I'd like to hear from anyone about this matter... an opinion from a lawyer would be ideal but I would love to hear from anyone about this matter. First, a synopsis... it looks lengthy but really it's a 4-year condensed version... I accepted a WC settlement, based on my attorney's (and the mediator's advice). It was suggested I take the settlement because the WC insurer had 2 physicians that agreed I had a 0 disability rating and had reached Maximum Medical Improvement. One of those doctors (the one I saw first after injury) never
examined me, nor diagnosed the actual annular tear to my L4-L5 disc (I only was seen by his PA and he said it was a strain... he performed an MRI but no one has ever seen it... a software issue will not allow anyone to view it) . That doctor released me but suggested I get a 2nd opinion. (the WC insurer sent me to a 2nd orthopedic surgeon) I got the 2nd opinion, a new MRI showing a tear, and began injection therapy and PT, with no improvement. The other physician who said I had a zero rating, directed through an IME (Independant Medical Evaluation), ordered an FCE which he said showed I met Light Duty and based on that FCE (Functional Capacity Examination) he agreed with the 0 disability rating that the first doctor originally said. After being denied 2 times by SSDI (just in the past year), I obtained the FCE and it actually says that I did NOT meet light duty standards. My lawyer either never asked for this document or did not read it. It looks like it might have been hidden by the insurer since the test results were addressed to them. So, as you can imagine, I am outraged. EVERYTHING would likely have been different if I had seen the FCE results. First of all, I would not have settled. It was never my intention to settle. I told my lawyer, who I hired when WC Insurer stopped paying for everything (they stopped paying when my treating physician said "surgery") that I only wanted my health back. In the midst of this 3 year battle, my lawyer retired and turned it over to a junior partner. After a year of the insurer refusing to pay (luckily I had my BC/BS to cover costs) we went before a State Judge asking for sanctions against the insurer. The judges exact words were "either get him the surgery or mediate this case now. You've made this poor guy wait for 2 years in tremendous pain. You DO NOT want me ruling on this case!" (directed at the insurer's lawyer). A fast-track mediation took place 2 weeks later. My "new" lawyer said prior to the mediation "do not piss them off, these are the ones who pay the bills". During the mediation, when the first doctor was mentioned (the one who didn't examine me) I attempted to question the info. My lawyer grabbed my arm and said "not now, we'll talk later". The mediator said that I would get $140,000... distributed as follows... $35,000 to my lawyer, $20,000 for a likely Medicare offset at a later date and the rest to live on until I got approved for SSDI. I took the settlement because I was told by both my lawyer and the mediator that "this is how it works. They stop paying, force a settlement and you get your Private Insurance and enough $ to get by during the 2-year SSDI waiting period". I took the settlement based on these opinions nad the fact that I was tired of fighting. Now I'm struggling to get my SSDI (I will likely be approved soon since we have all the hidden and correct documents now). But the settlement actually says that the FCE shows I was capable of Light Duty. My lawyer drew up that settlement!. The actual FCE says "does NOT meet Light Duty Demands set by the Federal Government". And again, the FCE is addressed to an RN working for the WC insurer. So either she hid it from everyone and my lawyer never asked for it (would it have been a "Discovery" issue or does that not apply?) or my lawyer saw it but didn't read it. I've looked up info about what I have to prove to pursue Lawyer Negligence. Out of 14 items, any one of which is supposedly grounds to sue, my lawyer got 5 failures... (those with YES apply)
- Failing to file a claim before the statute of limitations expires
- Missing a deadline or failing to take action within time limits
- Failing to perform adequate research &a... YES
- Making mistakes in documents or contracts &... YES
- Not subpoenaing witnesses or obtaining other evidence for trial  ... YES
- Mishandling client funds
- Failing to inform a client of a conflict of interest
- Stealing money from client's trust fund or law firm's trust account
- Misappropriating a client's settlement proceeds
- Negligently handling a client's case because of incompetence or inexperience &... YES
- Breaching a fiduciary duty
- Failing to advise a client of a settlement offer or other important information  ... YES
- Failing to prosecute a case
- All other unethical or fraudulent conduct by a lawyer
So, do I go after my lawyer? If so, what do I ask for? It's likely I wouldn't have settled at all, at that time. If so, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have settled for a 2-3 year wage equivalent. I also did not have surgery, based partly on these doctor's opinions. Now I have 3 bad discs! The one above and below have deteriorated. Obviously, the very minimum I will accept is the $35,000 fee, as he didn't earn it. But I would only accept that if I choose not to sue, only if it was offered by my ex-lawyer. And that would only be to bring an end to all this. It's been going on 4 years now and I'm beat. Secondly, does anyone feel that an action can be brought against the WC insurer? The settlement agreement supposedly releases them (note: this all took place in NC where, evidently, a WC insurer CAN dump the medical liability off on the Private Insurance. In PA, where I live now, it's against the law). If it can shown (or suggested as it's going to be their word against ours) that the FCE was never given to my lawyer, and the "company paid" doctor fudged the results, wouldn't that be fraud?
I know nothing about any equations to calculate into all this. But seemingly it can be argued that I have 25+ years of lost wages (assuming I did get surgery then and went back to work. BTW, surgery is NO LONGER an option!). My wife wants me to go for extreme pain and suffering, which is not a stretch. I am in medium to severe pain, 24 hours a day. I eat Oxycontin by the handful (not really, but it's substantial). I can not sit, walk, drive, do chores... I spend each day adjusting my position every 15 minutes. I take one pill to knock me out and another to keep me asleep. But even then, I get less than 6-7 hours a night.
Please, anyone, offer advice, suggestions, amounts... any and all opinions are invited.
Thanks, in advance!