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A report on the inadequacy of workers' compensation

An injury that keeps a California worker from earning a living can be financially devastating. Although workers' compensation is designed to help workers in dealing with such challenges after suffering a work-related injury or illness, two separate entities have discovered that at least 30 states have cut such benefits, making it more difficult for workers to manage after filing for benefits.

Pro Publica partnered with NPR to investigate such concerns in 2014. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration took similar steps in the same time period. In both cases, reports noted that state laws have caused the system to be slanted in favor of businesses while leaving workers and their families to deal with major challenges. Reports note that insurers and businesses blame high costs for the reductions in benefits to injured workers. However, the reports in question noted that the rates being paid by companies to carry workers' compensation insurance are at the lowest point in decades. Taxpayers are carrying the costs instead.

OSHA's report notes that program changes make it more difficult for workers to obtain benefits. Statistically, workers' compensation only covers 20 percent of the costs connected with work-related illness and injury. OSHA also notes that employers would be more motivated to prevent serious injuries if they actually faced the need to pay full costs related to the injuries. States are being encouraged to facilitate easier access to benefits so that injured workers can obtain needed care without suffering devastating financial consequences.

An injured worker who deals with a denial of appropriate benefits might find that legal representation is important for handling a claim. If a claim is denied, an attorney can provide assistance during the appeals process.

Source: Pro Publica, "OSHA Report Echoes ProPublica and NPR's Workers' Comp Findings", Michael Grabelli, March 6, 2015

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