Since the early 1900s, the Workers’ Compensation system has provided vital protection to American workers injured on the job. Without this protection, many injured workers would be left unable to pay bills and provide for their families. However, recent budget cuts, changes in the law, and new categories of employment have raised concerns that the system is no longer adequately serving the needs of workers and is in need of change. According to the State Workers’ Compensation Report published by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in 2016, recent changes in state laws as well as the technological advances in society and changing work environments are placing American dangers at risk of not being able to collect benefits if injured while working. Part of the reason for this is the limitation on who can recover and what can be recovered. These changes may lead to an increase in the number of Workers’ Compensation lawsuits.
What Factors are Placing Workers at Risk?
The increasing cost of providing employee benefits caused many businesses to place political pressure on state legislatures to reduce costs and give employers more leverage over the workers’ comp process. According to the 2016 DOL report, this has given rise to many risk factors for employees and led to a greater number of claims being denied. The factors identified in the report include the following:
- Exclusionary standards making it harder for injured employees to file claims and get benefits. As of 2015, 33 states have enacted laws that reduce benefits or exclude a growing number of injuries. This has led to a greater number of denials.
- Decreased adequacy of the level of benefits. Many state compensation systems have shortened the length of time an injured worker can collect benefits even if the timeframe goes against medical advice leaving many workers unable to return to work or collect.
- Enactment of policies that discourage the reporting of injuries. Research indicates many employees do not want to report injuries due to policies that lead to a denial in benefits or termination of employment.
- Opting out laws. A new development in workers’ comp law giving a business the right to opt out of the system and largely create their own compensation plan for employees. (In 2013, Oklahoma passed an “opt out law” giving employers this power.)
- Changes in the work environment leading to misclassification of employees. With an increasing number of employees being contracted and working remotely from home, employers are increasingly excluding employees from benefit programs.
These factors have all led to a higher number of denials and left many injured workers without any way to provide for their families. With all of these developments in an ever changing technological society, many legislators and government officials as well as private citizens argue that it is time to make some changes to the current worker’s compensation system.
Contact an Experienced Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been injured while at work, our firm works with experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorneys here in Rhode Island. You may be entitled to collect for workers’ compensation benefits for lost wages, medical bills and possibly a lump sum settlement, among other benefits. No fees are received unless you win your case. For a free (no obligation) case evaluation, call us toll free at 1-800-992-6878. You may also fill out our contact form online.