A roofer falls from a roof—his body harshly jolted at the end of his safety harness. The injury seems clear cut but he was in for a difficult fight for his L&I benefits.
In the summer of 2015, one of our clients fell while working as a roofer. His safety harness caught him before he hit the ground, but he was jolted and twisted violently by the fall. He suffered a debilitating back injury. He applied for workers’ compensation benefits.
Problems with L&I:
The Department of Labor and Industries initially accepted his claim. However, things quickly became difficult for him when the Department sent him to an exam by a doctor they selected. These doctors often make their entire living doing these exams for the Department and Insurance companies. We find they are rarely objective or fair to injured workers. That proved to be true in this case as well.
Unbelievably, despite the obviously traumatic nature of our client’s fall, the exam doctor claimed that our client’s injuries were preexisting and not related to his work injury. Although our client still was in pain and physically limited, the doctor claimed he could work without restrictions.
As a result of the unfair medical exam, the client was threatened with having his right to treatment and wage loss benefits cut off. Our client realized that without representation, he would have no chance of keeping his claim open and receiving his essential benefits. He hired our law firm to assist him.
Initial Legal Success:
Our first step was to help our client find a supportive physical medicine rehabilitation doctor. This physician provided a rebuttal of the Department’s bogus medical opinions. He documented that our client was very limited physically, could not do the duties of a roofer, and showed that his injuries were clearly related to the fall at work.
More Unfairness – This Time from the Employer:
Employers often try to terminate an injured worker’s rights to retraining by offering “light-duty” jobs. These jobs are often menial, even humiliating tasks that the employer knows no one will perform on a permanent basis. They simply want the claim to get closed and for the employee to quit so that the employer has a reduction in their rating risk. It has more to do with the employer’s premiums and less to do with the desire to get their employee back to work.
Sadly, our client’s former employer did exactly that. They offered him a job as a “gate greeter” and a “nail sorter”, jobs not normally found in the labor market. Unfortunately, the Department of L&I wants to get workers back to work and does not thoroughly review the job offers. And sure enough, in May 2018, the Department of L&I relied on the phony job offer and closed our client’s claim without further benefits.
Success on Appeal – Pension Awarded:
We appealed the claim closure order and our attorney, Thomas Moore, filed an appeal with the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. We hired an expert Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to investigate and testify.
She proved that the gate greeter position was made-up, as the roofing company had never employed one before. She also showed that even if such a position existed, our client could not perform it due to his limited English skills.
Similarly, she showed the job of nail sorter was completely false, as the company used nails that came in prepackaged boxes. The expert also proved that our client could not return to roofing nor was he likely to be retrained for another occupation.
At age 64, with impaired physical function, limited educational background and a job history solely of heavy-duty jobs, retraining was simply not likely to succeed.
Based on our successful case, the Board of Appeals reversed the Department of L&I’s order closing the claim, and granted our client a lifetime Pension.
Advocates for Justice:
Our representation of our client lasted three years. We fought for him the entire way, and in the end made sure he got the treatment he needed and the benefits he deserved.
Without our assistance his claim would have been closed and he would have had no income to support himself.
Instead, he now is able to live comfortably, knowing that he has a lifetime guaranteed pension. Workers who suffer serious injuries deserve no less, and Lehmbecker Law is here to fight for the justice they deserve.