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Companies opting out of workers' compensation

When workers in New Jersey are injured on the job, they can usually apply for medical coverage through their employer's workers' compensation plan. However, many employers are now opting out of workers' compensation and developing their own rules for compensating injured workers. Opting out of workers' compensation has become most popular in Texas, where a lawyer first pioneered the idea.

Recently, NPR and ProPublica investigated the private injury benefit plans that were written by companies that had chosen to opt out of workers' compensation in Texas and Oklahoma. Teh companies involved included such well-known names as Walmart, Costco, Taco Bell, Sears and McDonald's. According to the investigation, nearly all of the benefit plans offer less compensation for workers than traditional workers' compensation insurance.

Most of the private benefit plans only provide medical care to workers for the first two years after they sustain an injury while workers' compensation insurance guarantees medical treatment for life. Many permanent disabilities are not covered under the plans, and death benefit payments for families are limited. Taco Bell's plan allows company representatives to accompany injured workers to medical appointments, and the Sears plan denies benefits to workers who report injuries after the end of their shifts.

People who have been hurt in a workplace accident may not be aware of the long-term financial impact of their injuries until they have gone to a few doctor's appointments. In such an event, an attorney who has experience in these matters might be of assistance in preparing the required claim for workers' compensation benefits.

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