Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.
Workers are not “getting rich” from worker’s compensation! Accordingly, fraudulent behavior in work comp is very rare—like the one bad apple spoiling the bunch—but often highly publicized. (Because, let’s face it, seeing a surveillance video of someone bowling or water-skiing is far more memorable than a thousand images of an injured worker struggling to get out of bed in the morning or walk a city block).
Under Wisconsin’s nationally-recognized model, a worker who suffers an on-the-job-injury receives workers’ compensation benefits without regard to fault. By virtue of the work comp system, injured workers cannot sue their employers or receive jury awards. Instead, injured workers are eligible for lower, defined benefits, like lost wages and medical expenses—again, we’re not talking about “pie in the sky” numbers that would incentivize bad behavior!
“Fraud” is minimal to non-existent
- In the last published study, Dept. of Workforce Development (DWD) concluded that public perception of workers’ compensation fraud is exaggerated. In a six year span, the amount of prosecuted fraud was less than one in 20,000 work injuries…or 0.0001%.1
Industry insiders don’t think this is a big deal
- Rick Parks, the President/CEO of Society Insurance: “From the view of thousands of claims over decades, fraud is minimal in Wisconsin”2
- Chris Reader of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce: despite the “sensational stories,” fraud is “few and far between” in the system.3
Current law already allows criminal prosecution for alleged “fraud”
- Worker’s Compensation Division already has an existing fraud hotline for the public. Also, a carrier can report an alleged fraudulent claim to the DWD. After an investigation, DWD can refer to district attorney for prosecution of criminal insurance fraud. Thus, if there is fraudulent behavior, under current law, there can be a crime found.
Independent Medical Examinations provide protection against “fraud”
- Insurance carriers can require an injured worker to be seen by a handpicked independent medical examiner, or IME. If questions exist about a worker’s injury, symptoms, or disability, the IME can provide an opinion—allowing a carrier to deny the worker’s claim.
“Fraud” goes both ways
- We want fair competition in the marketplace and in business. Misclassifying employees or workplaces results in “stolen” premium dollars and an unfair business advantage. Likewise, limiting or under-reporting work injuries undermines the fairness and credibility of our efficient work comp ratings process and system.
1 Department of Workforce Development, Annual Report for Calendar Year 1999 Allegations of Worker’s Compensation Fraud (annual average of 3 prosecuted cases out of 60,000 injuries).
2 Senate and Assembly Committees on Labor, Informational Meeting, 7/31/13: WisconsinEye at 3:18:30.
3 Senate and Assembly Committees on Labor, Informational Meeting, 7/31/13: WisconsinEye at 2:13:00.