Through hard work and good fortune, I have helped build a large legal practice in New York. Much of our work is composed of case referrals from other attorneys who have seen the results we have produced. More often than not, however, most of these cases that have been sent to us consider only the immediate effect of a catastrophic injury. However, as we have learned through the years, most of the injuries suffered by our clients have impact upon themselves and their families that can effect the rest of their lives. While Workers Compensation or Medicare may provide some assistance, the long term affect of the injury is, sadly, largely ignored.
Many attorneys with smaller practices (and even large ones) will not look behind the numbers, and, unfortunately see a large and immediate payout from an insurance carrier and grab it. Consider, for example, a case we had a few years ago when a solo attorney consulted us on a case they just received where a young construction worker fell through a scaffolding platform in New York and fractured both of his calcaneus (heel) bones which required immediate surgery.
This attorney, a solo practitioner, was offered a fairly large settlement from the construction company before a lawsuit was even initiated. The settlement contemplated his pain and suffering, the amount of time he would be out of work, his out of pocket medical expenses, and the amount of wages that he missed out on (over and above what Workers’ Compensation would pay). Most other attorneys, tempted by a large number, and the prospect of settling before a long litigation would have jumped at the chance for a “payday.” This short-sighted approach is all too common in the legal industry.
Thankfully for this young man and his family, the attorney consulted with us before accepting any offer. Most insurance companies know that when we litigate a case, we do not simply look at the injuries suffered and the costs incurred today, we look far down the road. For instance: Will this young man be able to return to work? If so, what type of work will he be able to do? What will be the effect of his fractured heels on the way that he walks? What type of therapy will be required for him to make a full recovery? Will he ever have a full recovery? How will this injury affect his future work life expectancy? Will he need future revisional surgery? Has arthritis (common to calcaneal fractures) been considered in his future? When Workers Compensation stops paying our client, what medical bills will he be saddled with? If he settles the case, will Medicare keep paying for his care in the future?
To answer these questions, we need what is known in the industry as a “Life Care Plan” authored by a reputable physician. These plans require a skilled physician’s eye to look at the injuries and forecast not only what resultant injuries the client may suffer in the immediate future, but what the client’s injuries and sequelae will look like in the next ten years, the next twenty years, and for the rest of their lives. We made a vow when we started our firm that we will make sure our clients are taken care of for as long as they need care, and Life Care Plans are designed to make sure that that vow is fulfilled.
Life Care Plans are especially crucial to cases which involve RSD/CPRS especially since the symptoms of this disease are not always immediately apparent. As many readers can attest, the medication required to address the severe pain of one who suffers with RSD/CPRS can be astronomically expensive, and not always covered by medical insurance plans. A Life Care Plan is absolutely essential in cases in which a client develops RSD/CPRS.
The collateral benefit to a Life Care Plan is that it will give an insurance company or a workers compensation carrier a realistic forecast of what “future damages” can amount to. It also signals to the carrier that these are the types of numbers they are likely to see should they decide to further litigate the case, and it typically acts as a disincentive for them to mount a frivolous defense.
In conjunction with a Life Care Plan, we will typically have an economist examine the plan and forecast the amount of money that the Plan calls for in present value and in terms of what the future cost of the care would amount to, given inflation.