By Sam Gold
A California Injured Worker
Where else can you kill a person outright, with your gross
negligence and greed, and get away scott free without any fear of recrimination
or criminal prosecution?
Why in California of course?
Its called the Workers Compensation system, and this
kind of aberrant behavior is facilitated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, his
insurance buddy cronies and his so-called reforms of 2004. Many have died
because of this quest for profits, to appease the needs of the corporate few.
Ask Kelley Sedam, formerly of Dinuba, California. She lost
her husband Bob, who was a helicopter mechanic with Omni-Flite, whose services
were contracted by the California Highway Patrol in Fresno, when AIG Insurance
adamantly refused to allow her husband to be referred to a vascular specialist
when he developed a blood clot in his shoulder that traveled to his lungs and
ultimately killed him. They even denied him his blood thinning medication
(Coumadin) for an extended period of time, and then had the audacity to deny
his widow a death benefit after he succumbed to his injuries. Shes suing!
Ask Jamie Tracey whose husband David was refused
psychiatric and pain management treatment for an acute case of Reflex
Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, despite the pleas of his treating doctor and
attorney, which was the result of an injury with his employer Waste Management
Inc. at a landfill site. He committed suicide! But she was one of the fortunate
ones, she actually collected a death benefit. How does money make up for the
love of a husband and partner, a death that could have been totally avoided,
had the insurers third party administrator, Gallagher Bassett Services
(one of the bad boys of Workers Comp.) just simply obeyed the law and
its legislative intent? She left the state!
If these criminal acts were performed anywhere else but in
Arnolds Workers Compensation system, those responsible would be thrown in
jail so fast that it would make your head spin! But so many of California
employers and insurers hide behind something called the Exclusive
Remedy that was part of a bargain made almost 100 years ago when the
system was created by then Progressive Governor Hiram Johnson.
It is supposed to protect the employer from tort lawsuits
in exchange for certain defined benefits, but in almost a century since it was
enacted, the employers and their insurers have bastardized and convoluted the
system into something that is totally unrecognizable, and whats worse,
have used their political and economic power to take away many parts of that
agreement so that the worker gets very little in the form of benefits
Quid Pro Quo, which is Latin meaning
something for something is certainly not the case anymore. The
employers and insurers still enjoy all of the benefits of that historic social
contract and the poor worker hasnt a pot to ps in. He cant
even choose a physician that he trusts to treat him unless he specifies it well
ahead of time. It is so bad that the worker is left at a distinct disadvantage.
So many occupational medicine doctors are so disgusted with what it has become,
they refuse to treat Workers Comp. injuries anymore.
So just precisely what is this Exclusive
Remedy supposed to do. Is it supposed to just indemnify the employer on
the original injury itself or is it supposed to be a legal umbrella that will
shield him from prosecution for any criminal acts committed against the injured
worker post injury?
No one seems to know. Maybe its time that we had
this issue defined so that we can deal with these corporate scofflaws and save
one of our biggest assets, the Working Californian! After all, California and
America were built on the backs of the working man. Dont you think
its time that he got a little help when he gets injured doing his job?
Even worse, if an injured worker has a stipulated
Permanent Disability judgment where the insurer pays him in semi-monthly
installments for a specified period of time, they can again delay and deny him
treatment and medications despite a legal agreement to the contrary. Should he
die due to their negligence, they have no legal responsibility to pay the
balance of his award to his heirs or his estate.
Does this turn your stomach? It certainly turns mine!
Such is the sleazy world of Workers Compensation in California.
Sam Gold is an injured worker who created the
first regularly scheduled television program on the California workers'
compensation system. Injured On The Job (www.injuredonthejob.tv) is produced at state-of-the-art
video production facilities in San Francisco and Sacramento, and exposes that
fraud and corruption in a manner that the television viewer can easily
understand. He also maintains the web site
Injured at Work.