Recently an article was written about the state of Montana's workers' compensation system. Big business is outraged that their state ranked first in workers' compensation premium rates, which in 2010, were 163 percent greater than the national average.
Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Hickory know in that same study North Carolina ranked 23rd -- or right down the middle of the road. And in 2008 we were ranked 22nd.
Montana lawmakers backed by big business were crying that the state was losing businesses due to high workers' compensation premiums. This should sound familiar as we have posted repeatedly on our North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog about changes to North Carolina's workers' compensation system pushed by big business looking to maximize profits at the expense of its workforce.
The article highlights a recent Montana workers' compensation case where an employee at a tourist attraction smoked marijuana just prior to feeding a grizzly bear. He was mauled by the bear and was awarded compensation for his medical bills totaling roughly $35,000.
The truth of the matter is workers' compensation is a system put in place to protect employers as well as employees. By virtue of workers' compensation, employees give up their rights in most instances to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. In return, they do get to collect regardless of whether they are at fault. Yes, even if they smoke a joint and are attacked while feeding a grizzly bear.
Nothing says the company can't drug test. And they are free to hire and fire employees based on their ability to exercise reasonable judgment in the workplace. We can certainly find many, many cases of horrific abuses on the part of employers. It's just that there is no lobby paying millions of dollars to publicize them.
Recent changes to Montana's workers' compensation system included a five year cap on medical benefits, taking away a worker's choice of doctor, permanent partial benefits were eliminated for certain injuries, hospital and doctors' fee schedules were frozen and limits were placed on employer's liability for injuries occurring not at the workplace during breaks or when engaging in personal business. Do some of these ring a bell? They should because North Carolina lawmakers wanted similar changes.
Each state has its own workers ' compensation system that varies greatly with basically no federal standards or involvement. Dating back to the 1970's, it was thought that there should be federal standards. Fearing federal involvement, a number of states raised benefits to injured workers to keep that from happening. Since the 1990's, states have been moving backwards favoring big business over injured workers -- and that includes North Carolina.
Texas is the only state that doesn't require employers to have some kind of workers' compensation insurance for their workers. Oklahoma completely overhauled their workers' compensation law this year that partially benefited injured workers. It hopes the injured worker will have less aggravation getting approval for medical claims and medical treatment. By establishing treatment guidelines employers and insurance companies won't be able to delay care to injured workers.