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Alabama Workers' Compensation Attorneys NPR/ProPublica New Report

Alabama Workers' Compensation Attorneys NPR/ProPublica New Report

Alabama Workers' Compensation Attorneys NPR/ProPublica new report: Yesterday NPR and ProPublica released another in depth report on corporate America's continued attempt to destroy workers compensation benefits throughout the country. In their most recent report, they reviewed the "opt out" laws in Texas and Oklahoma (similar bills are pending in South Carolina and Tennessee and Alabama has been named as a State they hope to get to soon).

The law in question (called the "non-subscription" plan in Texas) allows companies to "opt out" of their State's workers' compensation laws; that is choose not to carry workers' compensation coverage for their employees, and instead implement their own plan-plans with no State oversight or regulation. Of note, Texas now leads the nation in the number of work related deaths, and death benefits have been greatly reduced under these plans.

What are some of the standard policies found in these plans?

•(1) No coverage for job injuries not reported within 24 hours-despite the fact that many time a worker will not think that they have suffered a serious injury at first, but only after days of increasing pain do they realize that they did not just pull a muscle. In fact, in their most recent story, they discussed a case in Oklahoma where a woman injured herself at work and was taken to the emergency room, where she was given strong pain medication. The injured worker went home and slept most of the next day. When she called to ask about workers' comp benefits , she was told that the 24 hour time limit had expired and that, while it was sad that she had to figure out what to do and how to take care of her children, her claim was not eligible for coverage.

•(2) That regardless of how serious the injury is, the "opt out" plans generally only cover medical expenses for 2 years. An example was given of a Texas man who badly injured his back at work. He still needed another surgery on his back when the 2 years ran, so he was left in chronic pain, with no further benefits and no way to obtain his surgery. The American tax payer is now supporting him through disability benefits.

•(3) In almost every Oklahoma "opt out" plan, the plan called for Mandatory Settlement. This means that the employer is allowed to decide how much to pay the injured worker, and if the worker does not accept the settlement, they get nothing.

•(4) 80% of the "opt out" plans make the money received from injured workers taxable, while worker's compensation benefits are not taxable.

•(5) The company gets to decide what medical treatment is needed; not the doctor and not the injured worker.

In this report, those who are pushing these non-subscription plans claim that there goal was not to lessen benefits available to injured workers and say that injured workers actually get better treatment, but this is ridiculous. The company decides what medical treatment you can receive, for how long, and even can refuse to cover certain job injuries; how is this better for the injured worker?

After claiming the new plans help employees, they went on to say that these new plans have cut employer costs by 40-90% and saved companies BILLIONS (partly due to the fact injured workers cannot go to court), but these billions in savings allow business to create new jobs and pay more to their employees. I guess they are adherents to "trickle-down economics" and ignore the economic realities. Corporate America's profits have never been higher, but most people I see are still suffering the effects of the Great Recession. I'm sure that any day now corporate CEOs will slash their multi-million dollar contracts and pay their workers more.

As the Washington Post stated earlier, "Somebody ends up paying for those injuries...taxpayers. When a worker ends up unable to work because of an injury, he or she can be covered by Social Security Disability Insurance, a program that has steadily increased in cost over the past two decades. The rise has many demographic factors behind it, but it looks like the abdication of responsibility by employers may have played a role as well."

In Alabama, we have to take a stand and rebut all attempts made to allow opt out plans. We have to let it be known that in Alabama, we value the lives and welfare of our workers more than corporate profits.

If you have suffered a job injury and have questions about your right to Alabama workers' compensation benefits, don't hesitate to contact and speak with one of the experienced Alabama Workers Compensation Attorneys at Powell and Denny.

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Alabama Workers Compensation Attorneys NPR/ProPublica New Report

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