While no party was particularly pleased with the 2007 New York Workers Compensation Reforms (Spitzer Reforms) they were the result of compromise and negotiation. However, the last few years has seen an onslaught from the Business Council and Insurance Industry to roll back changes – but only for their benefit.
Here’s the basic rub – the changes implemented (caps on benefits in cases of permanent injury in exchange for an increase in wage replacement to a livable and manageable level, and other changes) resulted in the bureaucratic behemoth of the Workers Compensation Board creating more layers upon bureaucratic layers (there are now more forms and regulations and codes, that they need forms and regulations and codes to interpret and implement the forms regulations and codes!) These forms and rules, in place to improve the system and lower the cost to the insurance industry (which they have done) had a very interesting side effect. In order to implement the changes, settle more cases and get the benefit of the reforms the defense attorneys for the insurance industry have had a field day, billing up a storm and increasing payouts to defense firms by at least 20%! (According to recent report from the Workers Compensation Research Institute)
And it’s ironic that its usually the ‘horrible’ plaintiff attorney getting bashed – but our fees come directly from the award to the injured worker and are not an additional cost like the defense fees – fees that the insurance industry can control…trust me, there are numerous useless legal fights that occur every single day that if we could just resolve then there would be no need for the poor insurance companies getting charged by their own attorneys. But, the insurance industry will continue to find a way to blame the injured worker for its own mess. I feel so bad!