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March 25, 1999

Gunshot wound results in Spokane man's $26,000 payment to state

TUMWATER -- A Spokane man has paid the state $26,000 to resolve a phony workers' compensation claim that resulted from a gunshot wound.

Garth Werner, 30, recently paid $26,000 to the Department of Labor & Industries as part of the agreement to resolve the fraudulent claim. Werner said he accidentally shot himself in the right leg on May 17, 1993, while taking receipts home from GTX Truck Stop, which his parents owned, in Spokane. Werner filed a workers' compensation claim, saying the injury was related to his employment at the business.

From June 1993 to October 1994, Labor & Industries paid $112,000 on the claim. This included medical costs of $92,000 and a disability payment of $18,000.

The department closed the claim in October 1994. Three years later, a new owner took over GTX Truck Stop. The owner noticed that premiums for workers' compensation insurance were high, mostly because of Werner's claim. The owner asked Labor & Industries for a review.

A Labor & Industries investigation confirmed Werner owned the Blue Dolphin Tavern at the time of the shooting. Department investigators also heard conflicting accounts about whether Werner accidentally shot himself or that someone else accidentally shot him.

Werner originally said a drive-by shooting caused the wound, according to police reports.

The department issued a fraud order, seeking repayment of all benefits paid. A three-year statute of limitations in the case prevented the department from seeking possible criminal charges.

Labor & Industries manages the workers' compensation system in Washington. It provides coverage to about 163,000 employers and almost 1.4 million workers. Any person who suspects fraud in the system is urged to contact the nearest Labor & Industries office. The telephone number can be found in the government listings of the local directory.

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