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Co-Workers Report Fraudster; No Contest Plea Follows

Normally, dear readers, understanding both sides of a business – consumer and commercial – is a good thing.  There are exceptions, of course, such as when one is in the incarceration business.  But, this little bit of advice was apparently never communicated to Mr. Mark Navarrete, who recently pled no contest to workers’ compensation fraud charges.

Mr. Navarette sustained an injury to his elbow during a soft-ball game and later claimed it as a work injury.  The source of the discovery? A co-worker reported the fraud, which prompted an investigation and prosecution.

A happy ending indeed, for Santa Clara County, but a happy ending for all of us watchers of all things workers’ comp.

The source of discovery for the employer is what makes this story important: a co-worker reported Mr. Navarette and lead to the prosecution and a guilty plea.  The injury itself could have kept an open file, with costs and reserves, for years to come.

Your humble blogger submits to you that what saved the County of Santa Clara a small fortune in benefits and deterrence to future frauds was the choice of at least one co-worker to report the truth.  Not every employee would be inclined to choose employer over co-worker.  Nor would every employee be inclined to make a choice at all – reasoning that minding one’s own business is prudent and practical.

Workers’ compensation fraud hurts all of us – it depletes budgets, raises costs, and, when the fraud is ultimately discovered, it weakens the credibility of legitimately injured employees (don’t tell my fellow defense attorneys that I actually admitted that such a thing exists!)

One of the best ways for employers to fight workers’ compensation fraud is to make sure their employees feel appreciated and well-treated.  If the workers’ compensation insurer properly takes care of the needs and quickly administers benefits to an actually injured employee, it makes it easier for everyone to recognize that the defense community isn’t cheating anyone.

Ultimately, as perhaps was the case here, employees should recognize that workers’ compensation fraud is stealing from the employee’s pocket just as readily as it is stealing from the employer’s.  Hopefully, more and more Californians will understand this fact and do their best to report fraud when they see it.

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