Episode One

When you are lying hog-tied and ball-gagged and choking on your own phlegm, and being sodomised by the blunt end of a legal instrument, you have two choices:

You can buck and writhe and try to stretch the strictures enough to slip a hand free, at least, which you can then raise as though to say: “Hello! Human being here!”

And believe me, friends, I tried to, and got slapped for daring to struggle.

Or you can give in, take the crafty shafting of the shonks and shysters, all the while planning retribution.

And, my friends, that’s what I did in the end: gave in, rolled over, went belly up. It’s what we injured workers always do. Get beaten down.


The insurance company’s lawyer who met us in the foyer looked like he had just stepped off the deck of his latest racing yacht. He led us through the maze of work stations, past a glass-walled office and into a room with a table and some shelves filled with weighty legal tomes. The two fattest caught my attention: both were boldly titled FLICK. I should have recognised the omen.

As we’d passed the glassy office, with its tidy palms in big brass pots, I’d caught a glimpse of two more hot-shot yachtsmen lounging over coffees as they took in the view from the 15thfloor, out over the city, down the sun-flashed river to the shimmering sea. Something about their tans and their designer T-shirts told me it would not be long before they were back on the water.

My lawyer, Ralph, is at least 75. And old for his age. He wears shoes that look like moccasins and a dark and shabby suit, and peers at documents through the bottoms of coke bottles, his eyes a misty blue. He tells me for the 14thtime how he has handled over 4,000 workers compensation settlements and only ever “lost” the two. I wonder, for the 14thtime, where they went.

At first I am delighted with the room they’ve given us: I share their view! They bring me a glass of water. One. In the whole two hours of our negotiation. And half way through I notice that the sun is slanting in (on this, the hottest day so far of our searing summer) and filling the room. The air conditioning seems to work only feebly here. I can’t see any air vents.

And Ralph has been shuffling back and forth between the glassy paradise and my sunbaked hell, bearing offer and counter-offer. He first proposed $120K. They came back with $40K. My jaw dropped. This is $8K below the statutory minimum for my injury. Ralph says let’s try $80K. I roll my eyes and tell him that is my absolute minimum. I have suffered four years of agony and a year of abject poverty for this.

Ralph comes back and sits with me as I read a casebook on industrial relations law. When the knock comes on the door it is the grinning skipper, Rolex flashing. They are ready for you, Ralph. Ralph? Don’t take your nap now, mate! He sleepwalks back with sailor man and I read on about the Egg-Shell Skull Case of 1911, and the precendent it set.

Ralph comes back and says: Sit down, mate. They’ve raised their offer. To $47K.

I hit the roof. I swear. Ralph tells me there is no need for that. I try to tell him how it feels, at the end of the pension fortnight, to decide which is more important: bread, or milk? But there is too much emotion in my voice, and all he can hear is that. He tells me he will not represent me if I do not calm down.

I breathe the thin, sun-roasted air. I’m sorry Ralph. I am not angry at you. You are my friend. It is ‘the system.’ What shall we do?

Ralph proposes $70K. OK, I say. Sure. Just get me out of here. I am suffocating.

But they come back with $60K.

And that, my friends, is where I rolled right over and said: FLICK me! Please!

And so they did.

amberdextrous amberdextrous
51-55, M
17 Responses Feb 25, 2010

The problem with the system is the drivers to reduce the amount of compensation given to people and the medical negligence cases. i know of a case where a person claimed repetitive strain injury from typing and received hundreds of thousands of pounds. Why? The test wasn't that couldn't work in that job again, the test is could they work again period. I had an employee who contracted a serious condition resulting the loss of nerve tissue. They got to a stage where they couldn't walk or really use their hands too well. their sick pay entitlement ran out but I had to fight a massive battle with the pension people to show that this guy wold not return to work and should get his pension early. He was 55 years old at the time. The occupational physicians debated this for two years. No one will make a common sense decision.

Thank You Leisa. I am sorry to read of your similarly paltry payout. <br />
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At least we always have universal free healthcare here, so there is a safety net. But I was so looking forward to being able to afford some little things that would improve my quality of life -like a SE Asian cruise. Alas, I think that's off the agenda now.

Oh my, that is not even enough to cover one year, much less four, I am shocked, and feel that hurt, I have been screwed over by lawyers too, for an injury that lasted a lifetime, I got 18K...not even enough to pay for the healthcare I have needed from the injury. I empathize with you, this is horrible.

