Insurance Company Renders Blind Man Helpless
By Gerri Elder
While working at a Radio Shack store as a manager-trainee on November 18, 2004, James Dolan was shot in the head. During a holdup at the mall, a bullet traveled through his temple and both of his eyes. As a result, Mr. Dolan is not only completely blind, but also suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome.
In 2005, Mr. Dolan and his family were featured on the ABC television show Extreme Makeover Home Edition. His home was renovated, expanded to 3,500 square feet and made handicapped-accessible.
Since then, the Dolans have nearly lost the home due to higher insurance, taxes and utility costs. Community donations have run out and they have had to borrow money from family and friends just to keep food on the table.
The Dolans might not have had so many financial struggles if they had received any reasonable cooperation from Radio Shack's workers' compensation insurance carrier.
Because Mr. Dolan was injured on the job, his family must depend on Radio Shack's workers' compensation coverage, provided by Liberty Mutual, for the rest of his life, unless he is able to return to work. His medical expenses are to be paid and he receives 2/3 of his former pay, or approximately $1,300 per month.
The St. Petersburg Times reported that the Dolans have had to continually do battle with Liberty Mutual to receive the benefits due to Mr. Dolan. The Dolans say that dealing with Liberty Mutual has been as challenging as dealing with Mr. Dolan's blindness.
Mr. Dolan's doctor ordered a caregiver and the law requires Liberty Mutual to pay for it. Mrs. Dolan quit her job in order to care for her husband, but until recently, the insurance company refused to pay her. When a judge ordered Liberty Mutual to pay Mrs. Dolan, they ignored that order for as long as possible.
The Dolan's had requested that Liberty Mutual provide 12 hours per day in attendant care benefits to compensate Mrs. Dolan for what is her round-the-clock care of Mr. Dolan. Liberty Mutual flat-out refused that request.
Instead, the insurance company spent the money to hire their own vocational rehabilitation consultants. These consultants reportedly told Liberty Mutual that not only did Mr. Dolan, the 34-year-old newly blind man, not need attendant care, but that he could learn to work.
And so the battle began for Mr. Dolan to receive the benefits due under workers' compensation law. Liberty Mutual called Mr. Dolan's appeals frivolous and even said that he would be fine with soap on a rope, rather than an attendant.
The Dolans have now filed a personal injury lawsuit against Liberty Mutual for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. They have also filed a personal injury claim against the claims adjuster and the nursing care manager who handled Mr. Dolan's case - all with the help of an injury lawyer.
Generally, in workers' compensation cases, it is not possible to sue the employer or insurance carrier. Workers' compensation is the sole remedy for on the job injuries and workers' compensation law governs these claims. However, the Dolans were able to file a personal injury lawsuit against Liberty Mutual and parties related to the workers' compensation claim because of the Florida Supreme Court decision in Aguilera v. Inservices, Inc.
In their lawsuit, the Dolans allege that the defendants' actions were "beyond all possible bounds of decency" and "atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community."
Mr. Dolan claims that Liberty Mutual refused payment for claims, denied and delayed coverage for medically necessary services and inflicted severe emotional distress upon him and Mrs. Dolan due to its "greed and utter disregard of the plaintiff's well-being."
And why would an insurance company with the slogan, "Responsibility - What's Your Policy?" do these things to the Dolans? Quite simply, to save the company money. That's why.