I do handle third party claims. For instance if you're a delivery person on a job and you're involved in an automobile accident, you have a worker's compensation claim but you also have a third party action against the person who caused the accident. Conversely, if you're a delivery person and you are delivering some goods to a business and they didn't salt the area and they allowed ice to develop, and you go and you walk up to deliver the goods and you fall and break your ankle, then you have a worker's compensation claim for your injury.
You also have a third party premises liability claim against the business that you were going to, for not properly salting the sidewalk or providing a warning that the sidewalk was slippery. We see that kind of situation, as well as a lot of product claims that come out the workplace. If you're at work and the machinery breaks down or doesn't have the proper safety mechanisms, all sorts of things can happen. I have seen people with severed hands, loss of limbs, even deaths which have happened in the work place. So even though it would be covered initially under workers compensation, you might have a third party claim against the manufacturer of the machinery.
Mostly I do not handle railroad cases because the liability is so difficult to prove. The railroad is immune to most negligence issues. If people have problems with the warning lights and things along those lines, there's just so much protection for the railway that it's almost impossible to proceed with a claim.
Due To My Injuries I'm No Longer Able to Work the Same Kind of Job I Have Been Working Throughout My Career; Have You Seen Situations Like That? What Typically Happens?
It happens! In those cases, you definitely need a lawyer because the way that we handle that is the person needs to see a vocational rehab doctor and a vocational rehabilitation counselor to see what their limitations are going to be, what their impairment is going to be, what their disability is going to be and if they can be retrained. If you're able to lay all that out and give it a monetary value, then that's something you can demand from the insurance company.
Those are the things that really need to be done. I have a case now that I am working on, and this person is a relatively young person. This person is not going to be able to work for the rest of their life and that needs to be documented. They need to see the appropriate specialists to show why they will not be able to work for the rest of their life and have that quantified and proven.
Would Something like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Be Considered a Workplace Injury?
Carpal tunnel could be a workplace injury from repetitive motion, but it could also be due to trauma. I've probably handled seventy-five cases in which the person developed carpal tunnel syndrome from either a slip and fall or an accident. Carpal tunnel can be very debilitating depending on what you are; if you are a concert pianist, carpal tunnel syndrome is a horrible condition.
Imagine if you were a surgeon and you had carpal tunnel syndrome. You couldn't hold the scalpel because your hand would go numb. Even though something as little as carpal tunnel syndrome, which usually has a settlement value somewhere between $25000 to $35000, if you are a surgeon that claim can be worth a million dollars or two million dollars because your profession that's being affected by the condition means you're losing more money.
There are Office Workers and Secretaries that are Constantly Typing. It's their Job, and if they Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Would it Affect them for the Rest of their Lives?
Yes! They should be compensated for that. If you're able to show that it's going to bother them for the rest of their life, even if you're a waitress or a bartender or a chiropractor or a dog groomer or a hair cutter, all those types of professions, carpal tunnel could impact you for the rest of your life and that gives you a case.
What if I was Some Sort of Office Worker that had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Was Discouraged; What Would You Advise?
You have issues if you have a job that's a repetitive motion job. You think that you're developing carpal tunnel from an accident. That's a case for which you need to see a lawyer that really understands medicine, because there is going to be a battle about whether it was your job or the accident that contributed to the carpal tunnel syndrome. That's what we call a causation issue and that's going to be a battle.
That's why it is so important to get that initial medical care. Somebody who is a factory worker and dealing with that widget every day is putting that screw in that widget 300 times a day and could possibly develop carpal tunnel. But if you go to emergency room and say, “Man I whacked my wrist,” you have at that point in time documented in the medical record shortly after the accident. It just goes such a long way to prove the case, whereas if you were the person who waited two or three weeks it really hurts, and that's where that gap in treatment plays out.
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