I have the privilege of serving as the current President of NAWCJ.
I was first introduced to the field of workers’ compensation in 1974 when I was working as a secretary at an insurance company and learned of an opportunity to become an all-lines claims adjuster. I had very little knowledge of what a claims adjuster did but I did know the job paid almost twice what I was earning and, at the age of 24, that knowledge was all the motivation I needed to apply for the position. Two years later I was on my way to law school and much to my surprise, upon graduation, I was able to turn my experience as an adjuster into a job as an attorney, defending personal injury and workers’ compensation cases with the occasional property loss thrown in for good measure. After practicing for 26 years, working my way up from associate to partner to owner of my own firm, and after watching workers’ compensation litigation in Florida evolve from a relatively uncomplicated process with a few rules, little discovery, hand-shake stipulations, occasional final hearings and an appeal once a year to mandatory mediation, detailed rules of procedure, depositions and requests to produce, lengthy final hearings and frequent appeals, I took the opportunity to apply for a position as a Judge of Compensation Claims in 2004 and was honored to be appointed.
My motivation in seeking and accepting the appointment was very different that that which led me to take the leap from a secretarial position to adjusting to law school because I was not driven by income considerations. In fact, my husband takes great delight in telling others that I live on a “fixed income” now, ruefully acknowledging that workers’ compensation judges, at least in Florida, are not compensated at levels equivalent to elected members of the judiciary and not at levels comparable to what most private practitioners with 26 years of experience earn. My interest in the position was based upon my desire to implement the workers’ compensation system put in place by the legislature in a fair and impartial manner, allowing all parties equal access to me and an opportunity to be heard.
Each of you had your own motivation and interest when you decided to become a workers’ compensation adjudicator, removing yourself from the day to day practice of law. But I am confident that part of your motivation was the same as mine: to contribute your best efforts to making the workers’ compensation system in your state provide the benefits and protections of workers’ compensation law to employees and employers. Part of making my best effort, and I hope, part of your effort as well, is participating in NAWCJ. I believe it is critical for me, as an adjudicator, to continue to educate myself in the judicial process and to meet and speak with others who are rendering the same service to learn of their experiences and to appreciate their perspective. It is all too easy to limit myself to my small pond and forgot there is a much larger ocean to swim in.
I welcome each of you to our organization. I hope you find it to be a second home for the exchange of ideas and information. Please feel free to e-mail me at