(WIVB) — A Tonawanda woman, who lost her baby, is fighting to change Workers’ Compensation law in New York State.
Michelle Waugaman was 16 weeks along in her pregnancy, working as an at-home care nurse, when she fell down the stairs of her patient’s home.
“Everything was fine before that fall,” she told News 4. “I had a healthy pregnancy; there was not one complication.”
But that fall caused premature rupture of membranes and at just 23 weeks, an emergency sonogram showed Waugaman’s baby girl was not getting oxygen.
“There [were] no more choices for me to hold on – she had to come out. So they made the decision to prep the O.R. and take me in for an emergency C-section,” she said. “That was one of the most traumatic days of my entire life.”
Waugaman gave birth to her daughter, Layla, on March 9. Layla fought for four days before she passed away.
“In the Workers’ Comp system, they’re not responsible for my child. So when she passed, those expenses were my expenses,” Waugaman said. “I couldn’t have a service; there was no funeral for her. I had her cremated. The cost of her urn – I bared those expenses.”
Even after Waugaman sued, her attorney, Kate Kirsch, said the insurance company got to keep that money.
“I think Michelle’s case shows how wrong it is for an insurance company to get pain and suffering instead of the worker,” Kirsch said.
Waugaman is now calling on local lawmakers to change the way Workers’ Compensation legislation is written.
In a statement, Assemblyman Bill Conrad said “when Michelle reached out to me, she made me aware of an inadequacy of the Workers’ Compensation law…I will be bringing Michelle’s story to the attention of my assembly colleagues.”
“We will be drafting, hopefully, a couple of bills this summer for the next legislative session,” Kirsch said.
Waugaman said she knows if these changes happen, it will not impact her. But she wants to make sure no other family goes through the same pain.
“At some point I had to make the decision to be my daughter’s voice,” Waugaman said. “[I have] to try and fight for a change, because this is not right.”