1993 testimony to Legislature regarding proposed changes to W/C Act
ATTY. STEVEN EMBRY: Members of the Labor Committee, my
name is Steven Embry, and I'm an attorney and like
you I represent the interest of injured workers who
have given their arms and their backs and their
hearts to help build this country. We're here to
determine today whether or not those workers are
going to sentenced to a ghetto of poverty, pain
and hopelessness. We here in Connecticut are not
living up to our obligations to our injured
workers. We rank first in the country in income,
and 14th in the amount of money paid in
compensation indicating that we are far behind what
we need to be doing.
An injured worker in Connecticut loses his job. He
loses his pension and he loses his health
insurance, and now he's blamed for the bad economy
and all I can say is shame on you for blaming him
for that. A worker who is so disabled that his
employer refuses to take him back to work should be
treated fairly and the burden shifted to the
insurance company to prove that work is available.
The worker is so disabled that he can only get back
to work with retraining should be supported while
he is in school.
We should more fully compensate workers who have
permanent wage loss and are truly suffering. When
a medical bill is submitted to an insurance
company, the insurance company should pay it
promptly or tell them why not. An employer who
discovers his employee has been injured should be
required to report it to him out of fairness and
justice and to notify the employee of his rights.
Our system for compensating asbestos victims is a
tragedy and a farce.
It's a disaster that now takes years to solve
because of multiple hearings requiring multiple
employers to be brought in. We here on the
Connecticut Trial Lawyers support a system of
simplified justice of joint and several liability
to insure that workers are paid promptly and
fairly. We must restore health insurance benefits
to injured workers. It is absolutely unacceptable
to end medical care at the very moment that a
worker is hurt. Most importantly we strongly
support efforts to reduce injuries.
It's injuries after all that cost jobs, not
workers' compensation. We should not be blaming
the victims. We support safety committees and
safety inspectors to end the carnage and cost of
injuries. When an employee, employer intentionally
disregards OSHA regulations, it should be stripped
of the shield of workers' compensation. For
workers' compensation is a shield designed to
protect employers from the consequences of
industrial accidents, shifting those costs onto the
broken backs of workers.
Do not be confused by those who suggest that if we
only pretend that there is no cost to injuries that
those costs will go away. Last year we took a step
back from fairness. The forces of darkness are
gathering again here at this very Chamber.
REP. EBERLE: Could you please summarize, sir?
ATTY. STEVEN EMBRY: Yeah, I will. The sound that you
hear in the State of Connecticut now is swords
being beaten into plow shares. Unfortunately the
business alliance wants to beat those swords over
the workers' heads. They get to keep the shield of
workers' compensation while the worker gets the
REP. EBERLE: Alright. Are there questions?
REP. ANDREWS: Sir, you talked and stated that you're
in favor of simplification of the system.
ATTY. STEVEN EMBRY: Yes, sir.
REP. ANDREWS: To that end would you favor streamlining
the system that would make it a heck of a lot
easier for a worker to get into the system to go
through the informal and formal hearing process
without the necessity of an attorney?
ATTY. STEVEN EMBRY: Well, I certainly would if that
could be done. And then there's a simple rule for
that. If you don't allow employers to be
represented by attorneys, then there's no reason
why workers should have attorneys. My experience is
quite simple that the employer cuts off the faucet
and the employee has to turn around and seek for
help from someplace else, and the Commissioners
can't do it.
On the other hand, we certainly should have a
simpler system without multiple litigation costs.
For instance, under the statute now, an asbestos
victim who has worked for 50 employers has to bring
all of those 50 employers in and each of those
employers shows up with one or two lawyers, and in
a simple case I represented a lady whose husband
died of mesophilioma. Everybody admits that he
died as a result of a work related injury, but over
a year has gone by and her husband, she has been
not been paid, simply because the employers refused
to agree among themselves as to how much each of
them should pay, and because the insurance
companies get to keep the money.
For instance, the man from the company you pointed
out that he had paid 400 some thousand dollars in
premiums and only $27,000 had been paid out in
benefits. A good question would be to ask where
did the other $370,000 go and why are the insurance
companies keeping so much?
REP. EBERLE: Thank you. Are there other questions?
SEN. DELUCA: Thank you for your testimony, sir. You
talked a lot about the unfairness to the workers if
this was done, and I heard Mr. Wilson earlier today
talk about something that I considered that hasn't
been addressed very much by this, shall we say this
side today, and how would you address fraud in the
system? You didn't mention that at all. I'm under
the impression that what Mr. Wilson said that
there's sometimes collusion between different
parties, not only the injured person, but there has
to be other people involved that represent them,
whether it be the medical people or a lawyer in
some cases. How would you address that?
ATTY. STEVEN EMBRY: I'm very concerned about fraud.
As a matter of fact, I spoke about it. When a
worker sends in a medical bill that the employer is
supposed to pay, it should be paid. Why does the
insurance company fraudulently refuse to pay it?
You're talking about one side of fraud. You're
talking about only one side of fraud.
SEN. DELUCA: How about addressing the part I asked you
about? That would be nice. You talked about that
already. I didn't ask you that. I asked you about
this particular one. Could you answer that part?
ATTY. STEVEN EMBRY: You asked me about fraud. What
I'm telling you is the biggest source of fraud in
the system is in insurance companies that don't pay
valid claims on a timely basis, and that the fraud
you should be out after investigating that.
SEN. DELUCA: Thank you for not answering my question,
ATTY. STEVEN EMBRY: You're welcome.
REP. EBERLE: Thank you. Are there any other
questions? (Applause) Please, please I don't want
to have to clear the room. You've been asked
before not to do that please, so that we can move
through the list. Many of you are waiting to speak
and it will go a lot faster if we don't do that.
Are there other questions from the Committee?
Thank you, Mr. Embry.
ATTY. STEVEN EMBRY: Thank you for your time
Attorney Steven Embry is from the law firm of Embry & Neusner in Groton CT.
Republican Senator DeLuca resigned his position in 2007 amid charges of criminal acts.