I went to the Evening Division of Suffolk University Law School in Boston from 1970-1974. During the day I was a workmen’s [sic] compensation claims adjuster for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company- with company car, Polaroid camera and statement pad, equipped to investigate work accidents and make initial contact with the injured worker and his or her family.

As a night student the course on Workmen’s Compensation, Admiralty and Related Fields was not available to me, but as it was offered in the late afternoon on Wednesdays, I was able to audit the course in 1972. Our Professor (Adjunct) was the legendary Samuel B. Horovitz, author of the very first treatise on workmen’s compensation in 1933 (I have a copy given to me by one of his partners).

I remember also that Prof. Horovitz missed several classes that academic year- he had some business in Washington D.C. What I learned many years later was that Sam was a member of the National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws, appointed by President Nixon as a part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Also on the Commission, chaired by John F. Burton, Jr. was Melvin Bradshaw the president of Liberty Mutual, along with 16 others from all areas of the law. They had a professional staff of 22; 2 experts and consultants; 12 support staff and 30 contractors.

Their report was delivered to the President and to Congress in July of 1972. It had an impact of seismic proportions, and the 40th anniversary was marked by various commemorations in 2012.

Simply put, the Commission analyzed all aspects of state based compensation laws; income maintenance, medical care and rehabilitation, safety, effective delivery and expounded on the future of workmen’s compensation.

As an adjuster back in 1972, I remember the maximum weekly benefit a claimant could receive for total incapacity was around $70 per week, perhaps half of the state average weekly wage.

This inequity was among the 19 Essential Recommendations of the Commission. Over the course of the next dozen or so years most states revamped and reformed their compensation programs to adopt most if not all of the essential recommendations. In 1976 Massachusetts raised its weekly maximum to $150 per week and within a year or two adopted the state average wage which at the time was $211.

Commentators have long since noted that bringing workers’ compensation benefits and the delivery of same up to mid-20th century standards led to major advances for injured workers. Over the ensuing decades these benefit increases were blamed for increased premiums and the so called crises leading to the “deforms” most states have been dealing with for the past decade or two.

For me this past year as president of WILG has reacquainted me with the Commission report- not as a trip down memory lane, but because as my last few messages to you have said, we are in a new phase of the 100 plus year history of workers’ compensation. Once again, as it has happened over the past century workers’ compensation is in crisis. The recent national summits referenced in my last message all have begun with or ended with a visitation of the 1972 Commission and the question as to whether a new National Commission should be convened. The dialogue continues as does the national presidential and Congressional election campaigns, the outcomes of which may dictate how much traction a national look at compensation will have. In the interim our WILG members, among them Mark Zientz of Florida, Bob Burke of Oklahoma and Jinks Dabney of Utah, have successfully argued the unconstitutional provisions of their respective state’s statutes. National media have also focused on the inequities our injured workers suffer as insurers, regulators and policy makers have perhaps lost their way, forgetting or ignoring the 1972 Commission recommendations.

As John Burton wrote to the President and Congress:

“…the protection furnished by workmen’s compensation to American workers is, in general, inadequate and inequitable. Significant improvements…are necessary if the program is to fulfill its potential.”

These words could have been written today.

Alan S. Pierce

WILG President

Pierce, Pierce & Napolitano

27 Congress Street, Suite 301

Salem, Ma 01970

978-745-0914

apierce@ppnlaw.com


 


 


The Demise of the Grand Bargain
Compensation for Injured Workers in the 21st Century.

 An Academic Symposium Cosponsored
by: Pound Civil Justice Institute. Rutgers Center for Risk & Responsibility, Northeastern University School of Law.
Sept 23,2016 9AM-4PM Rutgers Law School
Click here for information & to register:http://www.wilg.org/docDownload/710278

 

King of Coal

Coal company CEO's misdemeanor conviction after a disaster that killed 29 miners is a "perversion of justice," says victim's sister

IAIABC Forward: Understanding the Opt Out Alternative

Maxwell v. Sprint Smith v. Baze


Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission finding the Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act unconstitutional and unenforceable.  Click for more information.
 


What Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital Means for Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Laws

 

In 1911, the U.S. created the first state-based workers’ compensation laws as a legislative solution between labor and management. In this “grand bargain,” employers provide compensation to employees injured on the job and in exchange employees don’t sue the employers for negligence. The current case of Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital questions whether Florida’s compensation laws still provide adequate remuneration to injured workers. What could this case really mean for Florida’s state legislature?

In this episode of Workers Comp Matters, Alan Pierce interviews Mark Zientz, claimants’ attorney for Stahl v. Hialeah, about the history of state workers’ compensation laws, legislative changes made in the 1970s, and the potential ramifications of three Florida cases pending at the appellate level. Together, they discuss contributory negligence vs. comparative negligence states and the creation of an OSHA commission to study the adequacy of workers’ compensation laws in the 1970s. Pierce and Zientz then move on to current cases in Florida, including Westphal v. St. Petersburg, Castellanos v. Next Door Company, and Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital. These cases question whether the compensation system is still an adequate replacement for the tort system which it supplanted. In other words, is workers’ compensation in Florida no longer constitutional?

 

WILG 20th Anniversary Video

 

WILG Testimonial Videos

Over the past decade, states have slashed workers’ compensation benefits, denying injured workers help when they need it most and shifting the costs of workplace accidents to taxpayers.
Part 1 of ProPublica Article Here
Part 2 - How Much Is Your Arm Worth
Part 3 - Injured Workers Share Stories of Harm

 

On Tuesday, 5/5, the Illinois House convened a committee of the whole for a hearing on work comp. An injured worker from Oklahoma, who was featured in a previous ProPublica piece, provided testimony. Here's an article in response to the hearing:

 

 

 

 

http://www.propublica.org/article/injured-worker-propublica-npr-story-testifies-before-illinois-legislature


Dr. Joel Morton's WorkCompWire Article

Every day brings another headline about a fatal overdose on painkillers, a celebrity who’s hooked, or a serious crime driven by addiction. Sadly, injured workers are among those addicted. Since 1990, opioid overdose deaths have tripled. It’s easy to blame doctors who prescribe painkillers, but only 17 percent of abused opioids are abused by legitimate patients with legitimate prescriptions. Physicians are doing their best, trying to treat pain without withholding needed medications, but that only helps so much.

Dr. Joel Morton of Summit Pharmacy takes a closer look at the issue and in the following article discusses a few policy changes that could go a long way to stem opioid abuse:

 

Let's Stop Inviting Opioid Addiction


2015-16 Leaders


President
Alan S. Pierce
Salem, MA

President- Elect
Michael Gruber
Brooklyn, NY


Treasurer
Amie Peters
Edmonds, WA


Secretary
Thomas Holder
Atlanta, GA

Immediate Past President
Matthew J. Belcher
Chicago, IL