October 18, 2019

Case Study: Cervical Injury Made Worse Due to Return to Job

Welcome to the 6th installment of my summer long series on Georgia Workers’ comp case studies. In the following case study, I discuss a case in which a client’s neck injury was made worse by a return to work.

Cervical injuries made worse by returning to the job

Mrs. B is a 20-year employee of a medical practice.  As the office manager, she was involved in all facets of managing the practice, including patient care, insurance submission, and handling other patient paperwork.   Mrs. B is also a licensed practical nurse and she also served as a nurse, frequently making rounds with doctors at the hospital during her work shift. Mrs. B was injured when she felt a “pop” in her neck while assisting two co-workers move office furniture and other office equipment.

After moving the furniture and equipment, Mrs. B started to experience severe pain in the arms and neck.   Additionally, she noticed that she had numbness and pain in her right leg. Despite her pain and numbness, Mrs. B. returned to work the next day and continued working for 9 full months until the pain and discomfort became so intense at she could not function.   Finally, Mrs. B returned to the panel physician who took her out of work and prescribed pain pills and physical therapy.

Perhaps because Mrs. B has a medical background, she sensed that the care she was receiving under workers’ compensation was not sufficient, so she decided to seek counsel, even though she was receiving her weekly income benefits of $500 per week and the employer/insurer was not denying her claim.

When I got involved in this case, I recognized that Mrs. B’s injury was most likely a surgical problem.   After reviewing literally thousands of pages of medical records, I have a fairly good sense of which doctors I like my clients to see for various medical problems and I wanted Mrs. B to see a particular surgeon.   The insurance adjuster would not agree to my preferred doctor so I directed my client to return to her panel physician and request a referral to this particular doctor, which he agreed to do.   Under Georgia law, this referral from an authorized treating physician to another physician must be honored by the insurance carrier and the adjuster reluctantly agreed to authorize my preferred surgeon.  In my view, all parties – my client and the insurance company will benefit from this surgical referral as my preferred surgeon is one of the best specialists in the state for neck surgery.

Mrs. B underwent a multi-level cervical fusion and followup rehabilitation.   Mrs. B had expressed a desire to return to her job but, as I expected, the insurance carrier demanded a resignation as part of any settlement.  Mrs. B recognized that she would not be able to return to her past work and she authorized me to enter in to settlement negotiations.  Our final settlement consisted of cash and 24 months of “open medical” care with the surgeon

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Jodi Ginsberg

Attorney Jodi Ginsberg represents employees who are injured on the job and who need medical care and missed wage benefits available under Georgia's workers' compensation laws.

Comments

  1. Janet Glenn says

    Ms. Ginsberg,

    I just signed paper work for workers compensation settlement in Georgia, I was laid off after I passed out on the floor in an unairconditioned building and injured my back and knee due to air being out for two weeks prior to my entering into the building. . This was the 3rd time I had heat exhausion and had to attend a medical facility each time. Employer was aware of my hypertension issue the first time, but continued to place me in hot buildings.

    I worked for a company for 12 years and the air stays torn up 95% of the time in my 12 years of tenure there.
    The building felt like it was 100 – 120 degrees as the building is old and windows were placed on the outside of the building about 2 to 3 years ago. The walls sweat when the air is out, and pictures cannot be placed on the walls as everything falls off the walls.

    I signed paper work this week for a settlement. My stipulation paper included paper work that stated about my social security and I was told to sign a resignation letter from my lawyer. I did not want to sign paper work that stated about my social security. My Comp lawyer told me that the $7.00 was the amount that SS could only reduce from me, not what I would receive.

    He went on to say that my signing paper work to resign and never apply to any positions again with this company in the future made me leary, but I was told by my lawyer that I had to sign the paper work as the paper work was just common procedure for everyone that settles a case and the stipulation paperwork could not be redone.

    There also was a statement that stated that I had not tried to look for jobs which was not the truth, I told my lawyer that I did not want to sign that paper work as I had looked for work, as it is vital in receiveing unemployment benefits. He stated that my signing I had not looked for work also was procedure in the stipulation agreement settlement.

    I would like to ask, if I had to sign a resignation letter, and sign for social security of what would be the amount reduced from my SS, as well as my being asked to sign paperwork that stated that I had not sought work when I have the copies of all unemployment jobs search from last year?

    I also asked for a copy of the stipulation workers comp documents with my signature on them , he stated that he could not give me a copy, because he had to get the paper work over to the workers compensation office. He also called me back into his office with his legal assistant and secretary. His legal assistant asked me was that my signature on the documents that I had signed. This made me very uncomfortable at this point. I just want to know if everything that I was asked to sign was mandatory for my settlement.

    Was I supposed to get a copy of the stipulation paper work I signed on Monday the 10th of June. If so my lawyer did not provide me with a copy of any paper work that I signed, and that I was uncomfortable with the wording of some of the paperwork that he informed me that I had to sign for the settlement.

    I do not want to think that my Comp lawyer had me to sign paper work that I did not have to sign for this settlement, as I do not want these documents to come back to bite me, because I was not told the truth at signing.

    Ms. Glenn

  2. Ms. G: I don’t feel comfortable second guessing the advice your lawyer has provided you. I would say that some of the documents you reference are fairly standard in a workers’ compensation settlement, and that you are entitled to copies. It may be that some of these documents and releases are being required by the employer/insurer and if you don’t sign, your settlement will not go through. I don’t think it would be out of line to schedule a follow up appointment with your lawyer to go over all of the paperwork.

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