Sunday, July 30, 2017

Does It Matter Who I See For A Minneapolis Workers Compensation Shoulder Injury?

I've had the opportunity to work with dozens of orthopedic shoulder surgeons across Minnesota but there are some that stand out above the rest.  Hands down my favorite group is the team of shoulder specialists with Sports and Orthopedic Specialists.  I don't have any personal or professional relationship with these surgeons other than the recognition that if my family members needed a shoulder surgery this is the first place I would call.  They are all excellent.

Aren't all surgeons the same you ask?  Well...Not really.  They might all be bright, excellent students in medical school with a commanding understanding of shoulder anatomy but good hands and good judgement are not universal.  Recently I had a former client who sustained an admitted shoulder injury with a new employer.  He was in a huge hurry to get the much needed surgery completed and back to work.  He saw two surgeons; Dr. Michael Freehill with Sports and Orthopedics and another ortho who shall go unnamed.  Dr. Freehill was about 4 weeks out for surgery but the other ortho could operate within the week.  I implored my client to wait but he was a bit head strong and insisted on the unknown ortho.  Today is nearly 6 months following a surgery where the typical expected recovery should have been 3-4 months tops...my client is still nowhere near recovered.  I have bitten my tongue (and he knows I have) but he is returning to see Dr. Freehill to see whether he can help diagnose what went wrong.  Lesson learned the hard way.

Just as it's incredibly important to hire an experienced Minnesota workers compensation expert, it's also incredibility important to treat with the best doctor for your particular injury.  You sustained a Minnesota workers compensation injury...in most instances YOU choose with whom you treat with not the insurance company or employer. Don't necessarily ask your family doctor, ask you friends, relatives and lawyers who have first hand experience with treatment.  I'm always happy to give free advice as well.  Like lawyers, doctors are not all equal!  NOT EQUAL.  Feel free to call me directly; Thomas Atkinson with Atkinson Law Office.  651--333-3636




Thursday, June 15, 2017

New legislation affecting permanent total disability workers compensation claims

The new law applies to:

  • Injured workers with dates of injury before August 13, 2014 (or their dependents and legal heirs) whose permanent total disability (PTD) benefits were offset by government retirement benefits other than Social Security; and
  • Payers that reduced PTD benefits by the injured worker’s non-Social Security government retirement benefits before August 13, 2014.

The new law does not apply to:

  • Injured workers whose last PTD benefits were paid before January 1, 2000;
  • Dependents and legal heirs of deceased injured workers who died before January 1, 2008; and
  • Injured workers where a court allowed the retirement offset, or where a court-approved stipulation for settlement explicitly allowed the retirement offset or closed out all workers’ compensation benefits. (However, the new law does not prevent non-covered injured workers, dependents and legal heirs from pursuing claims for additional PTD benefits based on the decisions.)
  •  above;
  • is subject to litigation brought by injured workers for additional PTD benefits owed; and
  • is subject to penalties assessed by DLI or a compensation judge (depending on the facts) based on the court decisions.

If you or a family member received government disability benefits and made a claim for permanent total disability benefits under the Minnesota Workers Compensation Act, contact the attorneys of Atkinson Law Office immediately to determine whether you have benefits coming to you on your loved one.  The amounts due are often very large and we can help you navigate the claim.  Call 651-333-3636 or visit us at www.mndisability.com today.  


Saturday, March 4, 2017

I Suffered A Minnesota Workers Compensation Injury. Do I Need Back Surgery?

Though I've been a Minnesota workers compensation attorney my entire legal career, that's the very same question I asked myself nearly 20 years ago.  Do I need lumbar spine surgery.

I was injured at work and despite conservative care, my radicular leg and back pain left me unable to sleep and barely able to function.  Over time I grew frustrated, short tempered and frightened about my future.  Despite being a young lawyer, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to do my job given my inability to sit or stand for extended periods of time; a prerequisite to being a trial lawyer.  I was taking narcotic medications that left me fuzzy at best and only took the edge off my pain.  I want to share with you what I've have learned over the past few decades since my injury and lumbar spine surgery.

Over the years I have handled or represented over a thousand cases involving spinal cord injuries.  I'm unique in being the only Minnesota work comp attorney who has sustained a spinal cord work related injury.  In fact, I have undergone three spinal surgeries since 1992.  Lucky me right?  Twentyfive years later spine surgeries have dramatically changed and in most cases improved.  During this time I have seen aggressive use of lumbar and cervical fusions, the introduction of artificial discs, and development of spinal cord stimulators.

Most lawyers are hesitant to offer advice on surgery because they haven't had the same.  Though I'm a workers compensation attorney, I feel obligated to be a "counselor" as well.  I encourage my clients to explore conservative treatment and only enter into the decision of spinal surgery after the same.  I also make sure that they understand that though surgery can relieve their symptoms, in rare situations their conditions could worsen.  I offer the names of physicians and clinics that have a proven track record of having, "good hands, good heads and good hearts".  I consider myself lucky that my surgeries have turned out extraordinarily well.  I am 100% pain free.

