Monday, March 23, 2015

Your Surgeon Has Given You The Option Of A Cervical Fusion or Disc Replacement? Are Disc Replacements Safe?

Artificial disc replacements (ADR) are a relatively new surgical technique.  Let me emphasize that I am NOT writing on ADR uses for the lumbar spine.  I personally do not believe lumbar ADRs are successful as I have had a few clients with catastrophic results of lumbar ADR.  I currently know of no surgeons in Minnesota who are actively performing lumbar ADR.  Cervical ADRs on the other hand have had excellent results and are now becoming a widely adopted option to standard cervical fusions. 

I have previously blogged on the subject of cervical spine fusions and ADR surgery involves similar initial steps to anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.  The main difference is that after the disc is removed, a fusion is NOT performed. Instead, an artificial disc is inserted.  I recently attended a seminar involving the Mobi-C ARD in which the surgical technique was demonstrated by a surgeon.  It was clear that the ADR (artificial disc replacement) has certain advantage over anterior cervical discectomy and fusions.

Advantages - The key advantage is motion preservation as noted in the image above. Motion preservation may reduce long-term degeneration of adjacent discs, although this has not been conclusively proven.  As of the date of this article, cervical ADRs have only been used in Minnesota for approximately 7 years.  Other advantages include shorter recovery time, less complications, faster return to work and less wear and tear on adjacent discs. 

Disadvantages - There are certain FDA restrictions limiting use of the device to patients needing treatment to a single disc level.  However I believe some physicians are using a combination of ADR and solid fusion at adjacent levels. Lastly, this device has only been used for a relatively short time, and therefore we do not have good data on the long-terms results beyond approximately 7 years in the United States.

Whether you choose standard cervical fusions or ADR, it's often recommended that you obtain a second opinion from a board certified neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon who specializes in spine surgery.  Having undergone both cervical and lumbar surgeries myself, I'm happy to offer you my personal reflections on my surgical decisions and outcomes.  I am also here to assist you with any legal questions you may have pertaining to your open and active workers compensation claim.  Contact our office today at 651-333-3636.  Our lawyers are recognized as Super Lawyers and experts in the field of Minnesota workers compensation injuries.  Visit our website today at and enjoy a free complimentary consultation.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How To Choose The Best Minnesota Workers Compensation Attorney For You? I'll Tell You How For Free!

I have specialized in Minnesota workers compensation for nearly a quarter century.  When I began, injured workers found lawyers by word of mouth, family friends and the yellow pages.  How times have changed.  Now injured workers are tech savvy.  Whether you live in a town in the Northwest Angle of Minnesota or in Minneapolis, most people turn to their smartphones or computer to search for a lawyer on Google.  Clients who come to see me are usually far more informed than they were just 10 years ago.  What a difference a decade has made.

The purpose of this blog is to WARN YOU that there are lawyers and law firms out there that at a minimum exaggerate and others that I believe lie in their internet advertising.  They use terms like "the largest and most respected workers compensation law firm in Minnesota" or claim they have a "depth of experience".  The claims make me laugh at first and then make me very, very angry.  The reason is that YOU the injured worker will pay the same fee whether you hire a lawyer with 2-3 years experience as you do with 25 years experience.  I will tell you that I'm an excellent lawyer who has won many awards and frequently lectures on workers compensation throughout Minnesota.  However, there are other lawyers who are equally as good as I am...not many but I'm not alone.  You have to find the lawyer who is a good fit for you and I have always offered to give prospective clients the names of two additional lawyers outside of my firm to speak to after our initial meeting.  I do this freely and without hesitation.  It's not a gimmick.  I want you only if you want me.  We must fit.

