A ProPublica and National Public Radio Report issued yesterday painted a distressing but realistic picture of the uphill battle facing many injured workers. In short, the report points to a trend which threatens to slowly erode compensation even for severely injured workers. While statistics show that employers are now paying the lowest rates for workers’ compensation insurance since the 1970’s, states are continuing to put the squeeze on workers with tighter regulations and changes in workers’ comp laws.
In our own state of Georgia, we have seen shifts in regulations since the early 2000’s that fly in the face of progress. In 2013, Georgia ruled against life-long benefits for all but catastrophic injuries. With an 8-year cap on benefits, workers who have had knee or hip replacements, for instance, may be out of benefits by the time those replacements wear out.
There’s no doubt– insurance companies like to play hard ball. And with tighter state restrictions on their side, it’s easy for injured workers to get run over by the system without the proper help. We have seen it here with our own clients. Before seeking representation, many people have been nearly driven into poverty- losing their car, their home, and just about everything they have– before getting the help they needed.
The Workers’ Compensation system in this country was born in the early 20th century out of a need to protect workers in the grueling environment of the industrial revolution. And as we have witnessed here hundreds of times, the need exists yet today. I sympathize with my clients. It is hard enough to be hurt on-the-job. But to subsequently lose your job- and your income, and life as-you-knew it- is the reality for many injured workers.
Read the full NPR report here for an eye-opening view of the system and why we need to protect it.