Showing posts with label Legislation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Legislation. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


At Snow, Carpio, and Weekley, we strongly believe that lawyers who will not stand up for what is right outside of the courtroom, can’t be expected to do so inside the courtroom. Our firm has always taken pro-active stands on issues that affect our clients against the powers that would violate their rights. For example, the historic effort to recall former Senate President Russell Pearce, author of the infamous SB 1070, was hatched in our office, funded by our partners. Our attorneys and staff have been at the front of efforts to limit the abuses of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas. In similar fashion, we wish to speak out in the strongest terms against SB1062 which, apart from being unnecessary and divisive, could negatively impact many of our clients. We will continue to speak out against laws and institutions that we feel are unjust, following the maxim that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

AZ Work Comp Law that Needs to Change

Snow, Carpio, and Weekley have always been active at the legislature in helping protect the rights of injured workers from legislation that is unfavorable.  One such statute that I intend to challenge when the time is right is A.R.S. 23-1044(D).  The insurance industry slipped a change in this one by a couple of years ago.  It provides that if an Employer offers an injured worker a modified job, and the worker subsequently loses that job for "reasons that are unrelated to the industrial injury", the carrier can take a credit for what the worker would have earned but for their fault in losing the job.  The statute says that the Industrial Commission "may" use those wages to determine the injured worker's post-injury earning capacity.  I have now litigated several of these cases - luckily not one judge has found that the injured worker was at fault in losing their job.  Usually they were fired for some pretext so the Employer/Carrier could try and get out of paying permanent compensation.  However, that hasn't stopped the carriers from trying.

Another statute provides that an Employee has to accept a bona fide job offer for modified work from their employer and if they don't, the carrier can use the wages they would have earned to determine their earning capacity.  My problem with these statutes is that they force workers to work for companies that they may not want to work for, at the risk of losing their benefits.  I don't mean to be melodramatic, but it's a form of slavery or indentured servitude.   I believe we fought a civil war over that issue. 

I'm looking for just the right case to take to the Court of Appeals to overturn these statutes.  I can't wait to be the first attorney to make a 13th Amendment argument in an Arizona Work Comp claim...

Chad T. Snow is an attorney with the Arizona Workers Compensation firm of Snow, Carpio, and Weekley.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Arizona Legislature Tries to Screw Injured Workers

There is an old saying that while you might not take an interest in politics, politics definitely takes an interest in you.  That is very true for injured workers during this session of the Arizona legislature.  Two bills in particular could result in very negative changes for those injured on the job.  Representative Karen Fann from Prescott has introduced the bills, almost definitely at the behest of ALEC, a national organization funded by large corporations that tries to enact changes in state legislatures which will enrich said large corporations, often at the expense of working people. 

The first bill would force all injured workers to treat with doctors chosen for them by the insurance carriers - a sort of workers comp HMO.  You can imagine the disastrous results this would cause for injured workers.  Most carriers would enlist a panel of extremely conservative doctors whose primary concern would be to cut costs for the carrier in order to maintain the relationship.  These doctors would provide a minimal amount of treatment and then tell the worker that they are fine and can go back to full work - even if they aren't.  This happens all the time currently when workers allow their care to be directed by the insurance company. 

The second bill would force treating doctors to follow pre-determined guidelines set by an out-of-state group - again with the goal being cost reductions for the carrier.  It would remove any independent judgement on the part of the doctor and severely limit their ability to treat injured workers according to their experience and on a case by case basis. 

As soon as Karen Fann and the rest of the legislature enlists in an HMO where their doctors are told what treatment they can do, I'll advise my clients to follow right behind.  In the meantime, we'll keep fighting!

Chad T. Snow and X. Alex Carpio are attorneys who limit their practice to workers compensation and Social Security Disability with offices in Phoenix and Tucson Arizona.  They can be reached at (602) 532-0700 or (520) 647-9000. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Update on HB2617

Word on the street is that House Bill 2617, which would have allowed full and final settlement of Arizona workers comp claims, is essentially dead on arrival.  A wide array of interests seem to have lined up against the bill, including the Industrial Commission - the state agency who oversees administration of on the job injury claims.  Other opponents included many of the unions, trial lawyers, and the Arizona Medical Association. 

While many of us who represent injured workers would have benefitted greatly from the much larger settlements that we could obtain, most of us were opposed to the bill.  I personally feel that it is bad public policy for two reasons:  (1) it places the burden of paying future medical expenses on taxpayers, instead of keeping it with the insurance carrier who has profited from the premiums paid; and (2) it takes advantage of injured workers at a time in their life where they may be very vulnerable and succeptible to making bad financial decisions. 

Kudos to fellow work comp attorneys Daryl Engle, Steve Weiss, and the others who lobbied hard against the bill. 

