Spine & Disc Injuries

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TULSA & OKLAHOMA CITY SPINE & DISC INJURIES (BACK & NECK INJURIES)

When it comes to work-related injuries, spine and disc injuries predominate at the Oklahoma City & Tulsa Workmens Comp Court. Lifting injuries, falls, and even direct trauma to the back and neck can lead to serious and permanent anatomical changes to the spine and surrounding structures. Recovery times and treatment for these type of cases can be complicated and protracted–leading to much litigation between employers, workmen’s comp insurance companies, injured workers, attorneys, lawyers and others involved in the Oklahoma Workmens’ Comp system. THE ASH LAW FIRM has handled thousands of spine and disc injury claims before the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court. Call us to discuss your back & neck case settlement.

Ruptured disc, herniated disc, bulging disc and even “slipped disc” can be the terms used to describe the problem. However denominated, injured workers simply know these conditions to be painful. In contrast, employers, their insurance companies, attorneys & lawyers like to instead refer to these conditions as simple “soft-tissue” injuries, as recent changes in the Oklahoma Workmens Compensation Law severely restrict the duration and amount of benefits available to an injured worker for these so-called “soft-tissue” cases–as will be discussed more fully and in detail below. In fact, most employers and their lawyers make every effort to direct their injured employees to doctors of their choosing to obtain a “soft tissue” designation so as to unfairly limit the cost and duration of a back or neck injury case.

Sophisticated diagnostic studies called myelograms, CT scans, MRI scans, discograms and the like are absolutely necessary to properly diagnose disc and spine injuries and properly prepare a disc, spine, back, or neck injury case for the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workmen’s Compensation Court. It is easy to grasp that an employer &/or its attorney or lawyer will attempt to limit an injured worker’s access to such tests to avoid the cost of the test itself–as these tests can be quite costly to run and interpret. Less obvious is the reality that employers will deny or delay access to such medically indicated studies since the results of such testing can and does in many cases reveal a serious condition needing extensive medical treatment, possibly even surgery. Finally, as indicated above, since employers strive to define your disc or spine injury as merely ‘soft tissue’, these tests can prove otherwise, increasing the cash value of your case significantly before the Oklahoma City & Tulsa Workmens’ Compensation Court. Make no mistake about it, your employer will resist any testing which could ultimately increase the settlement value of your Oklahoma workmans comp claim.

Instead of running appropriate testing your employer, its insurance company, lawyers & Tulsa injury attorneys may opt instead to offer you simple x-rays of your spine. Such testing merely reveals bone, completely ignoring the supporting structures located in the hurt workers’ neck & back, most notably the patient’s intervertebral discs. In most cases a simple x-ray of an injured worker’s spine will not be sufficient to properly document the employee’s neck &/or back injury before the Oklahoma City & Tulsa Workman’s Comp Court. In fact–many injured workers suffering from disc injuries so serious only surgery can repair the problem will have negative findings on x-ray studies. Furthermore, delay in getting the proper testing and treatment for your spine or disc injury can and will result in severe and permanent nerve damage. Therefore, it is imperative that you put your health and your family’s well being first and get the testing and treatment you need without delay, in spite of your employer’s contrary interest in paying as little as it can to resolve & settle your neck &/or back surgery case before the Oklahoma City & Tulsa Workmans’ Comp Court.

EMPLOYER LIABILITY FOR WORK-RELATED AGGRAVATION OF INJURED WORKERS’ EXISTING BACK AND NECK CONDITION UNDER THE OKLAHOMA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CODE:

Most people regardless of occupation develop some degenerative, arthritis or other age-related changes in their spine by the time they are thirty-years old. By this time as well most workers have had at least one traumatic injury to their back or neck from a car wreck, fall, sporting injury, prior work-related injury or other type of accident. The question then becomes how this pre-existing injury or condition will affect the injured worker’s subsequent injury and Oklahoma & Tulsa workmans compensation court case. Employers, insurance companies and their attorneys or lawyers in most cases will attempt to avoid or limit their liability for a work-related back or neck injury by alleging that a worker’s current spine problems are due to a pre-existing condition, and are aided in this quest by recent changes in the Oklahoma workman’s compensation law requiring that the work accident at issue be the “major cause” of the spine or back injury. Make no mistake about it, however, major cause under the Oklahoma Workmans’ Compensation Law does not mean the only cause. Proper development of your case by a Tulsa ASH LAW FIRM attorney or lawyer will prevent your benefits from being denied or diminished by prior back or neck injuries or age-related changes in your back, neck or spine.

LIMITS ON TTD CHECK FOR NECK & BACK CASES: THE “SOFT TISSUE” INJURY

The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Law severely limits the amount of time an injured worker can receive Temporary Total Disability benefits (or “TTD check”) for a spine or disc condition defined by the court as a “soft tissue injury”. To be clear–in any case of a nonsurgical soft tissue injury to a workers’ neck, back or spine, temporary total compensation cannot exceed eight (8) weeks–PERIOD. However, any Oklahoma City or Tulsa injured worker who has been recommended by a treating physician for back or neck surgery (including, but not limited to a lumbar or cervical laminectomy, discectomy or fusion-with or without hardware or instrumentation) may, through his or her attorney or lawyer, petition the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workers’ Compensation Court for a one-time extension of temporary total disability compensation benefits. Upon such proper and timely request for an extension of TTD the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court may order such an extension not to exceed sixteen (16) additional weeks, but only if the treating physician indicates that such an extension is appropriate or as agreed to by all parties, to include the injured worker, the employer, insurance company and their attorneys and/or lawyers. Furthermore, in the event the recommended surgery is not performed, the benefits due the injured worker for the extension period will be terminated.

