Workers injured on-the-job in Maine are almost all entitled to no-fault workers’ compensation benefits in accordance with Title 39-A of Maine Revised Statutes. With very few exceptions, those hurt in the course and scope of employment can receive compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and vocational training. Survivors of employees who die of these injuries can collect death benefits.
As Portland workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, this was all part of the “grand bargain” struck between labor unions and employers in the early 20th century, in exchange for strictly curtailing, in most cases, a worker’s right to sue an employer for such injuries. However, employee advocates say benefits are insufficient and too difficult to obtain, thanks to years of legislative efforts (the biggest push being in 1992) favoring insurance companies and big industry. This, they say, combined with a twenty-six percent cost of living increase in Maine, makes the current situation untenable for injured workers.
State legislative committees have scheduled hearings, where workers and their families are slated to testify, arguing that reform is necessary because the state’s current workers’ compensation framework is unfair and causes undue hardship. State lawmakers are considering more than two dozen bills that would amount to sweeping reform of Maine’s workers’ compensation system. The objective, say supporters, is to balance the scales. The system was overhauled roughly 25 years ago by those who insisted the state’s approach – the most expensive in the nation – put the entire system on the verge of collapse.