Keeping an Eye on Workers’ Rights

I worked for a worker’s compensation attorney for two years, witnessing many employee behaviors since he represented them.

He worked tirelessly on their behalf, some more than others, admittedly but when I saw the kind of people he had to deal with sometimes it made me respect his work.

Carol, who had been his legal assistant for years before he expanded his staff in 1991, could have written a book on all that she saw, the funny stories, the hilarious depositions, the telling mediations.

I remember one time we had a client named Robert whose elevator didn’t go all the way to the top if you know what I mean.

The day before his deposition he called Carol and said, “Well, I accidentally cut off three fingers yesterday but I’ll be at the deposition.”

She couldn’t believe he was still coming and didn’t want to reschedule – especially since he hadn’t been to the doctor!

She later recounted the story to me, mocking him and saying, “I’m minus three fingers but I’ll be at the deposition!”

Not to take away from the serious clients who had sad and sometimes shocking stories and who deserved to be compensated, but we had a client also who claimed to be totally incapacitated. Then the insurance company for the defendant sent us a videotape showing our client water skiing, hauling armloads of wood, doing all kinds of physical things.

The attorney I worked for was furious, to say the least and dropped his case after giving him a piece of his mind.

Around December all the clients wanted their money and quick and they would hammer us constantly for their settlement checks that just couldn’t get there fast enough – even if the attorney had just taken their case. Although he would try to explain to some of these clients that these things take time, some of them wouldn’t hear of it.

Like the older client who got tired of talking to us on the phone and had a cab drop him off at our office around mid-December in the middle of a workday. He got out of the car and the other attorney in the office noticed he was carrying a small paper bag.

Given his temper, we were worried of course.

He came in the office, demanded to see the attorney who led him into the conference room. The attorney sent for his partner who shared the office with him to join them.

They were in there a very long time and it was too quiet.

We milled around the office concerned but saying nothing to each other.

We didn’t have to really.

Finally the partner came out and recounted to us the story in which she saw her life flash before her eyes. She said the client turned his back to the attorneys, reached into his paper bag and pulled out – a stack of papers. At the time everyone thought it was a gun and the partner breathed a huge sigh of relief.

I ran across a site recently that reminded me of my time spent at this law firm:

The Workers Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG) is a non-profit organization of plaintiffs’ attorneys who support the rights of employees and advocates of fair and just treatment of injured workers and their families.

Based in Washington, D.C. the group publishes Workers’ First Watch Magazine which features articles by experts on key areas of litigation, national and state workers compensation trends, and sections on relevant labor and medical information.

For nearly ten years the group has been monitoring workplace safety issues and workers compensation programs nationally and at the state level.

For more information, access wilg.org on the web.

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