Erosion Of Your Rights
The Workers’ Compensation system was set up to provide medical benefits and certain wage loss benefits to injured workers regardless of whether their injury was caused by the negligence of the employer. In exchange, the Workers’ Compensation system became the exclusive remedy for injured workers. In other words, workers gave up their rights to sue their employers in cases where there was negligence. However, in the last few years, under the guise of “reform”, the benefits to which injured workers are entitled are becoming limited or non-existent and yet such workers are still prohibited from filing a lawsuit in the regular judicial system.
For instance, in Missouri, the legislature amended the word “accident” as used in the Workers’ Compensation statutes to mean “an unexpected traumatic event or unusual strain unidentifiable by time and place of occurrence and producing the objective symptoms of an injury caused by a specific event during a single work shift”. This was a change from the prior law which simply defined accidental injury to mean ANY job related injury. Missouri Law also used to provide that the Workers’ Compensation statutes were to be broadly and liberally interpreted with a view to the public interest and were intended to extend the benefits to the largest possible class so that any doubt as to the right of an employee to compensation should be resolved in favor of the injured employee. Again, the Missouri legislature removed that requirement and by doing so, removed a protection previously provided to injured Missouri workers without providing them anything in return.
Unfortunately, Missouri is not the only state taking such actions. The situation has gotten so bad in Florida that a Court has ruled than an injured worker could, in fact, sue her employer because the Florida legislature had made so many cuts in the rights previously provided injured workers that the system no longer represented an equitable arrangement for those workers.
One study indicates that employers are paying the lowest rates for Workers’ Compensation insurance since the 1970s and in the year 2013 Workers’ Compensation insurers had their most profitable year in over a decade, showing an unusually large 18% return on the premiums. Meanwhile injured workers are losing their rights.
The promise from the employers was to provide some benefits to injured workers who are hurt, by whatever means, while operating in the course and scope of their employment. In exchange, the workers gave up their right to sue the employers. The benefits promised have been rolled back by the employers and the insurance companies through the state legislatures and the workers have received nothing in return.
Please consider contacting your representatives to address a bad situation that is getting progressively worse.