What concerns me more is that you the injured worker will end up a a law firm that is a "mill" and churns and burns files without really having an understanding of Minnesota work comp.  Though a few law firms come to mind, you have to do your research and ask just a few questions.  The most important questions are as follows:  Does you firm EXCLUSIVELY practice in the area of Minnesota Workers Compensation.  That will narrow the list of 75 law firms in Minnesota down to just a handful.  Next ask do YOU THE LAWYER personally have more than 20 years of experience limited to Minnesota workers compensation.  You can now count the law firms on one hand.  These are the law firms you should be meeting with.  These are the ONLY law firms you should be meeting with.  If they do personal injury, car accidents, etc. they do not specialize in Minnesota workers compensation.  They specialize in general personal injury which is very, very different.

I'm personally at the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings or Minnesota Department of Labor on workers compensation matters 2-3 times every single week of the year.  I know every judge and every defense lawyer by name and they know me.  I have tried cases before every single workers compensation judge in the Twin Cities, most dozens of times.  Ask others if they can say the same.  Ask these tough questions and I can assure you that you will find the best lawyer for you.

At Atkinson Law Office we are all former insurance company lawyers with decades of experience handling Minnesota Workers Compensation Cases.  Both Kerry and Tom Atkinson had there first workers compensation hearings in 1993 the year they graduated from law school here in Minnesota. We will show you the secrets insurance companies don't want you to know.   Call us today for a free consultation.  There is never, ever a fee unless we recover benefits for you.  You will never be asked to pay us with a retainer check to handle your dispute.  Call 651-333-3636 today!  Visit us at Atkinson Law Office.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Following Your Work Injury Your Doctor Tells You That You Need A Knee Replacement. Now What?

Years after sustaining a ligament tear in your knee after a work injury, your doctor told you that you need a knee replacement.  What the heck is a knee replacement?  The term your doctor may use is "total knee arthroplasty"  This is a surgery that replaces the worn out and damaged surface of your knee joint with artificial hardware.  It is can be performed directly after you sustain your Minnesota workers compensation injury or even many years later.  Never assume that your old workers compensation case is closed when it comes time to any surgery!  Always consult an attorney.

There are two forms of knee replacement that your surgeon may offer.   The first is a total knee replacement and the worn surfaces of your entire knee are surgically removed and replaced with artificial joints. The second is a partial knee replacement.  This is performed where possible on injured workers with less widespread knee problems.  This surgery consists of repairing only parts of the damaged joint rather than the entire knee joint.

Though a knee replacement is a relatively common procedure, at Atkinson Law Office, P.A. we have found that many doctors perform a knee replacement surgery as a last resort.  Often your surgeon will try other methods to reduce pain and inflammation including medications, injections, and physical therapy.  If your pain and/or knee instability continues, this surgery often proves to be a successful solution. 

If you have sustained a knee injury of any kind, please contact Atkinson Law Office today.  Our attorneys have nearly 50 years of combined experience in work related and personal injuries involving knee injuries.  At any given time we have dozens of current clients like you who have similar knee injuries.  We know who are the best doctors in Minnesota and throughout the country to assist you.  Over the years our office has helped hundreds and thousands of injured workers like you.  There is NEVER a fee unless we recover benefits for you and you will NEVER personally write a check to our firm even in the unlikely chance that we can't assist you.  Contact us today at 651-333-3636.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Was You. How I Recovered From My Lumbar Surgery Following My Minnesota Workers Compensation Injury.

As a Minnesota Workers Compensation attorney I bring a very unique background in representing my clients.  I began my career as an attorney representing insurance companies and employers in workers compensation matters.  During that time I had three spine surgeries; cervical spine surgery followed by lumbar spine surgery and lastly my third and final repeat lumbar spine surgery.

All three of my surgeries were necessary to repair herniated discs impinging foraminal nerves creating "radicular" symptoms in my arms and legs.  I was unlucky enough to have had two work related low back injuries over the years as the result of slips and falls.  The first occured when I slipped on ice exiting my car in the company parking the lot and years later while running to catch a phone call. 

The surgery to my neck was a cervical microdiscectomy and laminectomy.  I had a slightly different procedure to my lumbar spine in the nature of a microdiscectomy and hemilaminectomy.  In my next blog article I will describe both of these procedures in more detail. 

