Yearly Archives: 2010

The Problem with Company Doctors, Part I

Workers' Compensation

Lou Waple recently won a case before the Industrial Commission that illustrates two different issues in workers’ compensation. First, the danger of company doctors. Second, the even greater danger of some attorneys….

The trouble all started when First Comp Insurance sent our client to one of their “approved” neurosurgeons. He correctly diagnosed her as having a bulging disk in her neck and eventually fused two of her vertebrae together. Then within only two months of this. he released her from his care with no restrictions at all. It didn’t matter that she was still complaining of pain, he sent her back to her old job.

It got worse when the First Comp’s attorney immediately filed a Form 24 saying that she was no longer disabled — because the company doctor had said “no restrictions.”

It all hit rock bottom when her attorney told her that there was no use fighting the Form 24 because the insurance company was right….

There is a happy ending to all this, though. She fired her first attorney who had wanted to settle her claim quick, she hired us, and Lou beat the Form 24. Then he followed that up with a win in a full hearing. As a result of that, our client is still getting her checks more than year later. Plus, she won the right to pick her own doctor for pain management.

Workers’ Comp Adjusters are using private investigators more and more

Workers' Compensation

Psssst…..! Who’s that following you?

If you’ve got Stonewood Insurance on your case, you can pretty much guarantee it’s a private investigator. Most insurance companies will use private investigators from time to time. But Stonewood uses them more than any other insurance company we’ve ever seen.

“But I’ve got nothing to hide” you say… That’s not always the issue. Here are a few tips to keep in mind about private investigators: click the link in the title above to read the full story in our Article Library.

Key Risk + Company Doctor + Light Duty Job = Disaster

Workers' Compensation

I’d like to be able to say this didn’t happen all the time. But I cannot do that because it does. Here are the basic facts:

  • Our client, an animal control officer hurt his back on the job
  • The initial treating physician took him out of work
  • The Key Risk adjuster picked another doctor
  • The new doctor returned him to work on light duty
  • The injured worker returned to work on light duty
  • The adjuster filed a Form 28T and stopped his checks
  • The employer fired him for “lack of organization” which had allegedly been cleared prior to the injury.

Does this happen every time Key Risk or other insurance companies return people to light duty work? No. But it happens a lot. And in most cases, like this one, it takes several months — and sometimes over a year — for the Industrial Commission to turn the checks back on again.

This article was written by Todd P. Oxner

Wilmington Office Opens


Our Wilmington office is now open to better serve our clients in the coastal area of our state. We are just off of Interstate 40. Give us a call to find out how we can help you.

The McDonald’s Coffee Burn Lawsuit

Personal Injury

This is a Test. Before you read further, I want you to set aside your computer and spend a few minutes thinking about your understanding of the famous McDonald’s Coffee Burn Case. Try to recall the facts and the results of this case. After you have spent a few minutes recalling this case, read the following information about the ACTUAL case. And let us know if these facts surprise you, are what you remember or otherwise.

The McDonald’s Case.

Do we need to say more? You may agree, you may disagree, but it is a fairly safe bet that you have an opinion about the McDonald’s Coffee Burn case. But how well do you remember the Liebeck vs. McDonald’s case from 1994?

Stella Liebeck, age 79,purchased coffee at a McDonald’s drive-through window in New Mexico. And she was severely burned as the styrofoam cup of coffee fell into her lap. She was a passenger in her grandson’s vehicle, and he had stopped the car so that his grandmother, who put the cup between her knees, could open the lid to add her milk and sugar. As part of this process, she was burned when the coffee came in contact with her skin.

The coffee was so incredibly hot that third degree burns scalded Ms. Liebeck’s skin and destroyed nerve endings. She was hospitalized for almost eight days and required skin grafting. Prior to hiring a lawyer, she asked McDonald’s to merely cover her medical expenses of approximately $20,000, but they offered her $800. Ms. Liebeck hired a lawyer and filed a products-liability lawsuit, essentially alleging that McDonald’s was serving a defective product to customers.

Evidence presented to the Court showed that the coffee served Ms. Liebeck was between 180 and 190 degrees. Normal standards for hot coffee are between 135 and 140 degrees. In addition, it was discovered that McDonald’s had received more than 700 complaints of coffee burns prior to the one from Ms. Liebeck, and yet they refused to correct the problem.

The New Mexico jury took action where McDonald’s refused. They found Ms. Liebeck’s compensatory damages to be $200,000 (meaning damages compensating Ms. Liebeck for her losses). In addition, they awarded punitive damages o f$2.7 million finding that McDonald’s engaged in willful, reckless business practices. This figure was reached because it was the equivalent of approximately two days of McDonald’s coffee sales. What was not widely reported, however, was that the punitive award was reduced on appeal, that the jury also found Ms. Liebeck at partial fault, and reduced her compensatory damages to $160,000,and that later an undisclosed settlement was reached for what most people believe to be under $500,000.

Whether you agree or disagree with the outcome of this case, be sure that you know the facts before reaching your conclusion.