Workers' Compensation Changes Through Time

injured worker

Why Workers' Compensation Is Needed

Simply put, workers' compensation helps employees recover from work-related accidents and protects employers from the costs of unexpected accidents. It can also help a worker quickly receive the medical care and compensation that they need after injuries at work.

Workers’ compensation was born as a way for injured workers to receive financial support for wages lost and medical bills until they are able to return to work. In exchange for this security, workers waived their right to sue employers, which protected private businesses from crippling lawsuits.

Workers’ comp differs slightly state-by-state, but the overall aim is to answer four key questions:

  • Is an injury work-related?
  • What is the appropriate medical care for the injury?
  • How much compensation does the injury warrant?
  • How long a recovery period does the worker need?

How Workers’ Compensation Changed in the 1970s

In the early 1970s, the United States had a high rate of worker injury and deaths. To help protect workers, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Part of this law established a commission to research state laws regarding workers' compensation. The commission unanimously declared that state laws were “inadequate and inequitable”, calling for a list of revisions.

The modern Workers’ Compensation system was born out of OSHA’s list of recommendations:

  • Virtually every employee should be covered by workers' compensation insurance
  • Workers should pick their own doctor
  • If an employee cannot work, they should receive two-thirds of their wages up to a minimum of the average wage of that state
  • Workers’ compensation benefits are to continue as long as the worker is unable to work, with no arbitrary gaps in coverage
  • Spouses receive death benefits until they remarry
  • Children receive benefits until they graduate college

State Workers’ Compensation Benefits No Longer Federally Monitored

In 1972, Congress was advised by the commission to mandate 19 recommendations as minimum standards of federal law if individual states did not do so on their own accord. All states did so, but things have changed over time. As the political landscape changed, cutbacks were enacted in waves during the 1990s and into the early 2000s. The U.S. Labor Department discontinued their monitoring of individual states’ laws in 2004 due to budget cuts.

Today, only 7 states follow 15 of the original 19 mandatory recommendations. Even more troubling is the fact that less than half of the original 19 recommendations are followed by only 4 states. These recent developments do not bode well for injured workers seeking compensation.

The State of Workers' Compensation Laws in Pennsylvania

All employees based in Pennsylvania likely qualify for some type of workers' compensation. In fact, most employers are required by Pennsylvania law to carry a minimum amount of workers' compensation insurance. 

Workers' compensation in PA can help provide compensation for:

  • Lost income
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses and other death benefits

Importantly, most workers' compensation policies cover only a portion of lost wages. In some instances, a policy might not cover all medical expenses. This is because Pennsylvania places maximums on workers' compensation benefits. 

PA Injury Lawyers for Workers’ Compensation & Disability Claims

If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, your options may include receiving financial benefits while you're recovering. These benefits can pay for your medical bills and keep you afloat until you have healed properly. However, filing claims is not black-and-white. Workers’ compensation is a very complex process—any misstep can delay your claim or result in denial.

Sometimes, workers' compensation claims are not properly honored or are outright denied when they shouldn't be. This isn't right, and you deserve better. At Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC, Attorney J. Jeffrey Watson is a certified specialist in workers' compensation law. He fights for the rights and protection of workers across the state.

Don’t give up. We can help you file an appeal to get the benefits you need. Handler, Henning & Rosenberg serves workers from offices throughout Pennsylvania. If you are hurt and cannot come to us, we will come to you in the hospital or at your home. Call (888) 498-3023 for a free review of your case to get straightforward answers.

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