Ever since I started representing clients in personal injury lawsuits, I started seeing a pattern. Large corporations, who were clearly responsible for the person’s injuries would act borderline illegally in an effort to make evidence disappear or alter it to make it very difficult for the injured person to prove their case.
In one particular case against a worldwide company worth approximately $179.5 billion,* I represented the company’s employee who had sustained an injury resulting from repeated physical labor. In Florida, employers are required to provide Workers’ Compensation coverage for all of their employees in case something like this occurs. The law also requires employees to inform their managers within 30 days of the injury.
My client’s injury occurred during her shift and was serious enough that she could not continue to perform her duties. She immediately told her manager that she had suffered an injury and requested to clock out to go see a doctor. She was not provided with any information regarding her automatic right to be treated by a physician, free of charge. Nor had she any idea that her employer is required to continue providing treatment until she heals, as well as compensation for missed work.
My client spoke limited English and this huge corporation took advantage of the fact.
She found out that she could make a claim to her employer only after paying out-of-pocket for several visits to her own physician. When she came to make the claim, the company had her write an explanation of how she sustained her injury. Since she could not write in English, they instructed her to write in Russian (her native language). Several days after she filed the Workers’ Compensation claim, she was officially denied coverage. The denial was based on two things: 1) her employer did not have a record of her notice of injury and 2) according to a translation of my client’s explanation of injury, the employer determined that the injury was unrelated to her job and therefore not covered by Workers’ Compensation laws.
Of course she was confused. Luckily she found our law firm and retained me immediately.
I immediately requested a copy of the Russian version of my client’s explanation and the company’s translation. The attorney even chuckled when I told him I wanted to see the Russian version. He said with a snicker, “What, can you read Russian or something?” I calmly told him I could.
When I received it, I was shocked. The translation, which did not indicate the name of the translator, completely misstated my client’s account of what happened. Later, when I took a deposition of the claims representative responsible for denying Workers’ Compensation claims at this multibillion dollar corporation, she stated that based on my client’s “own statements” the company had “proof” that the injury had no connection to her job. When confronted on the identity of the translator and the accuracy of the translation, she had no explanation. Shortly thereafter, we settled at mediation for a substantial amount of money, which was enough to pay for future medical treatment including surgery.
My client, who had worked for the company for over a decade, was almost left empty handed with an untreated injury, which required an expensive surgery that she could not afford.
If I had not been able to communicate with my client in Russian and truly understand her position and if I could not instantly evaluate the two conflicting documents, she would have been a victim of a game large corporations often play. I’ve seen many of these types of cases across Florida as well as surrounding states where the personal injury attorney must fight for the client to uncover the wrong doing.
In this example, the corporation took a chance, knowing that the likelihood of my client being able to find an attorney with whom she could communicate accurately was very low. On the surface, given the information the corporation had against her, it looked like she had no case, but when she retained an appropriate advocate to stand up for her, the giant buckled.
I have personally witnessed many other examples of how large corporations stop at nothing to avoid responsibility. When I take a new case, my staff and I always joke about what the new defendant corporation will be caught doing. Unfortunately this is common, but with a sharp attorney the client has a chance.
* According to Forbes Magazine