Workers’ Compensation Challenges – Eva H.

We know that nurses and other healthcare providers often have accidents that cause them injury in the daily routine of caring for patients of all shapes, sizes, and attitudes. However, we rarely consider that their profession exposes them to dangerous diseases and illnesses as well. Unlike an injury by accident in which the claimant only has to prove that the injury arose out of the employment by a preponderance of the evidence (>50%), in the case of an occupational illness, the claimant must prove that the illness was caused solely by the work environment and prove that fact by “clear and convincing” evidence (second only to the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt).

This was the hurdle facing Eva H., a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) working at a healthcare facility in Fincastle. Eva worked with ventilator patients which exposed her to a particularly virulent form of pneumonia. Initially, Eva was treated with antibiotics, but her illness continued to get worse until she required hospitalization. Eva went into a coma, and her whole body began shutting down due to the infection. She began losing circulation in her legs. In order to save her life, Eva’s doctors had to amputate both of her legs. She remained hospitalized for 82 days.

Eva looked for a workers’ compensation lawyer on the internet and discovered our website which led her to contact HammondTownsend. We faced several challenges if we were going to be able to get Eva the compensation she deserved. First, there was the initial hurdle of proving an injury by illness that was due exclusively to Eva’s work environment. Research indicated the close nexus between Eva’s work with ventilator patients and this type of pneumonia. Second, Eva not only faced medical issues in her recovery from the infection, but because of the amputation of both legs she faced a prolonged period of rehab as well as issues of being fitted with prosthetic devices due to the loss of her legs.

HammondTownsend approached defense counsel to determine the interest in settling this case. In light of her extended recovery time and her issues resulting from the amputations, Eva was interested in getting the insurance company out of the process of deciding her medical treatment which would allow Eva to see the doctors she chose when it was convenient to her and approving her own course of treatment. She also needed to see that she would have a source of funds to allow her to pay for her treatment. HammondTownsend successfully negotiated a settlement with Eva’s employer in the amount of $245,000, plus payment of all of Eva’s medical bills up to the date that her settlement was approved by the Commission.

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