March 18, 2015
Workers’ compensation laws and systems have been around for decades, operating under the basic premise that workers who have been injured on the job would be eligible for benefits in exchange for giving up their right to sue employers after workplace accidents.
Over the past 10 or so years, however, a number of states throughout the U.S. have enacted so-called reforms to their workers’ comp laws, slowly dismantling the protections these statutes provide to injured workers.
In fact, the findings of a recent investigation conducted by ProPublica and NPR have revealed that, in many cases, these “reforms” to workers’ comp laws have resulted in injured workers having to fight to receive basic medical care recommended by their doctors while facing the real threat of slipping into poverty.
What Sparked these “Reforms” to Workers Comp Laws
The changes that state legislators have been making to some states’ workers’ comp laws have been sparked by, among other things, pressure from big business and insurers. In particular, these corporate interests have argued that their workers’ comp costs have spiraled out of control in recent years and that “reform” is needed. Succumbing to this pressure – and attempting to attract new business, a number of states have made legislative changes to their workers’ comp systems.
It’s crucial to note here that:
- Research has shown that employers are actually paying the lowest workers’ comp insurance rates since the 1970s.
- Insurers have seen remarkable profits over the past decade, with 2013 alone bringing the average insurance company an 18 percent return.
- The changes to workers’ comp laws are tragically and paradoxically now hurting the very people whom these statutes were meant to protect – injured workers.
Impacts of the “Reforms” to State Workers Comp Laws
As part of the ProPublica and NPR investigation into workers comp law “reforms,” researchers analyzed various data from insurers, medical records for injured workers, state laws, etc. Here’s a snapshot of just some of the remarkable findings of this investigation:
- Qualifying for benefits is more difficult – Lawmakers in 33 states have enacted “reforms” to their workers’ comp laws that have effectively made it far more complicated for injured workers with certain injuries or illnesses to qualify for benefits.
- There is a dramatic disparity in how injuries are “valued” across states – The state in which a worker is injured can impact his benefits, with some data showing that an injury sustained in one state may be worth half as much (in terms of benefits) as it is worth in another state.One example cited in the study’s findings was the fact that the loss of an eye in Alabama is generally worth about $27,000 while the same injury can make a person eligible for more than $260,000 in compensation in Pennsylvania.
- Benefit reductions have been coupled with arbitrary terminations – The reduction in workers’ comp benefits is just part of the problem. The “reforms” have also made it possible for some insurers to arbitrarily cut off benefits payments – even when injured workers have clearly not fully recovered or reached their maximum medical improvement.
- Employers and insurers are making more medical decisions for injured workers – In fact, while injured workers are not permitted to choose their own doctors to treat their workplace injuries in 37 states, in some states, employers and/or insurers are also empowered to make decisions about the type of care an injured workers receives (such as whether that worker needs surgery).
Commenting on the impacts of these “reforms” to workers’ comp laws, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., stated, “[these changes to workers’ comp laws] would be bad if [they] were happening in one state… but the fact that a number of states have moved in this direction is disturbing and it should be unacceptable to people in both political parties…They call them reforms. That’s a real insult to workers.”
Denver Workers’ Compensation Lawyer at the Bisset Law Firm
Have you been injured at work? If so, Denver Workers’ Compensation Attorney Jennifer Bisset wants you to know that she is here to aggressively advocate your rights and help you obtain the benefits you need and deserve.
When you trust your claim in the experienced hands of Attorney Jennifer Bisset, you can rely on her to:
- Work diligently to keep your case moving
- Keep you advised of every development in your case
- Provide you with responsive, personalized service
- Help you secure the maximum possible compensation for your injuries and losses.
Contact Us Today
Contact Denver Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Jennifer Bisset by calling (303) 894-8900 to learn more about your rights and receive a professional evaluation of your case. You can also email our firm using the contact form on the right side of this page.
From her office based in Denver, Jennifer Bisset provides superior legal services to injured people throughout Denver County and the state of Colorado.