I often blog that not all workers compensation attorneys are equal and that experience matters.  This applies to orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons as well.  Like some lawyers I know, a surgeon may come across as confident and a smooth talker.  This doesn't mean they are either good in the courtroom or in the operating room.  Surgeons can be overconfident of their talents and fail to communicate or even know the long term outcome of their surgical patients.  Very few have patient follow up beyond 3-6 months post surgery.  If the patients having ongoing or worsening pain and are non surgical there is usually nothing a surgeon can offer you and they wash their hands with you.  In fact, in many cases the last time you see your surgeon is just before the surgery or while recovering at the surgical center or hospital.  Often follow up care is performed by nurse practitioners or physicians assistants.  Remember; "good hands, good heads and good hearts".  It's rare to find a surgeon with both.

If you sustained a work injury and want to discuss the surgery, I'm happy to sit down with you for free and listen and discuss with you your options.  A decision to undergo surgery is a personal decision and I will never tell you to do the same.  I will simply share with you what I have experienced personally and in the thousands of workers compensation cases I have been involved with over the last 25 years.  With this information you can hopefully make a more informed decision of what is best for you and your family.  Contact us today at 651-333-3636 for a free consultations.  Every single one of our attorneys has been honored as a Superlawyer and is a workers compensation expert.  Visit us at www.mndisability.com for more information.  Also visit our video center for answers to many of your questions.  Our phones are answer 24/7 and in many cases you can talk to a lawyer anytime of the day or night.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Spinal Cord Stimulators. Are They Safe And Will Work Comp Pay For One?

Spinal cord stimulators have been around for decades.  In the nearly 25 years that I have been a workers compensation attorney, I have been involved in nearly a hundred cases involving spinal cord stimulators.  The first observation I have is that the actual devices have dramatically changed over time.  The first ones were large, clunky, plagued with software issues and not permanent.  They are none of those things now as you can see from the image to the right.

Years ago I represented a "retired" US Marine who sustained a significant back injury.  After a "failed" lumbar fusion his surgeon recommended a spinal cord stimulator.  "Bill" wanted to be able to get back into his farm fields to drive tractors and bale hay for his livestock.  After the stimulator was implanted Bill was a changed man.  His smile returned, he was extremely mobile and yes he was able to get back on his tractor.  I spoke with Bill a few days ago and he recently had a new model implanted that was voluntarily paid by the workers compensation insurer after losing the first fight nearly 10 years ago.

The process has changed somewhat since Bill had his stimulator implanted.  Bill's device was recently replaced because the battery power was failing.  New models are much smaller and  unlike Bill's first model, they can be charged subcutaneously or through your skin.  In addition the software which is just as important as the hardware has dramatically improved.

Over the past decade Atkinson Law has NEVER lost a spinal cord stimulator claim.  NEVER!  There are specific rules that must be followed by your treating physician to obtain approval and payment for your device.  At Atkinson Law we have a very successful model we follow to present a strong claim where appropriate, to assist you and your physician obtaining approval.  If you are considering a spinal cord stimulator I strongly urge you to contact one of our attorneys today.  Call 651-333-3636 and visit our website at  www.mndisability.com You consultation with our expert attorneys is always free and if we get your spinal cord stimulator approved, our fees will be paid directly by the workers compensation insurer.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Can The Work Comp Insurer Cut Off My Pain Meds?

Recently the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry erected hurdle for injured workers using pain medications following a Minnesota workers compensation injury.  The purpose of the change is allegedly two fold; first to reduce costs for insurers and second to stem pain medication abuse.  Having undergone three spine surgeries myself, I know first hand the benefits of narcotic medications.   Recovery from surgical procedures can be brutal.  However, I think that insurance companies have led the way in pushing for these changes for one reason.  Can you guess?  Correct, it's to save money.

Can insurance companies therefore stop paying for your pain meds?  The quick answer is maybe.  But with sound legal advice you can successfully fight them.  As with all medical treatment and benefits, it's critical that your doctors not only document why they are prescribing a particular medication but also follow the newly enacted guidelines.  The new guidelines require your doctor to do the following:

  • Affirm that you can't maintain functions of daily living without the medication, don't have "somatic symptoms disorder", don't have a history of failure to comply with treatment, and no history of substance abuse.
  • Ensure all other forms of pain management options have been exhausted.
  • Identify whether there are factors that could complicate your use of narcotic medications; pregnancy, suicide risk, history of substance abuse, heart issues, etc.
  • Complete a "scientific assessment" to determine your risk of abuse.
  • Explain potential complications of using long term pain pills.
  • Finally you must enter into a written contract with your physician which includes the possibility of random drug testing.

