Workplace injuries, along with an inadequate Workers’ Compensation system, may be contributing to the gap between rich and poor, according to the US Labor Department. Employers report at least 3 million workplace injuries a year to the Bureau of Labor Statistics along with 4,500 workplace deaths, and the true amount may be even higher. Additionally, many deaths from chronic conditions resulting from past exposure to hazardous materials like asbestos, silica, or benzene in the workplace are not identified as work related.
Workers who are injured may earn up to 15% less in the decade following their injury. An injured worker earns on average, $31,000 less over this 10-year span. This is for reported injuries that are subject to workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, many injured workers do not even enter the workers’ compensation system — only 40% of workers eligible for workers’ compensation apply for it!
Companies also use more temporary workers or classify workers as independent contractors. Misclassifying workers as independent contractors means companies have less incentive to take responsibility for providing a safe workplace. Temporary workers also suffer twice the rate of injury as conventionally employed workers, thanks to inadequate training and being unaware of dangers in the workplace. Temporary workers are also less likely to report injuries out of concern their staffing agency will retaliate against them or confusion as to which employer is responsible.
Immigrant and low wage workers also face similar problems in terms of fearing retaliation from employers. Fear of being reported to immigration authorities can mean injuries to immigrant workers go unreported and uncompensated. Likewise, low wage workers may fear that they will be easily replaced if they speak out about an injury.
For those workers who do report an injury, state laws and court rulings have made it harder for an injured worker to receive money from the workers’ compensation system. A lack of cost of living adjustments in many states means the existing compensation does not keep up with inflation or other price rises. More of the cost comes from worker’s pocketbooks or private insurers than the workers’ compensation system, with workers paying for around half of the cost out of pocket and only 21% covered by workers’ compensation. Workers often perceive claims under private insurers, government programs like Medicare, Medicaid, or Veteran’s Benefits as easier than applying for Workers’ Compensation.
All these factors mean workers are frequently being shortchanged in terms of compensation for injuries and it may be affecting their future earnings. The US Department Of Labor has additional statistics and information in their report on the subject. To read the full report, click here.
Work injury lawyers in Philadelphia at Galfand Berger help injured clients throughout Pennsylvania, including in Harrisburg and Allentown, and in New Jersey obtain compensation. Call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online.