The Freibott Law Firm was recently successful in prosecuting a case on behalf of one of its clients wherein we alleged that our client has sustained a 100% permanent partial impairment to his dentation/teeth and an 8% impairment to his jaw as it related to his injury at work. We had previously won a very important case on behalf of this client wherein the Industrial Accident Board held that there was a causal relationship between the original work accident (where our client injured his back) and his tooth decay as a result of the amount of narcotic medication he was being prescribed. Simply put, the narcotic medication caused xerostomia (dry mouth) which caused a rapid decay of nearly every tooth in our client’s mouth.
At the Industrial Accident Board hearing regarding the permanent impairment issue, we relied upon the expert testimonies of Greg Fink, D.M.D. for the tooth permanency and that of Dr. Jeffrey Meyers, M.D. for the jaw permanency. The employer, New Castle County, relied upon Eugene D’Amico, III D.D.S. After listening to the testimony, the Industrial Accident Board found that our client’s testimony was very credible. The Industrial Accident Board further found that our experts were more persuasive than that of New Castle County’s expert. Specifically, Dr. Meyers was able to draw an analogybetween other body parts rated within the American Medical Association guidelines and concluded that our client sustained a total loss in terms of his natural teeth. Our client had all of his natural teeth extracted and were replaced by dental implants.
Dr. Meyers testified that when permanent impairment claims are to be decided, the AMA guides direct that the rating be based on the level of the amputation or the removal of the body part, and in that regard, it does not matter if the person is using a prothesis (dental implants) that provide function. For example, when one rates an amputation for an upper or lower extremity, it is done without the use of the prosthetic arm or leg. Moreover, when one rates the percentage of impairment for hearing loss, it is done so without the benefit of a hearing aid. As such, the Industrial Accident Board recognized that “replacement by prothesis is not a factor in an individual, permanent impairment award.” The Industrial Accident Board found that Dr. Fink was “very convincing” in that our client had received prosthetic dental implants and is still not restored to what he was before he had lost his own teeth. Dr. Fink explained that dental implants are a good solution; however, they are not as good as your own healthy, natural teeth. Moreover, Dr. Meyers testified that due to the intensity of our client’s extraction of his own teeth and prosthetic implants, our client sustained an 8% impairment to his jaw. Dr. Meyers explained that the excessive drilling for the dental implant posts into the jaw created a permanent injury to our client.
Accordingly, the Industrial Accident Board ordered that our client sustained a 100% impairment to his teeth and an 8% impairment to his jaw. The Industrial Accident Board further ordered New Castle County to pay our firm an attorney’s fee and to reimburse our firm for the expert fees incurred at the Industrial Accident Board hearing. (Pugh v. New Castle County,Hearing No.: 1354747Date of Decision: April 29, 2019)