My recovery times varied dramatically with my surgeries.  My cervical surgery had a 6-8 week recovery time followed by extensive physical therapy.  Though 22 years later I consider the surgery a success, I was left with some residual numbness in my left arm and diminished grip strength.  My lumbar surgeries were a bit more complicated with one recovery lasting about 6 months and the last one taking nearly a year due to complications.

I am nearly 8 years post surgery and in that time I have had some ups and downs but I am very happy with the outcome of all of my surgeries.  This said the choice for surgery is a personal decision that you should discuss with you physician and your family.  As an attorney who has represented hundreds of individuals undergoing surgery, I NEVER tell them what to do.  I share my experiences and remind them that any surgery has risks and the potential for complications.  I have seen absolutely outstanding outcomes and some extremely horrific life changing surgical results.

One of the reasons I started Atkinson Law Office years ago was because of my personal experience litigating my work related lumbar back injury.  Call it Karma or simply bad luck but I experienced what so many of the injured workers with whom I had cases against experienced.  Frustration, anger, disappointment, depression, and the sense that this can't be me.  Like many of my clients I resolved my dispute without having to go to hearing but the experience has shaped how I represent my clients.  My firm is dedicated to zealously representing the injured worker.

For nearly a decade the Attorney and staff of Atkinson Law Office have represented injured workers.  Our past experience as defenses attorneys and even claims adjusters allows us to share the tricks and secrets of Minnesota's worker compensation system with our clients.  There is never a fee to consult with our lawyers and despite your fear that you have to pay a retainer agreement to hire us, it simply is not true.  We only get paid if we recover benefits for you.  Call us for a free consultation.  651-333-3636.  We represent Minnesota injured workers throughout Minnesota and across the entire United States.  We are Minnesota's workers compensation experts.  Visit us at

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Minnesota Taconite Workers, If You Have Been Diagnosed With Mesothelioma or Other Asbestos Related Diseases Call A Lawyer Today!

Taconite pellets
A University of Minnesota study released earlier this week announced preliminary findings that inhaled taconite dust by miners on the Minnesota Iron Range, leads to serious lung diseases including scarring around the lungs and an often fatal cancer called Mesothelioma.  At least 80 miners have already died from this rare cancer in Minnesota.

Proper Asbestos Protection
Workers often wear masks but NOT the type that protect them for the invisible asbestos particles that are inhaled and embedded into their lungs.  When you consider that professionals who remove asbestos wear protection covering them from head to toe, in reality any and all workers exposed to asbestos in the taconite mines are potential victims.  In my experience those who have worked in Minnesota's Iron Range mines haven't worn any respiratory protection until recently and even then the have been provided insufficient paper masks that simply cover their faces loosely at best.  With these findings it's time for the unions representing workers and the IMA (Iron Mining Association) to step up and protect the safety of workers.  Minnesota's taconite miners and their families deserve the protection that is afforded others who work in the modern asbestos industry.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos related disease, the worker is entitled to medical and wage loss benefits AND you as the surviving spouse or children should the worker die, are entitled to survivors benefits.  PLEASE contact our office today.  Attorney Tom Atkinson has personally handled hundreds of asbestos related Minnesota workers compensation cases.  Mr. Atkinson often associates with attorney Dean Salita who has also handled hundreds of Minnesota asbestos cases.  Call us today at 651-333-3636 and visit our website.  There is never a fee for a free consultation and you pay NOTHING unless we obtain benefits for you.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

I Can't Afford A Minnesota Workers Compensation Attorney. Really?

I get about a dozen phone calls each week from workers who have been injured at work and want a free consultation.  In most cases, I simply provide free advice and explain some questions regarding their case and leave them my cell phone number should they have any future concerns.  Occasionally, however, there are some who should have contacted me months or even years ago. 

