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Reductions in Workers’ Compensation Benefits Lead Claimants to Pursue Other Remedies

Since the inception of workers’ compensation laws, they have been typically written to provide injured workers with their “exclusive remedy” for any work-related accident. Workers’ compensation statutes generally prohibit injured workers from seeking damages in a court of law, unless they can show that an employer engaged in “gross negligence” or unless they can show that the injuries were caused by the acts of a third party. The workers’ compensation system has been consistently sold to workers as a “grand bargain,” where they can get the benefits they need without the time and expense of a trial, so that they’ll have access to benefits almost immediately.

However, as more and more states have sought to reduce the benefits payable under a workers’ compensation claim, and as more and more states have made it increasingly difficult to successfully file for workers’ compensation benefits, injured parties and their lawyers have looked outside the workers’ compensation system to recover damages for their losses.

In Oklahoma, which recently reduced the payment of permanent partial disability benefits from 500 weeks to 350 weeks, a worker injured at a tire company filed a lawsuit against his employer for his losses. He has previously filed a workers’ compensation claim, which his employer approved, but decided to file a lawsuit when his benefits were reduced from 500 weeks to 350 weeks. In early January, a county judge agreed with the worker, holding that the Oklahoma workers’ compensation laws no longer qualify as the “exclusive remedy” for injuries that are foreseeable. The employee had hurt his back and neck attempting to loosen a wheel. The court in Oklahoma ruled that the state’s workers’ compensation laws must provide a minimum level of permanent partial disability benefit.

A court in Florida, however, recently returned a ruling in favor of employers. In that case, the plaintiffs, survivors of a worker killed while working for a landscape nursery, obtained a $9.5 million verdict at trial. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the verdict, agreeing that the state’s workers’ compensation law as the “exclusive remedy.”

Legislators in at least two other states–Nebraska and West Virginia–have considered bills that would clarify or change the scope of the exclusive remedy provisions of their workers’ compensation laws.

Contact New Brunswick Personal Injury Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr

At the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr, we have fought for the rights of personal injury victims in central New Jersey for more than four decades. We carefully choose the cases we handle, so that we can provide the highest levels of service and personal attention to each client. We are also happy to take over your case, if your first lawyer does not seem to have your best interests in mind.

To set us a free initial consultation, send us an e-mail or call our office at 732-537-8570.

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