A granite worker who thought he had the flu was really suffering from a rare, life-threatening condition caused by flesh-eating bacteria lodged in his chest wall. The bacteria entered his body through a cut that he got on his hand while working. He almost died after the first hospital sent him home and by the time he returned to the ER, his body was shutting down. He was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospital, where they saved his life but could not save his legs. Our client, in his thirties, lost both of his legs below the knee. Miraculously, he went back to work for his employer until the business closed. However, his employer’s insurance company denied his workers’ compensation claim and refused to pay our client any benefits. We took the case to trial and won. The Vermont Department of Labor awarded our client permanent total disability benefits and medical benefits. The insurer appealed the decision to Superior Court for a jury trial. After the jury was impaneled, the claim settled at mediation. Before our involvement in the claim, the insurer was refusing to pay any money to this injured worker. We also helped this same client apply for and get Social Security disability benefits, which were also initially denied.
Many people are concerned about their return to work after an injury, especially when they cannot go back to their prior job for one reason or another. I remember one such case from a few years ago. Our client was in his early 40s and his jobs had always involved very heavy work. At the time of his injury, he worked installing and repairing overhead doors. Unfortunately, he accidentally severed two tendons in his dominant hand and required multiple surgeries. He was unable to return to his past work because of restrictions in his hands. We were able to show he was entitled to vocational rehabilitation (VR) benefits and we found him an experienced VR counselor to work with. Within three months of starting to work with his VR counselor, we were able to have his work capacity tested and send him to a month-long training program at a construction academy in another state. The workers’ compensation carrier paid over $20,000 for the testing, training program, course materials, housing, meals, mileage reimbursement, and other costs associated with his return-to-work plan. Our client successfully completed the program and immediately found a new job as a heavy equipment operator, a job that he could safely perform and a job that paid him even more than he had been earning when he got injured.
Our client was hit by another car while driving on Interstate 89. Her car rolled and landed on its roof in the median and our client was nearly killed. She suffered a broken arm and elbow, fractured ribs, spine injuries, and damage to her spleen. A lawsuit was filed when an agreement could not be reached with the other driver's insurance company. Our client's car insurance paid her their policy limit of $250,000 and eventually, before trial, a settlement was reached at mediation with the other driver's insurance to pay her an additional $725,000.
A rehabilitation specialist suffered work-related physical and psychological injuries that caused her to leave her job. In order to find another job at her pre-injury wage, she went back to school and got a master’s degree in counseling. The Vermont Department of Labor refused to reimburse her tuition expenses, even though injured employees are entitled to vocational rehabilitation services, including retraining, in order to find suitable employment when they can’t go back to their previous job. We took her case to the Vermont Supreme Court and won. Our client was able to get her master’s degree paid for and, even more importantly, the decision changed the way that Vermont treated all other injured employees receiving vocational rehabilitation services.
Insurance companies routinely make errors in calculating the compensation rate that should be paid to an injured worker. We recall one woman, a visiting nurse, who came to us looking for help with a number of issues. The workers’ compensation carrier was denying medical treatment recommended by her doctors and she also believed she was being underpaid temporary benefits. The woman had a lawyer involved in the case before but felt the lawyer was not really helping her and so they parted ways. We started representing her and soon discovered that the prior lawyer, the workers’ compensation carrier, and the Vermont Department of Labor all failed to consider her wages from her two other jobs when it calculated her benefits in her workers’ compensation claim. We proved that she deserved an additional $200 per week in temporary benefits, which resulted in more than $30,000 in back pay, penalties, and interest, in addition to her weekly check being increased by $200+. We also successfully appealed the denial of medical treatment, which allowed her to receive the treatment for her neck that she needed.