Workers' Comp Doesn't Work
By Sam Gold
It hasn’t since the insurance industry got their claws into it, and it won’t until their sphere of influence is sufficiently reduced to a point where the system can achieve it’s primary goal: compensating the occupationally injured for their inability to compete in an ever changing workplace and getting them back to work as quickly as possible.
All the occupationally injured ask for is a little respect and dignity and maybe a bit of help dealing with what can sometimes be insurmountable odds. Yet, the truth just seems to get swept by the wayside and replaced by rhetoric meant to paint the injured workers as crooks and frauds and a drain and burden on society.
Workers’ Comp is not about truth, justice, fairness, equity or even honesty; it’s about what you can try to prove in front of a judge; it’s about money and power and what it can buy for the insurance industry.
Are these some really strong words? Yes. But sadly it’s the truth! Let’s take a peek at what it buys them.
First off, the employer can do no wrong! They can maliciously cause injuries and commit acts of total gross negligence and simply skate because of the “Exclusive Remedy” doctrine that indemnifies them against any liability, supposedly making this a no-fault system. Ask any injured worker how they are treated by the system and they’ll tell you that they are made to feel like it’s their fault they were injured.
Make one tiny mistake in a deposition, and the Special Investigations Unit of the insurance company will refer the case to the local District Attorney for fraud and perjury prosecution. These DA’s get money from the state Fraud Assessment Commission for successful prosecutions and they aren’t afraid to commit fraud to get money to fight fraud. Now on the other hand, insurance company doctors and defense attorneys simply lie thru their teeth; they can do no wrong. They are covered by what is known as litigation privilege.
I can tell you story upon story of innocent injured workers whose lives have been destroyed by DA’s who simply took the word of the insurance companies as the truth without an independent investigation being performed, only to find out later that the insurer had been caught with their pants down and that this was a convenient form of retaliation against those whistleblowers who had the guts to hold them accountable to the letter of the law.
The insurance industry and their friends at the Chambers of Commerce spend millions of media dollars running the same old manufactured videos to portray the injured worker as the cause of Worker’s Compensation fraud, but by their own admission it’s less than 1%. So where is the other 99% and why don’t we hear about it? As long as they have the ability to deflect attention away from the crimes that they commit, the injured worker will always be the scapegoat.
Recently, the Texas Supreme Court eliminated the rights of injured workers to sue Workers' Compensation insurance carriers that act in bad faith, saying such litigation interferes with the state's Workers' Compensation system. So who is looking out there for the rights of Texas’ injured workers? Nobody. Surprising what the money in their war chest can buy these days.
These insurance companies buy entire legislatures with their PAC and campaign donations. What chance does a poor injured worker have when he can barely keep the roof over the heads of himself and his family? This benefits system was supposedly designed to help workers when they can’t help themselves but they do exactly the opposite.
If a worker is permanently disabled, the future disability payouts simply amount to chump change and another formerly productive worker is thrown on the roles of Social Security and welfare.
You and I can stop this nonsense by letting your legislators know that you’re not going to put up with this graft and corruption any more or someone else will be running for their seat come election time!
It’s time to balance the scales once again and give the poor injured worker a fighting chance instead of letting big insurance convolute and bastardize the system.
Sam Gold is an injured worker who is also volunteer director of the first national injured workers advocacy organization, Injured Workers' Television Network.