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 www.mndisability.com


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 www.mndisability.com 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.  www.mndisability.com or 651-333-3636

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Your PTSD May Be Considered A Work Related Injury In Minnesota Beginning October 1, 2013.

For years, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was NOT a compensable or payable workers compensation claim in Minnesota even where all parties agreed the condition was related to a work injury.  This changed effective October 1, 2013 and in many situations your PTSD may be found to be work related.

What is PTSD?

When someone feels in danger, it’s a natural response to feel afraid. This fear triggers multiple split second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. But in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the individuals reaction is changed or damaged. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger.

PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who is diagnosed with PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or even strangers.


What are some symptoms of PTSD?  

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are three primary categories for PTSD.

1. Re-experiencing symptoms
  • Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
  • Bad dreams
  • Frightening thoughts.
2. Avoidance symptoms
  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
  • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
  • Having difficulty remembering the dangerous event.
3. Hyperarousal symptoms
  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge”
  • Having trouble sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.
If you have been diagnosed with PTSD due a work related injury OR incident, you may be entitled to 100% coverage of your medical costs, wage replacement, and vocational assistance in finding new work or paid retraining.  Since the enactment of Minn. Stat. §176.011 in 2013, our firm has represented multiple individuals relative to PTSD claims including a store worker who was robbed at gunpoint and a worker who witnessed a traumatic suicide.  The attorneys of Atkinson Law Office have over 45 years combined experience handling injury and workers compensation claims in Minnesota.  Each attorney has a minimum of over 20 years experience and are widely recognized as experts in our fields.  Experience matters!  Contact our office today for a free consultation at 651-333-3636.  We represent clients across the entire state of Minnesota.  Also visit our website at www.mndisability.com for more information.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Planning To Reject A Light Duty Job Offer After A Minnesota Workers Compensation Injury?

No so fast.  If you have sustained a Minnesota Workers Compensation injury and your doctor provides you with work restrictions, an employer may offer you a light duty job until you reach maximum medical improvement and it's determined whether you will have permanent restrictions.  This "light duty" job can be almost anything and can even be with another company.  One of the recent trends in Minnesota workers compensation is to have you work as a volunteer.  Light duty jobs do not need to be even remotely similar to your date of injury job.  A firefighter or carpenter could be placed as a volunteer at a food shelter wiping off tables or serving meals.

There are however some restrictions on light duty jobs.  If your employer and workers compensation insurer offer you a light duty job it's important that you speak with a workers compensation attorney immediately.  At Atkinson Law Office, you will NEVER be charged a fee and your consultation will always be free.  Every one of our expert workers compensation attorneys at Atkinson Law Office has over 22 years of experience in litigation and when you are choosing the best workers compensation attorney, experience matters!  Call us today for a free consultation 651-333-3636.  We represent clients across the state of Minnesota who have sustained work injuries.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Minnesota Workers Compnsation Secrets From An Expert.

You have sustained a Minnesota work related injury.  You may live in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Duluth, Worthington, International Falls or perhaps you don't even live in Minnesota.  Our lawyers have handled thousands of workers compensation cases over the past 20 years.  During this time we have gained valuable insight and secrets that insurance companies hope you don't find out.  How did we find out these secrets?  Our lawyers are former insurance company attorneys and many of our staff members are former insurance company employees, including work comp claims adjusters.  Some of our staff and lawyers have themselves sustained work related injuries for which they also had to fight insurance companies for their benefits.  With our insider information and first hand experience we have compiled a list of secrets very few if any law firms can share.  Below are some of the secrets we will share.
  • You do NOT need to sign a blanket employment and medical release for insurance companies in all cases. 
  • Insurance companies will often have their staff nurses and doctors call your physicians and try to convince them to limit your treatment and lift your restrictions.  You can refuse to allow this.
  •  Nurse case managers are NOT neutral.  They work solely for the insurance company to limit your treatment and rush your return to work.  You can prohibit them from working on your file.
  • You have the right to chose the QRC.  Some QRCs are actually employee's of the insurance company.  Can they really be neutral?  You can and MUST chose your own QRC.
These are just some of the Secrets From A Former Insurance Company Attorney we can share with you online.  Contact attorneys Tom Atkinson or Kerry Atkinson to schedule a free consultation to learn even more secrets.  There is never a fee unless we recover benefits for you.  Visit our website at www.mndisability.com or call 651-333-3636 today.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Do You Have To Attend A Minnesota Workers Compensation Independent Medical Examinations?

"Independent Medical Examinations" are never independent.  As my friends from the Olympia Washington law firm WWO Law demonstrate in the video they created, most IME doctors have an agenda.  First an foremost to supplement their income by conducting hundreds of exams a year.  One doesn't have to be a work comp expert to realize IME physician have a monetary interest to find NO work injury or a temporary injury at best. 

Though I only represent injured workers, I'm a former insurance company attorney.  IME's are set up by work comp insurance adjusters with the sole purpose to deny or limit your Minnesota workers compensation benefits.  Unfortunately Minnesota law requires that you attend your independent medical examination if it is within 150 miles of your home.  The insurance company must pay for your travel to and from the examination.  When you arrive at the examination do NOT fill out any paperwork other than provide your identification.  Be polite and respectful even though you know this doctor is likely to misrepresent the extent of your injuries and perhaps even outright lie.  If you have a well experienced workers compensation attorney he/she will be familiar with the doctor and know how to attack the doctor's credibility.  We may have even deposed the doctor previously or have past workers compensation decisions where the IME doctor was found not credible.

Minnesota workers compensation is a complex area of law that general practitioners, personal injury attorneys and young lawyers with pretty websites occasionally think they can handle.  The truth is that it takes many years to become familiar with the laws, opposing attorneys, judges and independent medical examiners.  At Atkinson Law Office we specifically limit our practice to workers compensation and have done so for over 20 years.  We offer free consultations and you will never pay a fee unless we obtain benefits for you.  Visit our website at www.mndisabiilty.com or call us from across the state of Minnesota at 651-333-3636