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Virginia’s Go To Lawyers – Workers’ Comp Law: Stephen T. Harper

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//July 27, 2021

Virginia’s Go To Lawyers – Workers’ Comp Law: Stephen T. Harper

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//July 27, 2021//

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harper_stephenStephen T. Harper
Reinhardt | Harper | Davis, PLC


University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
University of Richmond Law School

Best known for:

Workers’ compensation on behalf of injured workers

Signature case:

12-year battle with insurance carrier results in million-dollar settlement and more than $990,000 in benefits prior to settlement. While working at a trade show out of state in 2005, the claimant suffered a hernia while lifting boxes. The client came to us in 2008 for help because the worker’s compensation carrier was denying his claim for lost wages. Because of complications of the hernia mesh repair resulting in nerve entrapment and constant ongoing pain, the claimant had multiple surgeries and procedures to attempt to eliminate and reduce the pain.

His claim for lost wages was denied by the worker’s compensation carrier, and after a hearing and an appeal, the claimant prevailed and was awarded past due wages and an ongoing weekly check. Ultimately, the wage portion of the claim settled in 2012 for a lump sum plus a structured annuity payment providing for a guaranteed monthly payment for the next eight years. The claimant continued to require significant ongoing medical care and treatment after the wage portion of the case settled. The carrier repeatedly denied significant portions of the ongoing medical care. Our office filed multiple claims every time medical care or treatment was denied. We prevailed on every issue before the VWC and the client received all the medical care ordered by his doctors. After our most recent win before the VWC requiring the carrier to pay for additional medication and treatment, the carrier finally agreed to discuss settling the medical portion of the claim and we were able to reach settlement on the second portion of the case.

Total value of the two settlements was a $1,070,878. In addition to the $1,070,878 in settlement proceeds, the carrier was forced to expend an excess of $990,000 in lost wages and medicals in addition to the two settlements. Total benefits we won for our client between settlements and payment of wages and medical was $2,060,878.

Most satisfying:

Getting to help my clients who have had their lives turned upside down by their work injuries. Injured workers face not only physical pain, but the stress of supporting their families with no income coming in after a work injury. Helping these families keep a roof over their heads while they recover and helping them get a recovery that will allow them to move forward is the best part of what we do.

Working with clients:

My approach has always been that a client who understands the problems with their case and the risks for them will always be a more satisfied client. Taking them the time with them so they know where the case is headed and the choices they have to face always makes for a better attorney-client relationship.

Best career advice:

Treat every case the same no matter how big or how small it is, fight for every client like it is the biggest case in the office, everyone deserves your best effort on their behalf.

Looking ahead:

Video conferencing/Zoom for depositions, mediations and hearings was unheard of before the pandemic. We have clients who get injured in Virginia but live all over the country. The pandemic forced everyone in the workers’ comp world to adapt, and I think it will make it easier for claimants going forward to avoid the time and cost of travel now that attorneys and the Workers’ Compensation Commission have adapted to Zoom/Webex for hearings, mediations and depositions.

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