Report: Many workers fail to claim injuries or secure adequate benefits

A new OSHA report shows that many injured workers do not seek workers’ compensation benefits or secure adequate benefits to offset long-term income loss.

Work-related injuries and illnesses present an unavoidable risk for many workers in Shelton. According to the Connecticut Department of Labor, in 2012 alone, 53,800 workers in the state suffered non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses. Furthermore, each year about 40 Connecticut workers sustain catastrophic injuries that prove fatal.

Workers' compensation insurance is supposed to help workers or their families address the financial burdens associated with these injuries. Unfortunately, a new report suggests that many injured Connecticut workers may fail to pursue the compensation they are due. Furthermore, workers who receive compensation may not receive enough to offset the long-term losses associated with their injuries.

Uncompensated workers

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, many injured workers never seek workers' compensation benefits. Multiple studies indicate that fewer than 40 percent of injured workers who would be eligible for compensation pursue benefits. Even when employers are aware of injuries, employees may not receive benefits. For instance, one study in Massachusetts found that less than half of workers who suffered recorded work-related amputations received compensation.

Workers who have developed occupational diseases may be even less likely to seek and secure compensation. OSHA cites the following potential reasons for this pattern:

  • Some occupational diseases are never traced back to an employee's job.
  • Other diseases are only discovered after the statute of limitations for filing a workers' compensation claim has passed.
  • Some employees may simply choose to pursue other, more easily available benefits, such as Medicare, instead of navigating a claim.

Consequently, according to one study, as many as 97 percent of workers who develop occupational illnesses go without compensation.

Inadequate support

Troublingly, the same OSHA report notes that many workers who receive compensation still suffer long-term financial losses. One study found that injured workers lose about 15 percent of their income during the decade following a workplace injury. This represents an average of $31,000 of lost income, even with workers' compensation benefits factored in.

The report notes that many workers also suffer financial setbacks outside of income loss. For example, a worker's family members may have to give up work hours or career opportunities to act as caregivers. Injury victims may also experience strained relationships with co-workers or supervisors that harm their long-term career prospects and earning power.

Together, these findings underscore why it is so important for injured workers to understand their rights. Workers who fail to claim their injuries or seek appropriate benefits may bear significant burdens long into the future.

Claiming injuries in Connecticut

In Connecticut, injured workers may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, wage loss, long-term disablement and vocational rehabilitation. This coverage is available to most employees. Workers' compensation insurance is no-fault, so a worker's accidental role in the injury is irrelevant.

Workers who have suffered work-related injuries must claim these injuries promptly or risk losing the ability to collect compensation. Employees must claim most injuries within one year of the date that the injury occurred. For occupational diseases, employees must make claims within three years of the date that the disease first presented symptoms.

Seeking assistance

Unfortunately, even after employees report and claim work-related injuries, employers may challenge those claims. For this reason, injured workers can often benefit from seeking the help of a workers' compensation attorney. An attorney may be able to advise a worker of his or her rights and offer assistance during the claim process.

Keywords: workers' compensation, injury, job, workplace