Visitor Question

Husband reinjured his back at work…

Submitted By: Vaughan (Cheyenne, Wyoming)

In 2014, my husband was working at an appliance repair shop. He was moving a stove by himself and sustained 3 torn discs in his spine and one bad herniation. He went though workers comp, got an attorney, and was awarded a lump sum of temporary partial disability in the amount of $18K.

Flash forward to 2017. He is doing pretty well with his injury. He is working as a maintenance man for a property management company. They have a pool. He is not a certified in pool machinery mechanics.

One of the chlorine pumps needed a new valve, but his employer specifically stated they did not want to pay the pool company to do it because they were too expensive, and asked my husband to just ask the pool guy how to do it, and then do it himself. Unfortunately, the pool guy he talked to gave him very very bad information about rebuilding a valve in a chlorine system. His instructions were incorrect, the result of which caused excessive pressure to build within the system.

My husband went to check the new valve one day, and as soon and he turned the valve cover a quarter turn, it blew off, hitting his hand and then hitting the ceiling where it dented the metal. The explosion covered my husband in undiluted chlorine, which burned his skin in places, and the blast caused him to practically do a back flip over the pipes and valves behind him.

They have no washing station available at his place of employment for chemicals, and he was forced to run through the complex until he found someone who would let him use their shower. His clothes practically melted off of him. He was very lucky he did not breathe or swallow any chlorine, as it would have killed him. His glasses protected his eyes.

Now he seems to be back to square one with his back injury. High levels of pain. And the workers comp insurance is only interested in sending him to physical therapy and the chiropractor. They didn’t even give him an MRI. They did an ultrasound on his hand, but refused his request to see a neurologist despite pain, limited use, and numbness.

Should we get a workers comp attorney? Will the previous back injury at work disqualify him from benefits? Thank you for any information you can give.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Vaughan,

Some workers compensation claims can be handled by a injured worker without legal representation. However, there are others in which expert legal advice should always be sought.

In workers comp claims involving preexisting injuries, most courts have held an employer to be liable only for the medical treatment required to treat the new injury without taking into account the preexisting injury. In other words, your husband would be entitled only to compensation for his new injuries and their required medical treatment without taking into account his preexisting back injury.

However, while your husband may only be entitled to compensation for his new injury, it can be argued he could “step outside” of Wyoming’s workers compensation statutes (laws) and pursue a gross negligence claim against his employer.

To succeed in a separate 3rd party injury claim against his employer will require proof his employer’s actions in telling your husband to repair the pool filter valve were wholly inappropriate and represented gross negligence or a wanton disregard for your husband’s safety.

Because of the seriousness of your husband’s new injuries, along with his preexisting back injury, your husband’s best interests would be served by seeking the advice and counsel of several workers compensation attorneys in your area. A 3rd party injury claim will require legal representation. Such a claim will likely be contested, and may include a trial.

Gather your husband’s medical records and seek out several workers comp attorneys in your area. Most will not charge for an initial office consultation.

In the interim, if you need to ask any questions you can contact the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. You can also call them at (307)777-5475.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: October 19, 2017

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