Woman says on-the-job injury has left her penniless

December 1, 2012

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Fran Ziegler is grateful for the camper that a kindly couple has allowed her to live in on their property near Oak Tail Shores.

But the way she got there, she said, “hurt my soul.”

Ziegler worked in the medical field for 16 years, for several area hospitals. In 2008, she said, she sustained an on-the-job injury at a hospital in another county that left her with a torn rotator cuff. Two days after she had surgery, she said, the hospital fired her.

After filing a lawsuit against the hospital, Ziegler believes she was blackballed. She has not been able to find another hospital job.

During the time it took for the lawsuit to go to mediation, Ziegler said she lost her house and car, and had to file for bankruptcy.

Ziegler said she felt forced into signing a $25,000 settlement, even though she said she didn’t want to sign it because she didn’t understand it. Ziegler says she has a learning disability.

Even worse, the settlement was a far cry from the $300,000 Ziegler said that she and her attorney had agreed to hold out for.

Ziegler said that lawyer fees took $19,000 of the $25,000 settlement, leaving her with only $6,000. Part of the fees, she said, was to a bankruptcy lawyer.

Ziegler, who doesn’t have a computer, has sent handwritten complaints to the Texas Bar Association, but her complaints have been rejected. Letters she received from the state bar say that there is no evidence the attorneys involved did anything wrong.

Ziegler, 57, said she has been living off of $200 per month in food stamps. One piece of good news, however, arrived this week: she meets the qualifications for disability payments.

Ziegler is grateful, but she can’t help but grieve over what she’s lost.

“Now I have nothing but keepsakes,” she said, sitting in the borrowed camper near a tiny space heater. “I have nothing but rubble.”

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