Injured Workers Suffer As ‘Reforms’ Limit Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon L Gelman, from Jon L Gelman LLC.

Dennis Whedbee, 52, lost half of his left arm in a drilling accident in North Dakota in September 2012. Several years later he's still fighting with North Dakota's insurance agency to get the help he needs.Dennis Whedbee, 52, lost half of his left arm in a drilling accident in North Dakota in September 2012. Several years later he’s still fighting with North Dakota’s insurance agency to get the help he needs.

Dennis Whedbee, 52, lost half of his left arm in a drilling accident in North Dakota in September 2012. Several years later he’s still fighting with North Dakota’s insurance agency to get the help he needs. Jeff Swensen for ProPublica hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Swensen for ProPublica

Dennis Whedbee, 52, lost half of his left arm in a drilling accident in North Dakota in September 2012. Several years later he's still fighting with North Dakota's insurance agency to get the help he needs.
Dennis Whedbee, 52, lost half of his left arm in a drilling accident in North Dakota in September 2012. Several years later he’s still fighting with North Dakota’s insurance agency to get the help he needs.

Jeff Swensen for ProPublica

Dennis Whedbee’s crew was rushing to prepare an oil well for pumping on the Sweet Grass Woman lease site, a speck of dusty plains rich with crude in Mandaree, N.D.

It was getting late that September afternoon in 2012. Whedbee, a 50-year-old derrick hand, was helping another worker remove a pipe fitting on top of the well when it suddenly blew.

Oil and sludge pressurized at more than 700 pounds per square inch tore into Whedbee’s body, ripping his left arm off just below the elbow. Co-workers jury-rigged a tourniquet from a sweatshirt and a ratchet strap to stanch his bleeding and got his wife on the phone.

"Babe," he said, "tell everyone I love them."

It was exactly the sort of accident that workers’ compensation was designed…

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