The Montana Workers’ Compensation Act (often called “The Act”) is considered the grand bargain, or “quid pro quo,” between Montana employers and workers. Generally speaking, qualifying injured workers are afforded benefits regardless of fault, and employers are free from direct liability but must provide workers’ compensation insurance. Injured workers give up their right to a jury trial and full damages, in exchange for no-fault, albeit limited, coverage.
Workers’ Comp Law
The Montana’s Worker Compensation Act is found in the Montana Code Annotated, Title 39, Chapter 71. The Act is statutory, meaning written into the Montana statutes, and then interpreted by the Workers’ Compensation Court. The Act is authored by the Legislature and is under constant legislative scrutiny. Employers and insurance companies have substantial lobbying influence, and with few exceptions, nearly all proposed or enacted new legislation is employer-friendly, taking benefits aways from injured workers. Injured workers, though numerous, do not have the resources or cohesion to influence legislation and are typically trampled over at the legislative level. Oftentimes the only way to fight back for injured workers is through the claims process and the Workers’ Compensation Court.
Workers’ Comp Benefits
The Act is far too complex to discuss in detail, but generally, injured workers receive medical and wage loss benefits. Wage loss benefits are limited to 2/3 of your average weekly wages, and there is a cap for high wage earners. Medical expenses must be reasonable and sometimes require pre-authorization from the insurer. The Act also provides for impairment benefits, vocational benefits, and domiciliary benefits, but they are all limited, with many loopholes.
There are many recent pro-insurer changes to the Act, too numerous to discuss. A few recent changes include:
- Limiting medical benefits to 5 years from the date of the injury, for most claims;
- Denying “Class 1” impairment, without wage loss;
- Allowing insurance companies to hand-pick the doctor.
At Duckworth Law we fight back against these changes, and fight daily for the injured workers we represent. The Act is complex, and an experienced attorney is essential to make sure you receive the benefits you deserve. Insurers and employers will discourage injured workers from hiring lawyers, which only makes it easier for them to perpetuate the ongoing efforts to reduce benefits.
Fight back. Every case and claim is different, and if you have any questions about your claim, contact our firm.