Liberty Northwest & the lifetime disability pension of $44.52 a week for 96.75% disability

Author Subject: Liberty Northwest & the lifetime disability pension of $44.52 a week for 96.75% disability
Del Posted At 13:06:17 03/04/2000
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Lifetime disability pension: $44.52 a week

By Mary Fricker
Press Democrat staff writer

James D. Reuss was a 52-year-old mechanic at the Simonson Lumber Mill in Smith River when on Oct. 29, 1969, there was a terrible accident.
"An overhead crane jumped the tracks and came down on top of me. Five tons," Reuss, 80, recalled from his self-built home in Smith River, a coastal town near the Oregon border.

"It hit me on the head and tried to drive me down through the cement. The doctor didn't know how I lived through it. I'm a little shorter than I used to be."

Reuss suffered multiple injuries, especially to his back. Six years later, after several hearings and trials -- which he doesn't remember, because he suffered from amnesia for 10 years -- he was officially judged to be 96.75 percent disabled.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., his workers compensation carrier, pays him a lifetime pension of $44.52 a week and covers the medical care that it decides is related to his injury.

Reuss' story illustrates the inadequacy of compensation for workers who are seriously injured. Not only are the monthly payments low, they are not adjusted for inflation.

Reuss is philosophical about his situation.

"I've been on my own since I was 11 years old. I learned long time ago, don't cry over spilled milk," Reuss said.

"You do what you have to do to make life go on just the same, regardless. That's the way I look at it."

He makes ends meet with the $700 a month he gets from Social Security -- which does adjust for inflation -- and the paycheck his wife, 65, gets from working as a file clerk at a hospital three days a week.

He's been pretty exasperated with Liberty Mutual, though.

Liberty Mutual spokesman Glenn Greenberg in Boston declined to comment on the case. However, records show Liberty has spent about $55,000 on Reuss's weekly checks over the years, plus medical care.

"I've always had to fight them," Reuss said. "Years ago I'd have to call them and say, 'Where's my check?' and they'd say, 'Oh! I guess it's been misplaced.'''

Last year, Liberty Mutual sought to close out Reuss's case. It said it would pay him about $2,000 if he would release them from having to pay his future medical bills, according to Reuss' Santa Rosa attorney, Rich Wootton.

''I got mad. ... I won't even deal with them anymore," Reuss said.

Even though the $44.52 Reuss receives each week is a small amount, his award in 1969 is more than a worker disabled today would receive, after being adjusted for inflation.

Today's worker with a 96.75 percent disability will get a lifetime pension of $142.04 a week. Adjusted for inflation, that's $32.48 in 1969 dollars.
unknown Re: Liberty Northwest & the lifetime disability pension of $44.52 a week for 96.75% disability (Currently 0 replies)
Posted At 08:57:57 03/07/2000

Go Figure!

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