Don't assume that the internet, work comp blogs, your family and friends or your old personal injury attorney has the CORRECT answers to your questions.  Minnesota Workers Compensation is a very specialized area of the law.  A personal injury attorney who handles a few cases every year is in no way an expert.  Your family or friends workers compensation case may be very, very different than yours based upon the facts of their case.  You may be entitled to far more benefits then they received.

Experience also matters in finding an attorney.  The internet is the great equalizer.  Some firms like Fields Law Firm advertise that they are the biggest law firm in Minnesota and yet I have never seen the firms namesake, Steve Fields, at the Office of Administrative Hearings where I have been to thousands of times over the past 21 years.  Other attorneys claim they are the most respected workers compensation attorneys in our state and yet rarely handle workers compensation matters. 

I want you to call the lawyer whom the firm is named after and ask him or her how many cases they have PERSONALLY gone to hearing at the Office of Administrative Hearings AND appearances before the Workers Compensation Court of Appeals in 2014.  The answers may shock you.  At Atkinson Law Office, both Kerry and Tom Atkinson have taken cases to hearing every month in 2014.  We have also appeared before the Minnesota Workers Compensation Court of Appeals as well.  Every week I personally make multiple appearance at the Office of Administrative Hearings for settlement conferences, discontinuance conferences, medical dispute conferences, vocational rehabilitation conferences, meditations, and/or hearings. EVERY week!

Finally, there is NEVER a fee to contact an attorney and discuss your workers compensation case.  Atkinson Law Office will not require you to pay a retainer fee or send us payment at ANYTIME during your case.  We get paid directly by the insurance companies when benefits are disputed.  Can you afford NOT to contact an experienced law firm and attorney like Thomas Atkinson.  Visit us today for a free consultation. or call 651-333-3636, 24 hours/day, 365 days/year.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Personal Experiences From A Minnesota Work Comp Lawyer Who Has Had Cervical Disc / Neck Surgery.

Years ago I sustained an injury resulting in numbness down my right arm/hand and pain into my upper right shoulder/arm.  My family physician eventually ordered an MRI which revealed a herniated disc and then referred me to a neurosurgeon for a consultation.  I underwent physical therapy, was prescribed a steroid and eventually underwent a C6-7 laminectomy and microdiscectomy.  The surgery was a success in relieving all of the pain symptoms and most of the numbness and weakness sensation.  I subsequently ran many races including a marathon.

My symptoms and outcome may be different then yours so let's take a look at the most commons symptoms of a cervical disc injury. 

Symptoms of cervical herniated disc may include:
• Pain that radiates down the arm to the hand and/or fingers
• Numbness and/or tingling in the shoulder, arm, or hands• Weakness of hand and/or arms
• Difficulty with fine motor skills in the hands and arms
• Tingling or "shock" type feelings down the torso or into the legs
You may have one or all of these symptoms.  I had them all to some degree before the surgery.
Certain positions or movements such as looking up and down or left and right of the neck can intensify the pain. Often the symptoms of a cervical herniated disc often resemble other disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome  injury to the rotator cuff.  I have actually had clients misdiagnosed with both CTS and rotator cuff injuries who actually had cervical disc injuries.
Direct trauma such as hitting your head, lifting heavy objects, sudden jarring of the neck and/0r head or repetitive actions over time can result in injury to the cervical disc.  These injuries can cause a cervical herniated disc or spinal cord compression, where disc material pushes on a "foraminal nerve" the spinal cord. This is a much more serious condition and may require a more aggressive treatment plan. Spinal cord compression symptoms include: 
• Awkward or stumbling gait
There are many methods to attempt to treat these conditions which I have discussed in other blogs including physical therapy, traction, chiropractic care, medications and even various types of surgery.  You and your doctor will have to determine what is the best protocol for you.  I am happy to share my personal thoughts on what I experienced and what hundreds of my clients have done over the years.  Visit our website or call today at 651-333-3636.  We are work comp experts who recover millions of dollars of benefits for our clients every year and unlike many firms we have decades of experience in workers compensation.  We represent clients across the entire state of Minnesota.