At Atkinson Law Office we have created an easy form for your physician to complete.  This ensures that there is no interruption in medications.  Usually once your doctor completes this form, our attorneys can work with your insurance company to continue your medications.  They may have you see an "independent medical examination" by an adverse doctor.  If you receive notice of the same CALL AN ATTORNEY IMMEDIATELY.  This means they will be cutting off your meds very soon. The lawyers of Atkinson Law Office have successfully litigated numerous cases and successfully helped clients have a quality life despite significant injury.  If you would like to discuss this or any other workers compensation questions with a Minnesota workers compensation expert, call today at 651-333-3636.  Our phone are answered 24/7.  We represent clients across the entire state of Minnesota.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I Fell at Work and Hurt Myself. Is This a Minnesota Workers Compensation Injury?

Well yes it clearly was until the Minnesota Supreme Court rewrote decades of sound judicial interpretation of what constitutes an injury in their decision of Dykoff v. Xcel Energy on December 26, 2013.  Now thousands of injured Minnesota workers every year receive notices that their injuries are "not work related" because their jobs do not place them at an increased risk of harm over that which a member of the general public may face.

Well what does that mean?  To you the injured worker it means you have a strong chance of receiving an NOPLD (Notice of Primary Liability Determination) denying your claim.  Insurance companies benefit because they pay less claims, employers benefit because they pay less premiums, lawyers like me benefit because of the increase number of claims fighting to figure out what constitutes "increased risk of harm" results in more fees, and YOU the injured worker lose.  You lose because often you simply give up and walk away or lose because now you have to fight for your delayed benefits.  You are the big loser in this wrong-headed case.

What can you do if your claim is denied?  First contact Atkinson Law Office and then contact your state representative and demand the laws be changed!  Simply click HERE to contact an expert workers compensation attorney at Atkinson Law Office or click HERE to find out the name of your Minnesota state representative or senator.   It's important that you understand that you do not have to pay any upfront costs or fees to hire a Minnesota workers compensation attorney, including expert lawyers with decades of expertise like Atkinson Law Office.  We only get paid by the insurance company if we recover benefits for you.

You can fight this denial and often we overcome the defense and obtain much needed medical treatment, wage loss benefits and assistance keeping or finding a new job.  Like other injured workers who receive these "Dykoff Denials" and call Atkinson Law Office every week, we urge you to contact us today for an always free consultation.  651-333-3636


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

You Have A Minnesota Work Injury And Need Spine Surgery. Should You Go With A Traditional or Laser Lumbar Spine Surgery?

Like many of you contemplating low back surgery, I was aware of the option of laser spine surgery before I underwent two low back surgeries following my Minnesota work comp injury.  I did a lot of research on the issue before deciding to go with the traditional microdiscectomy over the "laser" approach.  Though every individual has to come to their own decision as to surgery, I feel that treating with a local spine surgeon here in Minnesota is the smartest choice.  That said, I want to stress that just like workers compensation attorneys, all surgeons are NOT equal.  We are fortunate to have many excellent spine surgeons here in Minnesota.

In reading the numerous studies (not Laser surgery center advertisements) I have found that there is no real significant benefit for undergoing a laser spine surgery procedure.  In fact, the biggest downside is that our Minnesota workers compensation clients often have to travel to far flung states like Florida or Arizona to undergo a laser spine surgery.  This makes follow up care, treatment for complications, and building a relationship with a physician nearly impossible and horribly expensive.  In addition, often you need to rely on your doctor for a medical legal opinion as to whether your work injury is a substantial contributing cause to your surgery.  Too often doctors from outside of Minnesota simply don't understand Minnesota's complex "causation" standards or don't want to get involved in an out of state legal proceeding.  This should be a real concern for you as a patient and injured worker.

As for minimally invasive laser spine procedures, Dr. H. Gordon Deen, a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic stated in a 2009 Mayo publication that "there are no clear benefits to laser surgery over more well-established spine surgery techniques that have proven to be effective."   Dr. Deen went further and stated that doctors at the Mayo Clinic neither use nor recommend laser spine surgery.  Having personally worked with dozens of other Twin Cities spines surgeons I can attest that his opinions are universal here in Minnesota.

If you have sustained a work related low back or cervical spine injury and are contemplating surgery, I'm happy to discuss these with you both as an expert workers compensation attorney and as a someone with personal experience having undergone spine surgery. There is never a charge to discuss the same.  I'm truly open to talking to you in person or by phone.  With over nearly 25 years experience in workers compensation and having had multiple spine surgeries, nobody is more qualified than me to advise you with your injury.  Call today at 651-333-3636 or visit our page at www.mndisability.com