In Tarpeo v. New World Pasta a worker recently convinced a Missouri workers’ compensation administration law judge, as affirmed by Missouri’s Labor & Industrial Relations Commission, that he deserved over 50% permanent partial disability benefits for repetitive motion injuries to both of his knees after working 35 years for the same employer. The evidence presented to the judge showed that he climbed 576 stairs a day and 2,886 stairs a week as essential part of his doing his job working full time over all those years. He started treatment on his own, paying for it out of his insurance and his own pocket, but never really demanded that his employer the pasta manufacturer select his treating doctors and pay for his treatment.
The administrative law judge agreed with the worker’s expert, an orthopedic surgeon, that both of Tarpeo’s knees had suffered serious permanent, mostly work-related disability. He suffered knee cartilage tears (medial meniscus tears) and other major cartilage of both the right and left knees, a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament of the left knee and torn MCL (medial collateral ligament) of the right knee, plus some degenerative problems in the knee joints. He required not just surgery to help repair all the cartilage and ligament tears but knee joint replacements as well.
The employee’s expert found testified at a deposition that all these conditions were mostly work-related as traceable back to the worker’s constantly going up and down stairs over his 35-year career with many 12-hour work days, while the insurance-company-selected experts gave their opinions that most of the guy’s problems were due to degenerative arthritis of his knees from the natural process of aging and thus not work-related. The judge believed the worker’s medical expert over the insurance company’s medical expert and awarded that employee both temporary total disability benefits (dating back years to the date he first contracted those injuries through repetitive stair climbing over all his years of employment for the pasta company) and permanent partial disability benefits of at least 50% for each knee (with a “multiplicity load factor of an additional 15% because both knees were involved).
The judge did not award the injured worker the costs for any of his medical treatment on his knees because he never really demanded that his employer pay assume control over his treatment for the knees as work-related injuries the employer was responsible for. It is important for any worker or employee injured on the job hoping to hold his employer legally responsible for his medical bills to notify his employer of what he considers to be his work-related injury as soon as he is told by a doctor that it is. This requirement applies not only to injuries caused by a work-related accident. It also applies to injuries caused by repetitive work motions causing mini-trauma to the body which accumulate over time end up being the main cause of a work-related injury. The employee suffering the repetitive motion trauma-caused injury will normally not know his injury is work-related until a medical doctor tells him so, and it is at that point that the legal obligation falls on the employee to notify the employer that he suffered it as a work-related injury and ask the employer to treat it and choose his treating doctors.
The judge in Tareo’s case found that even after he was told by his doctor that his knee injuries were mostly repetitive-motion caused and thus work-related, this worker sought treatment on his own without ever telling his employer and asking them to take control of treatment and choose his treating doctors so the employer would have to pay for such treatment. Since our Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law allows an employee to seek treatment on his own and pay for it out of his own pocket and Tareo never gave New World Pasta the opportunity to pick his treating physicians, the judge decided that Tareo was not entitled to get any of his past medical bills paid as a workmens compensation benefit by his former employer and its insurer.
However, the St. Louis Workers Compensation administrative law judge did award the employee future medical benefits for treatment any future knee problems. The judge gave the worker’s employer and insurer the right to direct his treatment by choosing the treating doctors for his knee injury problems. He held that if the employee decided once again to choose his own treating doctors without allowing the employer to choose his treating physicians for him, then Tareo would once again be responsible for paying all his medical bills for such treatment with no help from New World Pasta or its workmens compensation insurance company.
Normally repetitive motion work injuries involve the hands, wrists, forearms and elbows, such as carpal tunnel (wrists/hands) syndrome and cubital tunnel (elbow) syndrome. Those are the repetitive work motion injuries Missouri workers compensation judges are most used to and comfortable with granting you workmens compensation benefits on. In every case the worker who seeks workers compensation benefits for a repetitive motion-caused work injury must prove that his injuries are mostly (primarily) work-related. Employers and their insurers more often than not just flatly deny your demand for medical treatment, temporary weekly off-work benefits and permanent disability benefits for such injuries, putting you to the test and forcing you to prove your legal entitlement to such benefits before a judge.
St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can file your claim and help your prove up your right to such benefits. Occasionally you can get workers comp benefits for repetitive motion injuries to parts of the body other than your arms or hand, as Mr. Tareo did I his case, but doing so is especially difficult and will usually require a legal fight and a good expert on the injured employee’s side making the connection. We can help.
St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can defend and demand your rights to workers compensation benefits. We can fight to legally enforce these rights. We can prevent the company from underpaying or cancelling your benefits. Please call us for advice and help on any work-related injury suffered on the job in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Lincoln County, Warren County, Franklin County, or any other counties in eastern Missouri within 100 miles of the greater St. Louis area. Our consultations are completely free of charge. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. He will fight as hard he can to enforce all of your rights to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Often the insurance company denies you some or all benefits, forcing you to fight for them. His attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workers’ comp disability benefits we get for you. Please call today for a free consultation. (See Contact Us).