Category Archives: Workers Compensation

Accidental Shooting or Not? Claimant Shoots Investigator.

51-year old William Wehnke was out-of-work this December, collecting workers’ compensation benefits. 26-year-old insurance investigator Matthew Brady of New Jersey was surveilling Wehnke, who was under investigation for insurance fraud.
While filming Wehnke on his property, Brady was shot by Wehnke. Brady’s injuries included wounds to back, side, and leg. Brady required surgery to recover from his wounds, inflicted by Wehnke’s shotgun.
Wehnke claims the shooting was accidental and that he was shooting at some turkeys in his field.
Wehnke claimed that he “didn’t see” Brady crouching in a his field to obtain video surveillance footage. Wehnke claims he was shooting at the wild turkeys which were allegedly present. Challenging Wehnke’s story of an ‘accidental’ shooting is the fact that the turkey season had been over (closed) for months and that he was allegedly using the wrong ammo for hunting turkeys.
Wehnke has been charged with felony-degree assault and weapons charges. A grand jury handed down three indictments. This is the first case we are aware of in which an insurance investigator was shot.
Without a doubt, Investigator Brady is due worker’s compensation benefits!

2009 Workers Compensation Book Published

The 2009 edition of ‘New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law for Adjusters and Risk Managers’ has been published. The introductory guide, now reaching 270 pages, includes a copy of the scheduled loss charts for 2009 and a new chapter on ‘Motions for Med & Temp’ and the new-for-2008 ‘Emergent Motion for Med & Temp.’ Authored by: Joseph K. Cobuzio and Greg Lois. Click here to request a complementary copy.DSCN1503

New case: Apportionment in Occupational Disease claims

The claimant, Maria R. Natale, alleged that as a result of her occupational exposures while employed by the respondent she suffered from permanent residual disability. Six insurance carriers wrote coverage for the employer over the period of employment (1980 to 2001). Normally, the Judge of compensation will rely on the “Bond Doctrine” and hold that the “last carrier on the risk” is responsible for the overall disability.

However, in the Natale case, the claimant had “actual manifestation” of her “erosive osteoarthritic condition” during three specific periods of her employment. The “actual manifestation” was demonstrated by periods of actual treatment while employed (rare in a cumulative occupational disability case).

The Appellate Court found that the apportionment approach (rather than the Bond approach) was appropriate because the claimant’s disability was ‘fixed, measurable, and arrested’ during periods of manifestation and those manifestations occurred during specific periods of coverage.

Link to full case: (caution – link is to PDF): Natale v. Celanese.

Commutation of Benefits

What is a “commutation”? Simply stated, a ‘commutation’ is the legal term for a petitioner asking the Court to accelerate the payment of an award to answer some pressing need of the claimant.

Commutation reduces exposure in two ways:

1)Any commuted payment made is discounted 5%. Therefore, payments of compensation which are made under Order For Commutation saved the insured money.
2)The payment of commutation is deemed to shorten the period of overall benefits. A claimant, under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act, has two years to re-open a claim from the time last payment was paid. By commuting payments, the period for re-opener is shortened.

Generally speaking, a respondent does not usually object to paying a commuted award.

A recent case, Piskorz v. Beno Stucco Systems Corp., discussed the availability of commutation in a specific case. The Petitioner filed a motion for commutation of his workers’ compensation award, stating he wanted to leave America and open a business in Poland. According to the petitioner, he needed his money NOW because he had obtained the promise of a financial subsidy from the European Regional Development Fund for $60,000.00 to open the business, however, as a condition of the approval, he had to provide his own matching personal funds of $60,000, otherwise he will not receive the subsidy.

The Judge of Compensation inquired as to whether the petitioner (1) had the matching funds, or (2) had any experience running a business. The petitioner could not verify that even with the grant of a commutation e would have the funds necessary to get a matching grant and had no experience running a business.

The Judge of Compensation denied the motion because the petitioner failed to prove: (1) he planned to actually remove from the U.S., and (2) his particular circumstances warranted a departure from the usual method paying a workers’ compensation award.

Case: Piskorz v. Beno Stucco Systems Corp., 06-6559 decided August 15, 2008 by the Honorable Philip A. Tornetta, J.W.C. (Note: this blog entry discusses an agency decision which is not binding law).

Statute discussed: N.J.S.A. 34:15-25

Contributed By: Greg Lois