Remember the old frog in boiling water analogy? It’s meant to underline the danger of slow erosion. If a frog jumps in a pot of boiling water, it notices the heat immediately, and jumps out. However if a frog jumps into a pot of lukewarm water that heats up to boiling, it won’t notice the change, therefore won’t react. The amphibian is doomed. Hence lies the danger of the slow erosion of the workers’ compensation system. The changes we’re seeing in some states, largely led by lobbyists, may seem slow and subtle enough to not warrant alarm. But if we’re not careful, our working class citizens are doomed to a system designed to protect corporations- not workers.
The lobbying organization, ARAWC (Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation) pictures happy and hard-working laborers on the home page of its website. ARAWC says it’s an organization that provides choice for workers and companies. They call it “an option.” The fact is, this organization’s mission is to pass laws allowing private employers to opt out of traditional workers’ compensation plans. That opens the door for companies to write their own plans, set their own rules and decide under what conditions an injured employee has access to medical benefits and wages. In other words, there is no benefit to an employee of a company who has bought into the “option.” There is benefit, however, to the companies which stand to save millions of dollars. Lobbyists have already helped write legislation in Tennessee, with more states, including Georgia on its target list.
According to Mother Jones, a 2012 survey of Texas companies with private plans found that fewer than half offered benefits to seriously injured employees or the families of workers who died in workplace accidents. Half of the Texas private plans capped benefits, while the state workers’ comp plan pays benefits throughout a worker’s recovery.
Proponents of the private “option” say that injured workers regain their right to sue their employer. (The workers’ compensation system essentially promises workers their just compensation in exchange for their right to sue.) However, think about it: when is the last time you heard of an injured forklift driver winning a lawsuit over Walmart? It’s not going to happen. Taking an employer to court is a monumental expense that no worker is likely going to engage in.
This is why we have the workers’ compensation system. It’s a system that was born in the early 20th century out of a need to protect workers during the industrial revolution. And now, with over 30,000 indemnity claims made each year in Georgia alone, the need exists as much as ever. Someone has to protect injured workers. My clients vouch for that every day.
The Ramos Law Firm, upholding the highest industry legal standards, is proud to advocate for Georgia’s workforce. Practicing 100% workers’ compensation, we provide free consultation to injured workers and specialize in creating individualized strategy based on the needs of each case.