The Top 10 Bizarre Workers’ Comp Cases for 2017

The Top 10 Bizarre Workers’ Comp Cases for 2017

Annual “Bizarre” List Began 30 Years Ago

Continuing a New Year’s tradition that informally began 30 years ago, when my mentor, Dr. Arthur Larson, original author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, and I would meet each January at his home on Learned Place, here in Durham, North Carolina, and informally exchange lists of bizarre cases from the previous calendar year, I submit to you my list of the Top 10 Bizarre Workers’ Compensation Cases for 2017. For the past dozen years or so, I have released the annual list in electronic format. As you may know, a few years ago, the annual list was even featured on National Public Radio’s Saturday morning show, “Wait, Wait, … Don’t Tell Me.”

As is the case with previous “Bizarre Lists,” I am ever mindful of the fact that while a case might be bizarre in an academic sense, it is actually intensely real for the participants and their families. These highlighted cases involve real injuries, some even fatal. Life has its bizarre moments and, since the workers’ compensation world is quite representative of the larger world around it, the cases we see each year sometimes have quirky fact patterns.

And so, in the spirit of my annual January ritual, I offer ten bizarre published cases (in no particular order), and a couple of others that, while truly bizarre, didn’t make the appellate courts. If you know of others that fit the category, please send them along to me [].

[Author’s Note: Citations link to Lexis Advance.]

CASE #1: Falling Clipboard Results in Fatal Helicopter Crash (Idaho)

In a case with a particularly unusual and tragic fact pattern, the Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed a state trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG), on exclusive remedy grounds, in a wrongful death action filed by the father of a pilot killed in a helicopter crash in a remote region of that western state. The pilot was employed by a small aviation company that had been contracted to fly two IDFG employees to the remote site to conduct a fish survey. The copter crashed, killing all three persons aboard. Evidence indicated that, just prior to the crash, one of the passengers became air sick and opened the helicopter door, dropping a clipboard in the process. The jettisoned clipboard struck and damaged the tail rotor of the helicopter, making it too unstable to fly. The Court agreed that IDFG was the pilot’s statutory employer and, as such, was immune from tort liability.

Krinitt v. Idaho Dep’t of Fish & Game, 398 P.3d 158 (Idaho 2017).

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 111.04.

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NCCI investigates the drivers of the 2015 decline in medical severity

Medical costs are currently about 60% of all workers compensation benefit costs in the United States. Medical costs in the system had a surprising year in 2015. For the first time in more than 20 years, the average severity of medical claims for employees who were out of work due to injury or illness declined, after years of steady increases in severity. NCCI examines the factors driving this decline.

What’s happening this week in workers’ compensation?

What’s happening this week in workers’ compensation? IWP’s weekly legislative wrap-up, State of the States, keeps you up to date on important matters within the workers compensation and pharmacy arena.

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What’s happening this week in workers’ compensation? IWP’s weekly legislative wrap-up, State of the States, keeps you up to date on important matters within the workers compensation and pharmacy arena.

This week’s legislative wrap-up contains updates including:

  • Pennsylvania Senate voted to pass a bill to create a workers’ comp drug formulary
  • California submitted final regulations for the adoption of a drug formulary
  • New York’s new law would allow volunteer firefighters to collect benefits

You’ll also find information on the President’s declaration on the nation’s opiod epidemic.


Construction Leads U.S. Industries in Struck-By Accidents, Deaths

struck-by accidents

Construction Leads U.S. Industries in Struck-By Accidents, Deaths

The headlines say it all: “Worker killed by steamroller,” “Worker hit and killed on Highway 9,” “Worker hit, killed in construction zone.”

Highway maintenance workers have some of the most dangerous jobs in the construction field, as do power-line installers and excavators.

So says a new study that examines the role of “struck-by” hazards in the cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in construction.

The study, by the Center for Construction Research and Training, found that from 2011 to 2015, 804 construction workers died from struck-by injuries, more than any other major industry including agriculture and transportation.

Construction also had the highest rate of nonfatal struck-by injuries among all industries.

