Falls from ladders are common workplace accidents, but what if the fall damaged a medical device installed on the claimant’s body to treat a non-work related condition? That was the situation which Steve W. faced when he fell 13 feet from a ladder while on a jobsite in Northern Virginia. At the time of his fall, Steve had a spinal cord stimulator (SCS) installed on his body for management of chronic pain in his neck and left arm. After his fall, Steve noticed that his SCS had ceased to function. The SCS had been installed about 5 years prior to the latest accident, and it provided significant improvement in the reduction of pain and increased function. This significant improvement allowed Steve to return to work full time. About 2 years after the initial installation, Steve noticed an obvious dysfunction in the SCS. His healthcare providers were able to revise the system, and, once again, Steve was able to return to fulltime employment. Following his fall from the ladder, Steve noticed much worse pain in his arm and numbness in his leg, which was a new symptom. Obviously, with its history of eliminating pain and improving function, Steve wanted to have his SCS functioning in an optimal fashion. Because the SCS was implanted for reasons unrelated to the fall at work, the employer was reluctant to agree to pay for the revisions necessary to restore the function of the SCS. Steve contacted HammondTownsend for assistance in getting the compensation to which he was entitled, including the cost of revision of the SCS.
HammondTownsend contacted the employer’s workers’ comp insurance carrier to determine if the carrier was interested in settling Steve’s case. The carrier had already paid medical expenses for Steve’s care totaling almost $292,000 and lost wage benefits of nearly $85,000. The parties agreed to settle Steve’s claims for an additional $363,326, plus the employer agreed to pay any reasonable and related medical expenses up through the date the settlement was approved by the Commission. Steve was able to have the necessary repairs done to his spinal cord stimulator and received sufficient additional funds to put him in position to pay for any future medical treatment which resulted from his fall from the ladder.