Thank You, Smiling, gryf and sarah.<br />
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I met several of those unempathetic doctors, Smiley. They represented themselves as "Occupational Physicians" and as far as I can see their only role in our medical system is as assessors in worker's injury cases. They all made a point of telling me they would not answer questions about my injury or recommend treatments, they were just there to assess my capacity to work.<br />
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The really confusing thing for me, gryf, is that it was a Labor government which drafted the legislation so severely limiting injured workers' rights. The Labor Party was founded on the principle of support for workers, but it seems the Unions had very little input into the design of the system. I believe the US's system was a major model for ours, sadly. Thank You for the hugs.<br />
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I knew you would say that, sarah! I thought of you as I posted this story, and hoped it wasn't too offensive for your sensibilities.


Dear Amber, I was confused for a minute there---I thought Australia was - well, more civilized than we yanks....it sounds like you have the same sharks running things there as we do here...I'm sorry you got fanged by those devils......In my long life--it's really ironic--the only people I've ever known to best the insurance companies were downright dishonest crooks....It leaves one a bit disillusioned--but IamaladyA is right----Karma will sort it all out. Hugs, gryf

I think that like in every other walk of life--there are all kinds....<br />
There are unempathetic doctors to match bloodsucking attorneys right down the line--ya know? I work for pro bono attorneys who spend all day helping the poorest people for free. I am sorry that you had such a miserable experience. I do not know the backstory for your injury...but<br />
It hurts to have to bend over and take it. Been there. I feel for you.

Of course I am generalising, Stoner! I knew a good lawyer once -honest, compassionate, not at all the high-paid *****... but he was on television! ; P<br />
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Of course there are many lawyers with their clients' best interests genuinely at heart, and who do their work with the ideals of justice and fair dealing foremost in their minds. But they are probably found in small suburban solicitors' offices, rather than in glitzy high-rise offices in the centre of the city, with the contracts to defend government departments against actions by their workers.

As a lawyer, I must disagree that we are all bloodsuckers. Alot of us try very hard to help our clients and to be fair in what we charge. Are there lawyers who cheat and overcharge? Sure. But that isn't all of us. I firmly believe that the bigger issue is that Congress, the state legislatures, and the courts keep changing the rules to make it easier for big business (and their insurers) to hurt people with impunity. Perhaps that is what the public wants. I was suprised recently when my brother-in-law said that he did not understand why Toyota should have to recall any cars over their sudden acceleration problem since only a few people had been killed. It strikes me that one person killed because of a badly made product is too many.

Thank You, friends. As some of you know, I am writing a best-selling biting satire on the whole industry. It starts in a swamp filled with parasitc creatures -and stays there.

That's awful. My brother went through this. They made him feel like he was doing something wrong. His back still bothers him, many years later. I'm sorry you had to go through this. You may need a sage ritual and many showers to get that slimy lawyer residue off of you.

I really am sorry this happened.... (and believe, lube helps!!!!)

Heehee. I am walking funny since then, S-gal! I think I would have felt so much better if there had been lube!

This sucks so totally bad.... the system is rigged so that them who has, get more... the rest of us, get F-u-c-k-e-d right in the a-s-s and no lube.

Thank You for your empathy, friends. <br />
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The workers compensation system here has been designed by doctors, lawyers and bureaucrats for the benefit of doctors, lawyers and bureaucrats. I am pretty sure they have spent as much defending this case as I will eventually receive (my legal fees and a repayment to Social Security will have to be deducted from that $60K).<br />
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In the last four years I have had to deal with 26 medical professionals and about a dozen leeches... sorry, lawyers. And numerous bureaucrats. Well-paid professionals all of them, no doubt, and paid already. One psychiatrist received $3 900 for talking to me for an hour and writing a single-page report. <br />
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The last person to benefit is the injured worker. This little human being here, with his hand up.

I'm so sorry. It's so horrible how lawyers and big business keep take, take, taking from people who are just trying to live.

They are totally unbelievable. I have just finished a review of a legal body and the amount of money these guys were sucking out of he system is amazing. One of them was taken to lunch by a client and charged £300 for their time!!!!<br />
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it sort disappeared into the fees and no one noticed it until i checked non-casework fees. They were charging nearly as much on non casework fees as they were on the cases