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Thread: Workers comp reform yields injury limbo(Florida)

  1. #1
    Senior Member Max's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Montreal,Province of Quebec, CANADA

    Workers comp reform yields injury limbo(Florida)

    Workers comp reform yields injury limbo

    By Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post Staff Columnist
    Friday, May 23, 2003

    The way legislators are "fixing" the state's workers compensation law made me think of a scene from the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

    The Black Knight refuses to let King Arthur cross a bridge. So the two men have a sword fight and within seconds, King Arthur chops off the Black Knight's left arm.

    "Now stand aside, worthy adversary," the king says.

    But the knight, spurting blood from his severed limb replies, " 'Tis but a scratch."

    "A scratch? Your arm's off!"

    "No, it isn't."

    "Well, what's that, then?"

    "I've had worse."

    So the king keeps chopping off the knight's three remaining limbs, one by one, and each time, the knight refuses to stop fighting.

    "Come back here and take what's coming to you!" the helpless, talking torso of the Black Knight shouts as the king crosses the bridge.

    The Black Knight must be the idealized version of the Florida worker in the minds of state legislators, who have rewritten the definition of what it takes to be badly injured.

    Workers who receive "catastrophic" injuries are entitled to receive maximum disability benefits. And so in a quest to make workers compensation cheaper for small businesses and more profitable for big insurance companies, legislators have devised a clever way to decrease benefits.

    Turn Florida workers into Black Knights.

    OK, quiz time. Which of the following on-the-job injuries would entitle you to full disability benefits under the new legislation that the Republican-led legislature is about to pass and Gov. Jeb Bush is planning to sign into law?

    (a) a spinal cord injury with paralysis of an arm, leg or trunk.

    (b) amputation of an arm or leg.

    (c) severe brain injury that affects your ability to speak or to use your limbs.

    (d) third-degree burns on at least 25 percent of your body.

    (e) a loss of eyesight that makes you legally blind.

    The answer? None of the above.

    Or as the Black Knight would say, "Just a flesh wound."

    Those choices, (a) through (e), would have gotten a worker full disability under the existing system, which is being nixed in favor of a policy that might best be described as "Leave No Severed Limb Behind."

    The new standard of what it takes to be really hurt on the job in Florida would require you to lose your body parts in pairs. You'd have to lose both arms or both legs. Both hands or both feet. Paralyzed on one side of your body? Sorry, back to work.

    And none of this pantywaist "legally blind" nonsense. Eyesight, shmy-sight. You've actually got to lose your eyeballs. Both of them. Then we can talk.

    As for brain injuries? Hey, nobody needs a brain to work. Right?

    I suppose our elected representatives might, instead, be tougher on the insurance companies.

    "Per NCCI (the National Council of Compensation Insurance), Florida workers' compensation carriers have earned $4 billion in investment income from employer paid premiums over the last 10 years, earning anywhere from 20 percent to 24 percent of premiums paid," said a year-old study on behalf of Florida Workers' Advocates. "Yet this investment income is not included as profit in determining rates nor is it used to reduce employer premiums."

    But let's not lay a finger on those fragile insurance companies. It's so much easier to just hack away at the Black Knight.

    Repeat after me: "Just a flesh wound. Just a flesh wound."

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  2. #2
    Senior Member Max's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Montreal,Province of Quebec, CANADA

    Go ahead, break a leg; even better, break two

    Go ahead, break a leg; even better, break two
    By null, Times Columnist
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 23, 2003


    I am deeply grateful to the Florida Legislature for cracking down on "catastrophic" injuries in workers' compensation cases.

    No longer can a goof-off worker in Florida lose a mere eye, or a lone leg, hand, arm or foot, and still have a "catastrophic" injury for disability purposes.

    No. The House and the Senate have voted for a "reform" bill that says that a Florida worker must lose BOTH eyes, or BOTH arms, or BOTH legs, or BOTH feet.

    Don't worry. There is still some flexibility. An employee also is permitted to lose any two different body parts from the above list - say, one arm and one eye, or one leg and one hand, and still make the grade.

    Mix and match, as it were.

    Now, you might ask:

    What about spinal cord injuries? What about brain damage?

    And indeed, there were some bleeding-heart liberals in the Senate who tried to include those injuries under "catastrophic."

    But the Senate, like the House before it, stuck to its principles and said no. Spinal injuries and brain damage are not catastrophic.

    (Not even for legislators.)

    Another part of this "reform" is what I like to call the Homicidal Boss Rule.

    Under the House's version, you could no longer sue your boss in civil court for sending you into a dangerous or life-threatening situation unless you proved that your boss intended to hurt or kill you.

    Merely sending you "knowingly" into danger would not be enough.

    That means a boss would practically have to be guilty of first-degree murder or attempted murder to be sued. Even a boss convicted of the manslaughter of an employee would still be immune!

    CORPORATE LAWYER: Please tell the court, Mr. Whiplash, whether you intended any harm to your employee Mr. Johnson when you ordered him to lie down in front of an oncoming steamroller.

    BOSS: Absolutely none, sir. I had no idea of what would happen.

    JUDGE: Case dismissed! Mr. Johnson is ordered to pay Mr. Whiplash's legal bills.

    JOHNSON: Mpmph hgrrg!

    This was too ridiculous even for the Senate, and it is the only part of the House bill that the Senate has rejected. But the Senate might still be forced to cave in.

    Let's see, what else?

    Being experts, the House and Senate also declared that no worker requires more than three months of psychiatric care following a trauma. If, for example, a convenience store clerk is raped at knifepoint, she will be working under a deadline to Just Get Over It.

    This whole bill has been served up by big business and insurance. It is based on a bunch of cooked-up statistics and the claim that if the Legislature passes this bill, insurance rates will drop by more than 10 percent.

    Riiiiight. In a pig's eye, assuming the pig didn't have to give both eyes up.

    What kills me is that your member of the House or Senate is probably going to win re-election anyway.

    Your representatives will come home and will have the benefit of campaign money, given to his or her party.

    That money will come from telephone companies (who got a bill raising your local rates) -

    And insurance companies (who got the workers' comp bill written) -

    And sugar companies (who got the Legislature to rewrite the Everglades cleanup) -

    And big strip-mall owners like Publix (who got a law passed saying neighbors can't sue when dry-cleaning chemicals leak into the ground) -

    And with that money, legislators will buy billboards that will sport cheerful slogans such as: "Fighting For You!"

    Both eyes?

    Both arms?

    Both legs?

    Both feet?

    "Look at Captain Ahab," the insurance lobbyists probably told the Legislature. "He got around just fine with a peg leg, didn't he?

    "And just think about how much money the one-eyed man is going to save in eyeglass lenses."

    Fighting for you.

    © Copyright 2003 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved

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