From the Files of Powell and Denny
In this week’s “From the Files of Powell and Denny,” I want to go over a workers compensation claim we handled in Homewood, Alabama in Jefferson County in the early 2000’s.
Our client was employed by Bi Low Quality Foods Stores Inc. operating Piggly Wiggly’s. On one rainy day our client slipped and fell when coming back into the store and injured. Our client was hurting and shaken up (and a little embarrassed), but did not think he was seriously injured, but later that evening his pain continued to get worse and he ended up seeking medical treatment at UAB Hospital. The next day a First Report of Injury was filled out and workers’ comp sent him to see Dr. Keith Weaver.
Dr. Weaver did not see any reason for surgery and provided palliative care for our client’s increasing pain and ordered aggressive physical therapy, but our client’s condition continued to worsen. Dr. Weaver opined that he feared that our client may have developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (aka Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy). After months of treatment with no improvement, our client requested a Panel of Four and choose Dr. Richard Meyer as his new authorized treating physician. Dr. Meyer performed surgery to remove a neuroma from our client’s medial interbrachial cutaneious nerve on his elbow and ordered more therapy. A few months later Dr. Meyer opined that our client had reached maximum medical improvement, opined our client had sustained a 10% permanent physical impairment and referred our client to Dr. Marion Sovic for pain management. Dr. Sovic attempted to treat our client’ s pain, but nothing seemed to help.
At this time our client moved to Florida to be with family, and he was provided with a new authorized treating physician-Dr. Joseph Tutorino. Dr. Tutorino found that our client had stiffness on his entire left side, was unable to move his left hand and had increased sensitivity to the touch. Dr. Tutorino referred our client to a neurologist for evaluation, and the neurologist opined that pain management was all that could be done. At this point the workers compensation carrier-Employers Claim Management-had him examined by Dr. Thomas Staner-and Dr. Staner stated-and ended up testifying-that our client in fact had developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in his left upper extremity and that additional therapy would most likely only cause additional pain and pain management was needed to help our client.
Given his condition and his diagnosis, our position was that our client was totally disabled and was entitled to permanent total disability benefits, the defendant’s position was that while our client’s overall disability was most likely greater than the 10% rating given by Dr. Meyer-but he was still able to work-so litigation was pursued.
Depositions were taken by the treating physicians in Birmingham, AL and we also traveled to Orlando to depose the neurologist and pain doctor. We also worked to help prepare our client to testify and we made sure that he brought all of the medication he was currently taking to show the judge. Our client testifies that he was in constant, chronic pain and that he had attempted suicide so as to stop his pain. On the stand it was difficult for our client to keep his train of thought and his voice quaked-all of which were noted by the judge.
After spending a day in trial in Birmingham, the Court awarded our client permanent total disability benefits, and he is still receiving a tpd check and receiving medical care today-14 years after his trial.
This case clearly shows that an impairment rating is not binding on a judge, and is not always indicative of how severely impaired a person can be after an injury. It also was a stark reminder that pain alone can be so severe as to totally prevent one’s ability to work and that pain must be taken into account when considering how limited an injured worker really is following a job injury.
If you have suffered a work injury and you have questions about your right to Alabama workers’ compensation benefits, don’t hesitate to contact Powell and Denny and speak with one of the experienced workers compensation lawyers and schedule a free consultation and let us see if we can help. Appointments are available in person, or virtually through Zoom for your convenience from wherever you live.
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Powell and Denny have been selected as one of the Best Law Firms by U.S. News and World Report for each of the last 9 years, have been selected as one of Birmingham’s Top Lawyers by B-Metro Magazine for the last 5 years, have been selected by The National Advocates as one of the Top 20 Workers’ Compensation Firms (plaintiffs) and Powell and Denny, P.C.-has been selected as one of the “Best of the Best” law firms by The American Registry and included in the list as one of the Mid-South’s Super Lawyers.
Mr. Denny is AV rated by Martindale Hubbard (the highest rating possible) and Mr. Powell has been rated as Superior by The National Registry
+ Powell and Denny have successfully represented injured workers from Birmingham, Huntsville, Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, Athens, Decatur, Town Creek Ardmore, Hartselle, Madison, Toney, Scottsboro, Ft. Payne, New Hope, Guntersville, Albertville, Boaz, Ashville, Anniston, Gadsden, Cullman, Jasper, Gardendale, Morris, Kimberly, Centerpoint, Leeds, Tarrant City, Fairfield, Hueytown, Bessemer, Adger, Tuscaloosa, Cordova, Alabaster, Pelham, Harpersville, Opelika, Phenix City, Montgomery, Clanton, Calera, Enterprise, Monroeville, Mobile, Evergreen, Alabaster, Pelham, Trussville and towns and cities in between.
From the Files of Powell and Denny