Severe Injuries While Working A Farm
When I was 18 years old and had just graduated high school, I worked on a farm that specifically operated to grow, harvest and package a special formulation of hay. As you can imagine, I was only making just above minimum wage.
While working in the field, operating a piece of equipment, a molasses tank exploded that my back was resting against. I was thrown about 20-25 feet and was in very bad shape, they owner actually did chest compressions on me in the field. I was initially taken to the hospital by wheeled ambulance and then flown to a University trauma center because of my injuries. After much testing it was found that nearly all my organs were bleeding, I had three broken ribs and five broken vertebrae and many "minor" injuries.
This happened in June 1990, my case is still open twelve years later.
My problem and concern is that the way I am compensated for my injuries. Because I had just graduated high school five days previous, I had not worked many hours.
If you know anything about WC, they assign you a compensation rate based on your earnings; my rate is something like $105 per week. The problem comes in now because twelve years later I still have many aches and pains from this and I now make substantially more money. In July of 2000 I had shoulder surgery that was supposed to relieve my pain in the area. I was out of work for a little over a week. If I did not have short term disability as a benefit from my current employer, I would have been paid $105 a week even though I now make almost nine times that. If I did not have the disability insurance, I could not have been able to afford to have the surgery on my shoulder even though it is covered by WC. Yes the doctor and hospital bills were handled by the insurance company but again without my supplemental insurance I wouldn't have been able to take the week to two weeks off to have the surgery.
The insurance company wants to settle my case to get it off their books. I am sure that if you would think that I would be fairly compensated considering the seriousness of my injuries but guess what, especially in the age of large settlements?! I was only making minimum wage and only worked a few hours since I was still in school prior to the accident. My severe injuries are worth less than $5000 as compensation for a lifetime of pain and suffering. As anyone that has had a back injury knows, once something like this happens your back is a problem for the rest of your life.
Workman's Compensation basically has no bearing on the severity of you injury (yes they rate your percentage of disability), it is how much you make before the injury. A person that is making $500 per week and receives a small injury that will cause hardly any more than an inconvenience in the future will receive much greater compensation and settlement than someone such as I who have been injured severely but did not make a lot of money.
This was something I had no control over, it was a difficult job that most teens would not have done and now I am being penalized severely because of it.
In addition to this, because my employer was covered my Workman's Comp. I had no legal recourse for a lawsuit against him when it was found out that this was gross negligence on his part. Subsequently, it was found out that the tank that exploded and injured me, had also blown apart one other time (no one was hurt) and the owner just welded it together again. To make it even worse, when I went back to the farm to talk to the owner, the tank was being welded together once again.
You must realize that I am not out to make a million dollars off of this but because of this, if something did happen in the future my family's future could be in jeopardy. I did not receive WC benefits a day longer than I needed to, they never spent money on retraining me, etc. and have never asked the insurance company for anything.
There needs to be a mechanism to help people in situations like myself. If I lose my short term disability insurance in the future and I am unable to work because of this injury, I could be on the verge of losing everything I have worked so hard for.