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Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C.

Workers’ Compensation, the Middle Man, and the Erosion of Worker Protections in an Already Complex System

Posted on in Construction Accidents

worker protection, Chicago workplace injury lawyersThe difficulty workers experience after suffering an injury on the job is not a new concept; tightening of the proverbial belt has only made matters worse. But the emersion of a middle man—one that is unseen and largely unknown by both the corporations and injured workers they serve—has complicated the system even further. Some even say that the work of these new players are actually creating further burdens for the injured.

The Struggle of Injured Workers

In the state of Pennsylvania, a widow is still fighting to receive compensation for medical bills and funeral costs after chemical exposure on the job destroyed her husband’s brain and health. It has been three years since a judge ruled that the job was to blame. Prior to that, she spent more than four years just compiling enough evidence to prove it. She’s drained their savings, tapped into college funds and an inheritance, and pulled lines of credit just to manage.

A former employee at Tyson fell down wet stairs back in 2011. Allegedly asked to sign a waiver that stated he would not sue, he found himself in a difficult predicament: sign it or lose his medical coverage and return to full work duties after two months. He signed the waiver and was returned to work with restrictions, but after allegedly struggling with pain from his injuries, the man ended up missing too many days at work and lost his job in just months after being injured.

When the severity of his condition finally emerged, he was reportedly sent for a second opinion. Tyson allegedly directed him to a doctor disciplined by the Texas Medical Board for failing to document physical examinations. The man lost his benefits, his vehicles, and allegedly would have lost his home, had it not been for the help of family.

These are just two cases—two individuals—that are suffering because of a system slated to deny workers’ claims, a system that continues to shift and lean to protect the employer, not the injured. In Illinois alone, more than 4,500 workers’ compensation cases were opened in 2015. Only 1,412 of them received any sort of compensation. And that’s not even speaking to those that go beyond the basic injuries—those that could potentially file a lawsuit against their employer or a third party for negligence.

Stark Contrast in the World of Insurance Claims

In 2015, more than 150 different workers’ compensation conferences took place. At them, there were vendors, dealmakers, insurance company CEOs, defense lawyers, surveillance companies, and employer CEOs. There were also alligators, bartenders, baristas, waiters, dancers, chocolate truffles, specialty coffee drinks, alcoholic beverages, and music performers.

These lavish parties are designed to woo employers and insurers into cost containment—a service offered by the new man on the field, the wizard by the curtain, otherwise known as “cost containment firms.” They pose as companies that help workers receive better, faster treatment while managing workers’ compensation costs for employers and insurance companies. However, critics believe these “specialists” only further complicate an already complex system, and that the very workers they claim to protect are slowly getting squeezed out of the system.

A few unnamed folks have come forward. They allege that cost containment firms have done everything from inflating prices and skimming the top for profit to assisting employers in getting claims outright dismissed. Meanwhile, the injured workers are never invited to the conferences. They are only discussed when considering ways to save everyone money. And everyone seems to be looking out for their bottom dollar as the workers sit at home (if they still have one), suffering and in pain.

Do Not Leave Your Workplace Injury Claim to Chance

If you were injured because of an employer’s negligence, defective equipment, or because of unsafe work conditions, you may be entitled to damages outside of workers’ compensation. But, as you can clearly see, there are forces at work that will do whatever it takes to deny your claim. Meanwhile, your medical bills are going unpaid, your time off of work is causing stress, and your family is suffering. Do not leave your claim to chance; hire an experienced personal injury attorney instead.

At Hurley, McKenna & Mertz, P.C., we understand just how drastically an injury on the job can alter your life, and we will do everything we can to help—from standing up against insurance companies, employers, and defense attorneys to simply coming to see you at your home or the hospital so you can focus on healing. We will protect your rights, look out for your best interest, and fight for the very best possible outcome on your case. Contact our compassionate and experienced Chicago personal injury attorneys by calling 312-553-4900 today.

Sources:

https://www.propublica.org/article/workers-comp-conferences-expos-and-middlemen

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/11/workers_comp_is_failing_to_pay_victims_of_occupational_disease_center_for.html

http://www.dol.gov/owcp/energy/regs/compliance/statistics/WebPages/ILLINOIS.htm

http://www.propublica.org/article/tyson-foods-secret-recipe-for-carving-up-workers-comp

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