as opposed to the patient care they trained to do. I have also learned a great deal from talking to my family about these issues over the years. Most health care professionals have very long courses of study (physicians have at least 8 years of college, and then often 4-8 years of training in residency after medical school), high work loads, high stress, and tremendous demands placed upon them by the demands of patient care as well as administrative and other requirements. Physical therapists currently also generally earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, and have four years of physical therapy school after college. Many who do not have a DPT, who were educated under the former programs did more course work and hours than a PhD or even some current DPT programs even though they were granted a masters degree in physical therapy, an MSPT. If health care professionals are in private practice, they generally have the headaches of being involved in patient care and all those demands, and on top of it, have to try to run a business. Even those not in “private practice,” but working for the VA or some other agency, are still working to provide health care services to patients in a challenging environment in one form or another, such as the paperwork and the administration. I am very sensitive to these concerns and issues, and do what I can to facilitate care, communication and minimize the impact on them in seeking their opinions which are necessary to establish that treatment is necessary and related to the injury, accident or work exposure.

What sometimes is lost on providers in the system is the dramatic impact on the patient that the opinions expressed by a provider can have on the patient – often just as important as the care rendered. When an attending physician declares an injured worker at maximum medical improvement – MMI – the impact on the patient is dramatic in terms of the care they will (or not) receive, and the impact on their other benefits and life. This is one of many issues which cannot be addressed in detail here, perhaps another time on this blog.

When I practiced law in Oregon (and still do), or when seeking medical opinions outside our immediate area, I enjoy and benefit from talking to and meeting with doctors to discuss their patients I represent, and how best to help them. Communication and cooperation with the provider in the interests of the patient is to the benefit of all involved.This is common in the practice in many areas, but has become circumscribed in our area in the past few years. I miss this dialog and coordination to help patients, and it is frustrating that they are being prevented from speaking to us about their patients. We hope that someday this will be allowed again in this area so patient/clients needs can be served, and the innocent victims of other people’s negligence can get the care they need, while those services timely and appropriately paid. If you are a health care professional treating one of our clients, we welcome your phone call, or other communication.

— Michael A. Bliven

BILLINGS WORKERS INJURED IN HOTEL CONSTRUCTION

570eb5af2953b.imageBillings Fire Battalion Chief Terry Larson, reported on Wednesday, that two framing subcontractors were injured while setting trusses on the future Comfort Suites on Wednesday.

According to Larson, high winds were to blame. One man fall approximately 40 feet down an elevator shaft and another fell 15 feet down the same shaft before hitting the third floor of the building.

The 32 mph gust reached up to 45 mph according the NWS’ airport-based observation equipment. Often there is little difference between the speed of stronger winds on the Rims and in the areas below. For more information on the event, please visit the Missoulian.

If you or someone you know has been injured at work, please contact the offices of Bliven Law Firm, P.C., a Montana law firm, with a practice focused and dedicated to Montana Workers Compensation claims. Montana is a no-fault workers compensation state. Injured Montana workers are entitled to medical benefits, wage loss benefits, partial disability and permanent disability benefits, depending on the facts of the claim. Insurance companies frequently dispute claims and deny benefits to Montana injured workers.

The Montana licensed attorneys of Bliven Law Firm, P.C., have helped thousands of workers compensation clients, from Kalispell, Billings, Glendive, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Lakeside, Missoula, Helena, Great Falls, Butte, Bozeman and other Montana cities, receive benefits that insurance companies otherwise denied. We aggressively represent Montana Workers Compensation clients and help them receive benefits that they deserve.

How Outsourcing Payroll Service Benefits Your Business

Outsourcing the payroll services offers businesses a valuable and attractive alternative to internally manage the payroll. Payroll outsourcing saves the time of the employees spend in payroll calculation, preparing management reports and checks and determining tax compliance. Services offered by payroll firms include direct deposit of checks, envelope stuffing, and automated signatures. In addition to that, other functions like retirement plans which allows the employees to automatically designate deductions from their pays.

Accountability

Errors become more prolific with the constant changes in the tax regulations. Payroll Company offers the services to file federal and state payroll taxes for the business. This eases the issue of knowing the filing deadlines, payroll software version, table taxes, deposit requirements, government forms, or the latest tax code.

Tax Expertise

As per the IRS, each year forty percent of the small businesses pay penalties for incorrect or late payments and filings. A tax guarantee is offered by many payroll providers to avoid this which ensures that the customers will not incur any penalty because the provider takes the responsibility of the fine that can occur. This money-savings justifies the benefit of outsourcing the payroll operation. But it should be kept in mind that though the payroll company takes the responsibility of the penalties, but is not liable for the interest charges.

