The Buck Stops Ear

Witness statements often play a key role in claim investigations and are equally as important to a criminal investigation, if not more so. In the case of a Sacramento-based landscaper, witnesses proved to be the nail in the coffin for this worker’s claim.

In 2019, a 43-year-old landscaper claimed injuries to the ear and face after an alleged altercation with his supervisor. He immediately sought medical treatment and the doctor reported evidence of previous trauma and pre-existing conditions to the ear.

Multiple witness statements were obtained early in the claim and later by depositions. Witnesses reported that, prior to the claim, the landscaper had previously told them he had been struck by a baseball bat in the head and suffered ongoing ear pain and leakage, often placing tissue inside his ear to mitigate the issue. 

Meanwhile, the landscaper continued claiming to the employer and physicians that his injuries were entirely caused by this altercation and denied prior injuries to the ear while under oath in his deposition. Medical records and witness testimony refuted this claim. After reviewing all the evidence, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board determined no injury was caused at work and awarded the landscaper a “Take Nothing,” meaning no settlement or benefits would be provided to the worker.  

ICW Group’s Special Investigations Unit reported this matter to local authorities who are currently undergoing a criminal investigation into this case. The fate of the landscaper remains at the hands of the justice system.

Fraud-fighting take away

This case is a good reminder for employers to interview all witnesses immediately following an injury at work. These statements will provide a clear timeline of events that could help validate or refute the alleged injury. Tips to help walk you through an injury investigation can be found on the ICW Group Policyholder Website. Our Accident Investigation blog series also provides guidance on what to do post-accident, including tips on interviewing witnesses.

Lindsey McLain
Lindsey McLain
Lindsey is a Supervisor in the Special Investigation Unit at ICW Group. Lindsey has investigated 100s of cases; many resulting in criminal charges filed by state prosecutors, and thousands of dollars in restitution paid to ICW Group. In addition to conducting fraud investigations, she also presents and produces anti-fraud training for ICW Group personnel, and hosts fraud prevention webinars that reach thousands of customers nationwide.

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