Study: Injured workers frequently fail to receive needed compensation

Research from OSHA suggests that injured employees often go without workers’ compensation benefits or suffer financially even after receiving benefits.

The risk of workplace injuries is high for people in Newburgh and other parts of New York. In 2014 alone, over 149,000 of these injuries occurred across the state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These figures are alarming, but many workers take reassurance in the availability of workers' compensation benefits, which can offset the financial impacts of work-related injuries. Unfortunately, though, research now suggests that employees often don't receive adequate support through the workers' compensation system.

Forgoing benefits

According to an assessment from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, a surprisingly high number of workers never receive compensation for work-related injuries. The report cites the following alarming figures:

• About six out of ten injured employees who are eligible for workers' compensation benefits never pursue benefits.

• In some states, between one-fifth and one-third of workers fail to receive compensation for serious injuries, such as amputations, that their employers are aware of.

• According to one study, just 3 percent of workers who develop occupational illnesses ever receive compensation for those conditions.

The reasons that employees fail to receive compensation are varied. Some workers may refrain from filing workers' compensation claims because they fear retaliation or misunderstand their legal rights. Others may struggle to make claims due to issues such as language barriers.

Severe financial losses

Sadly, even when injured employees secure workers' compensation benefits, those benefits may not provide adequate financial support. According to OSHA, one study concluded that with workers' compensation benefits factored in, employees still lose an average of 15 percent of their wages during the 10 years after a workplace injury. For the average worker, this represents a loss of $31,000.

In many cases, workers' compensation benefits don't adequately provide for the losses associated with an injury. OSHA states that workers' compensation benefits only address about 21 percent of costs associated with workplace injuries, such as medical expenses and income loss. Government programs address an additional 16 percent of these expenses. This leaves injured workers to cover nearly 63 percent of injury-related costs through private insurance and out-of-pocket payments.

Pursuing adequate compensation

Given these figures, it is imperative that injured workers seek the full amount of compensation that is available through the workers' compensation system. Employees should also keep in mind that in some cases, they might be able to make personal injury claims in addition to seeking workers' compensation benefits. For example, if the negligent actions of a property owner or driver caused a worker's injury, the worker may have grounds to make a third-party liability claim.

To better understand their legal options and the forms of recompense that may be available, injured workers may benefit from consulting with an attorney. An attorney may be able to assess the circumstances of the injury and advise a worker on seeking the maximum possible amount of compensation.