According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 there were nearly 3 million non-fatal workplace accidents reported as worker’s compensation injuries.
While some were likely minor injuries, in many cases, on-the-job accidents can result in major expenses including medical bills and lost wages.
Common workers’ compensation incidents
Some common injuries that occur at a place of employment include:
· Overexertion. Muscle strains from overexertion are most common in factory jobs or jobs requiring heavy lifting, such as package delivery services.
· Slips and falls. Falls can happen at any workplace.
· Struck by an object. Most common on construction sites, this happens when someone drops something – a tool or building materials, for example – from above, hitting a worker below.
· Machinery accidents. Despite safety training or safety features built into equipment, machinery accidents do happen, and they can be catastrophic.
· Falls. Employees working on ladders, scaffolding or roofs can fall, sustaining serious or sometimes deadly injuries.
· Workplace violence. Between 1992 and 2012, a 20-year period, 140 government employees were shot and killed by coworkers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those figures do not include workplace violence at other businesses, which far outweighed government incidents.
Most employees who are injured in an accident file a workers’ compensation claim to cover those expenses.
Workers’ compensation: A history
Workers’ comp is in place to ensure that injured workers In the U.S. are protected in case of injury or workers’ families are protected if their family member is killed on the job. When Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” – a book about the harsh conditions of Chicago’s meat packing industry – was published in 1906, there were few such programs in place, and injured workers were often fired and replaced, usually losing their company-owned homes at the same time. Sinclair’s book was intended to be a window into the world of factory workers to raise attention about such conditions, forcing employers to establish protections for their workers.
While there were some workers’ compensation programs in place at that time, such as Maryland’s statewide program, enacted in 1902, it wasn’t until 1949 that workers compensation was available in every U.S. state.
What if workers’ comp isn’t enough?
While workers’ compensation generally covers medical expenses and lost wages, in some cases it doesn’t fully cover the costs incurred in the accident. Workers’ compensation also does not include pain and suffering or punitive damages for employer negligence, so workers are sometimes left with bills they cannot cover, such as surgeries and long-term care.
While it is not always possible, there are situations where filing a personal injury lawsuit can cover the additional costs, allowing you to recover not only medical expenses, but also pain and suffering.
While you can’t file both a personal injury suit and a workers’ compensation claim against your employer, if a third party carries any responsibility for your accident, such as the owner of the building or the maker of the piece of machinery, that party’s insurance company could be forced to cover extra costs through a personal injury claim.
Personal injury claims can cover pain and suffering and punitive damages, so long-term costs won’t leave you bankrupt.