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A little over a year after the San Bernardino terror attack, victims continue to struggle both physically and emotionally. County employees present at the attack must cope with the aftermath as well as the state’s complex worker’s compensation program. Many of the survivors have turned to legal support to fight compensation claim delays and denials.
On Dec. 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire at a county government office holiday party. Farook worked for the county as a health inspector prior to the attack. The two used five firearms and were planning a bigger attack after the holiday party. Fourteen people lost their lives that night, and 22 suffered injury. Still more experienced the psychological trauma that accompanies such a gruesome act of violence. Over 50 people attended the party that night.
Farook and Malik both died during a police shootout on the same night. Others connected to the attack have since faced prosecution for their roles.
Today, survivors must rely on the county’s workers’ compensation support to receive medication, counseling, surgery, physical therapy, and other physician recommended treatments. Each time an insurer delays or denies a valid claim, victims must fight through their pain and suffering to appeal the claim or find an alternative solution.
The pain the victims’ suffered follows them. Valerie Kallis-Weber’s left hand is paralyzed. Her pelvis contains bone and bullet fragments. Part of her thigh muscle is missing, and she continues to experience pain and trauma from her injures. Amanda Gaspard has struggled with a fractured femur and tibia, knee cartilage damage, and tissue damage. Hanan Megalla was shot four times. She experiences complications associated with nerve damage and fractures. Each of these individuals needs continuing treatment for physical and emotional injuries they sustained that night.
Physicians prescribe medication, surgeries, and physical therapy. Unfortunately, each of these victims struggles to receive necessary care.
The struggle arises in part from a complex state worker’s compensation system and in part from the county’s unwillingness to cooperate. San Bernardino County is self-insured, meaning it can override many bureaucratic processes to give victims the approvals they need.
The claims denials and delays may also arise from inadequate physician reviews. Many claims undergo the scrutiny of a non-treating physician, who will determine if the recommendation for treatment sounds reasonable under the circumstances. A physician who has no previous experience with the long-term effects of a terror attack and who never sees the injured worker may not deliver an appropriate care decision.
Regardless of the injury type, the workers’ compensation process remains daunting for many injured workers. Use these tips to improve your ability to access the benefits you deserve as an employee:
Workers’ compensation is a complex system, whether administered at a state or local level. Injured workers must initiate the claims process and continue to file for treatment approvals over time to receive care. The system was never designed to handle the aftermath of terror attacks, but this is the state of the world today. A terror attack at work deserves as much consideration as any other on-the-job injury. The now public handling of worker’s compensation claims in San Bernardino will likely impact how businesses and insurers handle job-related mass shootings and terror attacks in the future.
If you or a loved one are having trouble receiving workers’ compensation benefits in San Bernardino, be sure to contact our San Bernardino office today and set up an appointment.