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Survey of Recent Work Comp Decisisons – Back Injuries with Surgery and Loss of Job

Sturgeon v. Construction Materials Testing; File Number 5039298 (5/14/2013): 56 yr. old high school graduate with additional work certifications in construction; prior work experience includes welding production, testing services attendant; waterproofing steam tunnels, and engineering technician for Defendant; Claimant was originally injured on August 5, 2008, in which he twisted himself, thereby resulting in a “pop” to his lower back; underwent back surgery in mid-November 2008, performed by Dr. Boulden; underwent FCE by physical therapist Bob Augustine; Mr. Augustine concluded Claimant demonstrates the ability to perform job with the exception of the amount of daily 35-pound testing samples; Dr. Boulden declared MMI by late-May 2009 and rated impairment of the lumbar spine at 10%; Claimant underwent IME by Dr. Kuhnlein, who causally connected his injury to work;  Dr. Kuhnlein further provided Claimant with a 13% impairment rating to the whole body and placed Claimant’s MMI at late-March 2009;  Claimant never returned to work and negotiations between himself and Defendant concluded the two parted ways by mutual consent; Claimant has not worked since his injury, but claims to have applied for “hundreds” of jobs in which he has not been successful; only evidence Claimant provided with respect to these applications was deposition testimony taken in mid-September 2012 in which he identified only two companies; Deputy Rasey determined Claimant failed to meet his burden in invoking the odd-lot doctrine, and failed to present evidence in conducting a serious job search; Deputy Rasey further found Claimant to be an intelligent individual with limited employment opportunities due to his age; Deputy Rasey concluded Claimant had sustained a reduction of earning capacity equivalent to 30%, or the equivalent of 150 weeks of permanent partial disability.

King v. Quaker Oats; File Number 5036289 (9/11/2012): 62 yr. old with some college; prior work experience includes about four years in the U.S. Navy and working for Defendant the majority of his life; originally injured on March 12, 2003, when his leg was crushed between a pipe and the back of a forklift, in which he underwent 20 surgeries with the final one being a below-the-knee amputation of the left leg (2009); Claimant alleged the left leg injury extended into his buttocks and low back as well; underwent FCE in late-October 2007, in which the evaluator concluded claimant could perform the tasks of medium to medium-heavy duty categories;  in November 2007, Claimant was seen by Dr. Chen, in which Dr. Chen assessed a 51% lower extremity impairment rating or 20% of the whole person based upon his “gait” and the use of a cane; in November 2011, Claimant was seen by Dr. Manshadi who assessed a 31% impairment of the whole person; Ms. Barbara Laughlin, M.A., evaluated Claimant for employability and determined Claimant was able to work only unskilled sedentary jobs with limited walking and/or standing, reducing Claimant’s job market to about 2%; Deputy Gerrish-Lampe considered Claimant’s age, the low likelihood Claimant would undergo job retraining, Claimant’s work experience, Claimant’s current medical condition and ultimately found Claimant had sustained a total disability.

Knolinger v. Mediacom Communications Corporation; File Number 5036041 (9/5/2012): 40 yr. old high school graduate with his last two years devoted to vocational training in building maintenance; also attended college-level vocational training in computer systems but never received a certification; prior work experience includes initially working as a cable installer for Defendant but lost his employment as a result of permanent restrictions following his work injury on September 6, 2006; although Claimant lost that position, he was rehired by Defendant as an internet technical support representative in November 2007; work experience before his position(s) with Defendant include vending machine server; bridge construction worker; ground maintenance and restaurant worker; Claimant was originally injured in early September as he fell from a ladder 15-20 feet onto a concrete sidewalk, landing on his feet; underwent multiple surgeries in relation to his feet/legs; followed by Dr. Goetz for over a year and did not achieve MMI until late October 2007; Dr. Goetz provided Claimant with an 8% permanent partial impairment to the body as a whole due to the simultaneous injury to both legs; underwent IME by Dr. Stoken in January 2012; Dr. Stoken opined the work injury extends into the body as a whole due to the result of pain/issues in both his hip and back; in February 2012, Dr. Goetz indicated Claimant’s foot injuries could exacerbate low back problems; Claimant admitted his back pain/issues began approximately a year after DOI; Claimant further admitted his current job with Defendant is suitable for his disability and asserts he is unable to return to past jobs; prior to his work injury, Claimant asserts his goal was to become a line technician for Defendant but his injury prevents any such work; Deputy Walshire determined Claimant’s injury was not confined to the two lower legs but extends to the body as a whole and found Claimant sustained a permanent 26% functional loss of use to the whole person, as well as a 50% loss of earning capacity which entitles him to 250 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits.

Campbell v. JJ Construction, LLC.; File Number 5034641 (8/31/2012): 39 yr. old high school graduate with completion in some college courses; prior work experience includes a majority of construction, but also includes short order cooking, factory production line work and telemarketing; Claimant originally injured himself on June 29, 2010, in which he was putting furring strips on a building, stepped backward and fell off the roof and sustained an L1 or 2 burst vertebral fracture, with a 50 percent canal compromise; underwent surgery the following day and was ultimately discharged with a 10 pound lifting restriction; underwent IME by family physician, Dr. Archer, who opined a combined 32% whole person impairment; Claimant has sought no work since his medical release and further testified he does not believe there is work he could do with his physical limitations; Deputy Walleser determined Claimant met his burden of proof in showing an employee-employer relationship existed between himself and Defendant on the DOI; Deputy Walleser further found Claimant to be bright, well-spoken and capable of retraining or re-education; the deputy concluded Claimant had sustained a 45% loss of earnings capacity, entitling him to 225 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits.

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