- Personal Injury
- Auto Insurance
- Auto, Truck and Motorcycle Accidents
- Catastrophic Injuries
- Medical Malpractice
- Texting While driving
Last year, as we were fighting against the bad workers’ compensation bill before the N.C. legislature, we shared with you the story of Mike Gentry, a Virginia satellite installer who suffered a brain injury after falling from a roof.
Two days after Gentry awoke from a coma, an insurance adjuster asked him if he remembered the fall. He said no; at that point, he couldn’t remember anything. And that’s all the insurance company, Zurich North America, needed to deny Gentry’s claim.
Gentry’s family fought a 21-month battle to receive workers’ comp benefits, with the support of his employer, an attorney and the local community. Ultimately, Gentry’s claim was accepted, but given his medical problems and long-term prognosis, the 10 years of benefits that Virginia law allows him will not be sufficient to sustain his medical care or his family’s expenses. The Gentry family was financially devastated during their nearly two-year fight with the insurance company.
Gentry’s case prompted legislators in Virginia to pass a new law last year to close the brian injury loophole in Virginia. Unfortunately, the loophole still exists for many Virginia workers who suffer workplace brain injuries, as Roanoke Times columnist Dan Casey writes in a recent piece.
During the debate over House Bill 709 here in North Carolina, Protect N.C. Workers and other opponents of the bill were criticized for our voter education efforts. Clients who called their legislators were told time and time again that the proposed law wouldn’t affect their claims and that our “hypothetical” scenarios would never become reality. But, as is clear from the Virginia case, these aren’t hypotheticals at all. They are real people with real, life-altering injuries, being hurt again by their government and the all powerful insurance companies.
As Casey write:
And then, Herman Blair fell off the roof of a garage he was building down in Lee County.
Blair, of Pennington Gap, is a 64-year-old Vietnam veteran who earned $500 a week in construction. His fall happened on Sept. 8. His only co-worker had his back turned and didn’t see the accident.
Blair hit the ground, fractured his skull and suffered a blood clot on his brain. Doctors were able to save his life, but now he gets around in a wheelchair. His lawyer, Ronnie Montgomery, told me “it’s a wonder he lived” and that now, Blair is totally disabled.
Blair sought medical benefits and $330 per week in replacement income from his company’s workers’ comp insurer. Though he can’t recall the accident because of his brain injury, he was able to testify as to his name and age at his workers’ compensation hearing.
And that’s what did in his claim — the fact that he could testify at all. Workers’ Compensation Deputy Commissioner Philip Burchett ruled that the Virginia General Assembly intended that last year’s law apply only to fatally injured workers or those in comas who can’t testify to anything.