Alan S. Pierce
As I prepared for my first President’s Message for Workers’ First Watch, I wanted to find a fitting subject matter worthy of WILG and the mission of this publication. I kept coming back to our Annual Meeting in October where I had the honor of being sworn in on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of WILG. As we honored our past presidents, I realized how important my term will be, and having a couple of months under my belt, I now better appreciate the dedication and hard work of our past presidents.
As one who is interested in the history of workers’ compensation and the history of our organization, I realized that the subject of my message became clear. WILG was founded over 20 years ago in response to the developing crisis we refer to as Workers’ Compensation ‘deform’ that was beginning in states around the country and continues today; although in different forms with new challenges to overcome.
Opt Out, benefit reductions, the watering down of the concept of ‘liberal construction’, onerous fee schedules, drug formularies, constitutional challenges dealing with the breach of the Grand Bargain and the like has led to an emerging crisis that needs to be addressed.
As Prof. John F. Burton, Jr. put it recently: “…in my view, the state workers’ compensation system(s) is in its most dire situation in at least the last half-century.”
As representatives and the voice of the injured workers, we have a special responsibility to address this emerging crisis. As the only exclusively claimant Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, I am reminded of our historical predecessor, the National Association of Compensation Claimant’s Attorneys otherwise known as NACCA. Like WILG, NACCA was created to address gross inadequacies and injustices in the state workers’ compensation systems around the country. In 1946 a small, committed and visionary group founded NACCA as a result of inadequate benefit levels, undue influence of employers and insurers and lack of a strong and unifying voice.
In my home state of Massachusetts dedicated lawyers such as Samuel Horovitz and Dean Roscoe Pound of Harvard Law School helped form, nurture and develop NACCA.
The formation of NACCA is described in vivid detail in “David vs. Goliath; ATLA and the Fight for Everyday Justice,” by Richard S. Jacobson and Jeffery R. White, published by ATLA Press in 2004.
Ben Marcus of Detroit, Michigan, counsel for the United Auto Worker’s Union, read Horovitz’s book and was inspired to meet Sam. The vision of an organization of compensation attorney’s began to take shape.
At the same time an informal workers’ lawyers group had formed in Oregon and by coincidence, the 1946 annual IAIABC (International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commission) convention was scheduled for Portland.
Horovitz took a train cross country to Oregon with eight other like-minded workers’ attorneys, onAugust
16, 1946 at the Heathman Hotel, founded the National Association of Compensation Claimants’ Attorneys.
Horovitz with his law partners started the NACCA Law Journal and they and others moldedNACCA into an effective national organization.
As most of us know, in 1964NACCA became the American Trial Lawyers Association, later changing its name to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and now known as AAJ, the American Association for Justice.
Recognizing the toll of workers’ compensation “deform” which began in the early 1990’s, a new group of “committed visionaries” formed WILG, the Workplace Litigation Group now the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group.
For the past twenty years we have fought the fight and are committed to continue to do so. Sam Horovitz died in 1985 at the age of 87. I had the opportunity to have settled cases with him in my claims adjuster days and to have been inspired by him as my professor in law school. A first edition of his treatise is among my most prized possessions.
So as I embark on my year as President of WILG, I will be guided and inspired by the commitment of those who came before me, both in 1946 whenNACCA was founded and in 1995 when WILG was founded.
Our clients depend on us.
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:
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:
Alan S. Pierce
Immediate Past President
Matthew J. Belcher