US Labor Calls for Federal Oversight of Workers’ Comp Laws

The United States Labor Department is calling for an examination of changes to state workers’ compensation laws in an effort to prevent the further deterioration of the system, NPR reports.

“Working people are at great risk of falling into poverty,” the department stated. These different changes from state to state have resulted in “the failure of state workers’ compensation systems to provide [injured workers] with adequate benefits.”

In the last ten years or so, state laws have begun to tighten their grip on workers’ benefits. Currently, each state can regulate their own workers’ compensation laws without any oversight about who they are really protecting and who is really benefitting from them.

States across the United States have been dismantling their workers’ compensation systems, causing tragic consequences for a growing percentage of people. And, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering serious injuries at work each year, the problem is only likely to escalate as insurance companies continue to pressure lawmakers into helping them save money.

In the last decade, states have put in place new laws, policies, and procedures. It is these reforms, the report says, “which have limited benefits, reduced the likelihood of successful application for workers’ compensation benefits, and/or discouraged injured workers from applying for benefits.” All of this makes the already difficult to understand laws even more confusing and restricting for an injured worker.

Last year, NPR ran a story on the growing issue featuring injured workers who lost their homes, were denied surgeries, or were even deprived of prosthetic devices recommended by their doctors.

With states making up whatever laws they want, and the people powerless to stop multi-billion dollar insurance lobbies, the Labor Department has decided it is time to step up and review the situation.

“The current situation warrants a significant change in approach in order to address the inadequacies of the system,” the report says.

The point of the report and what it wants to accomplish is a review of standards within the federal oversight of states’ worker’s laws. If the state fails to meet the minimum requirements or standards, then federal intervention may be necessary.

The simple point is to ensure that citizens, on the state level, are not being tricked or lobbied out of their rights to be covered in a work-related accident or injury.

In some states, the cuts have been so severe that injured workers have fallen into poverty, causing them to lose their cars, homes, and dignity. Workers sometimes spend years battling insurance companies for the most basic of procedures and medicines, much less something like a surgery.

One all most must be an attorney themselves to navigate the injured worker laws that states are passing.

Twenty-two states have placed caps on temporary lost wages benefits, despite how long someone is out of work from their injury. Of those twenty-two states, Florida is one of them, setting their cap at just two years of benefitsFurther, ten states since 2003 have started to use pre-existing conditions to severely limit or outright deny a claim. Florida is one of them.

This aggressive effort to pin workplace injuries on pre-existing conditions allows insurers to deny claims by saying that work injuries weren’t really caused by or at work. Instead, they use pre-existing conditions to show that work only aggravated an existing condition caused by aging, prior injuries, or even the structure of one’s body.

Florida lawmakers have even gone a step further than other states, allowing insurers to cite pre-existing conditions in order to require workers to pay up to 49% of their medical costs—even when work was found to be the primary cause of their injuries.

In addition to the restrictions of paying benefits, insurance lobbyists have also found ways to limit client representation by an attorney. More information can be found here about those laws and their constitutionality.

With these sort of situations going on, it is no surprise that the Labor Department wants to investigate state standards and federal oversight of the issue. Someone has to protect the rights of citizens; as it stands, it is definitely not going to be the insurance companies, employers, or states. Therefore, we need protection from the highest level of government all the way down to the local level with reputable, trustable personal injury attorneys. Citizens need someone fighting for their rights from their home base, as well as someone fighting for their rights from Washington.

(If you have concerns about hiring an attorney for your workers’ comp case, read this article.)

“In this critical area of the social safety net, the federal government has basically abdicated any responsibility,” says Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

Of course, this study of standards is strongly opposed by the insurance companies and those who protect the workers’ compensation interests of businesses.

“Federal requirements imposed on a national basis would be inconsistent with the state workers’ compensation system, which has been in place for more than 100 years without federal oversight,” stated a group called Strategic Services on Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation, which says it represents the workers’ comp interests of the business community.

Our workers’ compensation system, whether here in Florida or anyone of the other 49 states, is extremely important to the way society operates. It is not something the average person really gives much thought to—until that horrific moment comes when they are injured. Suddenly, they find themselves in a legal battle and out of work, all while trying to figure out what they are going to do about feeding their children, paying the mortgage, and recovering from what may be a life-changing injury.

(For answers to frequently asked questions regarding workers’ comp claims, check out this article.)

Labor Secretary Perez said it best when he stated:

“A nation built on the dignity of work must provide for workers’ safety, as well as take care of them if they get hurt on the job. When workers are hurt, a robust workers’ compensation program can make the difference between poverty and recovery. It is time that we look at whether this basic bargain is fraying and how we fortify this critical lifeline for millions of working families.”

Anyone who has ever had to file a workers’ compensation claim knows the validity of the above statement.

Dolman Law Group

Dolman Law Group is a personal injury attorney in the New Port Richey Area who understands the difficulties people face when they are injured or made ill on the job. We have devoted our business to helping those who are put into situations they did not ask for and are now faced with solid walls and resistant insurance providers.

Since day one, we have aimed to build our business off of trust and word of mouth. Our reputation and history stand for itself. We will fight for you to ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve—period.

If you have been injured or became ill while on the job, visit our workers’ compensation information page to learn more about your rights, frequently asked questions, and how we can help you.

Come experience the Dolman Difference. From the moment you start your free consultation, you will understand what we mean when we say that we want each client to have an individual, trustful experience.

Call us today at (727) 853-6275.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275

*Article researched and referenced from a report by NPR, the report put out by the Labor Department, and an investigative piece by ProPublica.