In a dramatic recent development, a Michigan-based insurance company has responded to pubic outrage by reversing its original decision to deny workers’ compensation benefits to a first-responder who suffered seriously injuries last May while assisting victims in the Joplin, Missouri tornado. Social worker Mark Lindquist risked his life to save three developmentally disabled individuals from the tornado that tore through Joplin on May 22, 2011, killing 160 residents and injuring more than 900.
In the process of coming to the aid of these residents, Lindquist was thrown nearly a block by the 200-mph winds, causing him to break every rib, loose all of his teeth, shatter his shoulder and go into a coma for several months. In the process, medical bills ran over 2.5 million dollars.
Lindquist does not have health insurance and assumed that workers’ compensation would cover medical expenses from the accident, but faced a denied claim from the Accident Fund Insurance Company of America.
According to the insurance company, the original decision to deny Lindquist’s claim was a product of Missouri workers’ compensation laws, which restrict injury claims during a tornado to circumstances in which an employee is subjected to a “greater harm” than that of the general public. Accident Fund initially claimed that that Lindquist was not at greater risk than the general public during the Joplin tornado.
In response, Missouri Workers’ Compensation firm Aaron Sachs & Associates published the following statement: “In our opinion, the fact that he stayed in the group home, lying exposed on top of a mattress while trying to save his clients, did indeed subject him to greater harm than the general public–who were at liberty to move to a place of safety.”
However, after revisiting the case the insurer stated that it had reversed its determination. “Upon further review of the case, and receiving additional information on the facts involved in this situation, Accident Fund believes the appropriate decision is to honor Mr. Mark Lindquist’s claim for worker’s compensation benefits,” said Mike Britt, president of Accident Fund Insurance Company of America. “We are committed to working with Mr. Lindquist to ensure he receives all the benefits to which he is entitled and helping him to recover from his injuries.”
According to the Associated Press, the Missouri legislature had previously honored Lindquist, passing a Senate resolution designating him “a true hero and inspiration to others.”