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FITSNews Exclusive – Pigs At The Personal Injury Lawyer Trough October 26, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.
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S.C. LAWYER-LEGISLATORS REAP MILLIONS FROM WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FEES

FITSNews – October 26, 2007 – Eight State Senators – four Democrats and four Republicans – and their law firms have collected nearly $6 million in workers’ compensation fees over the past three years, according to an exclusive analysis of State Ethics Commission filings conducted by FITSNews.

Individually, State Sen. John Land received $2,203,900 in workers’ comp fees from 2004-2006, followed by Sen. Luke Rankin ($659,200), Sen. Gerald Malloy ($394,902), Sen. Vincent Sheheen ($294,292), Sen. David Thomas ($128,299), Sen. John Hawkins ($55,581) and Sen. Wes Hayes ($22,694).

Additionally, Sen. Land’s law firm pulled in another $1,681,665 in workers’ compensation fees over that time period, and Sen. Hawkins’ firm brought in another $138,933. The firm of an eighth State Senator, Brad Hutto, lists workers’ compensation fees of $377,096 over the past three years.

We’ve written in the past about how these ambulance chasers refuse to play it straight on key workers’ compensation votes – a clear conflict of interest – and how their campaign accounts are invariably filled by their ambulance chaser buddies. We’ve also discussed how this flagrant pocket-padding has contributed to South Carolina’s lack of economic competitiveness.

Not surprisingly, these eight senators have been among the most vocal opponents of efforts led by Gov. Mark Sanford and members of the Common Sense Caucus to reform South Carolina’s non-competitive workers’ comp laws.

They’ve been aided capably in that fight by powerful House Labor, Commerce and Industry Chairman Harry Cato, whose wife, Kris Cato, runs the labor and employment practice of Columbia-based law firm McAngus, Goudelock and Courie.

While it is true you can hardly shake a stick in Columbia without finding another example of self-serving corruption (all too often at the expense of our state’s economy), it’s hard to top the Senate’s “Ambulance Chaser Caucus” for sheer, in-your-face disrespect of everything elected officials ought to stand for.

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Comments»

1. Silence Dogood - October 26, 2007

Since W.C. is a universal coverage system is “Ambulance Chaser” exactly the correct term? Employees (and by virture of the contingent fee system in S.C. for W.C.) nor W.C. claimants attorneys as well, don’t get compensation for pain and suffering and the maximum award in S.C. is 300,000 in a W.C. case – and that is only if the employee is permanently and totally disabled – hardly the “Ambulance Chaser” most people consider when thinking of personal injury lawyers.

2. What? - October 26, 2007

Are you truly suggesting that you believe that every person that brings a suit to get worker’s compensation coverage is a crook and that the lawyers that represent them are ambulance chasers? Insurance companies hate to meet their contractual obligation to provide coverage to injured workers because its caviar off their plate. Will,here’s a question: if you get hit by a drunk driver while crossing the street in the vista this weekend and are put in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, are you a crook if you think the drunk’s insurance should pay for your medical bills? If the insurance adjuster from the drunks insurance company gets some witness to say that you jumped out in front of the car and denies coverage, would the lawyer you hire to challenge this assessment be an ambulance chaser? I don’t think you are being very fair on this one. I certainly hope nothing happens to you or your loveones but if it does maybe you’ll see this from a different perspective. The easiest thing in the world to have is an opinion because having one takes no experience or wisdom just an inclination of interest. No doubt these people are self-serving but that doesn’t make them a crook. I would be interested to do a similar poll on legislators who are affiliated or supported largely by insurance companies. Will, are you affiliated or supported largely by insurance companies?

3. C-dawg - October 26, 2007

NICE!

4. baked - October 26, 2007

Dear What?,

No…not every person, dumbass.

But, obviously, the system is rigged. The underlying reasons lawmakers are suing the governor for trying to get a state commission to quit lining the pigs’ troughs is something, unfortunately, that we can’t expect from any mainstream media.