Productivity

Leveraging the skills of the payroll firm can lessen the time-consuming procedure of managing payroll by the employees. Outsourcing can also free the time of staff to pursue important revenue-generating and value-added activities. In fact, the outsourcing payroll was identified as a No.1 task for small businesses by the Inc. magazine. Because it is a time-taking and complicated activity, thus removing the burden allow the employees to pay attention to other productive items within their area of expertise.

Financial Reporting

Payroll companies offer reports such as time sheets, earning statements, expenses, payroll by the department, and the host of other reports.

Among other things, payroll services may include from determining the withholding taxes and wages of the employee to deducting the employee-contributed payments and updating sick and vacation pay for the benefits. In general, payrolling in-house costs double compared to outsourcing payroll. The need of hiring a full-time manager for payroll is eliminated by hiring the outside service. The free up the time of staff can then be utilized on the other aspects of the business.

Convenience

With the outside services, a call is simply made to the payroll company, giving them the hours, salary amount of the employees, and deductions, and the company processes the employees’ checks. Many services allow updating the information on employee payroll on their websites.

Accuracy and Compliance

Payroll companies know that they have to do the accurate job if want to keep the business. As they are updated with the new tax rules and laws regarding the employee payroll. There are a complex array of federal and state obligations entails in the payroll function. Payroll firm saves money on the legal fees, and compliance is put in the hands of the business that knows these legal issues very well.

EDUCATION AND RETRAINING KEY FOR RECOVERY FROM WORK OR MOTOR VEHICLE INJURY – IS THE OIL BOOM ENDING?

When injured on the job, or in a car wreck, sometimes injured folks are not able to return to their past work, because it is too heavy or otherwise too physically demanding. Sometimes folks have permanent impairment from a work injury, occupational disease, or other injury, that makes many kinds of work no longer something they can do or sustain. When the past work or trade was skilled and high paying, and the person cannot go back, it can be devastating the injured person and their family. Retraining can help many of these folks obtain skills that will help them make as much or more in a new field, to enter a career that pays as well or more than past work, and has better long term prospects with less risk of injury. This challenge is something many folks are not prepared to face, and need guidance. Also, advanced education is not as accessible or as affordable as it could be. With the impending slow down of high paying jobs in the Baaken oil patch in eastern Montana and western North Dakota, the value of job skills and training are likely to be as important as ever.

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2015/0124/Low-oil-prices-chill-a-once-hot-oil-town-in-North-Dakota

http://www.wsj.com/articles/job-engine-running-low-on-gas-as-energy-costs-tumble-1419619419

The production in North Dakota and eastern Montana continues, but the sector is vulnerable. Much of the industry is working hard to keep the production going in the Bakken and the jobs alive:

http://www.arcticgas.gov/2015/north-dakota-community-wants-cut-costs-oil-producers

Many Montana residents have been injured in motor vehicle wrecks, truck wrecks, and industrial accidents and injuries in the Bakken, both in Montana and North Dakota. Many Montana residents have been injured in North Dakota while working for Montana employers, covered by Montana workers’ compensation coverage. These injuries often take the worker out of high paying work. If they cannot go back to the oil fields and those high paying jobs, the question becomes, what is next? Education and training are often the best answer.

However, of the expenses a family incurs that have risen far more than the cost of inflation – higher education and medical expenses have been prominent. Over the past 20 years, the costs of college education, especially at private universities, and health care, have been increasing so fast that they have frequently been in the news. When someone suffers a significant injury in a car accident, regardless of the settlement, the insurance company does not provide or recommend a vocational counselor, or give career and rehabilitation planning advice. They don’t have an interest in the rehabilitation of the injured person, or have the links and roots in the community to vocational and educational resources. This is one of the many ways a local personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm can be of assistance to the innocent victim of someone else’s negligence. At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., we a Kalispell, Montana injury law firm, that represents injured folks against the insurance companies and their lawyers. We are Montana personal injury and accident attorneys that represent the injured, every day of the week, not the insurance companies – not ever.

We represent injured workers in workers’ compensation claims, not employers or insurers – not ever.

In Montana workers’s compensation claims, vocational retraining is sometimes offered by the workers’ compensation carrier – and often not offered at all – as one has to prove a significant amount of disability and a “handicap to employment” under the statute, MCA 39-71-1006. Rehabilitation benefits. 

