We have helped countless clients who continued suffering pain from various spinal disorders even after undergoing a lumbar fusion or discectomy. Bartolic Law understands that some people get relief from lumbar fusions or discectomies, some buy time until the condition progresses again, some do not get any relief, and some get even worse. In one case, a client had undergone multiple lumbar fusions. Each time the client had a lumbar fusion, the client’s spinal structure overcompensated and placed pressure on the next disc higher, repeating the same problem every several years, and resulting in a reduced range of motion after every surgery.
We inherited the client’s case when the client’s last resort was filing a lawsuit under ERISA § 502(a). We persuaded the court that the client had attempted every type of treatment available to alleviate the symptoms and gain the functionality to work, including heavy doses of narcotic pain medications and numerous surgeries. The client’s doctors repeatedly opined the client could sit “occasionally,” while the insurer maintained the client could sit “frequently.” In a novel opinion, Ferrin v. Aetna [link], we persuaded the court it could reconcile these opinions with all the evidence by finding the client could sit at the high end of the “occasional” range or the low end of the “frequent” range, either of which would render our client disabled. We delivered the win when nobody else could help.
Lumbar spinal fusion is surgery that permanently welds two or more vertebrae together to eliminate painful or problematic motion between them. A discectomy is another type of spinal surgery that removes herniated disc material in the lower back (lumbar) region to relieve pain and pressure on spinal nerves. While both surgeries aim to relieve pain, the recovery period is extensive with significant limitations. If you cannot work during this time, you should speak with a Chicago disability benefits attorney.
Post-operative recovery time will depend on the extent of the procedure and any other medical conditions the patient might have. Recovery can include two to four days in the hospital, opioid medications or other pain relievers that limit abilities, and not driving for weeks. It can affect employment, too, as you may not be able to return to a sedentary job for six or more weeks, or physical activities for three or more months, especially vigorous activities, which will need to wait for six or more months. Overall, expect 12 to 18 months until full recovery. It often takes up to six months for the bone to properly fuse and immobilize the spine. You might need a back brace to limit movement, and you might need additional procedures to remove screws, plates, or other hardware that was inserted.
Ferrin v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 336 F. Supp. 3d 910 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 28, 2018) (holding insurance policy’s grant of discretionary authority is void under Texas law due to certificate being issued after effective date of regulation, and policy renewing after effective date, and holding Plaintiff was disabled from Any Reasonable Occupation where treating doctors certify she can sit at the occasional level, and insurer’s consultants opine Plaintiff can sit frequently, as weighing all evidence together would make capacity likely at low end of frequent range at best).
Sadowski v. Tuckpointers Local 52 Health & Welfare Trust, 281 F. Supp. 3d 710 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 20, 2017) (holding plan was arbitrary and capricious in denying medical benefits for removal of spinal cord stimulator following a fall down the stairs and infection where plan argued the expenses were caused by the same injury as the car accident necessitating implantation of the stimulator years earlier)
Tassone v. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co., 264 F. Supp. 3d 867 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 30, 2017) (awarding client long term disability benefits denied by United of Omaha despite insurer’s doctor opining there was no objective evidence of functional impairment)
Suson v. PNC Fin. Servs. Grp., Inc., No. 15-CV-10817, 2017 WL 3234809 (N.D. Ill. July 31, 2017) (holding Liberty Mutual’s denial of client’s long term disability benefits was arbitrary and capricious where Liberty Mutual disregarded client’s carpal tunnel syndrome and relied on a vocational opinion to which client never had an opportunity to address before litigation)
If you cannot work while you are recovering from spinal surgery, such as lumbar fusion or a discectomy, Bartolic Law can advise you of your eligibility for disability benefits. Fill out the questionnaire below for more information about a possible claim.