Nevada Worker Compensation System Flaws Detailed

By Brendan Riley | March 23, 2009

Nevada Lawmakers were told that the state’s worker compensation system makes it tough on injured Nevadans to get the medical care and follow-up rehabilitation and training they need to return to their jobs.

The injured workers’ testimony during the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee hearing shows the need for reforms, state AFL-CIO chief Danny Thompson said, adding that state law prevents workers from suing but requires them to prove they were hurt on the job.

Byron Harvey of Henderson told the legislators that he suffered a severe back injury while lifting some sheet metal but it took more than six months to get his claim for compensation accepted, and he went through 21/2 years of treatment.

“The whole time I felt there was an overriding attitude by workers comp doctors and personnel that I was not injured,” Harvey said. “All I really wanted to do was go back to work.”

Harvey said he lost everything in the process, but was finally able to return to work as a business representative for the sheet metal workers’ union and now helps other workers navigate the state’s worker compensation system.

Asked by Commerce and Labor Chairwoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, to describe typical situations faced by injured workers, Harvey said, “Usually it reverts back to getting a lawyer. Some people have the means to do it. It’s tough for guys who are struggling in the times we have now. … It’s a rough road.”

Curt Garrett told legislators he was hit by a forklift while on the job in July 2005, and was at first told he only needed physical therapy and could return to work. After several weeks, he said he wound up in a hospital where an X-ray showed his back was broken.

After eight months, Garrett said he had back surgery and then went through rehabilitation and training, adding, “On a scale of one to 10 I would barely give it a two, if it was that.”

Garrett said he took community college classes in Carson City that helped him to return to work, and could have been on the job sooner if the state would have given him better help on filling out job applications.

The worker compensation process “is incredibly broken,” Garrett said, adding that he hoped that the testimony from him and other injured workers would prompt lawmakers to improve the system.

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