Excerpted article writen By Riley Laychuk, CBC News
A Brandon father says he was shocked when an insurance company offered him a $30 settlement after his son’s finger was partially amputated in a shops class accident earlier this year. Tim Reaves says he’s now received another $720 but he’s still upset about the hoops he had to go through.
“It seems like I’m fighting the giant,” he said.
Reaves’ son, Timmy John, was using a joiner in a woodworking class at a Brandon junior high school in February.
The 13-year-old hit the kill switch on the machine, but his glove was sucked into the blade and a portion of his ring finger on his left hand was sheared off, Reaves said.
He says he was taken aback when he finally received a cheque from the company in late March.
“It shows $30,” Reaves told CBC News. “I was pretty upset. It was a slap in the face. You think of this being a big situation.”
“I was pretty upset. It was a slap in the face.”– Tim Reaves, after receiving $30 insurance settlement
Timmy was insured though the school by Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services with student accident insurance.
The company acknowledged that the initial $30 payment was made based on the initial information available at the time.
“We adjudicate based on the information we have. It sounded like he had a partial loss of his finger,” said Ed Bender, a regional vice-president with the company. “They looked at the loss and said, ‘Well, it’s not a total loss of finger so the fracture schedule allowed for a $30 payment.”
Reaves called the insurance company back and questioned the low payment. Weeks later the second cheque for $720 arrived. He was told the company misread the paperwork that was submitted on the accident.
Bender said the company will also cover the cost of the ambulance bill on top of that payment.
WCB, MPI payouts in the thousands of dollars
CBC News asked a number of organizations for rough estimates of what their payout and coverage would be for a similar injury.
If Timmy had lost part of his left ring finger in a car accident, Manitoba Public Insurance said it would result in a permanent impairment payment of about $4,500.
When rehabilitation and other costs covered by MPI are factored in, the total would be estimated at more than $6,000, according to an MPI spokesperson.
If Timmy had lost his finger in a work-related accident, the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba said a payment of about $1,300 would be awarded . Loss of wages, rehabilitation and other costs would be covered on top of that.
Industrial Alliance responded to the comparison by saying the company is not Workers Compensation.
“We’re a student-accident insurer,” Bender said. “I don’t know what Workers Comp charges for their coverages but I’m going to guess it’s a lot more than we do.”
Physiotherapy to be covered
At first, Reaves was under the impression rehabilitation would not be covered based on what he received from the insurance company.
“If he was working, he would get rehabilitation [covered],” Reaves said on Friday. “But because he’s not working, he gets no rehabilitation to use his hand.”
“Timmy has had problems with not using his hands properly [since the accident],” said Reaves. “So he has hurt his pinky several times. So he really does need rehabilitation.”
However after CBC News contacted the company, Reaves got another call on Monday in which officials assured him that physiotherapy would be covered up to $500 and that that it has always been the case. Bender said any thought that it wasn’t was simply a misunderstanding between Reaves and the company.
Company sympathizes with family
“I’m feeling that at least there is a little more than I originally thought or was originally given,” Reaves told CBC News on Monday after talking to the insurance company. “It’s all workable and it’s all okay, [but the amount] is still pretty low.”
Bender vowed to personally work with the Reaves family to make sure they are looked after.
“I sense that he felt he had been let down by everybody,” said Bender. “I said look, I have children as well. I know how you feel.”
Reaves said he’s not sure whether he will continue to fight for more compensation for his son.
“I just wish that maybe it could have been handled a lot smoother than what has happened,” he said.