Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Court case Kilpatrick decided March 12, 2015

A recent court case was issued on March 12, 2015. In Kilpatrick the claimant sought to reopen a closed case based on new evidence. As part of his efforts claimant sought discovery of the insurers financial records of monetary gifts to any
Division or hearing office personnel including judges. This was denied as over-burdensome and became part of the appeal by claimant. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision yet it concluded that all judges are subject to such disclosures despite the fact that no regulations have been set up on this. It concluded the claimants remedy is with the Division or hearing office not the court in denying claimants assertion of a denial of equal protection of the law. I question this conclusion when the claimant is denied disclosures by administrative inaction. Still unless this is appealed the Kilpatrick case does limit discovery. Every party truly may need discovery to ascertain the issues, the witnesses and the evidence. To me this includes any monetary favors provided to a judge. While bribery is unlikely and most judges are highly ethical I do believe such matters should be fully disclosed. Next, the claimant argued that the doctor rescinded his opinion that the claimant needed no further treatment with a new opinion based on new evidence. However the hearing judge decided that the case should not be reopened. The judge did not accept the doctors change of opinion. The judge believed the change was equivocal and not enough to justify reopening. Certainly a judge can weigh the evidence and absent an abuse of his discretion a judge's determination cannot be set aside. I disagree with this and would assert an outright rescinding should not be considered equivocal. Still you are encouraged to read the case yourself for all the details. There were other concerns but none to permit a favorable decision for the claimant. In this case the claimant lost his appeal unless he can get the Colorado Supreme Court to look at it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What Direction for Workers Compensation?

For the past several years workers compensation has been fairly stable in Colorado. I guess that is a good thing given that over the past 25 years or so I saw a downward spiral for workers benefits and claims. That is my opinion but I think anyone looking into it would conclude the same. Employers saw their cost of insurance go down which was no
surprise given the changes in workers compensation. Benefits went down when they were tied into impairment ratings. The battles seemed to be on medical issues and causality issues which did not address disability. As such I recall trying to move cases I had into the total disability area which generated higher settlements. But I always felt bad for the construction worker who loses his trade because of a hand or foot injury. I felt bad for not assessing overall disability when the focus became impairment. Well this problem was not limited to Colorado. Nationally there has often been efforts to restrict claims. In an article which was provided to me the story is extensively set forth. In The Demolition of Workers's Comp the author reviews this pattern of attack on workers benefits. It is a good read. I realize that business must control its costs in order to stay viable and employ its workers but I also see the injured worker as a cost of doing business which must be adequately protected. If not the cost is passed on to society and that means all of us. My view is that 100 years ago or so workers comp became important when we all realized that injured workers should not be an expense of society but should be an insurable expense for employers. So hopefully in the future direction for workers compensation we should all keep this in mind.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Another Newsletter

Recently the Division of Workers Compensation posted another newsletter. This is for February 2015. As I have said before these newsletters can contain a lot of interesting
material especially for attorneys and adjusters. They can also be useful for the injured worker. The February 2015 newsletter is devoted to medical matters. For example it notes to us that effective April 1, 2015 the injured worker is provided a list of 4 physicians to make a choice for his treatment. There are variations if there are less medical providers within 30 miles of the employers location. Still this is an improvement from years ago when the employer just selected the physician to treat you. That led to criticism of employer favoritism. The new selection process at least affords more choices for the injured worker. Anyone injured at work should carefully review the physician list maintained by the employer. Historically physicians selected by employers come from their insurers who have those they favor. I can assure you that there are physicians who are not dedicated to the injured worker and who try to speedily move along treatment, perhaps to the disadvantage of the claimant. And then there are physicians who are heavily claimant oriented. Attorneys practicing in this area know all about these physicians and those less friendly to claimants. Anyway the newsletter discusses this issue and other medical matters. Those wishing to stay on top of the field should take a look at this newsletter.