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'Duty injury king' dethroned by work comp inquiry

Both private and public sector employees who suffer debilitating work injuries can take comfort in the fact that they can rely on their employer's workers' compensation insurance to provide the financial assistance they will need as they work towards a full recovery.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that employee fraud remains a relatively common occurrence in all sectors. This means that some employees are actually brazen enough to either feign work injuries or exaggerate their severity in order to collect work comp benefits.

If you don't believe it, consider a recent case from Chicago's Cook County, where a jail guard who proclaimed himself the "duty injury king" to fellow employees was recently suspended without pay for allegedly submitting a false work injury report.

According to reports, the jail guard submitted a work injury report to his supervisor in November 2012, claiming that he suffered a severe back injury after slipping and falling in a pool of water located outside a prison gate while returning from an inmate transfer.

Shortly thereafter, his supervising officers went to the scene of the supposed workplace accident and observed only a small spot of water located nowhere near the gate. Even more telling was the review of surveillance footage from the area, which showed the jail guard shuffling his feet around the water and opening the door with no issues.

As stated above, the jail guard has since been placed on suspension without pay and the sheriff’s office is now seeking to file criminal charges against him.

Court records reveal that the self-proclaimed duty injury king has amassed over $150,000 in work comp benefits since 2008, including the following:

  • $841 for a shoulder injury sustained while turning a key in a malfunctioning lock
  • $9,950 for a foot injury and knee injury sustained from an altercation with an inmate
  • $53,476 for a back injury sustained while pushing a cart
  • $76,124 for an ankle injury sustained after stepping into a hole
  • $10,026 for a back injury sustained while walking down the stairs

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart indicated that the incident highlights the serious flaws in the state’s work comp program and the need for real reform.

“Currently, over $8 million of my budget is allocated for the payment of workers’ compensation claims, yet I have no control of how the claims are investigated, defended or paid,” he said.

Workers compensation fraud/employee fraud is a very serious crime. If you suspect that such a crime has been perpetrated against your organization, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced workers’ comp defense attorney.

Source: The Chicago Sun-Times, “Cook County Jail guard suspended in workers’ comp probe,” Frank Main, April 25, 2013

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