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Workers' compensation may see big changes in 2017

Many West Virginia employees rely on workers' compensation benefits for financial support after a workplace injury accident. However, proposed actions around the country may bring widespread changes to workers' compensation programs in the future.

Workers' compensation programs have been around for quite some time, but their future is uncertain, according to industry experts. In past years, workers' compensation claims have resulted in lawsuits challenging work accident victims. For example, a pending court case in Florida may let employers to opt out of workers' compensation altogether, and judges may allow a strict three-year time limit on permanent disability claims in New York.

All of this comes after the Obama administration recommended sweeping reforms to workers' compensation. According to the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration, 12 workers are killed per day and more than 3 million injured per year because of unsafe working conditions and OSHA violations. Also, employees and their families increasingly bear the burden for lost wages and medical expenses because of state laws that allow employers more control over the claims process, according to OSHA investigations.

West Virginia privatized its workers' compensation program in 2005, which makes it difficult and confusing for those injured on the job or who develop an occupational disease to file a claim. An experienced workers' compensation attorney might be able to be of assistance to these workers by explaining the filing process and the nature of the benefits that can applied for. Such an attorney could also provide advocacy to people at subsequent appeals hearings in the event that the claim is disputed or denied by the employer.

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