Category Archives: medical treatment

Watching a Paraplegic Walk!: A Work Comp Success Story

The ReWalk Device

I just witnessed someone without the use of their legs actually walk!

A young paraplegic—supposedly bound to a wheelchair on a permanent basis—used a robotic device and actually stood upright and walked forward.  The emotions involved defy adequate description, especially for someone included on the team that made this event happened.

http://www.cbs58.com/clip/13165226/technology-and-generosity-help-local-man-to-walk-again

Click here to watch the amazing video of a paraplegic walking!

This story begins, like many work injuries, with an unexpected traumatic event.  On November 13, 2008, Matt Nevaranta was a 22-year-old working a construction job in hopes of saving enough money to continue his college career.  Those dreams were cut short when 3,000 pounds of metal forms fell on Matt, severing his spinal cord.  Matt was lucky to be alive.  However, the injury damage resulted in permanent paraplegia—an inability to use his legs and all bodily functions below his waist.   Matt presumably was constrained to a wheelchair for his life.

For many individuals, such an injury could drastically alter their outlook on life.  Matt, though, is a unique young man, who I had the privilege to get to know and represent as his worker’s compensation attorney.  Despite his condition, Matt remained positive and persevered daily.  He continued to better himself since his traumatic injury.

Matt vigorously pursued his educational opportunities.  After the initial shock and recovery from the injury, Matt reenrolled in college, beginning online.  He ultimately attended full-time at Cardinal Stritch University (in Milwaukee, WI)—actually driving himself and using his wheelchair for classes.  While many worker’s compensation insurance companies demean or question the motivation level of injured workers, Matt disproved those misplaced assumptions.  Matt graduated from Cardinal Stritch in the spring 2016 while his bachelor’s degree.  Moreover, he volunteers at the Milwaukee County Courthouse in a legal clinic, and he now has applied for law school!

Matt also forcefully pursued his physical betterment and the necessary medical equipment.  Under the Worker’s Compensation law, an injured worker receives medical treatment that is reasonably required to cure and relieve from the effects of the injury.  (Wis. Stat. Section 102.42(1)).   In Matt’s case, his worker’s compensation insurance company provided a number of medical items since the injury, including a seated wheelchair, an upright wheelchair, and home and car accommodation modifications.  None of this treatment, however, resulted in Matt walking.

ReWalk allowed Matt to walk.  ReWalk is a wearable robotic, motorized exoskeleton that allows individuals with spinal cord injuries to stand upright and actually walk.   During my representation, Matt asked if his worker’s compensation insurance company would pay for the ReWalk device.   Matt met all of the necessary criteria (as established by ReWalk) and had medical clearance to obtain the device.  More importantly, Matt’s treating spinal cord specialist and psychologist provided their medical opinions about the significant physical and psychology benefits involved in the potential use of this device.

A legal battle ensued.   In part, due to the “not-cheap” device cost, the worker’s compensation insurance company denied payment for the device.  The insurance company also hired their own “independent” medical record reviewer to question the benefits of the device.  We filed numerous medical literature studies showing the physical benefits of an upright motorized exoskeleton for paraplegics (notably, many of these devices have been used to assist returning military veterans).  We also filed medical opinions noting the potential cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, spasticity, life expectancy, and psychological benefits to the device.

The dispute over the ReWalk device went to a worker’s compensation trial.  (Note that worker’s compensation attorneys cannot receive a fee on medical treatment expenses, so this was pro bono representation).  Matt testified about his desire to use the ReWalk device.

And we won.  In a first-of-its-kind case in Wisconsin, the administrative law judge ruled that the ReWalk exoskeleton device was a reasonably required medical treatment or modality to cure and/or relieve from the effects of the work injury.  Thus, the worker’s compensation insurance company was ordered to pay for the device.

The parties struck a subsequent reasonable deal for the cost of the device to avoid further appellate litigation.  As part of this deal, we worked with the amazing crew at Marquette University’s physical therapy department (shown in the video clip in detail), who provided further training to Matt free of charge.   Matt now goes to training at Marquette, and I was privileged to watch Matt in action.

I watched a paraplegic walk!

Such a worker’s compensation success would not be possible without an entire team supporting Matt, including the efforts from Domer Law, Matt’s family, the ReWalk team (especially Craig Peters), the physicians at Froedtert/Medical College of Wisconsin (especially Drs. Merle Orr and Brad Grunert), and Marquette University physical therapists.  But, of course, none of this would occur without the personal drive to excel found in Matt Nevaranta.  Great work Matt, and I wish you nothing but continued success.

