FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, September 2nd, 2005 Contact: Mark Hayes, 714-396-5260
Puts SB 1023 on Governor’s Desk
The bill would provide an injured worker with $2000 where they had to return
to court to enforce a final order
The fledgling injured worker group, VotersInjuredatWork.org, has shown some political muscle in a legislative session that has otherwise failed to make any meaningful changes to help injured workers survive the California workers’ compensation system. Senate Bill 1023, authored by Joe Dunn, quietly made its way through all of the twists and turns of legislative committees that have otherwise tended to shy away from bills that impact any aspect of the changes to the workers’ compensation system commandeered by Governor Schwarzenegger.
VIAW President Mark Hayes, a veteran court reporter for the Orange County Superior Court, pushed for the new law after discovering that the workers’ compensation system was the only court in the land that could flaunt final orders of the court with impunity. “In any other court, people would be sanctioned. They would be jailed for ignoring a judge’s order. There is no justice in the workers’ compensation system,” says Hayes. “As a new organization for injured workers, we wanted to try to address this. Insurance companies and employers need to be held accountable for upholding the law.”
The bill would provide an injured worker with $2000 where they had to return to court to enforce a final order. If they continue to have to return to court to demand compliance, the subsequent penalty would be $5000.
Asked why this bill made it through both houses, Executive Director Peggy Sugarman says, “It’s a simple bill that everyone can understand. What is the excuse for not following a final order of the court? Why should injured workers have to go back to court just to enforce something that has already been decided?”
A few real-life stories seemed to make the difference despite some legislators insisting that the workers’ compensation system was “fixed” and that existing penalties were sufficient. VIAW member Tom Passehl couldn’t get authorization to see his doctor for a despite a settlement that included future medical care for his back. With his back held together by screws, the flare-up that he experienced after returning to work scared him. But he couldn’t get them to authorize the visit until he filed in court to enforce the award, delaying his visit to the doctor for more than three months. The penalty under the Schwarzenegger changes, if awarded, is estimated to be about $62.
For VIAW member Ramona Ramirez, her treating physician could not secure authorization for a refill of the morphine pump that is implanted in her stomach despite a judge specifically ordering that it be done. The penalty, if awarded, would be about $50. “Not even the $2000 penalty would cover the pain and expense of the week I spent in the hospital with severe withdrawals after they stopped paying for my medications,” said Ramirez. “But $50? You’ve got to be kidding.”
VIAW members are now campaigning to get the governor to sign the bill into law.
For more information, contact Mark Hayes, 714-396-5260.