While workers’ compensation is supposed to provide benefits to an employee who suffers a job-related injury or illness, studies have found that workers rarely receive the full amount of compensation to which they are entitled. A report issued by Labor Department officials on March 4 indicates that those who are seriously injured must pay for many costs themselves, and this may have led to greater income inequality in Pennsylvania and other states.
Workers who receive inadequate compensation may struggle financially for years after an injury. Reports state that injured workers make around $31,000 less in a ten-year period. This means the estimated 4 million workers who are seriously injured every year often have trouble reaching or staying in the middle class, and this does not even account for serious injuries that are not reported.
The department document attributes court rulings and state laws as the reason workers only recoup about 21 percent of costs for medical bills and lost wages when a workplace accident occurs. Fewer than 40 percent of workers even apply for compensation when eligible for it. When workers and their health insurance policies cannot cover the costs of an accident, the rest usually becomes an extra expense for taxpayers.
Since so few workers receive a fair amount of compensation after an accident, it is important that an employee knows his or her rights. For example, temporary workers that are eligible for compensation after an injury are sometimes misclassified as independent contractors so that companies do not face liability. The legal process governing workers’ compensation is complex, so one may wish to consult an attorney after an on-the-job injury occurs.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Workplace Injuries Are Adding To Income Inequality: Labor Department“, Dave Jamieson, March 4, 2015