Who’s Footing the Bill for Work-Related Injuries?

Injured construction workerIf a worker is injured at the job site or while carrying out any work-related activity, the injured person is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to help cover the cost of medical treatment and lost wages, but a broken system means that the cost of work-injuries is primarily left to the employee, his family, and taxpayers.

A Broken Workers’ Compensation System

Reasonable and necessary medical bills, including the diagnosis, treatments, and surgery, should be paid by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance- not from the workers pocket, health insurance, or other programs. In addition to covering medical bills, worker’s compensation also covers rehabilitation, supplemental benefits, and cash benefits. Rehabilitation benefits are designed to aid in physical therapy and job training if the worker is unable to return to his or her existing job. Supplemental and cash benefits cover lost wages.

Unfortunately, due to changes in state-based workers’ compensation programs, it has become increasingly difficult for injured workers to obtain adequate payments for medical bills and wage replacement. According to the Department of Labor, employers only cover about 20 percent of the true cost of work-related injuries and illnesses through workers’ compensation. Injured workers, their families, and taxpayer-supported programs are forced to foot the bill for the majority of medical expenses and lost wages that result because of work-related injuries.

Additionally, the misclassification of employees as independent contractors and the increased use of temporary workers in the U.S. has resulted in a significant rise in the number of injured workers who are facing financial hardships due to work-related illnesses and accidents.

Employers are mandated to identify and evaluate workplace hazards, select effective controls to reduce or eliminate hazards, implement the controls, and follow up to ensure that they are applicable in the given industry. However, changes in employment relationships have caused a reduction in incentives for employers to maintain safe work environments for employees. Violation of the provided guidelines can result in personal injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2016 alone, there were approximately 2.9 million victims of work-related injuries and illnesses.

A broken workers’ compensation system and the failure of employers to implement safety precautions to reduce work-related injuries and illnesses has resulted in millions of workers and their families bearing the costs of work accidents.