Visit Governor Schwarzenegger’s website and you’ll see news of plans to disseminate 18 million dollars in job training grants that are meant to help get the unemployed back to work. But the Governor has received criticism lately because what you won’t see are plans to protect workers from injuries on the job once they do get back to work. Tens of thousands of Californians injured while working are facing inadequate medical care, denials of insurance payments, and compensation for permanent loss that is among the lowest in the nation. Restricting the protection for workers on the job can only pose further challenges for many already concerned about the economy and making ends meet. Some critics blame the Governor’s 2004 changes to worker’s compensation for the fact that California workers face a plight unparalleled by others in the nation when it comes to coping with workplace injuries.
Such criticism was prevalent when Richard Chance, an injured worker, held a press conference in Sacramento just before Christmas. Chance as working as an Operating Engineer on site when a motorcyclist flew around a corner, striking Chance and a co-worker. Chance was thrown 35 feet back in the air. He suffered a broken femur that punctured his skin, a pelvic fracture, a broken tibia, a broken fibula, and a traumatic brain injury. Richard lost 41 pints of blood. His femur didn’t heal properly and he had to have a new rod implanted. Richard also developed a blood clot in his lung. Chance explained at the press conference that he is still injured and hasn’t recovered – but that nevertheless, he will lose his temporary insurance coverage thanks to a 2-year cap signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger. Even if Chance had a claim against the motorcyclist, litigation can take months or years, and Chance needed medical care – and compensation, immediately. The law – one that the legislature has attempted to rectify – hasn’t been changed as Schwarzenegger has vetoed attempts to help injured workers. Critics claim that the law favors insurance companies and allows them to delay approving medical care and wait-out an injured worker until they meet the cap. This is what happened to Chance, who is still unable to return to work and now being denied assistance that would help his family make mortgage payments.
Unfortunately, Chance is not the only one impacted by insurance delays and denials. Commentator Todd McFarren asks, “How can our state government continue policies that penalize our working men and women, and reward insurance companies for denying and delaying legitimate care and compensation?” Since the Governor’s changes in 2004, the insurance companies have reaped the reward of the caps, pocketing the profits of delay and allowing the taxpayers to foot the bill for support of injured workers. McFarren reports that the insurance companies have had record profits since the Governor’s changes.
If you have been injured at work and are facing delays from your insurance company, and you need assistance, you may want to consider speaking to an attorney that can help you navigate the workers compensation and insurance systems. Especially if you need to focus on recovering, you may be well served by having a strong advocate on your side.