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.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

I Settled My Minnesota Workers Compensation Case Years Ago. Can I Get Help?

Every week our office receives a call from someone who needs help getting a medical bill paid on a case they "settled" many years ago. The first thing we do is help them locate their old settlement papers. Sometimes the injured worker has retained a copy but if not, we can often we can obtain a copy from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry where the document was originally filed many years ago.  If we strike out there there are other ways for our investigators to track them down.  After we obtain a copy it literally takes our expert Minnesota work comp attorneys minutes to determine that in many cases they may have more benefits then they initially believed.

There are many different types of settlement which have evolved over the last three decades, the most common of which are outlined below.  Though settlement does not occur in every case, it's mandatory that the parties participate in settlement discussions in every case pending before the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings.  The parties can discuss settlement at the court mandated "Settlement Conference", a mediation with an independent third party mediator, or through direct party negotiations.

  •   Full Final & Complete - The most common these days is a "full, final and complete settlement".  This is a common settlement when the workers compensation insurer has denied liability that you have a work injury.  This type of settlement involves the insurer paying you a lump sum of money to closed out all past, present and future workers compensation benefits of any kind.  In exchange for the lump sum payment you right to all workers compensation benefits are closed out.
  •   Full, Final & Complete With Medical Open - This is the most common settlement when the employee has an admitted injury but the there is conflicting evidence regarding the extent of the injury or whether it is temporary or permanent.  Often an adverse medical report from an "independent medical examination" constributes to an employee agreeing to the same.  This is similar to the first settlement above with the exception that some of your future medical benefits are left open.  
  •   To Date Settlement - This was more common years ago and still occurs on occasion especially when the employee has a very strong case.  This settlement usually results in the workers compensation insurer paying all outstanding medical bills through the date of the agreement as well as a compromise of wage loss claims or other disputes as well.  In this settlement all future wage loss, vocational and medical claims remain open subject to the ongoing defenses of the workers compensation insurance company.
Settlements are voluntary and you are not compelled to engage in the same.  However, our attorneys and all workers compensation judges believe that settlement discussions are a necessary part of the workers compensation system.   Workers compensation is a "no-fault" system and as the result of this compromised system of justice you will never be made "whole" or fully compensated for your injury. Having been an injured workers like you, I can assure you that you will NOT receive "justice" even with a win at hearing.  The best that you can hope for is that the compensation judge finds you to be a credible witness and that you have met your burden of proof in establishing you sustained a work related injury.  From there you entitlement to workers compensation benefits will flow.  However, often the injured worker chooses to settle for reasons personal to them and their case.  

At Atkinson Law Office we have recovered millions of dollars in benefits on behalf of our clients every year!  For a free consultation contact the workers compensation experts today.  All of our lawyers are award winning attorneys and FORMER insurance company attorneys who will show you the secrets the insurance companies don't want you to know.  Contact us today at 651-333-3636.