$346,000 – WORKERS COMPENSATION CLAIMS AND HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT
Settlement was obtained for a 34 year old school teacher who claimed work related injury to her neck, back, shoulders, knees and head suffered during two separate work related accidents. She initially sustained injury when she was caused to slip and fall due to a foreign substance on the floor and she received conservative treatment for injuries to her head, neck, back, shoulders and knees. While she was getting authorized medical treatment, she returned to work and was punched in the stomach by a student running down the hallway during a fire drill. She re-injured her back and claimed aggravation of her neck and knee injuries. She received additional treatment for a brief period and returned to work.
She was required to miss a substantial amount of work for unrelated personal reasons and believed that she became the victim of harassment and hostility by her employer. She had two episodes at school where she passed out and had to be hospitalized. Ultimately after months of neurological testing, it was determined that she was suffering from depression and migraine headache, but no physical injury. She was unable to work for almost an entire school year. She was denied workers compensation benefits because her employer did not believe her medical condition was work related and because she did not receive treatment from an authorized workers compensation physician, both requirements in order to receive benefits. Her non-authorized treating physicians would not confirm that her migraine condition was from her work accidents and believed she had a long medical history of migraine headaches and depression that predated all the work related events.
A long legal battle followed with years of court hearing, multiple medical expert reports and Union grievances. The Union grievance process failed and client was denied benefits by an arbitrator. The client then attempted to bring a claim through the State of New Jersey and was told she did not have a viable claim for work place harassment or discrimination. This office demanded a trial in workers compensation court with the hope of proving that her medical conditions were all work accident related and were medically disabling her from her job as a teacher. She had received substantial medical treatment that was not paid for by her workers compensation carrier because they disputed the treatment was related, her personnal health insurance paid the medical bills but demanded reimbursement if she recovered from workers compensation carrier or school board.
Numerous conferences were held between the School Board Attorney, workers compensation attorney and this office. The School Board demanded job termination with no benefits and a small workers compensation settlement. Client acknowledged it would not be healthy or professionally feasible for her to return to the school district, but for her to resign we argued that she would need to be compensated financially and also receive back pay, health benefits, professional raises and job title designation pursuant to her Union contract.
The School Board argued she was constantly absent from work and had a history that pre-dated all the injury claims of taking off more time than she was permitted by contract. She had filed Union grievances regarding her pre injury absences and had lost each after it was determined that she did not have a valid medical excuse. The Board also argued that her medical records contained a long history of migraine headaches as well as severe prior shoulder injury from another part time job many years prior to her present claim. Her health insurance carrier argued that if my claims were successful, they would be entitled to reimbursement of medical bills paid out because the treatment was work related. The bills claimed for reimbursement were over $50,000. This office spent almost a year negotiating with the private health insurance carrier to reduce the reimbursement figure. During multiple pre-trial conferences, the Judge indicated his concern regarding success of the medical claim, stating he did not feel the medical history and the claim for aggravation of migraine headache were substantiated by the medical records. He did not believe the episodes where client passed out could have been related to employment and questioned the credibility of that aspect of the claim.
The matter was settled globally (all three claim petitions) for a gross settlement of $346,000, broken down as $250,000 for work related injuries and $96,000 in employment benefits. The benefits received included all back pay for extended periods of absence, pay increase for raises she had been denied due to excessive absence, all title promotions denied to her, reimbursement for health insurance benefits client was forced to pay during her absence, as well as six (6) months of payment for COBRA benefits that had been denied to her and a favorable letter of recommendation. Finally, this office was able to negotiate that the Board would pay more than half of the client’s legal fees.
The matter was conferenced by the Court and after 4 hours of negotiations, the matter resolved.