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Future holds challenges for workers' compensation

New Jersey employees depend on workers' compensation benefits when an on-the-job injury or an occupational illness sends them to the doctor or leaves them unable to work. According to safety experts, changing political and technological landscapes could impact the delivery of benefits and the rates charged to employers.

During the Obama administration, regulatory agencies cited problems with the workers' compensation system. The U.S. Department of Labor issued a report that proposed establishing minimum standards of care that would apply across all of the states. The election of President Trump, however, could bury reforms suggested by the Labor Department because of his belief in limited regulation.

Increased enforcement of workplace safety rules by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration could also be in jeopardy under Trump. The new president might prove uninterested in continuing the safety agency's pursuit of improved workplace safety that had occurred during the Obama presidency.

Shifts in employment patterns that alter payrolls could also drive up costs for employers. The rise of online shopping could reduce retail employment and the potential of self-driving vehicles to alter employment for drivers might prompt insurers to adjust their rates.

Although the future of the system appears rocky, most employers are required to have workers' compensation coverage for their employees. A person hurt on the job either in an accident or because of repetitive motion stress should have access to existing benefits. Exposure to toxic substances that produce occupational illnesses also qualify an employee for benefits. Employers and insurance companies, however, sometimes stonewall a person's attempt to collect benefits. An attorney might assist a person in this situation by preparing claim forms and documenting the medical issues that arose from the workplace.

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