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Changing laws may complicate claims for work injuries

For over a century, New York and other states have regulated individual systems of workers' compensation insurance to protect those who are injured on the job. Compensation for work injuries is provided by employers in exchange for protection against lawsuits for those injuries. However, recent investigations show that employees may not be able to depend on getting adequate help as long as states continue to cut benefits and complicate the process of claiming compensation.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that a worker injured on the job is likely to end up living in poverty. State workers' compensation programs are falling victim to budget cuts, and injured workers are frequently left with few alternatives to pay for medical treatment. Some are opting to forego surgeries or medical devices their conditions require, and others who agree to the procedures risk losing their homes to pay for them.

Workers' compensation insurance is not governed by federal standards. Recent reports show that benefits vary significantly from state to state, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars for the same injury. More than 30 states have amended their laws to decrease benefits or increase the burden of proof placed on the injured worker. The number of procedures and claims denied is also increasing from state to state.

Work injuries may mean long-term loss of income in addition to painful, expensive medical treatment. Having to dispute with the insurance company about one's benefits is not conducive to healing and recovery. With the rapidly changing workers' compensation laws in New York and other states, it is advisable for a worker to consult with an attorney if he or she is injured on the job. Having an attorney fight the complicated battle may allow a person to focus on recovering.

Source: propublica.org, "U.S. Labor Department: States Are Failing Injured Workers", Michael Grabell, Oct. 5, 2016

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