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Proposed overhaul to workers' compensation could hurt workers

If one man has his way, Pennsylvania workers could one day face new workers' compensation rules. With the support of Walmart, Nordstrom and Lowe's, a Texas attorney is attempting to overhaul workers' compensation laws throughout America. Currently, Texas and Oklahoma already have legislation that allows companies to opt out of the workers' compensation system and write their own rules.

South Carolina and Tennessee are considering similar legislation, while the attorney behind the overhaul hopes to see it passed in a dozen states over the next decade. The overhaul is allegedly aimed at making the system less expensive for employers and more friendly to workers. However, an examination of injury benefit plans created by companies in Texas shows that the employers may be reaping all of the benefits.

In many cases, benefits are capped far below what they might be if an employee had access to the traditional workers' compensation program. According to legislation passed in Oklahoma and Texas, employers choose the doctors that employees see. Employees must also submit to one or more examinations at the request of their employers if they file a claim. If a worker chooses to appeal the outcome of such a claim, that hearing takes place in front of a committee se tup by the employer. In the event that a worker declines a settlement offer, he or she may receive nothing at all.

Pennsylvania currently requires most employers to carry workers' compensation insurance. The benefits provided thereunder are provided to eligible workers who are injured on the job or who contract an occupational illness. An attorney who has experience with these matters can explain the range of benefits that may be available when assisting an injured worker in preparing and filing the required claim.

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