Colorado Fraud Case Piques Interest of North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Community

June 25, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

A workers’ comp case way out in Aurora, Colorado has caught the attention of the North Carolina workers’ compensation community because of the heart breaking realities at the center of it all.

Martin Lobatos and his wife Belen Lobatos were indicted on 18-counts last Friday, after Colorado investigators alleged that the couple collected $140,000 worth of workers’ comp claims from Pinnacol Assurance. Lobatos worked as a roofer until September 8, 2008, when he sustained a terrible fall off of a ladder. He went back to work a month later but started complaining of ongoing vertigo and dizziness from his accident. Six months later, in April 2009, Lobatos’ doctors maintained that he had fully recovered.

Lobatos was fired and later collected a $20,000 settlement from Pinnacol Assurance. In the fall of 2009, however, Lobatos began experiencing more symptoms, such as memory loss, having trouble recognizing his children, dizziness, and a host of other frustrating problems. His doctors agreed. In March 2010, Lobatos claimed to be “fully catatonic.” And he allegedly acted catatonic in medical exams. But witnesses later saw him driving around, shopping, engaging in activities in a decidedly non-catatonic state. This evidence allegedly led to the investigation and ultimately to the allegations and 18 count indictment against Lobatos and his wife. If convicted of the crime, the Lobatoses could face fines of $750,000 each and a dozen years in prison.

Obviously, North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud (and such fraud elsewhere in the country) is an enormous problem, and perpetrators should be held to account. But is it really fair to slap these people with $1.5 million in fines and over 10 years in prison? Many homicide cases don’t get punished that severely. Again, this is not to say fraud shouldn’t be punished appropriately. But the punishment must fit the crime, and the context of the crime should also deeply inform the legal remedies.

What’s frustrating here is that many injuries that ultimately send people to seek the services of a North Carolina workers’ compensation firm don’t manifest immediately after an accident. A fall off of a ladder, for instance, may lead to a temporary concussion that seems to resolve after few weeks or months…only to give way to longer term, chronic, and confusing injuries months or even years after the fact.

Again, it’s impossible to weigh in on the Lobatos’ case without far more information. But victims of workplace accidents or illnesses should understand that they may go through a similar kind of rollercoaster – feeling bad after the accident, then feeling better again for a while, then feeling suddenly worse for no apparent reason. This is why it’s so important to contact professionals, like experienced law firms and good doctors, to build evidence, stay within the bounds of the law, and maximize your chances for getting the money and support you need to get back to work and support your family.

More Web Resources:

Pinnacol Assurance

Martin Lobatos fraud

 
 

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