‘SOFT-TISSUE” INJURY TO WORKERS’ NECK, BACK, SPINE OR DISC(s) DEFINED UNDER OKLAHOMA WORKERS’ COMP LAW:

For purposes of the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Code, the phrase or term ”soft tissue injury” means damage to one or more of the tissues that surround the bones and joints of the injured workers’ neck, back and spine (including intervertebral discs & disc injury). Additionally a “soft tissue injury” to an injured Oklahoma worker’s back, neck & spine would include, but would not be limited to lumbar and cervical sprains, strains, contusions, tendonitis, and muscle tears. Finally–the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Act specifically describes that any cumulative trauma injury to the spine. discs, or bones of an injured worker’s neck and back are to be considered a soft tissue injury.

BACK, SPINE & DISC INJURIES WHICH ARE NOT DEFINED AS ‘SOFT-TISSUE’ UNDER THE OKLAHOMA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CODE

Pursuant to Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation law the term of phrase “Soft tissue injury” does not include injury to or disease of the spine, spinal discs, spinal nerves or spinal cord, where corrective surgery is performed–therefore in any neck or back injury case where surgery is performed an injured workers’ receipt of TTD benefits is not limited to either eight (8) or sixteen (16) weeks as described above. However, other limitations on the scope and duration of the injured worker’s TTD benefits may apply and these limitations are discussed elsewhere and in full detail elsewhere on this site.

PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY SETTLEMENTS–BACK, NECK & DISC CASES

Oklahoma & Tulsa Workers Comp Court rules do not treat neck, back, disc, and other spine injury conditions as ‘scheduled’ injuries. Injured Oklahoma workers and their attorneys & lawyers need to understand that the Oklahoma Worker’s Comp Court awards permanent partial disability (or ‘PPD”) settlements & judgments for injury to the workers neck, back, & spine under the ’other Cases’ provision of the Oklahoma Workers’ Comp Act. That “OTHER CASES” provision states that for neck, back, spine & disc injury disabilities, which disabilities result in loss of use of any portion of an employee’s spine, back & or neck, and which disabilities are partial in character but permanent in quality all as determined by the Oklahoma or Tulsa Workers Compensation Court, disability will mean the percentage of permanent impairment to the employee’s spine.

For the purpose of making physical or anatomical PPD impairment ratings to the back, neck or spine, physicians must use criteria established by the AMA guides. The compensation and permanent settlement ordered paid by the Worker’s Compensation Court will be seventy percent (70%) of the employee’s average weekly wage (the computation of which is discussed elsewhere on this site) for the number of weeks which the partial disability of the worker’s neck &/or back injury bears to five hundred (500) weeks. Finally–according to the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Law–all permanent partial disability evaluations of an injured employee’s spine, back or neck must include an apportionment of injury causation, if the worker has pre-existing injury or disability to these body parts.

The monetary amount of permanent partial disability for neck, spine, back and disc injuries can be found by consulting the following chart: PPD-CHARTS1

PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY SETTLEMENTS-BACK, SPINE & DISC CASES

Due to the severe and longstanding functional limitations and chronic pain resulting from back, spine, disc and neck injuries many hurt Oklahoma City & Tulsa area workers are no longer able to perform competitive work activity on a sustained basis. This unfortunate and all too common result may well entitle such worker to Workers’ Compensation Permanent Total Disability (“PTD”) benefits. In this regard the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Code provides that in any case of “total disability adjudged to be permanent”, seventy percent (70%) of the injured employee’s average weekly wages will be paid to the worker during the continuance of the disability and until such time as the employee reaches the age of one-hundred-percent Social Security retirement (currently age 65) or for a period of fifteen (15) years, whichever is the longer. However–attorneys and lawyers should note that in the event the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workers’ Compensation Court awards both permanent partial and permanent total disability benefits for the same back, neck or spine injury, the permanent total disability award will not be due and payable until the permanent partial disability award is paid in full.

Serious back and neck injuries will permanently change your lifestyle and your family’s economic future. It is absolutely necessary that you get to an appropriate Tulsa or Oklahoma City spine specialist for treatment and receive the diagnostic testing your condition deserves. Despite your employer’s assertions to the contrary, with proper preparation of your Oklahoma Workers Comp case by one of our attorneys or lawyers you do have the right to be treated by a physician or surgeon of you or your attorneys or lawyers choosing. Exercise this and your other rights under the Oklahoma workmans compensation law and protect your health and financial well-being. Please contact one of our attorneys or lawyers for a free analysis of your disc or spine injury case today. We have handled literally thousands of these type of cases and know how to get you the treatment, rehabilitation and cash settlement you deserve.

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