Sacramento County Refuses Deputy Disability Payments

Helicopter in Sacramento County

A Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy who was the only survivor of a 2005 helicopter crash that killed two of his co-workers and left him permanently disabled has learned that the county will stop his disability and medical payments after he successfully sued the helicopter company for defects that led to the crash.

Eric Henrikson, 36, was 28 at the time he was involved in the crash over Lake Natoma in 2005 that killed pilot Joseph Kievernagel, 36, and observer Kevin Blount, 29. Henrikson suffered severe physical injuries including head trauma, several broken bones and third-degree burns. His brain injury left him in a coma for two months. He successfully sued the helicopter company, Turbomeca, for $26 million for defects that caused the crash. He won the suit and donated a quarter-million dollars to the Mercy Foundation as a way of thanking the medical staff who worked tirelessly to save his life.

Under worker’s compensation law, Henrikson received $3,657 per month as compensation for his injuries and for the fact that he could never again work in law enforcement. On May 8, Sacramento County, who had already filed a statement that they would not attempt to subrogate any claims made by Henrikson against the company, filed a petition with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board to stop his payments. Sacramento County had apparently settled with the helicopter company itself for $1.5 million, far less than the original amount requested for compensation to the deputy and the surviving family members of the other two crew members.

An attorney representing Henrikson is fighting the worker’s compensation suit and has filed a federal lawsuit against Sacramento County to force them to continue to pay the deputy’s benefits. According to his attorney, Henrikson has the support of a vast majority of Sacramento County residents who are shocked and furious that the county appears to have reneged on its original agreement after making what seems to be a lowball settlement with the helicopter company.

Deductions from employee earnings and matching contributions by employers pay for worker’s compensation benefits.  The money is then pooled to pay for claims by injured workers.

The legal tangle between the county’s agreement not to subrogate or take any of the deputy’s settlement amounts as well as the decision to cut off worker’s compensation funds is complicated. A personal injury attorney may represent an employee in such a situation. Depending on the circumstances, employees who are seriously injured on the job may be entitled to payment from a third party, if one is involved, in addition to worker’s compensation benefits. However, the law regarding worker’s compensation and personal injury is complicated and may be confusing to the average person. Therefore, the help of a personal injury attorney may be invaluable in collecting payments for medical bills, pain and suffering and other costs associated with a work-related accident.