When a Caretaker Needs Care

Michelle has devoted her life to caring for others, working for over 30 years as a radiology technologist for a number of local hospitals and medical clinics. “That was pretty much all I knew,” said Michelle. “I completed training to be a radiology technologist after I graduated from high school here in Charleston in 1961 and that was what I did up until I got hurt.”

On January 27, 2000, Michelle was working with a new employer in Mount Pleasant. “I was excited to have the job. I had worked for over 30 years for the Fetter Clinic before they closed their x-ray department. This was going to the best-paying job I ever had,” says Michelle. Unfortunately, a rare ice storm hit the low country that day and Michelle suffered a nasty fall as she was walking to a training meeting on the grounds of the hospital where she was working. “Initially, I was more embarrassed than anything else. It was only after several weeks of persistent pain in my back and right leg that I realized I had some serious physical problems,” she says. Indeed, Michelle was diagnosed with a large herniated disc in her low back, which eventually led to her having to undergo surgery. Even after the surgery was performed, Michelle was left with debilitating pain in her back and weakness in both legs. The extent of her physical problems was such that she found it difficult to even do simple household tasks, much less be able to stand on her feet for an eight-hour workday. “Emotionally, it has been devastating to me. I have always prided myself on my independence,” she says.

Unsure about how to proceed, Michelle retained a lawyer recommended by a friend. This attorney then contacted Joye Law Firm attorney Ken Harrell because of Ken’s experience in the workers’ compensation area. As Mr. Harrell predicted, the workers’ compensation insurance company balked at paying Michelle total and permanent disability benefits and the case proceeded to a hearing in March of 2001. After the hearing, the Hearing Commissioner issued an Order ruling that Michelle was totally and permanently disabled and that she was entitled to lifetime medical care for her accident injuries. Before the insurance company’s appeal was heard, the insurance company agreed to settle Michelle’s case by paying her a lump sum payment representing her entitlement to total and permanent disability benefits and agreeing to provide her with lifetime medical coverage for her back injuries. Just as importantly, the settlement allowed Mr. Harrell to structure her receipt of the workers’ compensation benefits in such a way that she could maximize her entitlement to a monthly Social Security disability benefit. Says Michelle, “I know I will struggle with these physical problems for the rest of my life but I will always be appreciative of having a lawyer like Ken to steer me through the workers’ compensation system.”