by David P. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
On September 26, 2014 a woman was injured at work. She was performing her normal job duties when she was run over by a golf cart being operated by a co-worker. The accident was witnessed by the co-worker. The company owner knew about what happened just a few minutes after the accident. The woman injured her arm, shoulder and back. She required same day emergency surgery on her broken arm with hardware being inserted into the arm.
The employer paid for the surgery and subsequent medical treatment, right? No. The employer paid temporary total disability benefits when their employee could not work, right? No. Despite a witnessed accident and despite having workers’ compensation coverage to pay for these exact incidents, the employer did not do what it was supposed to do.
The injured woman hired our Firm and me about two (2) months after the accident because her medical bills were not being paid by her employer, despite the owner’s promises to do so. (Spoiler alert for injured workers: if your employer promises to pay your medical bills, it is time to call a lawyer; it is probably not going to happen.) Our client incurred more than $105,000 in medical bills.
Numerous letters and e-mails were sent to the workers’ compensation carrier for the employer. They were never responded to. Neither were messages left for the insurance adjuster. As a result, we filed suit against the employer in January of this year. That was the only way to get the insurance carrier’s attention to do the right thing for our client.
About ten (10) days before we were scheduled to try the case and on the eve of deposing the employer’s corporate representative, the employer agreed to accept the claim as compensable and pay benefits pursuant to the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act.
You would think the employer had a good reason for not providing benefits. During the course of discovery, we learned there really was no good defense to the workers’ compensation claim. Our client waited almost an entire calendar year for the employer to do the right thing. As a result, our client’s claim is compensable pursuant to the consent Order signed by the Court.
What does this mean for our client? The $105,000 worth of medical bills will be paid by the employer. Our client will be paid weekly temporary total disability benefits. The employer will provide her with a physician and pay for her medical bills and temporary total disability benefits going forward.
Looking back, had the workers’ compensation carrier responded to me and performed an investigation by interviewing my client, the delay and need for litigation could have been avoided. However, the delay benefitted the employer and insurance company and not my client. Each passing day meant the insurance company held onto its money by not having to pay medical bills or indemnity benefits. Unfortunately, the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act does not have a lot of teeth in it, so the employer and its workers’ compensation carrier will not be punished for its decision to act this way.
We are very pleased for our client and she is happy with the results. It is a shame she had to wait so long and deal with the mounting medical bills and related anxiety that comes with having a lawsuit.
In closing, our client benefitted by hiring an experienced workers’ compensation attorney early in the process. Not involving an attorney early can lead to decisions that can cause further harm to the injured worker. Employers will continue to conduct themselves similar to how this employer acted because the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act does not deter such behavior. We will continue to do all that we can to get our clients the benefits they are entitled to and look forward to the challenge.
David P. Nomberg has practiced workers’ compensation law in Alabama for more than 13 years. David has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. He has been selected a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine as well as a Top Rated Attorney by B-Metro and Birmingham Magazines.