Most workers' compensation cases and personal injury cases are settled without the necessity of trial. If the insurance company knows your attorney is an experienced and effective trial lawyer, the prospects for a favorable settlement are dramatically improved. In some cases, however, a trial is unavoidable.
The following cases illustrate the kind of issues that can develop in a typical case. The summaries are intended only as examples of favorable decisions we have obtained on behalf of former clients. The clients have consented to their cases being described here. The favorable awards are not a guarantee that a similar case will be successful. No two cases are identical and each must be carefully analyzed and thoroughly developed to be successful.
Case Summary One
The employee was employed with a local trucking company as a driver. The employee fell on an icy surface as he was getting out of his truck, falling onto his left arm and elbow. Employee's physician diagnosed him with a fracture of the elbow and traumatic bursitis of the elbow joint. The employee had surgery. After surgery the employee noted persistent pain, numbness and tingling developing in his left hand. Employee's physician noted the symptoms but believed the symptoms would resolve in time. Employee returned to work and his symptoms worsened over the following year. Employee returned to his physician and tests were conducted. Test results confirmed a new diagnosis of cubital tunnel syndrome. Surgery was recommended.
The worker's compensation insurance refused to accept any responsibility for employee's left cubital tunnel syndrome. Depositions were taken of employee's physician and a physician hired by the insurance company who testified that employee's cubital tunnel syndrome was not work-related. The parties tried the case. The Arbitrator found that employee had sustained a work-related injury when he fell and fractured the left elbow. The Arbitrator awarded 15% disability of the left arm but denied employee's claim that the cubital tunnel syndrome was a direct consequence of the original injury. We appealed to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. The Commission overruled the Arbitrator and found the Company responsible for the fracture as well as the cubital tunnel syndrome in employee's left elbow. The Commission doubled the award of permanent partial disability. More importantly, employee now has insurance coverage for all future treatment relative to cubital tunnel syndrome in his left arm.
Case Summary Two
The employee worked for a local company performing repetitive, labor intensive work with both arms and hands. The employee developed significant pain in his arms with numbness and tingling in his hand and fingers. Employee was diagnosed with epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and cubital tunnel syndrome in his elbow and impingement syndrome in his shoulder. The employee's physician believed his conditions were being caused by his work duties and he reported the problem to his employer.
The employer hired a physical therapist to photograph employee's job duties and prepare a report for an Indianapolis physician who the company hired to give an opinion on whether Employee's medical conditions were work-related. The physician stated the epicondylitis was work-related but the other conditions were not. Employer then refused to authorize any treatment. The employee continued to work in pain while he waited for the employer's insurance company to do something.
After months of delay and frustration, Employee came to our office for guidance. We informed Employee of his rights under the law and he retained us immediately. We insisted on a deposition of Employer's physician and the therapist who took the photographs. We established that the photographs depicted only one aspect of Employee's actual job duties and left out critical evidence of others. The employer's physician changed his opinions when confronted with the new information.
We set the matter for arbitration and filed a petition for penalties. The employer realized they could authorize the employee's treatment or face arbitration and the likelihood of penalties being awarded against them. Surgery was authorized and Employee was able to return to work after a successful recovery.
Case Summary Three
Employee injured her knee in a fall on the employer's icy steps. An MRI revealed a fractured patella and ruptured quadriceps tendon. Employee had surgery, post-operative physical therapy, and was given permanent work restrictions by her surgeon.
After treatment concluded, the employer's insurance company made an offer to settle the permanent disability portion of her claim. We recommended that the employee reject the offer and we prepared for trial. In turn, the insurance company hired a physician to prepare a report containing an impairment rating based upon the American Medical Association's Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. We rejected the report and insisted on a deposition of the physician. Prior to the deposition we pointed out that the company's physician had made several errors in his application of the ratings to Employee's injuries.
We ultimately negotiated a settlement on the employee's behalf that was more than three times the company's original offer and more than three times the impairment rating written by the company physician.
Case Summary Four
The employee tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder after a fall at work. After surgery the physician placed permanent restrictions of no lifting with the right arm over three pounds and no overhead lifting at all. A functional capacity evaluation was performed that limited Employee to sedentary employment only. Employee could not perform his previous work within the restrictions that were ordered.
The Employer's insurance company offered to settle Employee's disability claim for a percentage loss of use of the right arm. We retained a certified vocational rehabilitation counselor to evaluate the employee's likelihood of obtaining new employment in light of his physical restrictions, his age and his previous work experience. Our expert concluded that Employee would not be employable on a regular basis in any well-known branch of the labor market.
The company hired their own vocational expert who testified that there were a number of possible alternate occupations that Employee could perform. The case was tried before an Arbitrator. The Arbitrator found the opinion of our expert more credible than that of the company. The Arbitrator wrote that "evidence of possible alternatives is insufficient to establish a reasonably stable labor market for positions within employee's capabilities". The Arbitrator awarded permanent total disability.