Spinal Injury Cases and Maryland Workers Compensation
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Spinal injuries can have devastating and lasting affects to those who sustain them. For some who were injured at work it could mean a lifetime of pain management, prescriptions medications, surgery, and injections. For other injured workers it could mean a few weeks of physical therapy and some tylenol. An experienced Maryland workers comp attorney will be able to give a ball park estimate as to the value of a claim if he or she has necessary information including the amount of medical treatment, remaining complaints or problems once discharged from treatment, the wages an employee was making at the time of the accident, future medical coverage expected, an impairment rating and other factors.
See also settlement versus permanency
Permanent complaints, restrictions, problems.
A permanency award will be issued by the Maryland Workers Compensation Commission after a hearing and testimony regarding an permanent issues the worker has with his or her back. The permanency award will be based on just that- permanent problems. If the injured worker fully recovers from their accident there could likely be very little if any permanency compensation to the injured worker. In some limited circumstances, just undergoing surgery or treatment and having scars can produce a permanency impairment even if the injured employee has no complaints. This is ultimately determined by the American Medical Associations Guide to Permanent Impairment 4th Ed.
A permanency evaluation/Rating
See my discussion on ratings.
Wages at the time of the accident
The wages an employee earns may hugely effect on the amount of compensation they can expect at a permanency hearing. Maryland legislation provides statutes to determine the average weekly wage. The average gross wage affects what the injured worker will receive at permanency. Comparing two individuals with the same exact injury and treatment but with different wages can help shed some light on this problem.
Both employees sustained spinal injuries which resulted in a minimally invasive discectomy. As permanency approached they obtained their ratings, went to a hearing and were both awarded 20% to the back. Employee A was a substitute teacher and earned $50 dollars a week on average. Employee B was a construction worker making $1,000 weekly. Here are the number and how it would play out.
A- 100 x $50= $5,000
B- 100 x $343= $34,300
This is an example of how wages can grossly affect the amount of a recover and this same scenario does occasionally occur.
Are doctors indicated a need for ongoing treatment
Expected future medical care usually has more of an effect on settlement than on permanency however it can be a factor that influences the permanency award. If the injured worker fully recovers from the Maryland work injury then he will not benefit from the argument that future medical treatment is expected. However, if a doctor is stating that there may be future treatment needed, or if the injured employees attorney is rehearsed in spotting likelihood of future treatment a higher settlement demand can be expected. For example, in a great majority of spinal surgery cases I have handled there is often expected future medical treatment. In the instance above, a minimally invasive discectomy will occasionally lead to the need for a more invasive fusion. (This is of course my opinion as an attorney and not a physician. Further inquiry should be with a qualified spinal surgeon.)
Amount of treatment
There is an ordinary progress of medical treatment that is provided to injured workers who have sustained back or spinal injuries. Conservative measures first- medication, steroids, physical therapy, and chiropractic therapies. Then the more aggressive treatment such as injections and possibly therapy. The extent of the treatment will give an experienced workers compensation attorney an idea of the value of the case.
There is a clear distinction in settlement value between an injured worker who underwent a multi-level fusion and an injured worker who underwent 13 physical therapy visits. The question becomes more complicated when dealing with someone who was injured at work who underwent 13 physical therapy sessions and an injured worker underwent only 6 physical therapy visits. Likewise the question becomes more complicated when dealing with the someone injured at work who underwent 13 physical therapy sessions, 3 series of cortisone injections, and was offered surgery but declined versus someone who was injured at work and immediately had a discectomy or laminotomy.
Diagnostic tests can play a huge roll in determining the value of a spinal injury case. The reasoning is that there is objective evidence supporting the fact that the injured Maryland worker actually sustained an injury and is not simply feigning the injury. CT scans can prove the injured worker has a massive disc herniation, x-rays can prove the injured worker has a fractured vertebrae, an MRI can prove that injured worker actually has a disc bulges.
It is important that an employee that is injured in Maryland obtain competent and qualified legal counsel to handle his or her workers compensation claim. Consultations are free and representation is on a contingency basis.