- Posted August 4, 2011 by
Raleigh, North Carolina
This iReport is part of an assignment:
SHAFTED BY THE SYSTEM
SHAFTED BY THE SYSTEM
Every time I hear a commercial advertising a “workers’ compensation attorney” saying that the NC Laws are complicated……I have to chuckle….they forget to tell you that the laws are so very complex and complicated that even the system, itself and the attorneys trained to work in this “special field” CAN NOT/ DO NOT understand the laws enough to follow them either. I guess it is no doubt just another “system invented” that is “suppose to protect employees” who are injured on a job or at a workplace.
There are rules and regulations set that an employee must adhere to, but it seems like this is not needed all of the time either. Perhaps it is the “attorneys touch” and who knows how to “maneuver the system” the best. I have no idea. It is one thing to follow the procedures and try to make sure that all of the “i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed”.. but the attorneys also must understand and remember to “cover any and all tracks”…of anything that is “discovered in the process”….especially, IF and WHEN something is “discovered by accident” which reveals that procedures were NOT followed as the North Carolina Worker’s Act indicates that it should be. And everyone forgets to explain to the person filing the claim that the rules and regulations do not apply to the people who are processing the claims. I guess the North Carolina Industrial Commission have their own set of guidelines to follow or so it seems.
But, with this being said….there is a way to escape all of this….and I guess it is that the North Carolina Industrial Commission does not verify what is actually going on with the claims that are filed with them. Perhaps my experience is the only case that was “overlooked by the system”….but I really do NOT think that this is the case.
My name is Margaret Lawson and I worked for Wendover Financial Services, an EDS Company in Greensboro, NC for over 14 years. This company was a loan servicing company, servicing mostly mortgage loans…which collected payments and did all sorts of maintenance on them. I did a lot of repetitive computer work.
I held different jobs within the company working in the tax department, cashiering department, reverse mortgage and insurance department. I enjoyed what I did and I was good at my job. I gave the company 110%, making sure that I corrected any and all computer errors to make my job easier in the process. I had good benefits, or so I thought I had. I had covered all the bases available to me through the company, just in case, anything happened to me, if I was unable to work. I had short term disability and long term disability and I even paid for additional disability coverage, which was deducted from my paycheck.
At the end of 2003, I begin to having right hand problems. I finally went to the doctor when my pain got out of hand and I did not know what to do to relieve the pain. The doctors treated me with different kinds of medicines and eventually I went to therapy and finally when the pain eventually started to travel up to my shoulder and down to my fingertips and was disturbing my sleep every night as I would wake up with extreme pain and numbness, I went back to the doctor where I was sent to have a EMG, (nerve conduction test) …which revealed that I had some carpal tunnel problems. So again, I tried different medicines and even wore a wrist brace at night, which did help for a while.
In July 2004, it was decided that I needed to have the Carpal Tunnel release to hopefully improve my pain and the other problems that I was having with my right hand. This did help for a while. I had additional problems though…which affected my thumb and fingers. I would be given injections for trigger thumb. I continued to work and I spoke to my supervisor about filing a workers’ compensation claim. I was told that I should NOT file this claim. I eventually filed it anyway.
It seemed like I always had some sort of pain with the right hand. I continued to work and wear the brace on my wrist at night, hoping that my pain would stop completely.
I continued to work and after many months passed (over a year) I was still having problems. In July I begin to have problems with the left hand. In September one night while I was walking my dog, I dropped the dog lease for no reason. I had no idea why this happened. I had a lot of pain in my left hand and was forced to go the the doctor about the left hand. The doctor sent me for x-ray and tests on the left hand and it wasx discovered that I had carpal tunnel in the hand and a cyst was also on in the hand. Surgery was scheduled for December 13, 2005, Two days later, on December 15, 2005, I was officially laid off of my job.
I was in a cast for over 9 weeks. Before I was laid off, I had filed a workers’ compensation claim on my right hand and I had also filed a workers’ compensation claim on the left hand. I was told that I should have not filed them. I was provided a severance package when I was laid off. I was entitled to disability benefits though but no one followed through with those. I guess the company decided that since the workers’ compensation claims had been filed Wendover Financial Services did not need to proceed with doing anything else.
Since I was being laid off, I felt that I should find an attorney to represent me so I would at least be protected. I was told that I needed an experienced certified workers’ compensation attorney and I thought that I found one. (the attorney I got forgot to inform me that he was not only new to the firm he had joined, but that he was also new to North Carolina Laws) This attorney then proceeded to re-file the claim and botched the entire dates on the claim in the process. And due to the attorney’s error, my workers’ compensation claim got off to a big fat mess…..and for a while…no one could figure out just what had happened in the process…but this could have been all figured out if someone had taken the time and effort to review the paperwork which was filed and the medical records which were available to them. Undoubtedly, no one thought it was necessary to verify this kind of information. (Perhaps due to the weird notion that attorneys DO NOT MAKE MISTAKES?) And I had NO idea that I would be PUNISHED for ATTORNEYS MISTAKES.