5. Land o' Lawyers - October 26, 2007

The workers comp system was designed to minimize the need for lawyers. Workers who are injured do not have to prove fault on the part of the employer and the amount of compensation for injury is specified by statute — all for the purpose of eliminating the need for lawyers. But the lawyers got their nose in the tent and: 1) managed to increase the amount of injury awards, thus driving up employer insurance premiums; and 2) sopped up the increase in the injury awards by charging contingency fees, thus leaving the worker (on net in-pocket terms) no better off. Employers lose, workers are not better off, lawyers get fat.

6. Bert Cone - October 26, 2007

Perhaps the reason Sen. Malloy, Sen. Hawkins et al. oppose the current effort to reform the workers comp system is because they practice in it very day, understand that it works fairly, and realize that the proposed “reforms” are in fact an effort to tilt the system in favor of insurance companies? It is possible the comp system was created to protect injured workers and not increase the profitablity of insurance carriers? Are we really interested in putting corporate profit ahead of worker health and safety? As Lou Holtz would say, “Never worry about criticism from the misinformed.” Your comments simply demonstrate your ignorance.

7. FITSNews - October 26, 2007

Bert,

We are seriously going to sell all of our worldly possessions and follow you, O Wise One!

Your Lou Holtz wisdom has shaken us to the very core. Our whole belief system just doesn’t make sense any more, thanks to your penetrating observations.

God bless those lawyers. God bless them every one.

-FITSNews

8. pigs - October 26, 2007

Will: The only pigs that have visited the Statehouse were the two that Mark Sanford brought in under his arms to soil the carpet and embarrass our state. What do you think would happen to the average citizen if they tried a stunt like that? Why they would be arrested and prosecuted. To be fair, let’s review Sanford’s ethics filings over his terms and see how many insurance types contributed to his campaign. Would you research that and get back to us?

9. Render Unto Caesar - October 26, 2007

I can still see in my mind’s eye the workers comp commissioners unctuously scurrying up to Sen. Land when he attended a subcommittee on workers comp reform last session. It was pathetic. Sanford was right — we do live in a banana republic.

10. Gimme' a break (Nell Carter Style) - October 26, 2007

Render unto Caesar, on the contrary I think the government that would equal a banan republic is one where the executive passes the laws and not the legislature (it would also be a defacto monarchy which I am sure Sanford would love). Do you really think people get claimants attorneys in workers’ comp. cases because they are “thrilled” with the way the system is working for them??? I would have to wager it is jus the opposite.

11. no name - October 27, 2007

I thought I saw a statistic that only 8-10% of all claims require a lawyer. Maybe the injured worker is to blame for hiring the lawyer. We seem to blame them for everything else

12. Scott - October 27, 2007

Wil:

I’d like to offer a bit of protest for the inclusion of Wes Hayes in this piece (in the interest of full disclosure, I live in Wes’ district and I have invited him to speak to my classes on several occasions when teaching State and Local Government). Inclusion on the list implies wrong doing. Especially this sentence: “We’ve written in the past about how these ambulance chasers refuse to play it straight on key workers’ compensation votes – a clear conflict of interest – and how their campaign accounts are invariably filled by their ambulance chaser buddies.”

However, none of your previous writings (that I have come across…I may have simply missed it) on this subject mention Wes Hayes, but his inclusion on the list just above this sentence implies that he was part of the wrong doing you exposed. To my knowledge, Wes is as honest as the day is long and, more importantly for the point you are making, was in favor of a massive overhaul of workers’ comp in SC…especially doing away with the second injury fund. He and I stood in line together for about an hour while waiting to vote in 2006 and spoke at length on this very subject.

I couldn’t begin to guess how much his firm brings in, but I would bet that workers’ comp cases account for a tiny single digit percentage of that total.

I just wanted to include my $.02.

