The California State Compensation Insurance Fund is on the hook for an $8.9 million workers' compensation settlement.
Chris Asvar, formerly of the law firm of Asvar, Odjaghian and Associates in Woodland Hills, California, said his client, construction worker Antonio Enriquez, was awarded an $8.9 million settlement on Jan. 26. The case was handled by both Asvar and Tina Odjaghian of the firm, which has recently ceased operations.
The case involved a fall suffered by Enriquez while on the job. On May 5, 2004, Enriquez, an 18-year old worker for Willie's Painting in North Hills, Calif., fell off a scaffold and suffered multiple orthopedic injuries to his shoulders and legs. Those injuries have since healed satisfactorily, Asvar said, but it's the traumatic head injury he also suffered in the fall that will last a lifetime. It's that injury that was the basis for the large settlement. "From a physical standpoint, he can have a very normal and active life," Asvar said. "But the brain trauma will continue to cause problems with his cognitive functions."
Emily Gorin, a spokeswoman for the state fund, said one of the factors that made this settlement so big was the claimant was so young. "That dramatically affects the cost of the case when he could very well need 50 years of continual care."
The construction business is one of the most dangerous in the country. Four out of every 100 full-time construction workers in California were involved in nonfatal injuries in 2010, according to the Division of Labor Statistics and Research. Workers' comp claims have steadily increased over the past few years. The California Department of Industrial Relations lists more than 170,000 decisions rendered on such cases in the last year for which records were tallied (2005), an increase of more than 11,000 additional cases from the previous year.
The State Compensation Insurance Fund is the largest provider of workers' compensation insurance in California, with 150,000 policyholders, $1.2 billion in premium and nearly $20 billion in assets.
The top five writers of workers' compensation in California in 2010 were the State Compensation Insurance Fund of California, with 16.04% market share; Travelers Group, with 7.74%; American International Group, with 6.55%; Hartford Insurance Group, with 6.37%; and Zurich Financial Services NA Group, with 5.91%, according to BestLink.