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Injured Workers Are Getting Less Help Under Workers’ Compensation System

Dan Brian   |  March 18, 2015   |  

Despite fewer people being injured while on the job, reports from the Department of Labor (DOL) have revealed that American workers are receiving less and less help.

  • The reports from the DOL note that approximately 3 million American suffer a workplace injury each year. However, the number is likely higher as many workers fear raising the issue of injury or illness with their employer as workers’ compensation benefits have become more difficult to obtain.
  • An article from the Washington Post contends that low-wage workers have a higher injury rate, and that injuries can decrease a person’s earnings by as much as 15 percent more than 10 years after the accident. The Post notes workplace injuries are causing middle class families to drop into low-income status while low-wage workers are having difficulty getting out of poverty after a workplace accident.

Contractor Misclassification

Part of the problem is that many of the people getting injured are those who are wrongfully classified as independent contractors in the construction industry, which means they are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In September 2014, the McClatchy Report, released in correlation with News & Observer, revealed that about 35 percent of North Carolina construction workers were being misclassified.

Program Downgrading

The other factor leading to injured workers receiving less aid is that workers’ compensation programs are being downgraded.

ProPublica and NPR examined how the laws have changed over time and found that since 2003, about 33 states have diminished their workers’ compensation benefits. Furthermore, despite the claim that workers’ compensation costs are too high, data shows that workers’ compensation premiums are lower than they ever have been since the 1990s.

Ultimately, taxpayers and the injured workers end up being the ones who cover the costs that employers are not willing to address. If an employee is unable to work because of an injury, they may be covered by social security disability, a program that has steadily increased in cost over the past 20 years.

The attorneys at Riddle & Brantley understand how important it is for injured workers to receive the compensation they need and deserve.