We recently settled a workers' comp case for computer technician and professional working in Washington, D.C. named E.P. Here's what he had to say about the process.
Donahoe Kearney: Tell us about what you were doing before you were injured?
E.P.: I was working as a computer technician, working under contract with one of the top three-letter agenceis. I think how I injured my shoulder was part of the problem. I was hauling a bunch of heavy equipment and they didn't provide carts. We would carry the computer equipment freehand. Equipment includes heavy monitors, laptops, printer equipment, basic computer equipment etc. We were responsible for installing cables, dealing with network issues; mostly land cables.
Donahoe Kearney: What were the best parts? The worst parts?
E.P.: I liked the experience; learning how to understand the network systems and the technology. I also iked to move around; I was assigned to several different locations. The part I didn't like was I had to figure out how to get there with most of the locations being in DC. I had to take a commuter bus. It could take an hour and a half or more to get to work.
Donahoe Kearney: So what happened exactly when you got injured?
E.P. I was injured at work. I was trying to go under a desk and move it, but it was too heavy. At first I didn't feel anything, Didn't feel anything but later I started feeling pain and stiffness in my shoulder. I took aspirin when I got home but when I woke up in the morning my shoulder was completely sore and stiff. Turns out, I tore the cartilege in my shoulder.
Donahoe Kearney: Yikes. Tell me about your experience going through the workers’ comp system. Do you have any advice offer a person with a new claim?
E.P.: If you get injured on the job, get a lawyer right away. Some people who have never gone through the system don't know that they are not being represented by the insurance company and their case workers. The insurance company does not look out for your interests.
I didn't know anything about workers' comp; it was the first time I've ever been injured period, let alone injured at work. I thought that when they assigned a nurse to me that she was my advocate. Slowly but surely I got the feeling that wasn't the case; she didn't represent me and she wasn't looking out for me. After they told me I needed a second surgery I had to constantly try and track her down and get information. I never had up-to-date information. After the second surgery I said "this is it. I need to find some representation." That's when I started asking around with friends and everything. My sister-in-law's husband had a lawyer who referred me to Mr. Kearney. I looked him up and called him up.
At first the nurse was telling me I don't need the surgery and the doctor was saying something else, because of the tear. I read stuff that said "regardless, you should have a lawyer whenever you're in workers' comp." I didn't have any idea that I was going to win any type of monetary settlement. I was basically calling just to make sure that I was being treated well. I never got the feeling from the claims adjuster or the nurse case manager that they were on my side.
The second surgery ended up having to be done because of the "frozen shoulder;" because it wasn't moved around after the first surgery. They had sent me back to work and I could feel pain all through my arm and shoulder; even when I raised my hand and I said "this can't be right." I was trying to talk to them and they told me not to worry, that it would go away. I worked for about three weeks and then I said something is not right. I started talking with Mr. Kearney just before the second surgery.
Donaohe Kearney: How is your life now different than it was before you got injured? What are some of the adaptations you have had to make?
E.P.: It's never the same. I can always feel something there, but not as painful as it was. Now my work is different: I'm mostly sitting, troubleshooting routers and switches Basically I'm monitoring the wide area network now and global networks in the WAN system, as well as devices. I like it pretty good; it's more hours than they said and you have to go to night shift every three months. They changed the contract after I was hired. But it's a better position. My job now is mostly seated, monitoring.
Donahoe Kearney: Tell me about settling your case, and what your future looks like.
E.P.: I really don't have a lot of retirement money and so I put it in the savings account. The settlement increased our savings.
Donahoe Kearney: Thanks, E.P. for telling us your story. Best of luck to you!