Workers’ compensation is a crucial form of insurance that most people never learn about until they’re injured on the job. That’s when the benefits kick in, covering lost wages and medical costs in exchange for the injured worker agreeing not to sue their employer.
Like most forms of insurance, fraud investigations play a central–though not always merited–role in the process of vetting who does and does not receive the benefits.
A recent case in the Seattle area offers a window into the consequences of trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I).
38-year-old Chuck Wayne Riccio was charged with second-degree theft for trying to collect workers’ compensation benefits from an injury he sustained in a bar fight. In December 2018, about two months after Riccio filed an L&I claim stating that he’d hurt his hand while working at a bathware manufacturer, an acquaintance informed state investigators how Riccio’s injury really happened.
Among the evidence provided to L&I was a string of text messages and photos from Riccio admitting that he’d misled the clinic that treated his fractured hand.
“i kinda said it happened at work,” he wrote in one text message. Another text read, “Now L&I will cover it,” accompanying a photo of his bandaged hand.
The ensuing L&I investigation confirmed fraud accusations during interviews with his colleagues. Riccio now faces felony charges.
Partly because of cases like this, workers with legitimate injuries are unnecessarily scrutinized as potential fraudsters, leading some of them to unduly restrict their daily lives out of fear of being accused of fraud.
Call Emery Reddy if an L&I investigator is looking into your legitimate claim. You won’t get better advice.