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FULLERTON : Councilman Claims Total Disability

City Councilman Don Bankhead, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates in June, has filed a permanent disability claim against the city, accompanied by a medical report stating that he was “totally disabled” from injuries suffered while a Fullerton police officer.

Bankhead, who retired in 1988 after 30 years with the department, said Monday that he did not “see anything big about this. It’s just the same as any workman’s compensation claim.”

According to Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board documents and a physician’s examination and history, Bankhead, 58, had been awarded a 40% disability claim in 1982 for lower-back problems that started years earlier when he fell down a stairwell at work. He remained a police officer despite the injury.

According to a report from Dr. Allen L. Salick of Beverly Hills, the councilman was again hurt in 1985 when a chair collapsed in the police station, injuring his right wrist and aggravating his earlier back injury so that he needed surgery. He was diagnosed as having carpal tunnel syndrome in his right arm, also requiring surgery. At the same time, he developed pains in his knees, the physician’s report said.

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“He finally threw in the towel in September of 1988 . . . with severe symptoms in his low back, severe symptoms in his right wrist, and problems in his knees as well,” according to the medical report. “The combination of all of his problems make him totally disabled and completely removed from the job market,” the report stated.

Bankhead attorney Seth J. Kelsey confirmed that the new claim asks for a “greater degree” of permanent disability. In addition, Kelsey said, Bankhead is asking for reimbursement of medical costs to treat on-the-job injuries not covered by his own medical insurance.

Kelsey said any monetary award for increased disability could range from a total of a few hundred dollars to $30,000, paid either in installments or a lump sum, depending on the insurer. The attorney said Bankhead has already given a deposition and is scheduled to see a doctor of the city’s choice in October.

Then the case will either be settled or go to a judge at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.

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Bankhead, who won a seat on the City Council the same year he retired, said the reference to being “totally disabled” applied only to police work that required physical activity.


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