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Clear maritime disability doesn't mean smooth sailing with claim

Living under the rule of law does not mean that justice is swift. The wheels can turn slowly and no one can really predict what the outcome of a case may be. That's true in Texas, Louisiana or any other state.

Because the system is complicated and confusing, it's always a good idea to work with an attorney with experience in the specific nature of case that you might have. When the matter involves recovery of compensation for worker injury, what's at stake could well be an individual's whole future well-being. It may take time, but the stakes are high enough that it may be worth the investment.

This may be something that a man in California is realizing right now. After suffering for nearly 30 years with knee degeneration that started with a maritime work injury, he finally has a level of clarity from the courts about his case. And the result could be that he will be entitled to a great deal more in compensation than he has already received.

Clarity came courtesy of the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals earlier this month. According to the opinion, the plaintiff in the case was granted a permanent disability designation for his injury as part of a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

By way of background, the man had suffered the original injury in 1987 while working for one shipping company. In 1999, that company was taken over by another and the man continued on as an employee with the second firm.

From the time of his injury, until 2008, the first company paid for treatments that he received for persistent knee pain that eventually led to his taking early retirement in 2002. The original payments for his knee stopped coming in 2008, and so the man sought coverage under the LHWCA and the assessment cycle started.

All the evidence indicated that the man's knee injury was permanent and doctor after doctor, including those hired by his employers, agreed he wouldn't get better without a knee replacement. But the administrative law judge on the case and a board of review declared him temporarily disabled on the basis of the prospect that knee replacement might make him better.

The appeals court, however, disagreed and ruled for the man's permanent disability designation.

The process has gone slowly, but it would seem that the man will realize a positive outcome.

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