The U.S. Department of Labor has recently released a report stating that workplace injuries and illnesses and a deficient workers’ compensation system are contributing to the widening inequality gap between rich and poor Americans. According to the report, the majority of workers in Minnesota and throughout the country never receive adequate compensation for workplace accidents in which they have been injured, and this keeps many hard-working individuals from getting ahead.
Workers who have suffered from serious workplace injuries and illnesses earn approximately 15 percent less thereafter than other workers. Over the 10 years following the injury, this amounts to an average of $31,000 in lost income. Many immigrants and low-wage workers who are eligible for workers’ compensation fail to apply after suffering an injury. For many, this might be due to language barriers, a lack of awareness regarding rights or the fear of losing their jobs. An estimated four million workplace illnesses and injuries are reported every year by employers, and less than 40 percent of those who have been injured apply for compensation.
When injured workers do apply for benefits, they are often not awarded significant amounts. Only an estimated 21 percent of damages are covered by workers’ compensation, and the remainder is typically covered by insurance providers and taxpayers.
When injured and ill workers want to obtain the benefits to which they are entitled, it might be helpful for them to work with attorneys who have experience in representing the victims of workplace accidents. If a claim is successful, benefits could include the payment of necessary medical expenses as well as compensation in the form of a percentage of any wages that were lost as a result.
Source: Huffington Post, “Workplace Injuries Are Adding To Income Inequality: Labor Department”, Dave Jamieson, March 4, 2015