Eight-year battle with province ends in suicide
lawyer says battle with WorkSafeBC left injured man despondent
Bolan, Vancouver Sun
Monday, February 13, 2006
Tuesday, injured trucker Bhupinder Singh Kang told a WorkSafeBC meeting that he spent his days dreaming he was in a big hall
"watching the sunset, and waiting, waiting, waiting for death."
later, he was found dead on the kitchen floor of his Abbotsford home, an apparent suicide.
family and lawyer Craig Paterson believe the distraught 39-year-old took his own life because of his desperation over an eight-year
battle with WorkSafeBC -- formerly the Workers' Compensation Board -- that left him depressed and despondent.
Paterson said a series of letters Kang received from different board officials within two weeks of his death gave the Indian
immigrant convoluted and conflicting information about his case, which worsened his mental state.
correspondence confused him and devastated him," Paterson said. "Two of the three letters were not even copied to me."
he said the Feb. 7 meeting, which was to conduct a vocational assessment of Kang, had the disabled worker so stressed that
he urinated in his pants on the drive there.
wants a coroner's inquest to look at how WorkSafe B.C. deals with clients like his who are severely depressed over their plight.
He has contacted chief coroner Terry Smith about Kang's case.
Vancouver lawyer said he has had four similar cases over the years in which a client has committed suicide out of desperation.
are twisting people into pretzels," he said. "A coroners' inquiry should look at what could be done differently in these situations."
to WorkSafe, 18 claims have been paid for suicides from 1996 through 2005, including three last year and five in 2001.
are claims accepted where it has been determined that a worker took his or her own life due to pain or other complications
arising from a previous work-related injury," said board media officer Donna Freeman.
Hartmann, WorkSafe regional director for the Fraser region, looked at Kang's file Thursday after The Vancouver Sun requested
said a review is underway to see if anything could have been done differently in handling Kang's case.
is never something like this that happens where we don't sit back after the fact and say: `Is there something else we could
have done to prevent this kind of event from happening?'" Hartmann said.
ordeal began in 1998 when he was a co-driver of a commercial truck travelling through Arizona. He was asleep in the rig when
the other driver went off the road.
then a 32-year-old refugee who had been in Canada just four years, ended up with multiple fractures of his C-1 vertebrae and
an injured right shoulder.
got workers' compensation until August 2000, when he was cut off benefits completely.
said Kang, who was unmarried, was dependent on the rest of his family for support afterwards. He shared a house with his younger
brother Jaspal, sister-in-law Simerjit, their two children and his mother Mohinder Kaur.
went into a total depression," Paterson said. "He attempted suicide three times."
began advocating on behalf of Kang in 2003. The board eventually accepted Kang's claim, agreeing he suffered from post-concussion
syndrome, major depressive disorder and chronic pain disorder. However, benefits did not resume.
was a dispute over whether Kang was willing to participate fully in the programs prescribed by board specialists.
that last August, Paterson indicated "the worker would like to receive some support and some treatment so psychological assessment
was then set up in the fall of 2005."
assessment confirmed that Kang would likely not improve with treatment, but needed ongoing medical support to be stable.
November and December there was a brief period of surveillance that was undertaken by the board of Mr. Kang," he said. "The
surveillance evidence didn't show that he was able to do anything more than what was being stated already."
words, Kang had told the board the truth about his capabilities, Hartmann agreed.
said Friday that Kang had believed he was being spied on and others thought he was becoming paranoid because of his increasingly
fragile mental state.
he was right," Paterson said when told the board confirmed it had been watching Kang.
surveillance was followed by the three letters in January, each outlining a different process underway.
lawyer wrote to the board on Feb. 2 -- five days before Kang's death -- and called the situation "Kafkaesque."
WCB employees contact him, all at once; one tells him his benefits have ended, another one [who never met him and does not
ask to meet him] tells him he might get a pension at a vague time in the future and a third one wants to do a "vocational
assessment" almost eight years after his injury!" Paterson wrote.
said the letters should have all gone to Paterson and not directly to Kang under the circumstances.
think the right thing to do would have been to contact the worker through his representative," Hartmann said. "I think it
was just an oversight on behalf of one or two of the officers."
said while everyone who attended Tuesday's meeting recognized Kang's fragile state, no one imagined he was in such dire straits.
is not unusual for people to be anxious sometimes, to be in those meetings. I don't think anyone in that meeting felt that
it got to the point where we needed to end the interview or take him to the hospital," Hartmann said. "Certainly we will be
looking at - were there other things, was there anything that we could have picked up on in that meeting."
was so alarmed at Kang's demeanour in the room that he summarized his concerns in a letter to the board that he sent off that
same afternoon, before he knew Kang was dead.
man is totally unemployable in even the most sedentary occupation, sadly, and the sooner the WCB realizes it and provides
a 100 per cent...pension, the better," Paterson wrote.
said the board worker who was in the meeting was devastated when she learned of Kang's death.
was in tears the rest of the day. She went home early and didn't come to work the next day," he said.
brother Jaspal, who is also a trucker, wants answers for his family.
should be some investigation into how he was treated," he said, starting to cry. "We don't want this to happen to anyone else."
is now asking for back benefits to be paid to Kang's family, funeral expenses, legal fees and "a full, sincere and frank apology."
treated this guy like a cheat and a liar for the whole eight years," Paterson said.
said the requests are being considered.
take a look at everything Craig has asked for and we will make a decision on how to respond," he said.
if he thought the board's procedures could have made Kang's emotional state worse, Hartmann said: "I guess that is an opinion.
I don't know how to respond to that."