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Independent contractor loses right hand after being electrocuted on the job — $1.5 million settlement

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 16, 2021

Independent contractor loses right hand after being electrocuted on the job — $1.5 million settlement

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 16, 2021

Type of action: Workers’ compensation

Injuries alleged: Electrocution with amputation of right hand and partial left foot and deformity of left hand

Name of case: Espinoza v. AFA Painting and Home Improvements LLC

Court: Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission

Case no.: VA02000033901

Tried before: Mediation

Name of judge or mediator: Brooke Anne Hunter

Date resolved: 6/21/2021

Verdict or settlement: Settlement

Amount: $1,500,000

Attorney for plaintiff (and city): Michele S. Lewane, Richmond

Description of case: Claimant was 19 when the 40-foot ladder he was holding along with three other employees touched a power line and he was electrocuted. His right hand and half of his left foot were amputated. His left hand is extremely crippled and is basically useless.

The employer denied the claim, alleging willful misconduct and that he was an independent contractor. The case was also complicated by the fact that he is an undocumented worker and his treating physician released him to light duty of no lifting over one pound with his left hand which prevents him from getting temporary total disability benefits.

The cost of future prosthetics is very expensive. Counsel chose to put a portion of settlement funds into a professionally administered medical account. This vehicle allows several benefits to the claimant. First, he will not have to pay cash face value for future medical care or deal with trying to pay the bills directly.

The professionally administered medical account provider will deal directly with the medical providers. Another portion of the settlement is for his lost wages. These funds were put in an annuity for his lifetime guaranteed for the first 40 years. He is going to receive the exact amount that he would have received if he was already determined to be a permanent total disability claim.

There is the added benefit that the monthly payment is guaranteed for 40 years. This means that upon his death if he eventually marries or has children, they will receive the monthly payment through 40 years.

Lastly, since he had been in the hospital for months, his total past medical bills were about $347,000. Counsel negotiated with the providers to reduce their liens to approximately $95,000, which was a 74% reduction. Though nothing can replace the significant loss this young man has suffered, this settlement basically gives him all of the benefits that he would have received under workers’ compensation while avoiding the risk of litigation and years of the insurance company’s trying to cut off his benefits or deny medical treatment.


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