So my left hand workers’ compensation claim was denied due to the mistakes that my attorney had made on the claim that he filed. I thought that surely if the decisions were appealed….and appealed and appealed again…that someone would finally figure this all out…my appeal went to the North Carolina Supreme Court, who
refused to hear it. No one took the time and effort to review my workers' compensation claim to actually "see" what took place.
Anyway….information which was provided to me, soon revealed that the insurance company, along with Wendover Financial Services, an EDS company and their attorneys, were very much aware that they had used FALSE information as a reason for denying my left hand workers’ compensation claim, stating that I had not reported the disability in a timely manner (which is within 30 days)…the blame was put on the attorney, although it was stated in not one letter, but 2 letters, dated February 24, and May 5, 2006 as follows:
"As for the left hand carpal tunnel syndrome complaint, I believe that ultimately if we go to a hearing this claim will be found to be compensable. Under the North CarolinaWorkers' Compensation Act, injured employees claiming an occupational disease have thirty (30) days from the date of diagnosis of the disease to give notice to employers and carriers of a claim. N.C. Gen Stat 97-58. It is clear that Plaintiff gave notice of the left hand complaint within thirty (30) days of diagnosis. Plaintiff's counsel, apparently in an attempt to slide this treatment under an already accepted claim, messed up the dates of notice. Since Plaintiff's gave notice within the statutory time, we will be hard pressed to deny that Plaintiff's work conditions could cause carpal tunnel syndrome in the right hand and yet not cause it in the left hand."
“while plaintiff’s counsel clearly tried to play games with this claim, I believe the Commissioner will find plaintiff did not know she had an occupational disease until September or October 2005 and she thereafter notified defendants within the statutory time period. Futher. I do not believe we can credibly state that plaintiff's position could cause Carpel Tunnel Syndrome in her right hand extremity but not in her upper left extremity."
The letters above were written by EDS' attorney to the insurance company and copied to EDS Benefits Office...so everyone was now aware of just what took place....(except North Carolina Industrial Commission)
No one acknowledged though that they knew about the mistakes which were made and Wendover Financial Services, an EDS company, along with the Insurance Carrier and the company’s attorneys continued to stand by their denial….even though they were very much aware that I had a copy of the letters in BLACK AND WHITE which told the truth about my workers’ compensation claims. And the truth would have been in the claims which were filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission, had anyone taken the time and effort to review the paperwork and medical records.
Wendover Financial Services and the Insurance Carrier decided that it was more important for them to fight for many years of appealing the claims than it was to admit that a mistake had been made and that compensation was due. As I am sure that these people continued to get paid a nice salary for denying me benefits for my workers’ compensation claims which were legally and lawfully due to me.
So I got shafted by Wendover Financial Services and the insurance company who should have paid me my disability benefits (both short term and long term) and then I was shafted by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, who did not find the mistakes which were made and of course, no one wanted to admit that there were mistakes made.
I have learned that the North Carolina Industrial Commission is not the only public agency that does this kind of thing….ignoring the facts and just accepting what is put in front of them and accepting it just the way it is presented….whether or not it is valid and whether or not rules and regulations and laws were followed….I guess this is how most public systems tend to work these days…. it is just the good ole boys and girls network…as all of them seem to be able to tweak and twist the system….and you know…it works for them….and would have been ok even when they are caught, they continue to “overlook any errors or mistakes” that they have made…and just move on to the next claim….it does not seem to matter to anyone that what has happened might alter a person’s life forever. Afterall, they all have a job to do…so that they can collect a paycheck and that, my friend, is what really matters.
I guess that requiring companys to obtain workers compensation insurance is a good thing for the state of North Carolina to make sure that there is insurance available to the employees, if and when it is needed. But a person should make sure that they have a reliable and trustworthy attorney also….(if you can find one)…
and one who knows what they are doing when filing a workers’ compensation claim. GOOD LUCK. Lawyers know how to twist and tweak whatever they want to and make it seem like it is legal and lawful....and most of the time...there are no questions asked.
Because as I have learned …no one actually reviews any claims to make sure that they have been filled out according to the rules and regulations of the North Carolina Workers’ Act…and that the laws are followed.
IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE…well....more than likely it is...
Below is a part of the North Carolina Industrial Commission “mission statement”:
The North Carolina Industrial Commission strives to effectively and fairly administer the Workers’ Compensation Act and Tort Claims Act for the State of North Carolina and its citizens in the following manner:
· Providing reliable, accurate and efficient claims servicing;
· Providing quick resolutions to disputed issues in an administrative forum;
· Promoting active resolution of disputes through mediation;
· Resolving controversies by rendering impartial and well-reasoned decisions;
· Facilitating high quality, effective medical care and rehabilitation for injured workers in complex medical/legal situations;
· Providing education and training to employers to reduce accident potential in the workplace;
· Providing prompt, efficient medical bill review in accordance with the NCIC Medical Fees Schedule;
· Investigating potential criminal violations of the NC Workers’ Compensation Act, insuring compliance and confidence in our state’s workers’ compensation system.
Now you have to agree...that the above statements "sound good" anyway....whether or not they are followed...who is going to know anyway...since there is no one who really checks up on anything anyway. It is just a matter of sounding "formal".