Worker's Compensation - Who does it Protect?

In recent years many businesses have complained about worker’s compensation laws. They don’t like the fact that the insurance is mandatory, that rates go up when there are claims, and that employees get recovery regardless of fault. They feel that complaints are excessive–that many supposed injuries are part of normal wear and tear from the type of employment they offer; are part of the natural aging process; or are just excessive.

Worker’s compensation is a form of no-fault insurance paid for by employers. It provides limited coverage for employees who have work related injuries no matter who or what caused those injuries.

However, the insurance plan is not entirely free to the employees. The law prevents employees from suing their employers even when the employer is the cause of the injury. The law provides no compensation for pain and suffering and only partial compensation for loss of wages. Employee’s attorney fees are severely limited (usually to 15%). With a permanent injury there is some lump sum payment for disability and the opportunity to undergo retraining. But the employee has been compelled to give up substantial rights for a relatively small return.

Employers who complain about worker’s compensation rates might find themselves paying substantially more insurance premiums if they could be sued personally for injuries that were caused by work conditions. Also, because of the low attorney fees allowed on behalf of the employee (there is no cap for insurance company attorneys), there is a severe limit as to how much an attorney will do, and often employees go unrepresented because attorneys will not take on their cases.

The individuals and companies that profit most from worker’s compensation are the insurance companies (because insurance is universally required) and the doctors (because they get paid). Worker’s compensation benefits are rarely attractive to employees who must find the means to survive on a fraction of their income.

Nonetheless, it is still advisable for employees to retain counsel where permanent injury is involved. Because this type of compensation is dominated by insurance companies, employees may find that they are sent to doctors who have an economic interest in minimizing injuries and who may cut-off treatment prematurely and/or give a low disability rating. Employees do have some rights to see other doctors as well as obtain other evaluations. Their interests may best be served by consulting with an attorney