The injured employee, a 53 year-old laboratory technician, suffered a ruptured lumbar disc when he alleged that a door malfunctioned and he wrenched his back while attempting to open it. His condition required surgery that he underwent. He was left with neurological deficits that prevented a return to his previous work.
The employee, who earned an average weekly wage of $ 950.00, was receiving Section 34 benefits of $ 570.00 per week until his benefits lapsed at the end of the 3 years of temporary total disability. He successfully argued that he was entitled to permanent and total disability benefits which were awarded at conference. The insurer appealed that order. The case settled while its appeal was pending. Proper allocation under the Scioratta v. Bowens decision resulted in payment of full Social Security disability benefits after the lump sum settlement.
The settlement was motivated, in part, by concern that the impartial examiner in the workers’ compensation appeal would have found the injured employee to be partially disabled. Had such an examination and report found only partial disability, it could have negatively impacted a third-party claim that was also pending. Given the significant issues of proof that the card reader on the door in question had actually malfunctioned, that case settled for $ 175,000.00. The workers’ compensation insurer adopted a hard line approach to recovery of the lien that it held on this recovery. After nearly 2 months of extensive negotiations it agreed to reduce its lien from more than $ 500,000.00 to one-half of the settlement, or $ 87,500.00.
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