Workers comp delays keep an injured NDOT worker off the road

KOLO 8 News Now’s Ed Pearce talks to a Nevada Department of Transportation worker who feels the workers’ compensation system let him down.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 7:15 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -In recent weeks we’ve reported on an injured Washoe County Sheriff’s Office detective, Kim Frankel, and her battle to get timely treatment promised under Nevada’s industrial insurance or worker comp laws.

She’s now determined to change the laws which allowed the county to deny that treatment, if not for her, then other injured Nevada workers. In reporting her story we’ve learned there are many out there with the same issues, people like Joshua Hemovich.

By his own account, Hemovich has lived the active life of a physically fit father of two small children.

Today that life is one of strict limitations.

“I can’t even pick up my six-year-old daughter,” he told us. “My back is messed up. And my 12-year-old son, he was out shoveling out driveway because I can’t do it.”

It was along a stretch of US 395 just south of the Carson City line the last June that Hemovich’s life took a sudden turn.

He was part of a state NDOT crew surveying drainage lines underneath the roadway. All were wearing orange vests and caps standing well off the pavement, caution lights flashing on their pickups. He was standing alongside one of the pickups talking with another crew member when it happened.

“The next thing I remember is tumbling down the road.”

He and another crew member had been hit by a one-ton truck. The vehicle’s rear tires ran over his legs. His boots were caught by the wheel, tumbling him a distance down the roadway. The other man, a new hire working just his third day on the job, was Careflighted from the scene. Hemovich was taken by ambulance to the hospital where doctors discovered a frightening list of injuries.

“Thoracic vertebrae fracture, two compressed vertebrae fractures. I can’t remember the exact number. I’d have to look it up, but four to five broken ribs on the left side. Collapsed lung. Lesion on the right side of the brain. Bruising and swelling around 75 percent of my body.”

His struggle was just beginning.

He was sent home on legs that were more than bruised. The tire had left a huge hematoma underneath a technicolor bruise. It needed surgery.

“They had to go almost hip to knee to open it up. They removed almost four liters of fluid. and it was close to 15 to 20 pounds of material. It took four months to get the surgery done and a lot of that was due to getting MRIs approved and getting approved to go to the operation.”

And he’s not done yet.

“I still need a CT scan on the brain. They haven’t done one in seven months since the accident. I’m waiting for my shoulders to get MRI’ed. I’m waiting for my ankles to get MRI’ed and I still need another MRI on my right knee.”

And he says he doubts he’d be this far along in recovery if he hadn’t hired an attorney.

When the legislature privatized workers comp in 1995, they removed the “bad faith” clause leaving injured workers no recourse if they believe they’ve been unjustly denied coverage. In the process, people like Kim Frankel and Joshua Hemovich might argue they’ve created a system that only breaks promises to injured workers and keeps attorneys busy.

“In that realm, you’re a number,” says Hemovich, “You’re a dollar sign, and that’s all that matters. You’re not a person. They’ve made it very clear that you’re a case number and that’s it.”