Louisiana Department of Insurance
Volume 11, Issue 9
September 2011

Commissioner Jim Donelon
Theodore "Ted" Haik, Jr., Chair
Jeff Albright, Vice Chair

Raymond J. Aleman, Sr.
Lee Ann Alexander
Paul Buffone
Sheriff Greg Champagne
Representative Page Cortez
Manuel DePascual
Nick Gautreaux
Michael Guy
Lance "Wes" Hataway
Representative Chuck Kleckley
LTC John A. LeBlanc
Senator Eric LaFleur
Ann Metrailer
Robert Moorman
Senator Dan "Blade" Morrish

Representative Chris Roy, Jr.
Stephen Schrempp
Earl Taylor
Rina Thomas

Terrell B. Moss, Director

David Evans,
Supervisor/Research Analyst

Katie Walsh, Administrative Assist./Research Analyst

If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter please send an email to the following address with "REMOVE" in the subject line.

Happy Birthday: Workers’ Comp Turns 100!

Deaths caused by unsafe working conditions in the workplace were not uncommon occurrences one hundred years ago. In March of 1911, the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire left 146 factory workers dead. A century ago, workers who became injured or ill due to their jobs had no choice but to leave their families impoverished and struggling for money while they were out of work. With no uniform system in place to rehabilitate and compensate employees injured on the job and unable to work for a time, it was up to the injured worker to take care of himself and find a way to provide for his family if an accident occurred. For most workers, it was a dismal and dangerous time to be in the workforce. 

The threat of litigation and increased union activity might have eventually driven employers to improve workplace safety regardless of whether workers’ compensation came into being, but that would have been a much tougher road to travel to produce the relatively safe working environments we typically enjoy today.1

It was May 3, 1911, when the first workers’ compensation law went into effect in Wisconsin. The necessity of the insurance spread quickly, and by 1949, all 50 states had workers’ compensation systems in place.

Today, it is difficult to imagine the workplace that existed a century ago. How have our lives and our careers been impacted by an insurance that many people take for granted?  If workers’ compensation had not been introduced, we would likely see:

  • Far more litigation, resulting in much higher legal costs for employers;
  • More injured workers going without proper treatment and having to wait months or years for replacement income and compensation, if they received any benefits at all;
  • Longer absences from work and far fewer injured parties returning to their jobs even in a part-time or “light-duty” capacity, resulting in lower productivity overall; and
  • A far more combative workplace, and perhaps even a more belligerent union movement, as employees would have been more likely to organize to secure fair treatment for members hurt or killed on the job. 1

The overwhelmingly positive impact it has created may be partly attributed to some of the following. Workers’ compensation has:

  • Created a humane risk-transfer system that has spread the burden of paying and treating injured employees.
  • Largely removed the need for injured workers to sue their employers (although some would say there is still far too much litigation in the system).
  • Freed injured and sick workers from having to pay doctors out of their own pockets if their job was responsible for their medical condition.
  • Integrated a loss control mentality into the social compact that greatly reduced the frequency of workplace injuries and fatalities. (Fears of workers’ compensation creating a “moral hazard” because third parties—insurers—were paying claims instead of employers were eased by the experience-based rating system, which offered a powerful financial incentive to provide a safe workplace.)1

Workers’ compensation insurance has also had an extremely positive impact on the insurance industry. According to the Insurance Information Institute, workers’ compensation currently ranks fourth in premiums generated among property and casualty lines. In 2006, the total workers’ comp premium written was nearly $42 billion.

Louisiana enacted its first workers’ compensation law in 1914 (Act 20). Undoubtedly, workers’ compensation insurance has provided for a much safer, more stable workplace environment. Although we may take it for granted, workers’ compensation insurance has had an extremely positive impact on both the workplace and the insurance industry.

Source 1: ProperyCasualty 360. July, 2011.

Seat Belt Use in LA at Record High

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission (LHSC) reports that compliance with the state’s seat belt laws has grown over the past several years. In fact, in 2011, three out of four drivers and front-seat passengers—77.7 percent—used their seat belts, tying a record for the highest compliance rate (also recorded in 2005). The number is the highest since officials started surveying 25 years ago.

Some feel that the increase in compliance may be attributed to law enforcement crackdowns and public education campaigns that include radio and television commercials on seat belt use.

“We’ve come a long way since the mid-1980’s, when only 12 percent of motorists (in the state) were using their safety belts,” LHSC Executive Director John Leblanc said.

Researchers were stationed at 418 locations throughout the state and observed 61,185 drivers and front seat passengers in privately owned cars, trucks, SUV’s and vans.  The highest compliance rate in the state was recorded in the Lafayette area (80.5 percent), followed by the Houma-Thibodaux area (79.6 percent) and Baton Rouge (78.5 percent). New Orleans falls towards the low end of the list (74.9 percent), and Lake Charles and Alexandria ranked lowest (74.8 percent).

While the record high statistic has increased from 75.9 percent in 2010, it is still below the national average of 85 percent compliance, so Buckle Up Louisiana!”

NHTSA Survey Finds 8% of Drivers Have Driven Drunk

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently held its annual drunk driving enforcement crackdown and launched a new advertising campaign, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” The purpose of the campaign, which ran through Labor Day, was to have law enforcement officers crackdown and get drunk drivers off the road.  Over 10,000 law enforcement agencies across the nation participated in the effort. Their efforts were supported by television and radio advertisements from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“While we have made great strides in reducing drunk driving over the years, tragically, drunk driving remains one of the leading causes of death and injury on America’s roads,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “With the help of law enforcement around the country, we are going to continue doing all that we can to stop drunk driving and the needless tragedies that result from this reckless behavior.”

This year NHTSA targeted nighttime enforcement based on a new analysis that shows that two-thirds of fatalities occurring between midnight and 3am involve a drunk driver.

Other findings of this year’s analysis: Nearly 11,000 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in 2009. One in three drivers aged 21 to 24 years old involved in fatal crashes were alcohol impaired. Drivers aged 25 to 34 years old were the second most likely to be involved in a drunk driving fatality.

Concern continues based on a survey NHTSA released last year based on data collected in 2008, which monitored the participants’ attitudes, knowledge and self-reported behavior regarding drinking and driving over a period of time.

One of the most unsettling findings of that survey is that eight percent of all drivers (as many as 17 million people) had driven drunk at least once in the past year. Another disturbing trend that was discovered in the survey is the rate of drinking and driving among young drivers, especially young males. A number of the 16-20 year olds who responded to the survey admitted to drinking about six alcoholic beverages in one sitting, suggesting that when young people combine drinking and driving, they are drinking more heavily.

“Our message is loud and clear. If you drive drunk you will be arrested and prosecuted,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said at that time. “There will be no exceptions and no excuses. And if you’re below the age of 21, there is zero tolerance for any alcohol in your system whatsoever. That’s why we’re out there with law enforcement, tackling this major safety issue head on.”

Law enforcement agencies throughout Louisiana have strongly supported the crackdown on drinking and driving, as demonstrated through the implementation of “No Refusal” DWI checkpoints. The state will continue to participate in media campaigns, DWI checkpoints and aggressive legislative changes in order to keep drunk drivers off the roads.