The Claimant, J.W., sustained an injury in 2018 to his low back while working for his employer. He had been with this employer for approximately 30+ years and performed heavy manufacturing work. As a result of the work-related injury, J.W. began having difficulties with his low back. Prior to the work-related injury, the Claimant had not had any significant difficulties performing his heavy work. Ultimately, the Claimant was sent for surgery to a local spine surgeon. The surgery did not provide significant relief to J.W., and at the insistence of the Claimant and Pothitakis Law Firm, he was sent to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for additional care.
At the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, additional surgical intervention was undertaken which provided limited relief to J.W. At that point, he was referred to the Pain Management Clinic at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. At that clinic, the Claimant did not feel that the doctor he was treating with was providing him appropriate care. Although, under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws, the employer gets to choose who provides care to an injured worker, there are ways to switch that care and move that care to a different provider. One of those situations is when there is a breakdown of the patient/physician relationship. J.W. and Pothitakis Law Firm pushed for medical care with a different facility, and the Claimant was sent to Quincy Medical Group Pain Management facility. At the Quincy Medical Group, he was told that his best option was a spinal cord stimulator. A spinal cord stimulator attempts to cut off the pain receptors to the spine to reduce the chronic pain and discomfort. The spinal cord stimulator took place and provided the Claimant some relief from his low back pain. Under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws, an injured worker is entitled to have their medical expenses paid, benefits for each week they are off work, and finally, in certain situations, industrial disability benefits which are benefits based upon how the injury impacts the future ability of the injured worker to obtain employment.
The Pothitakis Law Firm argued that J.W. would be unable to work in any regular job given his injury and limitations. The employer and insurance carrier argued that J.W. was capable of employment in a number of employment fields. Pothitakis Law Firm hired a vocational expert who set forth her opinion that J.W. was unemployable.
Pothitakis Law Firm reached out to the insurance company and their attorney and inquired about potentially settling the case short of hearing. Based upon the insurance company’s belief that the award would be small, the insurance company and employer were not interested in trying to settle the case for a reasonable amount. The insurance company did not make any reasonable offer of settlement as they thought they had the ability to win the case in front of a judge.
Pothitakis Law Firm pushed forward and scheduled the case for hearing. At hearing, Pothitakis Law Firm argued to the judge that the Claimant was unemployable and should receive lifetime weekly Workers’ Compensation benefits.
At hearing, the judge considered and listened to all of the evidence and ultimately issued a decision finding J.W. permanently and totally disabled entitling him to lifetime weekly benefits. This award amounted to weekly benefits for the remainder of the Claimant’s life as long as he remained permanently and totally disabled. In terms of his life expectancy and the total payment, this amounted to an excess of $1 million in payments. In addition, the Claimant was entitled to lifetime medical care for his condition.
It is important to note that even if an insurance company believes that a claim has little value, that the Pothitakis Law Firm will fiercely fight to obtain a fair resolution of the claim even if it means a long fight through court.