At war with worker’s comp

March 12th, 2010 by

TAMPA ( We’ve all seen video of people caught on tape playing up their injuries and claiming benefits: people walking with a walker, and later walking just fine, or using or a cane where now you see it, now you don’t.

But there’s nothing funny or phony about the video of Sam McGinnis, a clerk behind the counter at a drug store in Tampa, Florida on November 29, 2008. A camera inside the store shows a holdup.

In the course of the robbery, a man wearing a white clown mask shot Sam McGinnis in the leg after ordering him to open up the cash register.

“I asked please don’t hurt me,” McGinnis remembered, “Please don’t hurt anybody else.

When McGinnis couldn’t get the money out of the second register fast enough, the robber took aim a second time.

“The last words I ever heard from this gentleman were, “‘F*** you.’ and he shot me in the chest.”

The man in the mask was never caught. He got away with just $88, but McGinnis paid a much higher price. The bullet, which ripped though his chest and pierced several organs, is still lodged in his back.

The damage has left him in constant pain. Even the simplest tasks are a challenge, and he says the workers’ compensation system is compounding his agony.

“The system itself it just beats you down,” Sam McGinnis told investigative reporter Doug Smith.

McGinnis hasn’t been able to get surgery that his doctors say could ease his pain because so far workers’ compensation won’t approve it. McGinnis says he had very good private insurance, but because he was hurt at work, he can’t use it.

He says workers’ comp treats him like almost like a criminal, instead of a crime victim.

“(Workers’) comp is a ‘mother may I’ system,” said Attorney Tim Jesaitis, who is an adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law and also handles workers’ comp cases for insurance companies. “Mother may I go to the chiropractor? Mother says no. What do I do?”

Jesaitis says Florida lawmakers reformed the workers’ compensation system after so many people abused it, but those changes make it difficult for someone with catastrophic injuries.

One of the rules says an injured worker can change doctors just once. That’s to prevent doctor shopping. But Sam McGinnis will need a lifetime of care.

“I think the one time change is a good example of where a limitation applied to a catastrophic case might be unreasonable,” said Jesaitis.

Sam McGinnis’s father, Gene McGinnis, is out to change the law. He wants a two tier system: one for the average worker hurt on the job and another for people who are catastrophically injured, like his son.

He’s started an internet campaign and contacted lawmakers to gather support for Sam’s Law. Gene McGinnis has a web site and has also posted a video of the shooting online.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to find ten years from now that somebody comes up to him and says, ‘you’re Sam,’” Gene McGinnis imagines. “’If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have the life that I have because I was so severely injured and I was able to get the help that I needed.’”

But Sam McGinnis hopes a change in the law comes soon enough for him.

“I’m hoping,” he says, “that’s all I’ve got — hope and faith.”

8 Responses

  1. Jaise

    The idea for a tier system isd a great idea to help people like this poor guy.If you don’t comp this guy then your an idiot.He clearly was severely hurt and didn’t suffer from a back injury.

  2. Jessica Carroso

    If I may begin by saying that my prayers are with you & your family Mr. McGinnis. I am writing to you or anyone I can with regard to my Father’s current, on going (5+ years now)workers comp case. Please give me a few moments for me to give you a the short version of an extremely long one. My Father at 53 now was always a concrete finisher, laborer with a cdl to drive and operate the mechanics of pump trucks. In 2007 he was a passenger in the concrete truck on the way to the job. The driver was unable to stop causing the entire truck to roll, concrete everywhere on 34th st. in st.pete, tearing his rotator cuffs and leaving him perm.disabled. My Father, Ken, was always a poor historian, graduated only the 8th grade, blue collar work his entire life, with a very poor memory. A memory so bad he failed to remember his daughters birthday’s, his anniversary, and basic life, day to day “things” most remember without thinking twice. Needless to say, he was an extreme alcoholic, so that didnt help his memory either. After the surgeries he had to endure due to the accident, he was deposed within 6 – 8 weeks. He had never taken pain medication, ever had any major surgeries where he was put under anesthesia and heavily medicated. He was asked if he was ever involved in any other accidents; assuming he was applying for workers comp. benefits, that they meant accidents on the job and he said “no.” The state went back over 10 years and found two minor fender bender’s where he WAS NOT on the job or in a company vehicle, but yet at a dead stop causing no injuries other than going to the Chiropractor here and there for adjustments or massages. Now, they are trying to incarcerate him for “workers comp. fraud” and trying to force him to pay all the restitution, court costs or for him to serve 3-5 years in prison! This is a man that had massive muscles, and was in excellent shape with no physical problems until this accident; now…weighs almost lest than me (130lbs), can barely walk, stand up straight, and has to be in a wheelchair and use a cane. He also lost everything. The house my family (Dad, Mom, younger Sister, Tiffany & myself) for almost 18 years, cars, every asset they had and was almost forced on the street. Bottom line is he went to work one day, got injured on the job, and no longer could work again. How can the state of florida workers comp division punish him for having no control of being injured while performing his daily, normal tasks?!?! We have had about 6 pre-trials since, have been forced to obtain a public defender because we could not afford an attorney, I have written Governors, radio stations, news papers, the president, you name it…just to have our story heard and try to get help. We now have the formal jury trial starting Tuesday & are still completely in the dark as we feel the PD is not doing what she needs to do due to her work load. We are devistated and everyday is a struggle for him, & us. As indicated above, there is much more to this horrible story, but if you know of anyone who can help or even just listen to maybe refer us to some help, I would be in dept to you forever. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I pray to hear from you. I am so desperate that I am willing to leave my personal cell phone here in the event God grants one of my many prayers begging for help. 727-520-5356. My name is Jessica. Thank you so very much again, and may God Bless!

  3. Gene McGinnis

    Since making this information known I’ve heard some really sad stories that folks all over Florida are dealing with! I had a girl contact me to see if I could help her Daddy. His legs were crushed at work and her father doesn’t always get his pain medication. My son wouldn’t be able to help himself through this by himself…but there are many out there just trying to make it like him…

  4. Dana

    Sam did work with me and his father Gene still does. Believe me when I say that this family is an awesome God loving family that would never fraud anyone. Gene is probably one of the most honorable men I have came across in my years. Please sign this petition. You never know, one day, God forbid, this could be you.

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  6. Gene McGinnis

    It doesn’t stop. Money tries to make this young man suffer. They are pushing him from permanent total disability by changing doctors until they found one willing to claim false statements. There is no concern for how this young man took care of CVS as an employee that endless night he was shot at CVS. I am Sam’s father and he is only getting worse each day without proper care by a real doctor. The law has to be changed to protect the handicapped catastrophically injured workers in Florida. Please sign the petition to make this happen this session of the legislation.

  7. Lorie Weaver

    Thank you for covering Sams story and for raising awareness of this horrible injustice. Maybe if people keep fighting for what is right, we can make it happen. Prayers are with Sam & his family.

  8. Gene McGinnis

    An amendment is being drafted by my state representative to change Florida law so people hurt so horribly at work, (considered by the state as catastrophically injured) will be able to choose their own doctor. My son is only allowed a one time life time change of doctor and he invoked that right last week. We didn’t know that CVS is able to make that choice of doctor for him again, and they have. The wheelchair for life from this shooting is bad, but the pain tortures him. One doctor wanted to do a nerve block on him but CVS stopped him from seeing that doctor. Another doctor wanted to test a morphine pump but that was stopped also. Sam is now on medicare but can’t see a doctor of his choice for any issues dealing with this injury. This has to change, please contact your state Senator and Representative as it’s just not right to have the medical ability but the stroke of a pen stops that.

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