The Claimant sustained an injury to his low back. He was required to undergo low back surgery as a result of the injury. While recovering from his low back injury, his leg gave out which resulted in him falling. As a result of the fall, the Claimant sustained a neck injury. The Pothitakis Law Firm alleged and argued that Claimant's leg gave out as a result of his back injury, which resulted in the neck injury. Pothitakis Law Firm was successful in requiring the Defendants to accept and pay for all medical care relating to the neck injury as part of the original claim. Under Iowa Workers' Compensation laws, any consequences from the original injury are tied to the claim and the responsibility of the Workers' Compensation insurance carrier.
The claimant had a limited education and spent most of his life working heavy labor positions. As a result of the low back and neck conditions, the Claimant was limited in the amount of weight that he could lift and the types of physical activities he could undertake. Pothitakis Law Firm consulted with his physicians and obtained favorable reports concerning the Claimant's desire and attempts to recover from his injuries. The doctors provided reports detailing the limitations that the Claimant would face in the future from his injuries.
Pothitakis Law Firm referred the Claimant for a functional capacity evaluation to determine his physical capabilities. The functional capacity evaluation showed that the Claimant's lifting limits were significantly reduced and he would likely not be able to return to his past employment. Pothitakis Law Firm also sought the services of a vocational rehabilitation expert who gave an opinion to Claimant's ability to retrain and obtain employment in the future. The vocational expert set forth an opinion that the Claimant was significantly limited in his future ability to find employment.
Pothitakis Law Firm set forth what we believed to be a reasonable demand to try to resolve the claim. The Workers' Compensation insurance carrier took the position that they were not going to respond to the settlement demand and would prefer to proceed to hearing. The case went to hearing in 2012 and Pothitakis Law Firm and the Claimant appeared before a judge and presented the case before an Iowa Deputy Workers' Compensation Commissioner. After the hearing, a decision was received awarding the Claimant lifetime Workers' Compensation benefits. This is called a "permanent total disability." It was the best decision the Claimant could receive. In addition to lifetime benefits, the Defendants were responsible for the Claimant's medical care.
After the decision was received, the Claimant indicated to Pothitakis Law Firm that he did not want to receive weekly benefits and preferred to have all of the money paid in a lump sum. Pohtitakis Law Firm approached the Workers' Compensation insurance carrier and requested that the benefits be paid in a lump sum. The Workers' Compensation insurance carrier indicated that they would not pay the benefits in a lump sum.
At that point, Pothitakis Law Firm filed what is called an "Application for Partial Commutation." A partial commutation is a request to the Workers' Compensation Commissioner that the benefits be paid in a lump sum. Filing for a partial commutation resulted in the case being set for hearing. At hearing, Pothitakis Law Firm set forth the reasons why the Claimant should receive his benefits in a lump sum as opposed to weekly.
After hearing, a decision was received which awarded the Claimant the partial commutation. The decision awarded the Claimant close to $300,000 in benefits in a lump sum as opposed to him receiving $230 per week. The Claimant was extremely satisfied with the award, and it was ultimately paid by the insurance carrier.
This case illustrates the fact that Workers' Compensation insurance carriers, on many occasions, fail to recognize the value of an injured party's Workers' Compensation claim. It also illustrates the fact that sometimes the best course of action in a case is simply to proceed to hearing to obtain a decision from the judge. Finally, the case illustrates that there are ways to receive benefits in a lump sum as opposed to receiving a very small amount on a weekly basis.