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Susan worked at a suburban branch of one of the nation’s largest banks. On Christmas Eve, just before 3:00 p.m., a man approached her at her teller station and presented her with a note demanding she place all of her large bills in a bag. He pointed a gun at her, and she immediately began to comply with his demand. Just as she handed the money-filled bag to the robber, a security alarm sounded. The robber grabbed Susan, pulled her over the counter, and instructed all employees in the bank, as well as patrons, to lie on the floor. He then demanded that she take him to her car.
By now the police had arrived. The robber used Susan as a human shield as he went to her car, shoved her into the front seat, got behind the wheel, and took off. He pulled her close to him and kept the gun pointed at her as he drove at speeds up to 120 mph in an effort to escape. Approximately 30 miles into the high-speed pursuit, and several crashes, the police shot the tires out, and the car crashed into a wall. They then surrounded the car. The robber pointed the gun at Susan’s head. He then pointed it at his own head instead and pulled the trigger, thus committing suicide right next to her.
Susan sustained readily apparent injuries to her back, neck, knees, and head as a result of the crashes during the high-speed car chase and final crash. She was hospitalized and underwent knee and neck surgery. Not surprisingly she soon began to suffer from a myriad of other medical problems and psychological problems, including insomnia, depression, gastrointestinal difficulties, TMJ symptoms, and other symptoms related to the stress of the bank robbery and being a hostage. Nevertheless, and shockingly, the bank’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier denied that any of these medical problems were related to the work injury and refused to provide medical treatment for them. When the orthopedic specialists released Susan to return to work from an exclusively musculoskeletal perspective, the insurance carrier discontinued temporary disability payments despite her evident inability to return to work because of the other medical problems. In fact her other medical symptoms increased, and she become more depressed. It was at this point that Susan called our firm.
We assisted Susan to immediately obtain State Disability benefits so she would have some income. Then we took numerous depositions of the physicians treating her for gastrointestinal, TMJ, and psychological problems and obtained testimony from these doctors supporting the relationship of these disorders to the robbery/hostage situation. Still the insurance company continued to deny any responsibility for disability benefits and medical treatment. We filed petitions in Susan’s behalf seeking numerous penalties against the insurance carrier for its unreasonable delay in providing benefits. While the workers’ compensation litigation was pending we were able to obtain Social Security Disability benefits for Susan.
The workers’ compensation case went to trial at Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. During the middle of the second day of trial, we were able to negotiate a settlement for cash and structured future payments that will pay in excess of $1,000,000 to Susan over the remainder of her life. While nothing can undo the horror of being a hostage and threatened with death, Susan now has the means to assure her security and obtain all necessary medical treatment for the rest of her life.