Workers Without Insurance?: Sign up for ObamaCare!

Enroll in ObamaCare

Worker’s compensation is not a guarantee of health insurance coverage.  At least not under Wisconsin law.  Many injured workers mistake worker’s compensation insurance for health insurance after suffering a work injury.  Not true.  Worker’s compensation is just insurance for the specific body part injured.  It is not general health insurance for any other illiness/sickenss, and it certainly is not insurance for the worker’s family or children.

There is no obligation under Wisconsin law for an employer to continue to pay health insurance premiums or provide health insurance coverage when a worker is out after a work injury.  A recent attempt to require an employer to continue its health insurance coverage while a worker is recovering failed at the legislative level.  Thus, a worker could be off work after an injury and find that their health insurance benefits have been terminated (or that the employer is not paying their premium portion…which could be cost prohibitive).

In many worker’s compensation claims, the worker’s compensation carrier sends an injured worker to an “independent” medical examiner who denies the injury or extent of disability.  The injured worker–still recovering from an injury–is then left without worker’s compensation coverage.  If the employer did not continue health insurance benefits, the worker then takes a double hit–no worker’s compensation covearge and no health coverage.  The injured worker then has limited means to obtain the necessary medical treatment.

As an attorney, we have the ability to file for prospective medical treatment and have a judge order the treatment be paid by worker’s compensation.  That process, however, could take a year or more.

The best practical route is for the worker to obtain the medical treatment through their own health insurance (and we have a claim for reimbursement to the health insurance company).  Thus, if a worker has no health insurance coverage, my advice is: get covered if you can.  In Wisconsin, that means applying for state insurance/Medicaid (eligibility based on income levels).  The alternative, is ObamaCare.

ObamaCare’s open enrollment period begin a few weeks ago and goes until February 15, 2015.  Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, made the short-sighted decision to reject Medicaid expansion or create our own state exchanges, so Wisconsin residents need to obtain ObamaCare insurance on the federal exchanges.   If an injured worker has no health insurance, I strongly encourage them to get coverage.  Apply for ObamaCare right now.  Get covered.

 

 

 

 

 

Workers Without Insurance?: Sign up for ObamaCare!

Enroll in ObamaCare

Worker’s compensation is not a guarantee of health insurance coverage.  At least not under Wisconsin law.  Many injured workers mistake worker’s compensation insurance for health insurance after suffering a work injury.  Not true.  Worker’s compensation is just insurance for the specific body part injured.  It is not general health insurance for any other illiness/sickenss, and it certainly is not insurance for the worker’s family or children.

There is no obligation under Wisconsin law for an employer to continue to pay health insurance premiums or provide health insurance coverage when a worker is out after a work injury.  A recent attempt to require an employer to continue its health insurance coverage while a worker is recovering failed at the legislative level.  Thus, a worker could be off work after an injury and find that their health insurance benefits have been terminated (or that the employer is not paying their premium portion…which could be cost prohibitive).

In many worker’s compensation claims, the worker’s compensation carrier sends an injured worker to an “independent” medical examiner who denies the injury or extent of disability.  The injured worker–still recovering from an injury–is then left without worker’s compensation coverage.  If the employer did not continue health insurance benefits, the worker then takes a double hit–no worker’s compensation covearge and no health coverage.  The injured worker then has limited means to obtain the necessary medical treatment.

As an attorney, we have the ability to file for prospective medical treatment and have a judge order the treatment be paid by worker’s compensation.  That process, however, could take a year or more.

The best practical route is for the worker to obtain the medical treatment through their own health insurance (and we have a claim for reimbursement to the health insurance company).  Thus, if a worker has no health insurance coverage, my advice is: get covered if you can.  In Wisconsin, that means applying for state insurance/Medicaid (eligibility based on income levels).  The alternative, is ObamaCare.

ObamaCare’s open enrollment period begin a few weeks ago and goes until February 15, 2015.  Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, made the short-sighted decision to reject Medicaid expansion or create our own state exchanges, so Wisconsin residents need to obtain ObamaCare insurance on the federal exchanges.   If an injured worker has no health insurance, I strongly encourage them to get coverage.  Apply for ObamaCare right now.  Get covered.