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 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 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 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Thomas Atkinson and Dana Gerber Honored As Work Comp Experts By Super Lawyer Magazine.

Every year Super Lawyers magazine conducts an exhaustive selection process to recognize the very best lawyers in Minnesota.  Once again in 2016 our firms founder Tom Atkinson was selected as a workers compensation Super Lawyer.  In addition attorney Dana Gerber was selected as a Rising Star.  Finally, partner Kerry Atkinson has been recognized by the Minnesota State Bar Association as a "civil trial specialist", one of the very few practicing Minnesota workers compensation experts honored with this recognition.

All of the attorneys at Atkinson Law Office have a unique experience in that we all are former insurance company attorneys.  Having formerly represented employers and insurers we have learned ALL of the secrets that we share with our clients to help them maximize their workers compensation benefits.  We often receive calls from injured workers who are "kicking the tire" to learn about work comp.  We welcome those calls, we encourage those calls. What is surprising is how little most injured workers actually know about their rights to benefits AND how often the insurance company adjusters are improperly paying their claims and benefits.  In some cases injured workers like you are being directed to doctors that have secret relationships with the insurance company and aren't really looking out for you.  In others they are simply paying you the incorrect vocational rehab and wage benefits.

Every single day our Super Lawyers talk to clients like you and happily give them free advice, recommendations, share some secrets and send them on their way.  Unfortunately though more often than not we learn that benefits are being paid improperly or not at all.  We offer free consultations and our phones are answered 24 hours day, 7 days every week at 651-333-3636.  Learn more about our Super Lawyers and expert workers compensation attorneys at our website

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Atkinson Law Office Wins Minnesota's First Work Related Medical Marijuana Case!

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog article about the expansion of medical marijuana as a tool for treating chronic pain and muscle spasm.  For those who are new to the changes in Minnesota law, in 2015 medical marijuana use was expanded through rules changes by our state legislators and Governor Mark Dayton.  By the summer of 2016 medial marijuana can now be prescribed for pain purposes alone.  Prior to this legislative change, medical marijuana was primarily allowed to only treat terminally ill patients.  No more!

For those of us who represent injured workers, we have noticed dramatic changes in the use of prescription narcotics and opioids in treating chronic and often intractable pain.  Gone are the days when Oxycodone or Percocet are prescribed for months or years to treat chronic pain.  Now a cost effective and far less addictive alternative is being allowed as an effective potential tool by medical practitioners to replace opioids and narcotics.  And Atkinson Law Office is proud to be leading the charge in this change.

In the fall of 2015 Atkinson Law Office was contacted by an injured Minnesota workers compensation claimant who suffers from chronic pain.  He fought long and hard to avoid using narcotic medications following his return to full time employment.  Despite multiple spine surgeries and hard work to retrain himself, he was still plagued by chronic muscle spasm and pain.  Working with the injured worker, Atkinson Law Office filed a claim petition seeking payment of medical marijuana for our client.  Though the insurance company initially fought our efforts, through skillful advocacy for our client the insurance company eventually was force to agree to pay for his medical marijuana.   At a fraction of the cost of narcotic medications, medical marijuana also has far less addictive properties than narcotics and is a reasonable alternative to control pain and muscle spasm.  Atkinson Law couldn't be prouder in being Minnesota's first successful medical marijuana victory in a workers compensation claim.  

If you or a loved one has sustained a work related injury, the lawyers of Atkinson Law are tenacious fighters in helping you recovery the benefits you deserve.  With over 50 years of combined legal expertise we specialize in workers compensation.  Every year we help injured workers recover millions of dollars in workers compensation benefits.  Contact us today for a FREE consultation.  There is never a fee to speak to our workers compensation experts.  Call 651-333-3636 today!  We have operators workers 24 hours/day 7 days/week ready to hep you speak with a real live attorney.