Richard N. Shapiro, attorney
R. Hughes, paralegal
A. Monroe, legal assistant
Our client worked at a Virginia (VA) warehouse distribution center premises in the western part of Virginia. While walking along a safety walkway designated for no forklifts, suddenly a forklift operator moving equipment backed his forklift onto our client's foot. Our client suffered a crush injury and was taken to an emergency room. The forklift operator was actually employed by a different third-party company from our client’s employer, which operated the actual warehouse, in this “premises injury” case.
Related Case Result:
KEY LEGAL STRATEGY:
Our VA personal injury law firm was retained to pursue the claim against the negligent forklift operator who worked for the third-party company. We assisted the worker in locating a separate workers' compensation attorney for her workers' compensation claim which is pending as of the settlement date. The worker started treating with an orthopedic doctor and it became clear that her foot and ankle injury would become a permanent one because it was not capable of a surgical repair.
A crush injury damages many soft tissues and ligaments, and this type of damage sometimes cannot be surgically repaired and can lead to long‑term pain and nerve damage. That type of condition used to be called reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and now is instead called CRPS, which stands for complex regional pain syndrome. Insurance companies tend to minimize claims that do not involve surgery, even for CRPS, arguing that pain or permanent injuries like this are not worth much. In cases like this one thing we often do is arrange for an American Medical Association evaluation of permanent impairment.
The AMA has a book which is periodically updated which allows medical professionals to provide a permanent impairment rating for various types of injuries, of all types, not just including crush injuries with residual pain. We arranged for such an AMA evaluation/examination by an occupational therapist and it was provided to the orthopedic doctor treating our client. We also provided all of the personal injury medical information and lost wage information to the insurance company for the company that employed the forklift operator. The negotiations went back and forth for months and we finally sent a draft of the proposed lawsuit to the insurance company adjuster months a few months before the statute of limitations would run out. Thereafter, more serious negotiations took place and this personal injury case arising in the western part of Virginia was resolved.
The case against the forklift operator's employing company was settled for $100,000.00. In these types of situations, the workers' compensation insurance company gets paid a certain percentage of the money they have paid in the workers' compensation claim - that is handled separately.
We discussed whether there should be an effort to settle the workers' compensation case at the same time as this settlement, but because the client may undergo a future surgical operation, it was decided not to settle the workers' compensation case and to leave it open. Leaving it open (i.e. the workers comp case) means that future medical expenses should still be covered in the workers' compensation case, but that the separate negligence claim against the forklift operator that we handled would be settled.