Think the South Carolina workers' comp insurance comapny will gracefully settle when you've grievously injured? Think again, as one of our Spartanburg workers' comp clients found out the hard way.
Our client drove for FedEx delivery service. As she turned left to make a delivery on U.S. Highway 221 in Spartanburg County, she got hit from behind on the driver side by a speeding drunk driver trying to escape the police. Our client suffered severe spinal injuries, resulting in a neurosurgeon removing a herniated spinal disc and fusing part of her cervical (neck) spine together with a metal plate and screws. She also hurt a disc in her low back.
The case was complex because it involved a third-party action, meaning we sued the drunk driver to obtain more compensation for our client. That part of the case included underinsurance coverage (UIM).
Our client’s neurosurgeon assigned her a permanent impairment rating of 80% to her cervical (neck) spine and 26% to her lumbar (low back) spine. When the employer’s insurance company denied our client chronic pain treatment ordered by the neurosurgeon, Rob fought back, requesting a hearing for a Workers Compensation Commissioner to order the treatment. At the hearing, the insurance company argued since our client reached maximum medical improvement, it owed no more treatment. Rob pointed out that workers’ compensation law allows further treatment if it will improve an injured worker’s quality of life and ability to cope- which is exactly what chronic pain medicine does. The Commissioner ordered treatment and ordered the insurance company to pay for the cost of the hearing.
In the end, we argued our client sustained permanent and total disability under workers’ compensation law because she lost over 50% of the use of her back plus suffered injuries to her shoulder, left leg, depression, and needed chronic pain management. The insurance company fought this all the way to a hearing, where Rob presented the case to a Commissioner. As part of our case, Rob presented a report from a vocational expert, who had thoroughly evaluated our client and her medical records, concluding she was incapable of obtaining or keeping a job as a result of her injuries. After the insurance company presented its defense, the Commissioner agreed with us and issued an order finding our client permanently and totally disabled. The most important part of the order for our client was it gave her lifetime medical care for her injuries caused by the accident and the maximum disability benefits of 500 weeks, which the Commissioner at the original hearing valued at $158,301.13.