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Injured WV Workers: More Red Tape and Little Recourse

May 17, 2010

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - Over the last decade, West Virginia has made numerous changes to what had been a financially-troubled workers' compensation system. But unions and some attorneys say the state has put so many barriers in front of injured workers that the system is denying legitimate claims.

Charleston lawyer Kelly Elswick-Hall says many doctors have stopped taking workers' comp patients because of the red tape.

"Doctors are getting swamped with paperwork, because to get one seven-dollar generic prescription, they've got to write a three-page report."

Elswick-Hall stopped taking workers comp cases three years ago, in part because the new rules meant a flood of new medical issues that lawyers had to litigate, but didn't get paid for. She says that makes it hard for people to find a lawyer to take their case.

"You could fit all of the lawyers who are actively accepting workers' compensation cases on a regular basis in one mini-van. I get calls constantly from people literally begging me to take their cases."

The state Chamber of Commerce insists the rule changes were necessary to rescue the system from collapse, and argues that there are plenty of doctors and lawyers willing to take workers' comp cases.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV