After 30 years working as a diesel mechanic, Tommy thought his company would treat him fairly after his workplace accident. Tommy didn’t want to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer, but when the insurance company started playing games, he knew he had to call Joye Law Firm. The workers’ compensation lawyers at Joye Law firm settled Tommy’s case for $150,000 – five times more than the insurance company’s “fair” offer.
Tommy Norris did not want to hire a lawyer after he was hurt on the job. The way he figured it, there was no need to pay a lawyer a percentage of his final recovery if he could get his medical bills paid by the workers’ compensation insurance company.
For well over a year after he was hurt while working as a heavy equipment diesel mechanic, Tommy’s approach seemed to be working. When he underwent fusion surgery for a herniated disc in his low back, the insurance company paid him weekly disability benefits for a month and a half before he returned to work on a “light duty” basis. His employer continued to allow Jimmy to work on a light duty basis for several months. However, when he got his final physical restrictions – lifting no more than 15 pounds and only minimal bending, crouching or stooping on a permanent basis, his employer advised him that they could not continue to pay him to do light duty work and they were going to let him go.
This left Tommy in a bit of a predicament. At almost 60 years old, the only work Tommy had done for the past 30 years had been working as a heavy equipment mechanic. Clearly, he was disabled from doing this type of employment and his limited education (he had quit school in the 10th grade to help his family financially) left him untrained for less physical employments. His more pressing concern was how he was going to meet his financial obligations, including his house payment, since his termination left him without any pay and he was not receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
At that time, the workers’ compensation insurance adjuster approached Tommy with what he termed as a “fair” resolution of Tommy’s claim, and said that he would be willing to settle the claim for $32,000.00 and, as a “favor” to Jimmy, he would pay him an advance of eight weeks of benefits while they waited for a Commissioner to approve the settlement.
“He had me believing there was no need for me to get a lawyer involved in my case. The lawyer would end up just reducing how much I recovered,”said Tommy.
Fortunately, a friend urged Tommy to at least speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer before settling his claim. So, he decided to call Joye Law Firm attorney Ken Harrell. As soon as Mr. Harrell reviewed Jimmy’s situation, he had one reaction. “I told him he was getting ready to step into a big pile of it,” said Harrell. “Tommy’s situation was a classic example of why anyone with a serious work injury should get a lawyer involved before resolving their case.”
Mr. Harrell was of this opinion for several reasons. First, Tommy’s case did not just involve a right to recover for his physical impairment as he clearly had a disability situation, which is worth significantly more money. Second, he was treated by a reputable doctor but the doctor is known for conservative impairment ratings.
Even if his case had just involved impairment, he was going to be settling the case for too low of a figure based on the low impairment rating he was assigned. Third, he was going to be signing away all of his future medical rights and he still had hardware in his low back from the surgery. Finally, Tommy was in the process of trying to get Social Security disability and settling the case on his own was going to end up wiping away thousands of dollars of Social Security disability benefits he was entitled to receive.
Still hesitant, Tommy decided to hire the Joye Law Firm after Mr. Harrell advised him that the firm would charge him no fee if that was necessary to insure that he still received $32,000.00 out of the final award or settlement. Immediately after being hired, Mr. Harrell sent Tommy to another reputable orthopaedic surgeon for an independent impairment evaluation. This surgeon was of the opinion that the extent of Tommy’s problems were such that he had a 40% impairment of his spine. Mr. Harrell also had Tommy evaluated by a vocational consultant and the vocational consultant was of the opinion that Tommy’s physical restrictions, combined with his limited educational and vocational background, were such that he could not compete on the open job market.
With a hearing approaching in October, Tommy’s case was settled on the day of the hearing on terms which were drastically different than those he had been about to accept a few months before.
First, the insurance carrier agreed to settle the claim for $160,000.00, five times the amount of the “fair” offer the adjuster had made to Tommy when he was unrepresented. Second, the insurance carrier agreed to provide Tommy with lifetime medical coverage for any complications related to the hardware which had been placed in his back during his surgery.
Third, Mr. Harrell was able to use structured language in the settlement agreement to allow Tommy’s monthly Social Security disability benefit to be increased from approximately $700.00 to close to $2,000.00 per month. For his part, Mr. Harrell is just glad that Tommy acted before it was too late.
“I shudder to think of how many workers do exactly what Tommy was about to do because they are convinced that hiring a lawyer will cut into their recovery,” said Harrell. “That is no negative reflection on Tommy – I am sure I wouldn’t be much of a diesel mechanic but he had no business trying to be his own lawyer.
Bottom line, if you have a serious injury, you need to get a competent lawyer’s assistance. Obviously, we would love to be those lawyers but there are plenty of good lawyers out there – just make sure you find one.”
“The way I look at it, I was almost snookered,” said Tommy. “I really did not want to hire a lawyer but I thank God that I did.”