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Hillsborough deputy denied workers’ comp after severe COVID-19 complications

Veteran deputy could be forced to retire months shy of pension threshold
Deputy Carver
Posted at 1:26 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-17 09:58:14-04

TAMPA, Fla. — A longtime Hillsborough County deputy is off the job, sidelined by the life-threatening side-effects of battling the COVID-19.

Master Deputy Bryan Carver has dedicated nearly half of his life working on the frontlines, answering the call to help protect his community.

“To help others, that’s why I did it,” said Carver. “We see really, really bad situations and people in really hard times and it gives me a really good perspective to not take for granted the good times and things that we enjoy in life.”

But his mission now is to protect himself.

Records obtained by ABC Action News show Carver reportedly caught COVID-19 while responding to a death investigation in January of this year, a case where the victim reportedly died due to COVID-19.

“All of her family responded,” said Carver. “There were five, or six of her family members and all of them were active quarantined with COVID.”

A few days later, he said severe symptoms set in.

“It felt like a truck hit me. Spent the next three to four weeks in bed. Fever, chills, all kinds of different symptoms,” Carver described.

Weeks passed but his illness did not. Carver suffered intense chest pains and eventually went back to the hospital in mid-May to undergo quadruple bypass surgery. Medical records reviewed by ABC Action News state doctors listed COVID-19 as a contributing factor in his heart complications.

“To the people that don’t think that the disease is real or affects people, it’s wreaked havoc on me," Carver said. "I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, live a really healthy lifestyle.”

Medical bills are now piling up for the 49-year-old father of two. You can check out the GoFundMe here.

Documents provided to ABC Action News show insurer Commercial Risk Management denied both of the deputy’s worker compensation claims.

“I was still in the hospital when the denial letter hit my mailbox,” Carver recalls. “I was still in the hospital when they denied the second part of the claim, so it even beat me home from the hospital.”

ABC Action News reporter Ryan Smith made multiple phone calls and sent several emails to the Tampa-based insurance company.

Warren Sponsler, an attorney representing both Commercial Risk Management and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, eventually responded, stating, “Unfortunately, no additional comment can be made at this time since the matter is in active litigation.”

“We hear these cases day in and day out,” said Tony Oliver, a Tampa Bay attorney who specializes in helping Florida’s first responders navigate the complicated claims process.

Oliver said Commercial Risk Management issued a knee-jerk denial without a proper investigation. Oliver and her team are now taking Carver’s case to a claims judge, but that could take several months, if not a year to settle.

“In all that first responders do, they’re out there sacrificing their lives on a daily basis, taking time away from their family to serve and protect the community,” said Oliver. “And as a result, they expect to be protected so it’s like getting punched in the stomach.”

Now Carver is on the clock with a significant portion of his retirement at risk.

If Carver can’t return to full-duty work, HCSO policy could force him into early retirement, just a few months prior to his 25-year mark with the agency. Carver says if that happens, he’d lose 30 percent of his pension and retirement benefits.

We reached out to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to inquire about Carver’s status.

A spokesperson said, “When an employee reaches 180 workdays in an "other than full duty" status for injury or illness, a review of the employee's work history is completed. If warranted, a "Due Process Hearing" will occur where a decision is made on a case-by-case basis.”

Carver is still waiting to be issued his due process hearing. Oliver said as it stands right now, Carver could be terminated for not being “fit for duty,” and hopes the agency grants an extension while he continues his recovery.