American workers’ compensation systems were first embraced during the Industrial Age. As America expanded and industry exploded, both workers and employers realized that all interested parties could benefit from an agreement by which workers surrendered their right to sue employers for workplace injuries and in exchange, workers received a virtual guarantee that employers would compensate them for their medical bills and an adequate share of their wages during the recovery process.
American industry has changed a great deal since the Industrial Age. More Americans now work in offices than work in mines, on railroads and on construction projects. However, the need for a solid workers’ compensation system has not changed. We frequently write about the numerous workplace hazards that many American workers face on a regular basis. Workplace injuries and illness still debilitate many workers on either a temporary or permanent basis.
Despite the need for a solid workers’ compensation system, many states have been systematically dismantling workers’ compensation protections over the past decade. A recent investigation by NPR and ProPublica has determined that these efforts have caused disastrous consequences for many workers. Investigators have determined that many injured workers are compelled to fight for their rights in court for years, while others plummet into the depths of poverty without access to the benefits they deserve or the drugs and medical care that their physicians have explicitly recommended.
Please check back later this week as we will be continuing our discussion of this critically important issue in a future post.
Source: NPR, “Injured Workers Suffer As 'Reforms' Limit Workers' Compensation Benefits,” Howard Berkes, March 4, 2015