July 26, 2014

Case Study: Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and Workers’ Compensation

Welcome to the 2nd installment of my summer long series on Georgia Workers’ comp case studies. In the following case study, I discuss Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and Workers’ Compensation.

What is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

CRPS or complex regional pain syndrome as it is technically known by is a progressively chronic disease that is characterized by changes, pain, and swelling of the skin. It is a disease which to date has no cure and has been divided into 2 categories (see below). Nerve lesions are often present after the injury has occurred.

CRPS Type I was originally called RSD or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, and Type II was originally known as Causalgia. The key difference between the two types is that Type I does not typically result in nerve lesions whereas Type II displays significant nerve damage. Not only is there no cure for the disease, there is no apparent cause to this condition. Injury followed by surgery is typically a precipitating factor. However, there have been cases documented that show no injury actually occurred to cause CRPS or RSD.

Workers’ Compensation and RSD: The case of “Ms. F”

The case involving Ms. F, a Macy’s sales associate, is one in which she suffered an RSD injury as a result of a heavy sales sign falling from a display table and injuring her left ankle. Her pain was immediate and she was taken out of the store in a wheelchair. She was taken to the ER at a local area hospital where she was diagnosed with a contusion and laceration of the left ankle. Upon receiving her diagnosis, Ms. F was then taken to urgent care for further treatment. Unfortunately, her pain was not reduced.

Ms. F was then referred to an orthopedist (Dr. C) who treated her in conservative fashion. However, this did not diminish her pain levels either. Additionally, she was unable to walk. As a result of her inability to walk and her pain levels, Dr. C ordered an MRI which revealed the extent of the damage to her ankle. The metaphysic area of her distal femur had a small lesion apparent in the MRI. Dr. C determined that this was indicative of an RSD injury and he then referred Ms. F to Dr. L who performed NCS (Neurocardiogenic Syncope).

Dr. L determined that Ms. F has suffered a “2nd degree left peroneal motor nerve injury distal to the ankle.” In simple terms, my client had sustained permanent nerve damage due to the work injury. Her injury had already required extensive and costly treatment, and it would likely continue to do so.

To this date, she is under a new doctor’s care; Dr. L referred her to a RSD specialist. The client has been unable to work since the date of the incident, and it appears that she will be out of work indefinitely. Based on the above circumstances, our firm demanded “X” amount as a settlement for Ms. F’s case, and we successfully got our client the settlement she needed to cover the costs of ongoing medical care, lost income from not being able to work, rehabilitation costs, etc.

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For over 15 years, I have represented injured workers in claims filed under the Georgia workers' compensation system. I hope that you find this blog helpful in learning how the Georgia workers' compensation system works and I invite you to call or email if you need more information. --Jodi Brenner Ginsberg

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