How Spinal Cord Stimulators Can Help a Workers’ Comp Case

Spinal cord stimulation is an option for those who have had multiple back surgeries, but who still continue to have back problems. If your physician recommends getting a spinal cord stimulator, it is much more likely that your employer will approve the treatment. The effectiveness of this treatment varies a great deal, and it is still a very new process. However, for some, it has been effective when nothing else seems to stop their back pain.

Workers' Comp Case

What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

Believe it or not, spinal cord stimulators have been in existence since at least the 1960s. They are used to treat pain problems, especially problems that involve the lower back and leg pain. Specifically, they are used when other methods of pain management or surgery have failed.

Although the FDA approved this treatment in 1989, the workers’ compensation world has only recently begun approving this type of treatment for workers’ compensation participants.

A spinal cord stimulator applies an electrical current to the source of the patient’s pain. In essence, the electricity replaces the pain that the body feels. This tricks the brain into thinking that the sensation is pleasurable instead of painful because it blocks the brain’s ability to sense the pain in that area.

Implanting the Spinal Cord Stimulator

The stimulator is actually implanted into the body using one of two methods. In the first method, thin wires are placed near the spinal column. The doctor will use a small, specialized needle for this procedure. Using this method, the doctor does not need to make an incision into the back. The doctor will, however, need to make an incision to place the generator in the back. It is usually placed in the upper buttock or abdomen area, under the skin. The generator does have batteries that will need to be changed periodically—usually every eight years with normal use.

The second method also involves a generator and leads. Technically, it is not called spinal cord stimulation. It is known as Peripheral Nerve Field Stimulation. However, the only real difference is that the leads are just under the skin instead of near the spinal column. The leads are placed in close proximity to the nerves that are causing the pain.

In both methods, the generator is programmed in a way that will help you get the most out of your stimulation. However, getting the program just right is sometimes difficult to do. It takes time to get the program right, and patients may not see results right away. Your doctor can change the intensity, the area that receives the electrical current, and even turn it on and off to fit your needs. It comes with a TV-like remote to control many of these variables.

Pros and Cons of Using a Spinal Cord Stimulator

One of the main reasons that workers’ compensation beneficiaries like spinal cord stimulators is because they seem to help when doing else does. Although there is a surgery to implant the device, it is minimally invasive.

There are, however, a few cons to using this device. The first is that it may not work for everyone, and not everyone is a candidate to use this type of treatment. You must first go through a trial to determine if this type of treatment will fit with your unique situation. In addition, some studies indicate that the stimulator will work as a short-term solution, but may not work in the long term.

Second, it can be very costly. In workers’ compensation, your medical expenses will generally be covered as long as they are recommended and performed by an authorized physician. Without this recommendation, you may need to pay for your medical procedures yourself. According to one study done in 2011, the mean medical cost for this device over a 24-month period was $52,091. Obviously, if workers’ compensation does not pay for it, then it can cause some serious budgetary concerns.

You must weigh the pros and cons for yourself. What works for one workers’ compensation beneficiary may not work for the next. Your doctor and your West Palm Beach Florida workers’ compensation attorney can help you with this process and decision if you think this treatment may be an option that may help you.

Sources:

http://www.sternberglawoffice.com/a-quick-guide-to-estimating-workers-compensation-benefits/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21738098

http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/back-surgery/spinal-cord-stimulation-chronic-pain

http://professional.medtronic.com/wcm/groups/mdtcom_sg/@mdt/@neuro/documents/documents/scs-fbss-litsum.pdf

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Is Florida Workers’ Comp at Risk Due to One Judgment

Florida Workers’ Comp Versus Employer’s Liability

Citywise Florida Map - Florida Workers’ CompThe case, which is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Florida, is a complicated one in many ways. The family of a man crushed to death in a landscaping accident is seeking to collect a $9.5 million judgment despite the fact that they have already received benefits through workers’ compensation.

The idea behind workers’ compensation is to provide immunity from tort claims. But the claimants pursued, successfully, a suit that was filed under the employer’s liability section of their insurance policy.

Background on the Case

Leticia Morales, widow of Santana Morales Jr., received her judgment after a one-day wrongful death jury trial. The widow sued for damages and won the case in 2005 in state circuit court. Previously, the circuit judge had entered a default on liability because the employer, Lawn Nursery and Irrigation Designs Inc., never responded to discovery. Nor was the employer present or it represented at trial.

Two Types of Coverage

The employer’s insurance policy was in two parts: workers’ compensation and employer’s liability. Thus, the family managed to collect under both types of coverage, or, at least, won awards under each.

This occurred due to the fact that the workers’ comp claim was outstanding when the second lawsuit, which pertained to liability, was filed. The insurance provider, Zenith Insurance Company, finally did settle the workers’ compensation case with the plaintiff. Also, the liability claim was for gross negligence.

One of the major problems related to the case, at least for the insurance agency, was that it let the claim sit idle for two years and never made a motion for dismissal.

Workers’ Compensation Representation

Workers compensation cases, especially those that involve serious life-changing injuries or wrongful death, are exceptionally complex. That means that both sides, plaintiff and defendant, require responsible, experienced, and motivated lawyers who are skilled and knowledgeable regarding workers’ compensation.

The case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Florida comes down to some fine lines of reasoning and, to a degree, fairness, as well as how one is to interpret the law in this specific case.

There is an exemption concerning one’s ability to sue when workers’ comp is in effect. This would seem to favor the point of view that the plaintiff’s claim should be dismissed.

However, there is the fact of the matter that the insurance company made no effort, or apparently little, to get the claim dismissed or to even attend to it. Such inaction can certainly lead to one losing a case by default. This is especially the case when the event is so traumatic and life altering for a family as this one was.

Seeking Representation

For those who oversee Florida’s workers’ compensation system, the case is an important one. If the plaintiff prevails, it brings into question the viability of the exclusion of liability judgments when one receives workers’ comp awards. That could, with over 50,000 workers’ compensation claims alone in Florida in one year, bankrupt the system.