Our colleagues at the Workers Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG) provided information in an article posted in today’s Huffington Post about reform of workers’ compensation laws. At issue is a Maine bill that would lessen the role of psychological and emotional harm in determining a worker’s right to compensation after an injury. On one side is the Maine Chamber of Commerce and insurers who are for the bill. On the other side are labor groups and workers, in particular emergency responders, who feel that mental and emotional injuries are as important as physical injuries when it comes to compensation.
Proponents say the reforms are aimed at lawyers who manipulate the system. The articles points out legislative activity in a number of states, including Maine, North Carolina, Illinois, and Montana, that is attempting to reign in the costs to employers of workers’ compensation claims.
In the article, a representative of the WILG, which represents claimants’ attorneys, told the Huffington Post that “workers’ rights and benefits, nationwide, appear to be under greater attack this session.” For example, in North Carolina there is no cap on the amount of time an injured worker can collect compensation. But opponents would like to see that limited to 500 weeks, saying higher taxes and insurance premiums for employers discourages businesses from settling and staying in the state. Those against the cap are afraid such a bill could make it harder for injured workers to change doctors and could redefine what is meant by “suitable” employment.
In the article, WILG points out that one Illinois bill would “effectively abolish” the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and would put cases with the state’s circuit courts instead of its compensation commission.
Although these reforms may not take place overnight, they are something that workers’ compensation attorneys should keep an eye on.