LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — 13 Investigates is driving change as a state lawmaker cites significant problems with workers' comp insurance following a report.
Now, 13 Action News looks at how the hope for new laws may be the fix for a system that many say is broken.
A corrections officer and his family are living a nightmare after a workplace accident caused a spinal cord injury. The officer just wanted to heal and go back to work but says workers' compensation is copping-out.
Since 13 investigates aired, we've heard from many more with similar experiences, saying the system that's supposed to help is denying and delaying claims as a way of doing business.
"Our family is not the same anymore," said Vicki Stilz. "My husband is not the same person. In some ways, I've lost my husband."
Vicki's Stilz's husband, Robert, was an energetic outdoorsman and an involved and active father of four.
"I always enjoyed life," Robert said. "Spend time with the kids. Doing sports with them."
"The pain is always constant. It just seems to be getting worse," Robert said.
While on duty as a corrections officer at the Clark County Detention Center, he injured his neck trying to pull a heavy cart off an elevator.
"About three days afterward I took a shower. When I got out of bed the electricity hit my body," Robert said. "And my body completely hit the ground."
He filed for workers' comp and went to urgent care where the doctor told him to get an MRI immediately.
But he says workers' comp initially denied his claim. So he got an MRI on his own, and sure enough, it showed multiple damaged discs in his neck.
"He could barely walk without help," Vicki said.
As she talked to a lawyer and soon learned what many say are dark secrets about workers' comp.
"'They have you hostage.' Those were his words, 'You are held hostage in this state.' The law says they have 30 days to decide whether it's a real workers' comp or not," Vicki said.
Nevada Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle saw 13 investigates about Robert's case and said he wondered why it's becoming so difficult for workers compensation claims to make it through the process and not be denied.
Sprinkle hears too often that workers' comp is failing with delays and denials.
"It seems to be an almost automatic response to whenever somebody puts in a workers' comp claim," Sprinkle said.
Now Sprinkle is seeking change so injured workers stand a better chance to get the benefits they deserve.
"So from the story you produced and the anecdotal stories that I've heard where I work and also as a lawmaker," Sprinkle said. "I think we're at a point now where there has to be a much deeper look from a lawmaker's perspective, from the government's perspective as to what's going on."
In the meantime, he does not doubt that other families are suffering like Robert's. And for them, he has this message:
"I'm glad that we're having this conversation. I want Robert and the rest of the world to know that has to happen and by you producing your story, by me continuing to look at this and my colleagues in the legislature looking at this issue, we will be addressing it, and there will be a resolution."
And Vicki said this is an effort worth fighting for:
"I want to make a difference with my husband's case because he only has limited time. And I want what happened to him to make a difference. I lost my husband. I want what happened to him to make a difference."
Robert said he continues to struggle physically as he goes back to court in February with an appeal to have medical care restored for his permanent disability claim.
Also in February, when Nevada lawmakers meet, 13 Action News will be following workers' comp reform closely with updates on the debate.