When workers are injured on the job, they are entitled to submit a compensation claim that covers the costs of their medical treatment. However, as many lawyers know too well, sometimes the nature of injuries or the behavior of employers warrants additional action beyond the fulfillment of the compensation claim.
Though compensation is mandated by federal and state law, disagreements over workplace injuries can take months or years to resolve. Unfortunately, the more time a case takes to reach a conclusion, the more money is lost in the shuffle.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, businesses in the United States lose an estimated $250 billion every year to on-the-job injuries, and for most employers, the cost of such suits is enough to put them well in the red. Some states are instituting new efforts to invigorate businesses burdened by high numbers of workplace injuries ― but the best way businesses can avoid closing shop due to workplace injuries is to act quickly and efficiently as soon as an accident occurs.
Where the Costs Come From
The amount lost by U.S. businesses ― $250 billion ― may seem extravagant, but that great sum isn’t handed out to every worker who sustains an injury at work. That figure is divided amongst millions of American workers.
In fact, there are more than 8.5 million workplace injuries sustained every year in the United States, which amounts to more than 23,000 per day; worse, work-related fatalities add up to more than 52,000, meaning more than 142 people die every day thanks to their work.
Workers’ compensation is responsible for a sizeable chunk of the $250 billion lost to injuries. Workers who accept workplace injury compensation ― which usually include wage replacement as well as medical benefits ― are typically forbidden from filing a lawsuit against their employers. Comp insurance isn’t cheap, but most employers opt in because the compensation bargain prevents them from becoming insolvent due to high damage rewards.
However, lawsuits do happen, and they tend to be distressingly expensive for employers. Lawsuits, which are typically filed as personal injury claims, are entitled to seek recovery of all damages sustained, to include lost earnings, lost earning capacity, medical bills past and future, and permanent impairment.
Additionally, workers who accept workers’ comp are not entitled to benefits for pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life, but lawsuits that settle in workers’ favor usually include remunerations for such damages, which are difficult to quantify and typically cost exorbitant amounts in settlements or trial cases.
Finally, businesses suffer due to a loss in productivity after workplace accidents. Recovering workers cannot perform at the same capacity as before their injuries; in fact, most are absent for a number of workdays, and the diminished workforce can be more impairing to businesses than the injured worker’s costs of compensation.
According to a study at Cornell University, the loss of productivity from one absent employee amounted to at least 1.3 times his or her wages, and that number compounds for every day the worker cannot return. With lessened teams as well as potential personal injury lawsuits, employers with injured workers have plenty of costs to worry about.
What to Do When an Injury Occurs
Fortunately, businesses are more than capable of reducing their risk of employee injury and therefore avoiding much of these exorbitant costs altogether. The first step is always employee education: With regular safety training ― and appropriate licensing or certification as necessary ― employees should recognize potentially dangerous situations and act accordingly.
However, accidents do happen, and businesses should prepare employees with the proper procedures to avoid unnecessary damage and costly lawsuits. For example, employees must know to immediately report any injuries to supervisors, ideally in writing. They should be encouraged to seek medical attention, ideally from a doctor affiliated with the employer’s insurance carrier.
Those businesses that care little for their employees’ welfare will certainly pay for their malfeasance. Injured and wronged workers should certainly seek local, experienced legal counsel. An injury lawyer in San Antonio will work tirelessly to protect the rights of fellow San Antonians to keep the city healthy and productive, and the same can be said of most injury lawyers in all cities.
Attempts to Stem the Flow
Because of the outrageous costs of workplace injuries, a number of governments are working to help businesses survive compensation and lawsuits while protecting employee welfare.
One solution comes from Argentina, where businesses spend almost 20 percent of their earnings on insurance. If passed, the Argentine bill will prevent lawyers and investigators from pocketing employees’ compensation benefits, reducing the outgoing expenses of businesses.
Alternatively, New York aims to offer regional businesses $5 million in grants to help them create working conditions that facilitate safety and reduce likelihood of injury. Only time will tell whether state interference will help businesses or workers in the case of workplace injury.