Chad T. Snow is an attorney who practices exclusively in the area of Arizona Workers Compensation.  He has offices in Phoenix and Tucson and can be reached at the Snow, Carpio, and Weekley website or at (520) 647-9000 or (602) 532-0700. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Employers Firing Injured Workers While on Light Duty

I've seen a very disturbing trend recently wherein unscrupulous employers and carriers take advantage of a recent change in the law to refuse temporary compensation to an injured worker.  The employer will offer "light duty" work to the injured worker, who accepts the accommodated employment.  The employer will then concoct a reason to fire the injured worker "for cause", and then the carrier will refuse to pay temporary partial compensation because they argue that the injured worker would have had work "but for" their own fault and for a reason unrelated to their work injury. 

The portion of the statute that is abused is 23-1044 which states that "If the employee is unable to return to work or continue working in any employment after the injury due to the employee's termination from employment for reasons that are unrelated to the industrial injury, the commission may consider the wages that the employee could have earned from that employment as representative of the employee's earning capacity." 

I almost always fight these cases tooth and nail as the reason the injured worker was fired is usually just a pretext to get the carrier out of liability for compensation.  The ALJ at the Industrial Commission can make a determination if the reason for the firing is legitimate or not.  The other reason I think this new tactic of carriers and employers is unconstitutional is that it injects an element of fault into what is supposed to be a no fault system.  I intend to take the first case I lose on this issue to the Court of Appeals or the Arizona Supreme Court to stop this insidious practice once and for all. 

Snow, Carpio, and Weekley are attorneys who practice exclusively in the area of workers (workmans) compensation in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.  They can be reached at (602) 532-0700 or (520) 647-9000 or on their website.

Monday, February 14, 2011

HB 2617 and Full and Final Settlements of Workers Comp Claims

As expected, the Arizona House Banking and Industry Committee of the legislature voted 5-1 along party lines (with Rep Miranda out of the room) to move House Bill 2617 forward. The bill would allow carriers and injured workers to enter into "full and final" settlements of workers compensation claims.  As I detailed in an earlier post, the lifetime right to reopen has always been one of the special parts of the Arizona Workers Compensation Act.  This bill would essentially do away with the right to reopen in those cases that are settled. 

On its face, the bill sounds good for injured workers - why shouldn't they be able to bargain away their rights if they think they are given good value?  But in reality, it takes advantage of their naivete and places the future burden of their medical care on the taxpayers.  Realistically, how can an unrepresented injured worker know what the likelihood of the need for future medical care is in their case?  How can they know what that is worth?  What is to keep an unscrupulous insurance carrier from paying one of their whore doctors (yes, there are some) to say that there is no need for future medical and giving the injured worker an extra $1,000.00?  The reality is that many injured workers, who may have been out of work for months or years and need the extra money, will shortchange themselves for the quick nickel.  Then 10 or 20 years down the road, when they need that additional back surgery or a knee replacement, who will be left holding the bag?  Not the insurance carrier - they will have settled it out.  The answer is the taxpayers, those paying for AHCCCS and Medicare.  But the Arizona legislature has become quite good at kicking the can down the road this year. 

It is very telling that the committee did not bother to seek input from the Industrial Commission of Arizona, the very state agency that regulates on the job injuries!!!  We wouldn't want stakeholders' input, would we?

Snow, Carpio, and Weekley are workers compensation attorneys who has represented thousands of injured workers at the Industrial Commission of Arizona.  He can be reached in Phoenix at (602) 532-0700 or in Tucson at (520) 647-9000. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

House Bill 2617

The Arizona House of Representatives took a break from crazy gun legislation and birther bills today to introduce a bill that, if passed, would significantly impact workers compensation claimants.  HB 2617, introduced by Rep. McLain and Tobish, would allow a full and final settlement of a workers compensation claim, making it ineligible for reopening or rearrangement.  At present, an injured worker can settle out his or her entitlement to permanent benefits and even his supportive medical care, but up to now, settlements involving future active medical care have generally not been approved by the Industrial Commission of Arizona.  The right to reopen a workers compensation claim has been one of the unique features of Arizona Workers Compensation law. 

The workers comp community has been somewhat split on the issue and I see both advantages and disadvantages to the proposed change.  On the plus side, injured workers should be free to contract away their rights if they so choose - I've always felt that denying them that choice is somewhat patronizing.  Many of our clients, for example, are from other countries where receipt of future active medical care is impossible anyways - they may as well get some value out of it.  On the flip side, many clients will settle for the quick buck now without thinking of the future.  If they need another surgery in 10 years and there isn't a carrier to pay for it, the taxpayers are usually left holding the bag.  There will certainly be many good arguments on both sides.  The two biggest players, the Industrial Commission of Arizona and the SCF Arizona (the state's largest workers comp insurance carrier), could take up opposing sides on the issue.  Should be interesting to see it unfold.

Chad Snow, member of the Snow, Carpio, and Weekley lawyer group, is an attorney in Phoenix and Tucson who limits his practice to Workers (Workmans) Compensation issues.  He has been active on many political issues in Arizona affecting the rights of injured workers.  He can be reached at (602) 532-0700 or (520) 647-9000.