The insurance industry proposal is bad for businesses and would be devastating to workers.

Published: Friday, October 20, 2006
By Jason D. Porter, Guest Editorialist

My daddy wore his knee out driving a truck. He always wanted me to make my living behind a desk, so I studied hard. I am a trial lawyer, and the majority of my practice is spent representing injured workers before the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. I have a job because insurance companies that provide workers’ compensation coverage often refuse to treat people right.

The insurance industry is the most powerful machine in America, and insurance companies are now pushing a bill they say will “reform” workers’ compensation in South Carolina. In effect, the new bill guts the power of our workers’ compensation courts and takes away the rights of injured workers with no benefit to the business community.

The bill is part of the insurance industry’s five-step plan to fatten themselves at the expense of all South Carolina:

  • Step 1: Raise premiums on employers to generate more income for insurance companies.
  • Step 2: Blame injured workers, causing tension between employers and employees.
  • Step 3: Propose legislation limiting workers’ benefits.
  • Step 4: Lobby to persuade voters and politicians to pass said legislation.
  • Step 5: Count their money and begin making plans for next year’s premium hikes.

In short, charge employers more and pay workers less! Insurance companies say they want to get trial lawyers out of  workers’ compensation. They could easily do that if they would just pay injured workers the full value of their claims. If insurance companies paid even 80 percent of what the law says, no injured worker would hire me and pay me a 33 percent fee. But insurance companies routinely deny claims that should be paid, driving injured workers to my door.

When you examine workers’ compensation in South Carolina, it’s clear that we need insurance reform. New laws should be passed to increase workers’ benefits and punish insurance companies that  improperly deny or delay claims.

Did you know that if a 40-hour-per-week worker is killed on the  job in South Carolina, his or her family will receive only between $84,000 and $250,000 as compensation for their loss? That’s it. Is your life worth more than that? Who would trade the life of a  spouse, child or parent for such a pittance?

Did you know that if the same worker gets a leg torn off in a machine, he or she will receive between $24,000 and $110,000? That’s it. What rational person would trade a limb for that amount  of money? I wouldn’t, and both of my legs are skinny.

By the way, if you lose your life or limb on the job, don’t expect to get a check the next day. The longer the insurance company can delay payment, the more interest they make off of your money. Often, delay in medical care worsens the injured worker’s condition and lengthens his or her time out of work. Insurance companies find countless ways to delay payment, driving up the costs of the entire system.

Did you know that when you get hurt on the job, the insurance company picks the doctor? That’s right, you must go to their doctor and not the family doctor who knows you and has treated you  for years. Worse, the “reform” bill will require the workers’ compensation judge to award only what the insurance company’s handpicked doctor says. As a result, insurance companies are setting themselves up as the judge and jury, and they don’t want you to  have a lawyer.

The insurance companies’ “reform” bill is harmful to the South Carolina economy and should insult your sense of fairness and justice. All this may sound like a squabble between insurance companies and trial lawyers. But the trial lawyers and the insurance companies do not drive this state’s economy. Small business owners  and their workers are the ones who do the working and paying  and living and dying in our communities. Is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die without being continually robbed by the insurance industry?

The workers’ compensation “reform” bill that insurance companies are touting is bad for business, particularly small business, and it is devastating for workers. Encourage your representative or senator to defend our state from the insurance industry’s assault and its attempts to erode employer-employee relations in South Carolina.

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