NOTE: BOXER & GERSON STRONGLY SUPPORTS ASSEMBLY BILL 5 AND ITS INCREASED PROTECTIONS FOR CALIFORNIA WORKERS IN THIS UNCERTAIN ECONOMY
When a former Walgreens manager walked into the Boxer & Gerson offices for an initial visit with Workers’ Compensation Attorney Justin Litvack in 2013, Litvack noted to himself that the man “could barely move” and was suffering great discomfort as he set himself into a chair and began recounting the tale of the injury that had left him in constant pain and unable to work.
The Alamo resident had been injured on the job in 2009 while lifting a box and had then endured multiple back surgeries in an ultimately unsuccessful, years-long effort to mitigate his pain.
At the time, the man was living on $1,000 a month in disability benefits with a wife and two children. For all of his pain and disruption to his life, Sedgwick, the insurance claims administration company representing Walgreens, relayed a lump sum offer to him of less than $40,000 as the lifetime “value” of his disability.
“He had been seeing doctors provided by the insurance company, and had been reluctant to pursue the case further because they had both been ‘nice’ to him,” Litvack says. “Most people want to trust physicians and often don’t realize that these situations are very different from visiting your family doctor. He didn’t realize they didn’t really have his back.”
Litvack referred the injured worker to a more objective doctor and utilized a medical-legal physician to analyze his client’s level of disability. He also sent him to a vocational counselor.
The insurance company also sent the client to a vocational counselor, but the counselor refused to issue a report regarding the man’s suitability for alternative employment.
“It’s very unusual not to get the insurance company’s report, which was just a further indication there was something very wrong with this whole case,” says Litvack.
As Litvack filed a claim for the 100% total disability that he strongly felt was due his client, he also enlisted the efforts of his Boxer & Gerson colleague Julius Young, who filed a successful claim for Social Security Disability Benefits their client was legally entitled to.
Those benefits raised his monthly income, but still not to a level sufficient to live comfortably in the Bay Area. The increase did, however, allow him enough financial breathing room to wait for the case to work its way through the system.
Last year, a workers’ compensation judge in Oakland agreed that Litvack’s client was entitled to the average weekly earnings he had made on the job plus medical care for the rest of his life. The total sum would amount to an approximate present value of $1.4 million.
The insurance company representing Walgreens appealed the decision but the award of permanent and total disability was recently upheld by a three-judge panel of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.
“My client is 49 years old now, and had been dealing with his condition for eight long years,” Litvack says. “It’s good to know that he and his family will be protected for the rest of his life.”