13. Gillon - October 27, 2007

I would feel a lot better about the whole system if the Worker’s Comp Commissioners were not elected by the very lawyer/legislators who then appear before them to represent clients.

14. FITSNews - October 27, 2007

Scott,

You make good points, and your two cents are always welcome here. And Sen. Hayes obviously benefited the least of those individuals we mentioned …

-FITSNews

15. No name - October 27, 2007

Uh, Gillon, they are not elected by the leg, they are appointed by the Gov.

16. miles Terry - October 27, 2007

check this blog article out. Will folks has a very funny blog – this article is interesting.

17. miles terry - October 27, 2007

its about time this stuff got out – we have so much corruption down at the state house

18. Sheesh - October 27, 2007

Gillon, feel well, they are appointed by the govenor. As for lawyers sticking their nose under the tent of worker’s comp. EVERY insurance company/employer is represented in EVERY case before the commission by an attorney as mandated by S.C. statues. Many claimants feel, and are, take advatage of and in response get lawyers to defend their rights, and bring their claims.

19. Gordon Hirsch - October 27, 2007

These guys are both filling the troth and feeding from it. Why do you think they run $ix-figure campaigns to land a $10,400 a year job.

The SC Bar Association’s cannons of professional ethics state that lawyers should avoid potential for conflict of interest and Canon 9 requires that a lawyer avoid even the appearance of professional impropriety.

20. Robert - October 28, 2007

I wonder how much Doug Jennings from Marlboro County got from the state in the case where he represented Denny Nielsen against the state and a construction company over her accident some years back? Politics is a revolving door and their salaries in most cases are nothing compared to their kick-backs from lobbyist and the Judicial System. America is being sold out daily and we no longer have statesmen we are being led Mafia style.

21. John Q Public - October 28, 2007

The WC system was set up for two reasons: (1) to protect the employees by guaranteeing payment when injured on the job; and (2) to insure the employers against lawsuits when their fault causes the injuries, sometimes traumatic, to the employees by capping compensation and limiting litigation. As part of the deal, the employer (via the Carrier) gets the choice of treating physicians, thereby giving them the opportunity to opt for physicians with a history of conservative impairment ratings, whenever possible. The employee loses the right to pursue compensation for pain-and-suffering, disfigurement, and other damages, and their spouses lose the right to pursue compensation whatsoever for their loss of consortium. Wow, you are right, what a system set up unfavorably in the favor of the employees and claimants’ lawyers!

In the research I have conducted, a substantial portion of the people who retain WC attorneys do so because of the following reasons: (1) their employer is trying to strong-arm them into not pursuing a claim; (2) their employer is trying to strong-arm them into not seeking treatment, or filing it under the private insurance as a non-job related accident; (3) the WC Carrier is not paying temporary disability like they are supposed to; (4) the WC Carrier is paying less than they should; (5) the WC Carrier is refusing to provide necessary treatment or authorize medical procedures authorized by the treating physician (who, by the way, is hand-picked by the carrier); and (6) the WC Carrier is offering subtantially less compensation for the employee’s disability than the employee deserves. In which of these cases do you think the employee is wrong to hire an attorney, and in which case do you think the WC attorney is not needed?

The simple fact is that the more employees are unrepresented, the more they will be intimidated into not filing claims for their injuries and the more those who do will be undercompensated by the Carriers. Of course, since this increase profit margins for the business, it HAS to be good for South Carolina, right?

22. Wallace - October 29, 2007

Who pays the premium for workers comp? The employee or employer?

23. david whetsell - October 29, 2007

If you keep electing them you are going to get what you have been getting.

24. Silence Dogood - October 29, 2007

Who pays the premium is a moot point, similarly who pays the premium for life insurance?

25. What? - October 29, 2007

Baked,

Thanks for calling me a dumbass and enlightening everyone with your wisdom. Oh and by the way your screenname is friggin “baked.” This cooking is a bit rich isn’t it? Maybe you shouldn’t hit the bong until after you write.


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