About half (52.2%) of the struck-by fatalities were caused by an object or equipment, the study found.

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Why Can’t I Choose My Pharmacy Under Workers’ Comp?

Why Can’t I Choose My Pharmacy Under Workers’ Comp?

Posted by Danielle Jaffee on Sep 28, 2017 8:00:00 AM

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Workers’ compensation is not like traditional health care, and your coverage isn’t like your normal health insurance coverage.  The reason? Because under workers’ compensation your employer is paying for your treatment. For the most part, you aren’t expected to put out any money when receiving workers’ comp benefits.

Because of this, the rules of treatment get a little tricky.  The biggest thing most injured workers notice after they’ve been injured on the job is that the employer has more control over medical treatment than they would have had the injury not occurred at work.  This varies by state, but under some laws the employer has the right to select your treating physician and/or the pharmacy you go to for your prescription medications.  This practice is called direction of care.


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Pinnacol Assurance hopes Colorado small biz will take a bite of its Cake for-profit subsidiary

 –  Reporter, Denver Business Journal

Colorado’s largest workers’ compensation insurer will roll out a new for-profit subsidiary company next month that is designed to appeal particularly to small-business owners.

The subsidiary — called Cake — offers a digital platform for small businesses to sign up for coverage. It also cuts down on the number of questions companies must answer and the amount of paper they must fill out.

Pinnacol Assurance, a state-chartered workers-comp provider, developed the Cake platform over the past 18 months in an effort to re-think the process of how companies will be buying insurance over the next 10 years and in reaction to the massive changes the industry has seen in just the past few years.

It will go live on Oct. 10, offering small business leaders the chance to answer 12 to 14 questions about their companies and then to sign up for an insurance policy in just five minutes.

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Implementing Medical Marijuana Into Workers Compensation

By Sherri Hickey, Assistant Vice President of Medical Management, Safety National

Sherri HickeyMedical marijuana has already been legalized in 29 states and D.C., with 12 states pending legislation. It is time for the workers’ compensation industry to embrace this new reality and learn how to incorporate the use of medicinal marijuana into claims handling where appropriate. It might surprise many to hear that there are actually advantages and improved outcomes related to its use.

Understanding Recreational Versus Medical Marijuana
There are many misconceptions regarding differences between recreational and medical marijuana. A cannabis plant is made up of over 80 cannabinoids. With recreational marijuana, the primary cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is traditionally smoked and the THC is what provides the high or the impairment. Recreational marijuana is metabolized through the liver. Drug tests are designed to detect THC, which can stay in the system for weeks or months.

In the case of medical marijuana, the primary cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD). It is not smoked, but rather is delivered in forms like oil and liquid. In addition, medical marijuana contains 0% THC, so use provides no high or psychotropic effect. It is metabolized through the blood stream, therefore it will exit the body within 24 hours. Because of these elements, standard drug tests looking for THC will not detect its use.

Medical marijuana can be used for many symptoms, however, in the workers’ compensation arena it will primarily be used to manage pain, anxiety, muscle spasms, post-traumatic stress disorder and to control seizures. It can be vaporized, added to food or liquid, developed into a topical that is rubbed into skin or a transdermal that can be applied as a patch. Unlike recreational marijuana, medical marijuana can be delivered in managed doses. It is currently regulated individually by state and each state is actively managing quality and consistency in items produced.

It is important to mention that THC-based marijuana can have some medicinal capabilities and individuals could benefit from using both forms. However, for treatment of injured workers that are likely to re-enter the workforce, it is not recommended for use – especially when there are so many benefits associated with the THC-free version.

Where to Begin
Let’s face it, this country is in the midst of an opioid crisis due to opioid overprescribing in general.

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Uber and Alternative Workers’ Comp Insurance


With the growing popularity of the “gig economy”, especially companies like Uber, a Transportation Network Company (TNC), questions about protecting workers have come front and center.  Most drivers for Uber are considered independent contractors which exempts them from some needed protections including workers’ comp.  But recently TNCs and insurance companies have been exploring ways to provide better protections for TNC drivers.

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