On May 22, 2011, a devastating EF-5 tornado struck the city of Joplin, Missouri and destroyed more than 7,000 homes and killed 162 people. It was said to be one of the worst tornados to hit the nation. Mark Lindquist was one of the survivors of this natural disaster, but after almost losing his life and suffering serious injuries trying to save the lives of others, he was denied workers’ compensation benefits.
Mark Lindquist was a social worker employed by Community Support Services in Joplin, Missouri. On the day of the tornado, Lindquist was at a group home occupied by Mark Farmer, Rick Fox and Tripp Miller, three middle-aged men with Down syndrome that he often worked with. When the tornado alarm sounded, Lindquist knew he was in trouble because there was no basement or shelter and the residents moved too slowly to relocate. However, to Lindquist, fleeing the scene to save himself was not an option and he looked for a way to protect everyone from the oncoming storm. Lindquist grabbed a nearby mattress and put it over the three men for protection. He then climbed on top of the mattress, hoping his added bodyweight would help hold it down and protect the others. Unfortunately, this was not enough.
After the storm, rescue teams searched for survivors in the rubble that the tornado left behind. They found Lindquist almost a block away from the group home buried in debris. He was impaled by a piece of metal and large chunks of flesh were torn off his body. He had broken almost every rib and knocked out most of his teeth. Bones from his shoulder crumbled as they placed him on a door used as a makeshift stretcher. It defied logic that he was even alive. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he remained in a coma. His body was so swollen from his injuries that it took three days to identify him.
Doctors doubted that Lindquist would ever make a full recovery. They believed that if he did survive he would be in a permanent vegetative state. Even in a best-case scenario, he likely would be blind in one eye, never regain use of his right arm, and never speak or think normally.
After almost two months, Linquist awoke from his coma. To everyone’s surprise, he still retained some use of his right shoulder and was still able to see clearly out of his injured eye. He moved slowly and had short-term memory loss, but he was able to speak well. He had defied the doctors’ grim prognosis and it looked like he would be able to return to a somewhat normal life.
However, two months in a coma with extensive injuries can be quite expensive. In that amount of time, Lindquist had racked up a bill over 2.5 million dollars and rising. Linquist was on eleven prescriptions and still needed additional surgeries. He did not have health insurance. As a social worker, he barely made over minimum wage and couldn’t afford insurance. Lindquist assumed workers’ compensation would cover his medical bills. However, after submitting a claim, his claim was denied “based on the fact that there was no greater risk than the general public at the time you were involved in the Joplin tornado,” according to a letter to Lindquist from Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, his company’s workers’ comp provider.
This astonished Lindquist. If it weren’t for his job he wouldn’t have been at the group home in the first place. After the tornado hit Joplin, 132 workers’ compensation claims were filed and only 8 were declined by insurance companies. Lindquist wasn’t sure where to turn to next. He planned to sell his house to try to pay off the doctors that had so graciously saved his life.
After the story broke about this brave man’s heroism and how this insurance company denied his workers’ compensation claim, a national uproar was heard. Many donated money to Linquist and many others publicly condemned the actions of the insurance company. This caused the insurance company to reconsider Lindquist’s claim. Mike Britt, president of the company, made this announcement, “Upon further review of the case, and receiving additional information on the facts involved in this situation, Accident Fund believes the appropriate decision is to honor Mr. Mark Lindquist’s claim for worker’s compensation benefits”.
Accident Fund Insurance Company of America made the right decision to reconsider Lindquist’s claim. Lindquist would never have the quality of life he deserves without help. His injuries have not only caused $2.5M in medical bills, but they have impaired his ability to work. Without a steady income, he would not be able to afford the future medical treatments he needs to continue to improve. Now that Accident Fund Insurance Company of America is working with Lindquist, he will be able to keep his house and try to move forward with his life without constantly worrying money.