I'm proud to report our team earned a solid settlement despite the law appearing to tragically limit our client’s hope for a fair result. Best of all, we helped a man who truly deserved it and needed it. Bill is a kind, extremely hard-working brick mason. He suffered a tragic, career-ending injury in a Gaffney workers’ compensation case.

At the time of his injury, Bill was 62 years old. He'd been a brick mason his entire life.

When Bill realized he might never work again from a horrendous shoulder injury at work, he knew he needed a workers’ compensation attorney to make sure he didn't get cheated out of a settlement he desperately needed. He found us on Google.

Here's how we made his workers’ compensation settlement better than he expected.

Bill’s Gaffney, SC Workers’ Compensation Severe Shoulder Injury

As Bill used a chainsaw to cut a limb on a fallen tree, the saw got caught, and the limb collapsed onto it, violently jerking his left arm forward and yanking his left shoulder, causing it to pop, and creating intense pain.

An orthopedist diagnosed him with a massive left rotator cuff tear. The injury was so devastating it forced the surgeon to give Bill a left reverse total shoulder replacement surgery.

Overcoming the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Defense of “It's Just a Shoulder ”

South Carolina workers’ compensation law can limit settlements to the body part that's injured. Bill’s fear was that he'd be limited to a cash settlement for just a shoulder. We knew the workers’ compensation insurance company would forcefully argue that it was “just a shoulder.”

But South Carolina law also allows a much bigger recovery if you can prove an injury affects another body part AND restricts you from working in the only employment you're qualified for. It's called workers’ compensation permanent and total disability. It's different from Social Security disability.

I developed a strategy to prove the shoulder injury affected another body part, namely his arm. You're right to think, “well, duh!” But this is where we learn the law often makes no sense. There was a real possibility Bill could be limited strictly to the shoulder injury. I had at least one other highly experienced workers’ compensation attorney tell me I was stuck with the shoulder.

I pressed on anyway.

Here's how I proved the shoulder affected his arm to help Bill get a much bigger workers’ compensation settlement:

  1. The surgeon set permanent restrictions that effectively kept Bill from working as a brick mason and proved the crippling effect on his arm: no lifting over 10 pounds and no work at or above shoulder height.
  2. Bill is now largely one-armed. He says, “I can’t really use my arm for anything.”
  3. His arm hurts where the rod got installed, about midway down his upper arm. When he uses it, he gets a bad cramp in the back of his arm that feels like the tendons are being pulled apart.
  4. He uses his right arm for his seat belt because his left can't reach that far.
  5. He struggles to open a childproof pill bottle because he can't generate the pressure to push the top down. 
  6. Pulling up pants can cause intense pain from flexing his elbow and shifting his arm upward.
  7. Instead of getting up out of bed, he rolls out because he can't push himself up off the bed.
  8. Moving his arm away from his body generates unbearable agony. He loved swimming underwater, which he can no longer do.

Finally, I did some legal research to find a nugget in the law that helped his case, a long-standing ruling that inability to perform labor is total disability if you're not qualified by training or experience for anything else.

Bill Gets a Good South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Settlement at Mediation

The workers’ compensation insurance company hired a lawyer. She was highly experienced and extremely good at her job, which I recognized because we'd worked together before.

We scheduled the case for mediation, where I made the above points and several more, in a summary letter to the mediator. As usual, I sent a copy to opposing counsel so she could share it with the insurance company to let them know we had strong arguments and knew how to make them convincingly.

Bill settled his case at mediation for a cash payment of $110,000. The workers’ compensation insurance company also agreed to fund a Medicare Set Aside account to help cover medical care for his shoulder.

Bill and his lovely wife were pleased and relieved. That was the best part to me.

Lessons Learned

I reaffirmed my commitment to stretch for a bigger settlement even if it means putting up a big fight. Bill's case was the right case to stretch all the way for permanent and total disability even though he is far from helpless. The facts, namely his inability to do the only work he knew, and the law gave us a strong chance at getting him a much bigger settlement.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.