In 2006, the Center for Justice & Democracy released a study about the failure of workers' compensation systems in America, finding that “workers’ compensation programs throughout the country have been devastating for injured workers, leaving them to contend with an adversarial bureaucracy and inadequate benefits that render many destitute.” This is the inevitable result when “political forces take over a statutory system, and they always do" so that "it is merely a matter of time before a pro-victim proposal for no-fault compensation is turned into a fault-based, bureaucratic nightmare for the injured person.”
Well, that was in 2006. Things sure haven’t changed in New York State. The New York Times is running an incredible series on that state’s totally dysfunctional system. Here’s an excerpt:
Comparing Supreme Court, say, to this is like comparing a hospital to a MASH unit,” said Anthony Pizza, a lawyer for insurance companies. “A lot of it is meatball justice.”
Workers’ compensation systems across the country are troubled, and reform efforts are under way here. But New York, a pioneer of the concept and home to the nation’s second-largest system, has some signature claims to dysfunction and is widely recognized as the most adversarial.
Though its commissioners largely function as a legal tribunal, most are not lawyers but relatives or allies of politicians, appointed usually without regard to experience in the field.
Though many cases turn on medical evaluations, the board has not had its own medical director for nearly a decade. Decisions are often driven by the opinions of doctors certified by the state as so-called independent medical examiners. Yet claimant lawyers and treating doctors say these examiners often understate workers’ ailments to win business from the insurers who pay them.
Fines for infractions are usually small, and some insurers ignore paying them for years without consequence. A few months ago, New York City agreed to produce $1.1 million in penalties, some years overdue.…
And everywhere the system tolerates delays that can make the injured wait months or years for money and care.…
Mary Jeffords, the head of Injured Workers of New York, an advocacy group, says she knows of numerous disabled workers so ground down by the process that they begin to unravel.
“I’ve talked to workers that held a gun to their head as we talked,” she said.
What’s even worse, some really dumb ideas, like “health courts” for medical malpractice victims is based on the workers comp model. We can’t imagine a worse public policy!