Police Officer Sustained Serious Injuries
Robert W. (not his real name) was a police officer who sustained serious orthopedic injuries when he turned his motorcycle over. He subsequently developed post traumatic stress syndrome (“PTSD”) which he felt was severe enough to prevent him from doing any gainful employment.
His employer paid benefits for a time but stopped after receiving a report from a neuropsychologist the employer had selected to do a medical-legal evaluation.
The neuropsychologist in question does not treat any patients; he makes his living solely by evaluating injured people for large employers and insurance companies.
Not surprisingly, he did not endorse a PTSD diagnosis and in fact testified that my client was probably malingering.
Besides having the client testify, I had his brother testify as to how my client functioned before and after the accident. I also presented testimony from my client’s treating psychiatrist (who as it happens evaluates a number of people for insurance companies) and from my client’s psychotherapist. Both the psychiatrist and the psychotherapist testified that my client was suffering from PTSD for which he needed intensive, continuing treatment.
The judge who decided the case in my client’s favor accepted the opinions of his treating physicians that my client was suffering from PTSD and that the industrial injury was a substantial contributing cause or trigger of that condition.
She ruled in our favor in September, 2015. My client continues to receive full benefits for his work-related PTSD.
Dependent’s Benefits Denied by Insurance Company
Jack D. suffered a serious low back injury for which he underwent surgery. The surgery did not help. He became increasingly anxious and depressed and ultimately committed suicide, leaving behind a 2-year-old son., Tim.
His mother Joan, who has custody of Tim, filed a claim for dependents’ benefits, which was denied by the insurance company.
At the hearing, Joan testified as to how productive her son was prior to his injury and how impaired he was after – as did Jack’s older brother.
Shortly before the hearing we learned that Jack had been abusing methamphetamines for at least a few months prior to his suicide.
The insurance company had a “psychological autopsy” done by a neuropsychologist, who concluded that the primary cause of the suicide was the methamphetamine abuse, which he denied having any relationship to the industrial injury.
After his back surgery, several doctors who were treating Jack suggested he be evaluated and treated for depression secondary to pain. Unfortunately, he never saw a mental health practitioner; thus, it was necessary for me to retain a psychiatrist to perform the same type of “autopsy” done by the neuropsychologist hired by the insurance company.
The psychiatrist I retained testified that-
- there was a direct relationship between Jack’s pain and dysfunction and his depression,
- the depression caused substance abuse, and
- Jack’s back pain had worsened following his back surgery, which resulted in self-medicating with methamphetamine which then resulted in suicide, at which time Jack was devoid of reason (the latter is an essential element in Arizona to win a “suicide case”.
The judge accepted the conclusions of the neuropsychologist who I had retained to do the psychiatric autopsy, and thus awarded benefits to Jack’s dependent son Tim.
This income has been most helpful to Tim’s grandmother Joan in raising her young grandson.
Corrections Officer Held Captive
Lois Fraley was a corrections officer in a maximum security prison in Florence, Arizona. I am using her correct name since her ordeal has been publicized in at least one made for television movie and at least one book I am aware of.
Lois was captured and held hostage for 15 days by two of the worst of the worst inmates, “Ricky” and “Pony”. She was severely abused, physically and mentally, until she was rescued on the 15th day of her captivity.
While she substantially recovered from her physical injuries, she felt she was unable to perform any kind of work due to symptoms of depession and PTSD, for which she was evaluated by a clinical psychologist and treated with medications and psychotherapy by a psychiatric nurse practitioner.
The State of Arizona, her employer, had her evaluated by a psychiatrist, who concluded that she was not suffering from depression, that the PTSD previously diagnosed had resolved and that she was capable of at least part time work.
A hearing was held to try to establish Lois’ entitlement to compensation for total and permanent disability, at which Lois testified as to the conditions she had endured while being held hostage; specifically, a number of threats on her life by miscreants who were fully capable of murdering her.
I also presented testimony from her sister and a former significant other who told the judge how well Lois functioned prior to being held hostage and how poorly she functioned after.
I also presented testimony from the two mental health practitioners who were fully aware of Lois’ condition,. Both testified that she was severely depressed and had numerous symptoms of severe PTSD such that she was unable to work on a consistent basis.
Finally, I presented testimony from a labor market expert who testified that there were no suitable jobs which were reasonable available given Lois’ inability to work with the public due to her severe PTSD symptoms. The defense presented testimony form their employment expert that there were some jobs that were both suitable for and reasonably available to Lois.
The judge accepted the expert opinions of the two mental health practitioners who testified on Lois’ behalf. She also accepted the expert testimony of our labor market expert and awarded Lois compensation for total and permanent disability.
Airline Pilot – Loss of Earnings
Luke was an airline pilot (Captain) for a major airline until he was unable to pass the required FAA physical examination due to symptoms from a serious shoulder injury.
In Arizona compensation for shoulder injuries is only paid when there has been a loss of earning capacity.
The airline refused to pay any permanent compensation. Its position was that since Luke was intelligent, personable, bilingual in English and Spanish and had a Masters’ degree he was able to earn a substantial income even though he could no longer be an airline pilot.
Luke testified at the hearing that all of the jobs he had after spending years in the armed forces were in the airline industry.
The labor market expert I hired testified that Luke had minimal transferable skills but that he could return to work as an entry level customer service representative, which is a relatively low paying job.
The labor market expert retained by the employer testified that she considered entry level customer service representative work to be underemployment in view of Luke’s many positive qualities.
However-the law in Arizona requires labor market experts to provide specific information regarding annual openings and qualified applicants for whatever positions the experts believe are suitable and reasonably available.
The employer’s labor market expert did not do this. Rather, she relied on statistical studies done on average earnings of people with Master’s degrees. When I cross examined her, she readily admitted that the data she utilized did not meet the applicable legal standard in Arizona.
The judge accepted the conclusions of the labor market expert I retained, rejected the conclusions of the labor market expert retained by the employer, and awarded Luke a substantial monthly amount.
Police Officer with Severe PTSD & Depression
Bill was a police officer who had severe symptoms from PTSD and depression after an incident where he was called to a home where a fellow police officer’s baby had been killed by a dog and he was required to remain and “clear the scene”.
While he did not believe he was capable of working any longer, his employer disagreed and tried to prevent him from recovering any permanent compensation.
At the hearing my client testified as to his severe symptoms and why he did not feel comfortable working in any environment.
While I generally do not have spouses or parents testify, I felt Bill’s wife was so credible that I had her testify to “validate” Bill’s symptoms.
Bill’s psychotherapist testified as well. He described the symptoms for which he was treating Bill as severe anxiety, anger, sleep disruption and episodes of depression.
He further testified that he had treated a number of police officers with PTSD who returned to law enforcement and others who returned to some other sort of work. Bill was the only officer he had treated who had not been able to return to some sort of work. He concluded that Bill was unable to work on a consistent full time or part time basis.
The defense had Bill examined by a psychiatrist. She testified that she felt that Bill was only moderately impaired and that Bill was able to return to some sort of work, which she believed would be “therapeutic”.
The judge accepted the opinions of the treating psychotherapist and awarded Bill compensation for permanent total disability.
For an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, contact the Law Office of Stephen L. Weiss today.