Work related injuries are among the most common grounds for personal injury claims. If you sustain injuries at work, you are entitled to compensatory damages under workers’ compensation laws. This article lists some of the most dangerous industries, potential injuries to workers, and the basic elements of workers’ compensation.
Three Most Dangerous Industries
Studies show that each year, up to 3.5 % of all workers sustain injuries at the workplace. The three most hazardous industries include:
An average of 8.3 out of every 100 workers in healthcare experience work-related injuries each year. This amounts to more than 1.3 million work-related injuries in the health care sector annually. The most common injuries in the healthcare industry are slip and falls, repetitive stress, violence, and needlestick injuries.
Every year, an average of 5.2 out of every 100 transportation employees sustain work-related injuries. Vehicle accidents are the common causes of injuries in the transportation industry. However, airline employees experience most of the injuries in the transportation sector. An average of 8.2 out of every 100 airline workers are injured each year.
The agricultural sector poses many risks from dealing with animals to operating machinery. Each year, an average of 4.8 in every 100 agricultural employees are injured. Falls, back injuries, toxic exposure to pesticides and fertilizers, and working directly with animals are the most common injuries sustained in the industry.
Statistics On Workers’ Compensation Claims
In 2013, there were more than 1 million reports on non-fatal job-related accidents, such as slips or falls, violent acts by people or animals, and contact with objects or equipment. During the same year, more than 4,000 workers died from workplace incidents. Industries that experienced the most fatalities were transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and construction jobs.
The high number of workers’ compensation claims filed each year led the ‘Occupational Safety and Health Administration’ (OSHA) to place stricter regulations and guidelines for employers. OSHA is responsible for ensuring the safety of employees and overseeing workplace conditions. Previously, OSHA required employers to report injuries resulting in three or more hospitalizations. The current rules mandate employers to report workplace injuries within 24 hours of the accident or incident.
The goal/s of the new OSHA rules are as follows:
- Deliver accurate responses
- Thoroughly investigate work-related injuries
- Hold employers accountable for incidents and accidents in their facilities
- Encourage employers to be more attentive to the problem areas in their facilities
Determining Whether Your Injury Is Work-Related
Before filing a workers’ compensation claim, ensure that the accident occurred at work. The injury should happen while executing your work duties or conducting an errand for your employer. In some cases, work-related injuries may include company picnics, parties, or social events that may not necessarily be on company property but are sponsored by your employer.
In some states, company workers’ compensation policy may also include job-related accidents where the injured party failed to observe safety rules.
The following are factors to consider when determining job-related injuries:
- Injuries that occur during lunch breaks or a break away from work are not job-related unless they occur in the company’s cafeteria or involve your employer.
- Alcohol related incidents may be classified as work-related if they occur during parties or events that are sponsored by your employer.
- A mental condition is work-related if you sustain it while on the job or because of your job.
- A pre-existing ailment aggravated on the job is deemed to be work related.
Workers’ Compensation Coverage
Workers’ compensation coverage is a program that aims to protect and help workers who sustain job-related injuries. Every state has its own rules on workers’ compensation. In many occasions, an injured employee receives the benefits of workers’ compensation regardless of their own liability for the injury. Workers compensation, therefore, acts as an insurance policy whereby an injured employee relinquishes his/her right to sue his/her employer for any injuries sustained at work in exchange for payment and medical benefits.
Albeit most states have workers’ compensation program, not every working individual can enjoy its benefits. Workers who are not covered by the program include:
- Farm workers
- Seasonal workers
- Domestic workers
- Undocumented workers (illegal immigrants)
What Incidences Are Not Covered By Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation insurance covers injuries resulting from employer’s or employee’s carelessness. There are limits to the injuries or incidents covered by the workers’ compensation policy. Some states impose alcohol and drug tests on injured employees and may deny them workers’ compensation benefits if the tests show that an employee was under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the accident. Other occasions where compensation doesn’t apply include:
- Self-inflicted injuries
- Employee was not present during the incident
- Employee violated a company policy or law
Expenses Covered Under Workers’ Compensation
If your receive workers’ compensation benefits, you lose your right to sue your employer for workplace injury liability because of an accident at work. The benefits from workers’ compensation are modest and include:
- Replacement income
- Medical care from the illness or injury
- Payment for permanent injuries
- Benefits for the survivors of a deceased worker
- Compensation for retraining costs
- Calculating Wage Replacement
Wage replacement is normally two-thirds of your average wage. However, each state has a fixed amount that workers’ compensation benefits cannot exceed. You become eligible for wage replacement when you miss a few days of work due to work-related illness or injury.
Workers’ Compensation Vs Civil Law Suits
In some cases, employees opt to file a lawsuit rather than pursue redemption under workers’ compensation. Civil lawsuits are common when an employer purposefully disregarded the employee’s safety. If an employee succeeds in a lawsuit, they may be able to recover more benefits than through workers’ compensation. An employee can get payments for punitive damages and attorney’s fees under a civil lawsuit.
Statutory Limitation for Workers’ Compensation
You should report job-related accidents or illnesses as soon as they occur. If an illness or injury worsens overtime, report it if you think it is work-related. If you fail to report an injury or illness within a given period, you may lose the right to collect the benefits from workers’ compensation. The common statutory limit for workers’ compensation claims is 30 days.
When Workers’ Compensation Is Not An Option
Even if you are not eligible for workers’ compensation, you can still sue your employer for workplace injury liability. For example, an independent contractor’s contract may provide for the use of arbitration for injuries.
Some of the alternatives to workers’ compensation coverage include:
- Federal Employees’ Compensation Act for federal employees
- Merchant Marine Act for seamen
- Federal Employment Liability Act for railroad employees
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act for employees of private maritime companies
- The Black Lung Benefits Act for miners (for both former and current miners) afflicted with black lung—a mining related ailment