A man was working as a construction worker on June 24, 1983. He was on the tenth floor of a building. He lost his balance while at that height. He fell and hit a concrete floor below. He injured his head and he lost all sensation in both his arms. His Nassau-Suffolk employer paid him temporary total disability until March 15, 1984. After this, his employer paid him temporary partial disability benefits. The construction worker filed a claim for catastrophic loss benefits. When he recovered from the head injury, the construction worker still had no feeling in both his arms. He could not move his arms or do his customary work as a construction worker.
Two months after the accident the construction worker consulted a neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon found that the reason for the numbness in his arms is that he had a spinal cord injury. The bones of his spine were compressing on his nerves causing the loss of sensation to his two arms. The neurosurgeon performed two surgeries in September and October 1983 to correct the compression. He removed the bone which was causing the compression on his spinal cord. He did not touch or repair the nerves, just the bone. After the surgeries, the man gained strength in his arms but three fingers on each hand still did not have any feeling. He was able to do simple and light chores at home but he was unable to continue with his work as a construction worker.
Four months after the surgery, the man was still experiencing pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in his fingers and hands. The neurosurgeon determined that these were not due to damage or compression to the nerves but were now only orthopedic in nature. He certified that the construction worker can go back to work but with limits. He cannot do any lifting, or do heavy construction work or work at elevations.
During the neurosurgeon’s testimony he said that the construction worker did not have any lesion in the nerves of his spine. Instead, he said that the construction worker suffered from an unstable neck due to the injury he sustained from his fall at the job site. When he moved his neck a certain way, he would experience tingling and loss of sensation in some part of his arms and hands. This meant that his neck bone was compressing on his nerves in the neck area of his spine. For this reason, the neurosurgeon relieved the pressure in his neck by removing the bone that was compressing on the nerves. He also rendered an opinion that because of the unstable neck of the construction worker, he would no longer be able to do any construction work whatsoever.
Because of the neurosurgeon’s testimony, the deputy commissioner awarded catastrophic benefits amounting to $400 weekly beginning June 24, continuing for 26 weeks. The commissioner based his ruling on the fact that the man suffered from an unstable neck and would be unable to use his arms to do any kind of activity. He then ruled that because the man was unable to use both his arms until the surgical intervention, he finds that the construction worker must have suffered nerve damage and trauma to his nervous system. He ruled that the construction worker was entitled to catastrophic benefits.
The employer appealed this finding. The only question is whether or not he is entitled to catastrophic benefits for the loss of the use of both his arms.
The Court reversed the commissioner’s order. The Court ruled that catastrophic benefits can be awarded only if there is organic damage to the nerves; if there are any lesions or injury or trauma to the nerves off the spine. There being no trauma to the nerves in this case as testified to by the neurosurgeon, the construction worker is not entitled to catastrophic benefits.
Did you suffer an injury at the job site? Did your injury cause you to lose sensation or feeling in your arms? Are you thinking of filing a claim for catastrophic benefits in addition to disability benefits? You need legal advice from a Florida Spinal Injury lawyer. A Florida Spinal injury attorney can help explain to you the different benefits you can claim for your injury. At Stephen Bilkis and Associate, they have Florida Spinal Injury attorneys on staff who can help you file your claim and they can help you present evidence proving your injury and damage to your nerves. Come and visit Stephen Bilkis and Associates. Speak with their Florida Spinal Injury lawyers on staff.