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Monday, July 30, 2012

Injured Worker Advocates – To End Like the American Indian?

Empire of the Summer Moonby S.C. Gynne

Guest Blog
By Leonard Jernigan of the North Carolina Bar

In the New York Times bestseller, Empire of the Summer Moon, author S.C. Gynne writes in great detail about the last days of the Comanche Indians, who roamed the great plains from Mexico to North Dakota and who were the last holdouts against the white man’s overwhelming non-stop push for Indian land. The final death blow was the destruction of thirty-three million buffalo between 1868 and 1881. General Phil Sheridan said buffalo hunters in the last few years did “more to settle the vexed Indian question than the entire regular army had done in the last thirty years.” Gynne explained that killing the buffalo was more than an accident of commerce. “It was a deliberate political act.”

As legislatures all over the country constantly erode the rights and benefits of injured workers, the all consuming nature of the quest reminds me of the push for more land and the destruction of those Indians who stood in the way. Advocates for injured people also stand in the way and at every turn attempts are made to steamroll them. 

Texas is a prime example. It is hard to find a workers’ compensation lawyer in that state who has been practicing for twenty years or more. That institutional knowledge has been blown away like tumbleweed in a storm. 

As Shakespeare so famously stated on behalf of a dictator who was about to seize power, “The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers.” Removing access to lawyers is a simple but effective formula for insurance companies and big employers who want to impose their will on the system. Similarly, when Indians stood in the door, blocking westward expansion, the simple solution was to get rid of the Indians. It wasn’t easy but they got the job done, and most people back east weren’t troubled by any of it.

Could the Comanches have done something different to prevent their demise? Obviously, throwing arrows at soldiers with repeating rifles was a doomed strategy and they needed to shift their paradigm. Similarly, throwing coins at politicians while insurance companies and their allies throw millons of dollars isn’t a fair fight. 

What to do? Educate the public. Build coalitions. Utilize social media to explain what can happen if, God forbid, a nice person (like someone reading this blog) should be seriously injured at work and need workers’ compensation benefits to keep afloat and pay medical bills. 

Advocates for injured people need to re-think all approaches to this problem. If not, they will end up like the Indians who were moved to reservations, and who then sat around the campfire talking about the good old days of hunting buffalo and being free.

More about social media
Jan 24, 2012
The explosive use of social media information as a discovery and an investigatory tool in workers' compensation matters may soon be reaching its limits as the European Union is proposing privacy data regulations.
Apr 14, 2011
In this edition of Workers' Comp Matters, host Attorney Alan S. Pierce, welcomes Attorney Jon L. Gelman, to take a look a social networking in the workers' comp world. Alan and Jon discuss privacy and their clients, client ...