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.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why Do Herniated Discs Hurt My Arm Or Leg Rather Than My Low Back Or Neck? This Makes No Sense.

Though I am an expert Minnesota workers compensation attorney, I am also a former injured worker.   I have undergone 2 low back surgeries and a cervical spine surgery in the last 22 years.  What I have learned from these personal experiences is that yes sometimes a herniated disc in the low back can hurt the low back area, but they can also result in symptoms in your lower extremities (buttocks, legs, feet and toes).  Likewise, cervical spine injuries can also result in symptoms into your upper extremities (shoulder, arms, hands, and fingers).  Patients and clients are often confused when their doctors tell them they have suffered a back or neck injury and yet they only have pain their arms or legs.  Please don't be confused, your confusion is common.

Though the scanned MRI image I have attached to this blog is not my own, it could very well be mine.  This image shows both signs of healthy discs, degenerative discs, and herniated discs.  Each disc is made of a tough out ring called an annulus and a soft inner core called a nucleus.  Think jelly donut.

The white colored top discs are healthy discs.  You will note they are what spine surgeons refer to has round, plump "jelly donuts".  As we move down we see the 4th disc from the top bulging and the disc below that, a herniation.  This is when the "jelly" ruptures out the side of the disc and can impinge on a nerve or the spinal cord resulting in significant injury.  The L4, 5 and S1 discs (the lower three) are black or very dark.  These represent degenerative discs.  In the more extreme cases, the black space is almost gone and the bones appear to be touching.  This condition can result in considerable back pain and can in some cases necessitate a fusion surgery.

If you have performed heavy, repetitive lifting activities at work and you develop a disc injury of some kind, please speak to an experience expert Minnesota workers compensation attorney.  You may have sustained what is referred to as a Gillette injury and you may be entitled to free medical care, lost wages, permanent injury damages and in some cases retraining.  Our consultations are absolutely FREE!  There is never a fee unless we recover benefits.  Please note that every one of our attorneys as over 20 years of personal injury experience.  If you speak to other lawyers ask them how long they have practiced law and how long they have practiced exclusively workers compensation.  Their fancy misleading websites can be smoke and mirrors.  Contact the work comp experts of Atkinson Law Office today.  651-333-3636 and visit our website at

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Are My PERA Retirement Benefits Deductible From My Minnesota Workers Compensation Benefits?

Up until August 13, 2014, injured workers who were declared permanently totally disabled, had their Minnesota workers compensation benefits reduced by the amount of their public employee retirement association (PERA) benefit.  In many cases this would virtually eliminate their entitled to work related wage loss benefits.

On August 13th, the Minnesota Supreme Court, reversed the Minnesota Workers Compensation Court of Appeals in the case of Sharyn Hartwig v. Traverse Care Center and denied the ability of insurance companies to force PERA retirement offsets from permanent total disability benefits.  The Hartwig decision follows another Court decision indicating that teacher pension benefits may not be used to offset permanent total disability benefits. 

How will this affect you case?  For most injured workers they are very lucky in never having to explore the issue of permanent total disability benefits.  However every year I represent clients who have suffered catastrophic injuries where we bring claims for permanent total disability benefits.  In fact, just last week I signed up a client who is clearly PTD and whose employer was encouraging him to file for PERA disability rather than PERA retirement.  The outcome of this case will have a dramatic impact on his benefits in the amount of nearly $2,000/month. 

Though I say this time and time again, experience matters when choosing a workers compensation attorney.  There are attorneys throughout Minnesota who you will find while Google searching on the internet.  They often boast and make claims that are misleading at best.  One firm calls themselves the largest workers compensation firm in Minnesota when all of their workers compensation lawyers combined have less workers compensation experience than myself and a few other lawyers who practice exclusively workers compensation.  We refer to them as "baby lawyers" for a reason.  Ask these so called expert lawyers how many years they have been lawyers (some of the people you talk with aren't even lawyers) and then ask how many years have you exclusively handled workers compensation cases.  The answers will surprise you.

If you need an expert workers compensation attorney with over 2 decades of experience, contact Atkinson Law Office and Minnesota Disability.  Attorney Tom Atkinson is truly recognized as an expert workers compensation attorney and Kerry Atkinson is a State of Minnesota AND National civil litigation specialist certified by the Minnesota State Bar Association and many other organizations.  We look forward to assisting you.  There is NEVER a fee unless we recover benefits for you.  Visit us at or call 651-333-3636 today.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Do You Have To Peform "Light Duty" Work Following Your Minnesota Workers Compensation Injury?

If you sustained a Minnesota work related injury, it's likely that at some point your doctor will provide you with work restrictions.  You're employer has the two options;  refuse to accommodate the work restrictions and pay you temporary total disability benefits or offer you temporary "light duty" employment.  If your employer does not accommodate your restrictions and the insurance company doesn't pay your lost wages in the form of temporary total disability benefits, contact one of our expert workers compensation attorneys at Atkinson Law Office immediately!

If your employer offers you light duty work, it may take many forms.  It may be your date of injury job with the elimination of any restricted activities; it may be working in an entirely new temporary position with your employer in another company location or it may be with an entirely different company whereby you are outsourced to perform light duty work.  Yes, you read that right.  Your employer may outsource you to an entirely different company performing job duties that you have never ever performed.  In most cases, all of the above examples are usually temporary.

When a client is offered light duty work, I often want his/her QRC to check that the job is truly light duty as outlined by the doctor.  Often an employer will promise to offer light duty work, tell the employee to "follow their restrictions" but then give them work which they know will NOT actually allow the injured worker to follow the doctors restrictions...and blame YOU the injured worker for not following the restrictions.

I strongly encourage my clients to try the light duty job offer.  Whether for months, weeks or in some cases for only a few hours.  Often your physician will provide you with what they think are your likely restrictions but this is really an educated guess at best.  If you try the work and you have significant ongoing issues performing the tasks or develop severe pain, immediately return to your physician.  The doctor may modify your restrictions or take you back off of work.  If your doctor will NOT modify your restrictions, please talk with an attorney before you "doctor shop" for a second opinion.  In some cases the QRC can help facilitate a better understanding by your doctor of the problems associate with your pain issues and the work.

Finally, you should be aware that if you begin working a temporary light duty job and your take home pay decreases because of a lower wage or inability to perform overtime, you may be entitled to compensaiton for your wage loss.  We call this temporary partial disability and it is 2/3rds of the difference between your "average weekly wage" on your date of injury and your current earnings.  The lawyers in our office would be happy to explain this rule free of charge.

If you have been given "light duty" work restrictions by your doctor, chiropractor or health care professional we strongly urge you to call the expert Minnesota workers compensation attorneys with Atkinson Law Office today.  There is never a fee unless we recover benefits for you and you will never pay our office directly regardless of outcome. or 651-333-3636