Company Reverses Denial of Tornado Hero’s Workers’ Comp Claim

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Monday, November 14, 2011

Last month, we discussed the story of a Joplin, Missouri man who was badly injured while trying to protect three disabled men during the devastating May 22 tornado that killed 162 people. Though the man was on the job as a caretaker at the men’s group home at the time, his employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company denied his claim, leaving him with a multi-million dollar medical bill to pay.

It now appears that the man’s worries about paying that bill are over after the insurance company, Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, reversed its decision in the wake of several media reports about the denied claim. The president of Accident Fund said that the company is now “committed to working … to ensure [the man] receives all the benefits to which he is entitled.”

The group home where the man worked did not have a basement, so to protect three men who lived there, all of whom had Down syndrome, the caretaker and a co-worker had them lie on the floor and covered them with a mattress. They sat on top of the mattress to try to keep the residents down.

The tornado, one of the deadliest in U.S. history, tore through the house, tossing the caretaker half a block away and impaling him on a piece of metal. He suffered numerous injuries, including to his head, arm, eye and ribs. He was in a coma for two months and doctors were not optimistic about his chances for recovery. But he has made great stride since then, walking, talking and using his right arm, though he continues to suffer from short-term memory problems.

The man, who did not have health insurance, filed a workers’ compensation claim with Accident Fund, his employer’s provider, but was denied. The company claimed that since he was at “no greater risk than the general public” during the storm.

In late October, at the urging of the man’s employer and after news stories about the denial circulated, Accident Fund announced it now would accept his claim. The company cited “additional information on the facts” for causing it to change its mind.

Source: Fox News, “Insurer adjusts, to pay ‘miracle’ Joplin survivor,” Oct. 24, 2011

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