“(1) A worker is eligible for rehabilitation benefits if:
(a) (i) the worker meets the definition of a disabled worker as provided in 39-71-1011; or
(ii) the worker has, as a result of the work-related injury, a whole person impairment rating of 15% or greater, as established by objective medical findings, and has no actual wage loss;
(b) a rehabilitation provider, as designated by the insurer, certifies that the worker has reasonable vocational goals and reasonable reemployment opportunity. If eligible because of an impairment rating of 15% or more, with rehabilitation the worker will have a reasonable increase in the worker’s wage compared to the wage that the worker received at the time of injury. If eligible because of a wage loss, the worker will have a reasonable reduction in the worker’s actual wage loss with rehabilitation.
(c) a rehabilitation plan is agreed upon by the worker and the insurer and a written copy of the plan is provided to the worker. The plan must take into consideration the worker’s age, education, training, work history, residual physical capacities, and vocational interests. The plan must specify a beginning date and a completion date. The plan must specify the cost of tuition, fees, books, and other reasonable and necessary retraining expenses required to complete the plan.”

In our experience, when a plan is offered by the insurer and their vocational counselor, it is often a minimal plan, designed as much (or more) to minimize the cost to the insurer as it is to assist the injured worker. The vocational and rehabilitation counselor the insurer chooses – as the insurer gets generally to choose under Montana law – has the difficult task of developing a plan that will assist the worker get into another job within the worker’s capacities, but also a plan the claims adjuster that hired them will approve. Therefore, even when retraining is offered by the insurer, the program or benefits are too often do not fully take advantage of the remedies available under Montana law – or as helpful as they could be. It often requires a committed and knowledgeable injured workers’ attorney to seek and retain a vocational rehabilitation specialist to evaluate the injured worker’s limitations and a develop a suitable retraining program. At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., we find it often necessary to consult or retain an independent vocational rehabilitation specialist to evaluate and develop the plan the insurer retained vocational counselor should do. Often, that program involves a proposal for retraining at our local community college, or another program in Montana.

Under Montana law, when an worker has a compensable on the job injury or disease, and they suffer a wage loss as, they can qualify for up to 104 weeks of training.

“(2) A disabled worker is entitled to receive biweekly rehabilitation benefits at the worker’s temporary total disability rate. The benefits must be paid for the period specified in the rehabilitation plan, not to exceed 104 weeks. The rehabilitation plan must be completed within 26 weeks of the completion date specified in the plan. Rehabilitation benefits must be paid biweekly while the worker is satisfactorily progressing in the agreed-upon rehabilitation plan. Rehabilitation benefits payable pursuant to a retraining rehabilitation plan under this section are not payable in a lump sum. Rehabilitation benefits may be paid in a lump sum for job placement services.
(3) In addition to rehabilitation benefits payable under subsection (2), a disabled worker who was injured on or after July 1, 1997, is entitled to receive payment for tuition, fees, books, and other reasonable and necessary retraining expenses, excluding travel and living expenses paid pursuant to the provisions of 39-71-1025, as set forth in department rules and as specified in the rehabilitation plan. Expenses must be paid directly by the insurer.
(4) A worker may not receive temporary total benefits and the benefits under subsection (2) during the same period of time.
(5) A rehabilitation provider authorized by the insurer shall continue to assist the injured worker until the rehabilitation plan is completed.
(6) To be eligible for benefits under this section, a worker is required to begin the rehabilitation plan within 78 weeks of reaching maximum medical healing.
(7) A worker may not receive both wages and rehabilitation benefits without the written consent of the insurer. A worker who receives both wages and rehabilitation benefits without written consent of the insurer is guilty of theft and may be prosecuted under 45-6-301.”

http://leg.mt.gov/bills/mca/39/71/39-71-1006.htm

Qualifying is difficult, and getting real vocational assistance is a challenge. Unfortunately, many injured workers are not aware of the potential for vocational rehabilitation, and insurers and the vocational experts they hire do not make such programs available. Likewise, absent advice, someone recovering from injuries in a car wreck may not see the opportunity to go back to school and use this setback as an opportunity to obtain education and skills that will benefit them for the rest of their work life. Another critical factors is that college education remains affordable and accessible at FVCC and similar institutions. http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/20/living/ivory-tower-community-colleges/

