We had the honor of having George Patrick, a workers compensation lawyer from Indiana, on the radio on Saturday, March 14, 2015, Pi day. This is especially interesting to me because I have heard so many people talk about the differences between the Illinois Worker’s Compensation system in the Indiana Workers Compensation System. Some people believe that Illinois should save money by following in the footsteps of Indiana.
This interview followed the recent ProPublic/NPR report about how states are demolishing their workers compensation systems. Judges have called the modern workers compensation systems “inhumane” according to ProPublica/NPR.
In the same week, OSHA (Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration) came out with a study that says that Workers Compensation systems are failing injured workers throughout the states. OSHA says that injured workers’ incomes are, on average, nearly $31,000 lower over a decade than if they had not been injured.
Mr. Patrick said the system was woefully inadequate in Indiana. Privately, he told me that there are a few lawyers who take Worker’s Compensation claims in Indiana because the rights are not economically viable to enforce in many situations. The workers’ income and age are not even considered in determining the award. Instead, Indiana uses a formula which follows the often criticized AMA guidelines.
Indiana lacks any sort of wage differential system. This omission is completely unfair to workers. Frequently, a worker with the job, like a union job, making $30 an hour, will get injured. If unable to return to their old labor-intensive job, they frequently have their wages cut to somewhere around $10 dollars an hour. If the victim loses $20 an hour, 40 hours a week, this is $800 dollars per week or $41,600 per year that the injured worker will lose, usually for life. If the worker has a 30 life expectancy the worker is out roughly $1.25 million over the course of their life. This loss is at least partially recoverable in most workers compensation settings. Indiana denies any such benefit to the injured worker.
In Indiana the workplace selects the physician. Workers cannot go to their doctor and have it paid by the workers compensation carrier. Patrick describes situations where the physician in Indiana, selected by the employer, (often called the company doctor), prescribes the things that are unreasonable. When the workers get discouraged by obviously unreasonable recommendations by company doctors, then end up outside of the workers compensation system, through their health insurer, to get reasonable care. After a surgery they need their weekly workers compensation benefits. However, once they come back to work, they have problems with the workers compensation system. The workplace claims that they failed to comply with the company doctor’s recommendation.
Mr. Patrick says that in Indiana medical benefits are cut off after a certain period, which makes the cost of health care for the injured worker revert back to the state or federal government. Systems that shift the burden of injured workers to taxpayers have frequently been criticized. Patrick said that Indiana has the fourth stingiest workers compensation system in the nation.
At Ackerman Law Office we aggressively pursue injury victims’ rights. James Ackerman is a member of the Board of Managers of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, which actively lobbies against the diminution of workers’ rights in the Illinois Workers Compensation system. If you want to hire us, we handle cases on a contingent fee. We make sure we have time for you.