A Pascagoula law firm that defends workers' compensation cases foresees more litigation in a post Katrina Mississippi. According to the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission in 2006 there were nearly 12,598 employees who were injured on the job. The top injury was muscle strain at nearly 28 percent.
On Thursday Williams, Heidelberg, Steinberger and McElhaney sponsored a seminar in Pascagoula. The purpose was to make sure employers and others are up to speed with employment laws.
Officials at Mississippi Phosphates Corporation in Pascagoula say many of their 230 employees have labor intensive jobs.
"The operators work at the chemical plant," said Craig Fox, Safety Health Manager. "Some work on the water so we have both long shore and workers' comp cases that we have to deal with."
Attorneys gave dozens of employers, insurance adjusters, vocational counselors, and others an overview of basic workers' compensation law. Participants got answers on everything from what is right way to file a claim to which the injuries are covered.
Cynthia Black works for the Moss Point School District.
"We don't want to try to assume things on our own, because we think it's best for the employer. We want to do what's right for the employee because in the end it's always going to be best for both parties."
Hurricane Katrina turned much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast into a construction zone. Workers' comp attorneys say they've seen an impact on the number of claims.
"We on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina have experienced an increase in injuries and work place injuries on the coast. Those are going to carry on to the contested areas," said attorney Karl Steinberger.
"As time goes by those cases are now going to be litigated. There's just so much more opportunity to get injured in the uncontrolled environment in the construction industry compared to other places. There have been, in my opinion an increase in injuries."
According to the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission, Harrison County had 874 work injuries in 2006. That's the second highest in the state behind Hinds County. Jackson County had 389 and Hancock County 109.