We are fortunate in the Flathead Valley to have an excellent college in Flathead Valley Community College, providing excellent educational opportunities at costs far below even public universities, and our college has many professional training programs, as well as the occupational trades. http://www.fvcc.edu/academics/academic-programs.html

Given the pull of the Bakken oil field in eastern Montana and western North Dakota as a source of high paying entry level work, and the improved economy, the enrollment at the college has gone down recently over what it was at the height of the recession. However, given the crash in the price of crude oil per barrel in the past few months, that situation may be changing. As of December 28, 2014, prices had fallen to $54 per barrel, which makes much of the recent oil development in the United State and Alberta. The high paying entry level jobs driving employment in our region may be slowing – or grinding to a halt in the near future.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/102292094

http://www.businessinsider.com/r-saudis-naimi-says-opec-will-not-cut-output-however-far-oil-falls-mees-2014-12

The challenges to full enrollment at many of the universities and colleges in the region may be coming to end, as the employment situation may be changing very soon. When looking at long term employment in high paying skilled work, education will always be a good investment, especially for younger workers. However, even non-traditional students and those who have been in the work force for 20 years often find returning to college and updating their occupational skills, or even learning a whole new trade or professional skill to be a worthwhile investment that pays many fold over the years in increased earning capacity.

One of the most successful and prominent parts of FVCC has been its growth in the health sciences and allied health professions, bolstered by the completion of the new Broussard Center for Nursing and Health Sciences. http://www.fvcc.edu/2014/10/fvccs-night-broussard-center-showcase-health-care-career-options/

The college has many other technical and science fields, as well as trades. Many local employers partner with the college to hire graduates of these programs.

When resolving an injury case, or workers’ compensation case, we counsel clients to consider taking the “lemons” given to them by the injury – including the disruption to employment and their physical capacities – and considering “making lemonade.” This can be an opportunity to go back to college, or go to college for the first time, and gain valuable skills and certifications for work in a field with long term and steady employment prospects, including the health sciences and skilled trades.

Flathead Valley Community College has degree programs – that can be completed in two years (104 weeks) or less – in many areas that prepare graduates for careers in fields where they can earn a living wage, and many of these careers are in the health sciences, such as nursing, surgical technician, physical therapy assistant. Other fields, such as the occupational trades, Department of Transportation (DOT) commercial drivers license and hazardous materials handling (HAZMAT). While the times change, so do the programs, as regional community colleges are usually more responsive to changes in economic conditions and employer needs for skilled workers than many four year colleges.At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., we do more than just get the case resolved. We believe getting the medical bills and lost wages addressed, and obtaining fair settlements for our clients is not all we are about. In the course of our representation, we seek to provide clients with advice to assist them get not just appropriate treatment, but also vocational and other resources so that they can better their lives and recover as much as possible from the injury. We respect our clients to make their own decisions about how to recover and proceed, but we do offer guidance and advice to assist them in these and related areas, as we not just attorneys at law, but also counselors at law. We often refer clients to vocational and educational resources so as well to assist them in the transition and recovery process. We are willing to advance costs for such evaluations, when appropriate, for vocational and other evaluations so that we can fully advocate for our clients and their needs. This is part of the dedication to our clients.

When choosing a law firm to assist you after a work injury or car wreck, or other injury (or a disability claim), one of the many considerations is whether or not the firm represents insurance companies and employers most of the time, but then takes cases from the injured person when it happens to not be from one the the insurance companies or employers where they get most of their work. In short, they play for either or any team as opportunity presents itself, like some of the law firms in our area that advertise on the internet, or the phone book for injury cases. Can such a law firm really dedicate themselves fully and wholeheartedly to working for you, when they work of the insurance companies and the “bad guys” most of the time? Is their heart really in it when they take a case for an injured person, when in fact they are really defense trial lawyers who spend most of their time defending wrong doers, insurance companies and trying to defeat fair compensation to the injured, sick and disabled? At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., we are Montana Trial Lawyers (MTLA), members of the American Association of Justice (AAJ), and the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives (NOSSCR), who have dedicated our adult work lives to representing and helping the injured, sick, and disabled. Whether you retain our firm or not, we recommend that you seek help from a law firm dedicated to fighting every day for the injured – not the insurance companies, large self-insured employers, and their friends.

We believe that a team of lawyers and staff committed to representing the injured, sick and disabled, with experience in these complimentary areas of law – and working with medical and rehabilitation professionals to assist us and our clients, provides our clients with the best possible representation and assistance. This has been our commitment, and will continue to be at Bliven Law Firm, P.C.