Our client was a passenger in a company van on his way to an employer-mandated physical exam. The van was struck when another vehicle ran a red light. Our client was severely injured and unable to work. As a result, he filed for workers’ compensation benefits.
Initially, the employer challenged whether this should be considered a work related injury since client was allegedly not injured in the scope of employment (that is, while actually performing his job).
After a few phone calls, we convinced the compensation carrier that our client was in fact entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Although benefits were granted, the employer noted the injury as only a back sprain and strain. The injuries were, in fact, much worse.
The employer eventually filed a Petition for Modification alleging that our client was capable of returning to light duty work. Additionally, they argued that even though our client continued to have pain in the upper back, he had completely recovered from the low back injury.
We filed a Petition to Review alleging client’s injuries were really herniated discs in both the neck and low back. In addition the client had become depressed as a result of the constant pain he had to live with from the injury. Finally, we alleged the calculation of benefits were incorrect since our client was employed at two jobs at the time of injury and benefits should be based on the wages from both jobs not just the job at which he was injured.
The employer presented an orthopedist who insisted client had only severely injured his neck but could now work. He rejected the problems with the low back were work related. Instead, he claimed, it was degenerative arthritis.
The employer also introduced testimony of a vocational expert who alleged there were jobs in the area where our client could work earning $500 a week, which would greatly reduce claimant’s receipt of benefits.
However, we introduced the testimony of the treating doctor who conducted two surgeries — one on the neck and one in the low back– to confirm both were work related and both resulted in disabling injuries. We also introduced the testimony of a physiatrist to confirm the functional limitations resulting from the injuries. We confirmed the disability with testimony from a vocational expert who challenged whether the jobs in question were available and explained the job descriptions did not accurately detail the full set of responsibilities to be performed.
Finally, we introduced the testimony of the psychologist who felt the client’s depression was caused by his pain and restriction of movement. The employer presented its own medical witness in an attempt to rebut this.
We resolved the matter at mediation. The employer acknowledged that our client was entitled to a higher compensation rate. Further, the employer agreed to pay a lump sum of $194,500.00 plus all reasonable medical expenses for claimant’s two herniated discs. Finally, we were able to protect and preserve our clients Social Security Disability benefits.