In many states, employees apparently have a tough time collecting benefits following a workplace injury because the workers’ compensation system that was designed to protect them has slowly eroded. According to an analysis performed by the nation’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), the most hazardous jobs are typically performed by those workers who are least able to afford an injury. Although safety is often touted in many dangerous industries, the most vulnerable workers reportedly suffer fractures, cuts, and other workplace injuries at alarming rates. Instead of receiving the no-fault accident benefits they are entitled to, employees in Massachusetts and across the nation are finding it increasingly difficult to collect medical and other workers’ compensation payments.
For example, one employee who was tasked with cleaning a Massachusetts college campus twisted her ankle at work. Both her manager and her employer’s insurer apparently denied benefits even though the woman’s ankle eventually needed surgery. Instead of ordering the woman to see a doctor, she was allegedly forced to complain for months before receiving benefits totaling about 60 percent of her lost wages.
While some employers attempt to deny valid workers’ compensation claims, others simply choose to misclassify employees as independent contractors in order to avoid liability. Since such workers are not official employees under the law, collecting workers’ compensation and other benefits is nearly impossible.
State workers’ compensation systems typically pay about 20 percent of workplace injury costs. In contrast, the injured workers are normally responsible for about half of the costs associated with occupational injuries. In 2012, about three million work-related injuries and illnesses cost employers and workers throughout the United States nearly $200 billion. In addition, countless other chronic injuries and illnesses allegedly go unreported. An estimated 40 percent of injured employees never even apply for workers’ compensation benefits, and about 50,000 deaths result from past on-the-job exposure to hazardous materials every year.
Since 2003, 33 states have reportedly made collecting workers’ compensation benefits more difficult or reduced the benefits available to employees. As the cost of workplace injuries is increasingly shifted onto workers, employers may lose their incentive to create a safe working environment that is free of hazards. In fact, OSHA claims that employers are now incentivized to assign temporary workers who are employed by a third party to the most dangerous job duties in order to ensure that the employer’s own workers’ compensation premiums remain low. Sadly, this practice places the most untrained and vulnerable workers at the greatest risk of harm.
Navigating the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system on your own can be tough. If you were injured at work in Massachusetts, you need a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer on your side to help you recover the benefits you may be entitled to. The experienced attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are committed to helping you achieve the financial compensation you deserve based on the severity of your work-related injuries. To learn more about your rights, contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. through our website or give us a call today at 800-367-0871.
A Broken Compensation System Is Leaving the Most Vulnerable Workers in Pain, by Michelle Chen, The Nation