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Healthcare Worker Perseveres to Obtain a Workers’ Comp Settlement for Career-Ending Nerve Damage, With an Unexpected Strategy from Her Attorney

Sandy didn’t want an attorney for her work injury case. She never dreamed she’d need one after twelve years of faithful service to her employer, a hospital. But as many workers’ compensation clients find—to their dismay—the insurance company has no loyalty to you. And as Sandy found out, the insurance company will volunteer no help in compensating you even when you’ve been a good employee and suffered a severe injury.

The Injury

Sandy served as a vascular technologist. She gave ultrasound exams. While giving one, she suffered a grievous injury to her right arm when a morbidly obese patient’s left leg collapsed onto her outstretched right arm.

Sandy was diagnosed with serious nerve damage in her elbow. It required an operation to relocate the nerves so they wouldn’t be compressed anymore.

Overcoming Her Fear

Sandy grew fearful for her financial security when the full extent of her injury dawned on her. After nearly 8 months of treatment, she still couldn’t do her job. Reluctantly, she began to search for a lawyer. And she did it like many folks who find me—through the internet.

Sandy started a live chat on my website. In response, I called her. We chatted briefly on the phone, and I sent her some e-mails with free information about her case. A couple of weeks later, she decided it might help to meet with me. I met with her and her husband and answered their questions. Sandy left without hiring me. That happens sometimes because I don’t pressure folks to hire me until they’re convinced it’s the right thing to do. A few days after that, she hired me. We started to build her case immediately because we didn’t have much time- she was almost done with treatment. That's when insurance companies put the pressure on comp claimants to settle. It can keep folks  from finding an experienced attorney who might realize you can qualify for far more benefits than the insurance company wants to pay.

Making the Case for Sandy

On the surface, things looked bleak for Sandy from a compensation standpoint. She was already at the end of her treatment, and she felt the doctor’s permanent work restrictions would prevent her from ever working in patient care. Worse, it looked like she’d suffered an injury to a single body part under worker’s comp, which offered little hope to protect her financial future.

But as we talked about her case, some hope bubbled up to the surface. The nerve damage in her arm made her hand weak and numb. That meant Sandy would satisfy comp’s “two-injury rule,” which could allow her to obtain additional financial benefits, called wage loss.

But to do that, we needed the workers’ comp doctor’s help. Without a doctor agreeing her injuries affected her hand—the second body part—Sandy had no hope. I prepared her for her last meeting with the surgeon, explaining that she should ask him to make sure his records noted the injuries affecting her hand to reflect the truth of her condition.

Sometimes You Need Plan B—and B Is for Blessing

Unfortunately, the  surgeon was not helpful. He told Sandy her injury was limited to her arm, but gave her profound work restrictions: no lifting or pushing more than 10 pounds and no repetitive activity with her hurt right arm. Those restrictions ended her career in patient care. Despite this, he gave her only an 8% permanent impairment rating to the arm.

It was time for plan B: a rare independent medical exam, also known as a second opinion. We paid a different doctor to consider her medical records and examine her. Mind you, I have absolutely no involvement in the doctor’s decisionmaking here. We don’t use hired guns because they get smoked out in the end and really hurt your case. I just felt this was a risk worth taking.

Plan B worked. The doctor found the hand was clearly affected by the injuries. He also concluded a more accurate rating was 15%—still a little low in my opinion, but almost double the original rating.

We still needed one more vital piece of the puzzle. We had to prove the two injuries caused wage loss.

We Get a Vocational Evaluation

Sandy needed a vocational evaluation to prove her injuries caused wage loss, so I hired a vocational consultant to do that. Again, because I don’t deal with hired guns, I really didn’t know the result until he was done with his testing. The consultant revealed she had a solid case for wage loss.

He concluded she’s ineligible to do the clinical work she’s done her entire professional life. Worse, her injury left her with the ability to earn just a fraction of what she earned before.

Presenting the Case for Sandy

Because my firm was hired so late in the game, we moved Sandy’s case especially fast. Within two months, her employer offered her a job—at about 1/3 of her prior pay. Sadly, Sandy decided she just couldn’t do it because the job’s physical requirements surpassed her doctor’s work restrictions.

Then we heard the insurance company’s opinion about Sandy’s case. To settle the entire case, they offered her a small fraction of her annual salary.

But they didn’t yet know all of the facts. We sent a counteroffer revealing the results of our work, including the second opinion, the vocational evaluation, and an extensive statement of Sandy’s disability and its impact on her life and work.

The insurance company was shocked. It never expected our strategy. But they saw the strength of our case.

We Achieve a Secure Financial Future for Sandy

The insurance company asked us to mediate the case. That led to us reaching a settlement that preserves Sandy’s financial stability for the future.

Sandy’s case shows us you don’t have to be mean or intimidating to be a fighter. Sandy’s a quiet, gentle lady who just refused to give up on her case or be pounded into submission by the insurance company. She took back control of her case to make the best possible legal decision at the end of it. I’m awful proud she made me part of it and allowed me to get her to the point she reached. One of the best things about resolving Sandy’s case is just seeing the change in her: from her fear in the beginning to relief and empowerment in the end. 

$135,000

Rob Usry
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Rob is a South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.

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