Workers compensation is supposed to protect employers from lawsuits brought by their employees. In exchange for a system of a no fault liability for on the job injuries, employers secure freedom from negligence lawsuits brought by employees that might yield much higher payouts. This protection, however, is not absolute. Like with any rule, there are exceptions.
Action over cases have become increasingly common over the past two decades. These cases involve employees collecting worker’s compensation from their employer, and then suing a third party that caused their injuries through negligence who had a contractual indemnity clause with the employer that covers the lawsuit. The prevalence of these suits have led insurance companies to take action by issuing new endorsements aimed at protecting themselves.
Lawsuits are expensive... and they only ever get more costly as time goes on. To reduce delays, state governments have searched for ways to fairly apportion damages for certain types of accidents without having injured parties resort to filing lawsuits for some time. Workers' Compensation is one example of a system that states have used to avoid and prevent lawsuits in the specific field of workplace injuries by eliminating any requirement for fault or negligence.
Workers compensation systems exist to take workplace injuries out of the courtroom and resolve those claims in a more cost effective way without worrying about fault. Many employers purchase their workers compensation policies simply as a matter of necessity. But these policies cover more than just the statutory workers compensation scheme.
What duties does your business owe to the employee of a customer or vendor? This may not be a question many companies have considered. They have contractual relationships with their customers and vendors that spell out the duties each owes to the other. Furthermore, that contract may require that each party obtain workers compensation insurance specifically to recompense any employee injured on the job.
The opioid epidemic, besides its unfathomable human costs, has had large economic costs for businesses and governments who must manage workers compensation costs. Opioid prescriptions in the wake of workplace injuries have been linked to higher workers compensation payouts and longer layoffs before injured employees return to work. Facing the bill for these costs, government, citizens, and private entities have filed a veritable avalanche of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for their manufacture and marketing of opioid based painkillers.
As various parts of the United States federal government move to address the growing opioid crisis, the Department of Transportation has updated its drug testing policies to include a stronger focus on testing for painkillers. Published on November 13, 2017, the new policy went into effect on January 1, 2018. It brings the Department of Transportation’s drug testing rules into harmony with new rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. The new rules will apply to employers regulated by the Department of Transportation, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That means trucking companies will fall under the purview of this rule change when it comes to pre-employment and post-accident drug testing.
In June of 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a long-standing worker’s compensation law on what seemed like a technicality to many legal outsiders. The decision had the potential to overturn an important part of disability determinations aimed at keeping costs for employers reasonable and will lead to higher insurance premiums for Pennsylvania employers.
As you have been advised over the course of the year,OSHA’s Final Rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule) requires employers of certain sizes that fall into certain categories to proactively submit electronic injury and illnesses data to OSHA through its new web portal. The new rule dramatically changes the responsibilities and impacts of OSHA’s long-standing injury and illness recordkeeping program.