How States are Changing Workers’ Comp Laws

Workers Compensation lawsA recent article from ProPublica, titled “How to Investigate Workers’ Comp in Your State,” discusses the changing laws regarding workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ Comp laws are designed to protect employees’ rights to compensation when injured on the job. The system was created in the early 1900s as a “grand bargain” between businesses and the labor movement due to the increase of serious workplace injuries with the industrialization of America. Instead of suing an employer, an employee is entitled to medical care for their injuries, enough wages to get by on while recovering, and in certain circumstances, compensation for permanent disabilities.

Workers’ Comps systems are controlled by individual state governments, so ProPublica decided to investigate each state, and discovered that many states have been “dismantling” their workers’ comp systems, “denying injured workers help when they need it most and shifting the cost of work-related disabilities onto public programs like Social Security and Disability Insurance.”

What’s happening in Colorado?

The article discusses that new laws have been implemented in 33 states that basically did these three things:

  1. Reduced benefits,
  2. Gave employers and insurers more control over medical care, or
  3. Made it more difficult for workers with certain injuries and diseases to qualify.

In addition, ProPublica put together a chart showcasing the reforms in workers’ comp laws throughout the country. In the case of Colorado we have had significant changes to our laws in 2003, 2010, and 2014. We also happen to be one of 7 states to have any significant changes raising workers’ comp benefits, which is good for the employees.

Specific areas the article notes regarding changes in laws involve medical care and compensation. In 2003, Colorado increased the use of independent medical examiners (non-work comp doctors) to resolve treatment disputes for injured workers. Then in 2010, Colorado eliminated a provision in its statutes that reduced workers’ comp benefits where an injured worker receives compensation for a permanent partial disability but was also receiving Social Security benefits. Note that Colorado does reduce workers’ compensation based on the receipt of Social Security benefits in other situations. Last year, Colorado increased the number of doctors an employer or insurer must provide to the injured worker to choose to use, from 2 to at least 4. See C.R.S. 8-43-404(5)(a)(I)(A).

What about other States?

Some states have greatly cut down on workers’ comp benefits. These states include Arkansas, California, Florida, and Oklahoma. Nevada on the other hand, has greatly increased benefits over the last 10 years according to ProPublica’s chart.

It is really interesting looking at how workers’ comp benefits are changing in other states. It’s also extremely troubling to realize how much these benefits are being cut in some areas of the country. This system was put into place to protect injured workers, and it appears that states are trying to reduce or even end those protections. It is my sincere hope that Colorado continues to ensure greater benefits to its injured workers.

If you enjoyed this blog, you may like these other Workers’ Comp blogs:




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