From the standpoint of history, the concept of workers’ compensation deserves a solid thumbs up. But there are many who likely would argue that from the standpoint of how it fulfills its mission these days, the system of workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania and all the other states of the union has fallen into a state of severe decay.

For the latter, the need for reform is clear. Whether or not the political conditions are such that any significant reform is likely to take place at any time in the foreseeable future is debatable. Barring such action, workers who wind up suffering illness or injury on the job are likely to be faced with having to put up a legal fight to obtain all the benefits they are supposed to be due. Contacting an experienced attorney is the first step in this regard.

There are a number of reasons why this situation exists. First, the notion of modest and reliable economic support for injured workers that was at the heart of workers’ compensation at the outset hasn’t kept pace with the realities of life.

Take the situation in New York for example. Between 1992 and 2007, the maximum allowable wage replacement benefit a worker could receive was $400 a month. That means that the maximum annual benefit a person could receive was about $20,000. Most people didn’t make the maximum, so that means a lot of them were being shunted into poverty.

Some argue that another reason workers’ comp isn’t what it used to be is that the structure of the system is tipped in favor of business. Each state regulates its own workers’ compensation system. As the states compete to attract businesses to boost their own economic futures, the governments often soften the costs of workers’ compensation as an incentive.

And then, of course, there are the standard strategies that so many businesses use to reduce their cost risks associated with worker injuries. These involve delaying payments that are due, denying claims for as long as they can and then, paying only the minimum possible amount for as short a period of time as they can.

With the system skewed to the side of businesses and against individuals, the fight for benefits seems bound to continue.

Source: NESRI.org, “Workers’ Compensation: The System’s Devastating Economic Impact on Workers’ Lives,” Cathy Albisa and Joie Chowdhury, March 18, 2013