CTS in both hands. Primary doctor has me at 6% disability which I find not even close. I want a QME, my attorney is advising against it due to "risks" and an offer was given at 20,000. I feel like 20,000 is selling myself short. I don't trust my attorney anymore and I need some honest answers. Is a QME that great of a risk if my injury is due to Work? Recently got hired at a new job that stays within my limits. Will that affect my settlement as well? Is it too late to change attorneys?
This is the sort of question that is really difficult for lawyers who don't know your case to answer. If you have an experienced, respected worker's comp lawyer, and especially if your lawyer is a certified specialist, then the $20,000 offer is probably a good one. If you have a lawyer who only dabbles in worker's comp, then it may not be a good offer. If you have a good treating doctor who understands the rating system in California, and is an advocate for his or her patients, the 6% is very possibly as good as it is going to get.
Permanent disability ratings are ordinarily based on the tables in the AMA Guides. The Guides are notoriously stingy when it comes to rating most conditions. Sometimes, a doctor can deviate from the strict application of the pertinent table in the Guides to come up with a rating that more accurately reflects your level of disability. If your injury has a significant effect on your ability to perform activities of daily living, there is often a good chance that an alternative rating can be formulated that is more to your advantage.
It would also matter if your disability was preventing you from being able to work, or had forced you to lose a significant part of your earning capacity by preventing you from being able to perform the duties of jobs that pay the sort of money you were making at the time of the injury. Given that you are back to work, this is probably not an avenue that is going to help you much.
The $20,000 figure is obviously for a C&R settlement, one which not only settles your permanent disability, but also closes out your rights to medical treatment. If you are not likely to need much medical treatment for this injury, and especially if you have other coverage that will pay for your treatment anyway, this may be a good number. If you are likely to need expensive treatment, such as surgeries, or chronic medication use, it may not be a good number.
I'd suggest that you sit down with your attorney and go over all the options and concerns. Whether to go to a Panel QME is certainly an option to discuss. Even if your doctor has bent over backwards to rate you fairly, you don't have much to lose by going to an AME or QME, given the meager 6% rating.
No one cares what you think. It is sad, and it is probably unfair, but it is true. The WC system functions on medical opinion. Your Attorney knows your case, and thinks that $20,000 is a reasonable value. If you think you know more than your Attorney, you should Dismiss him and proceed on your own. You can easily get a PQME Appointment on your own, and see what happens. I am pretty sure that your Attorney will not request a fee based upon any more than the $20,000 offer. I am attaching the document you need to relieve your Attorney.
You've got to trust your lawyer. If you don't trust him, then it's time to move on. But remember, he gets paid a % of any settlement. If he thought your case was worth more than the $20,000, he would stand to make more $$, too. It's in his own best interest to get you more money rather thab less. If he's telling you that this is a good number, it probably is.
The range for permanent disabilaity is from 0% to 100%. You're probably closer to the 0% than you are to the 100%. Having said that, at 6% you have a whole lot more upside opportunity than downside risk.
If you do choose to change attorneys, you will still pay a single 15% attorney fee. The new attorney and the old attorney will have to split it up somehow. That will make it difficult to find a new attorney willing to work for less than the full 15%. There are, howver, some great WC attorneys in the East Bay. Find a good one here at www.avvo.com or at www.caaa.org. CAAA is the association for attorneys here in CA who represent injured workers. Or you can call me for a referral.
If you don't trust your attorney, find a new one or do it yourself. No one can give you validation or a second opinion without fully reviewing and analyzing your case. Note - you get compensated for disability - not for a diagnosis of CTS. You're working a new job, albeit within limits - so how disabled are you that the primary doctor's disability level is not even close?
On what are you basing your opinion? In the comp system, what you think is pretty much worthless unless you have "MD" behind your name. Mr. Corson is totally correct.
If you think you know more about this than your lawyer, then perhaps you should dismiss him and proceed on your own.
If your attorney is experienced in workers' compensation, then he/she will likely trust the opinion of your PTP and probably sent you there for that reason. The "risk" of moving forward with the PQME process stems from the uncertainty of what doctor will ultimately perform the neutral evaluation. It may end up being a doctor that will assign less impairment. 6% disability is worth about $4k depending on the way you were separated from your former employer. $20k is 5 times that amount and is objectively reasonable unless you have some uncommonly high-dollar medical procedure you are projected to need in the future. A new job is unlikely to affect your settlement but for a very narrow set of circumstances that probably will not apply to you. You can fire your attorney at any time but your problem may be with current legislation and not necessarily inadequate counsel.
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