Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a report on the financial toll of workplace injuries. It notes that job-related injuries and illnesses cost billions of dollars every year. Despite the availability of workers’ compensation, injured workers and their families still end up shouldering approximately half of these costs.
Why are workers themselves stuck with these staggering financial burdens? The report suggests several reasons.
First, for many injured workers, pursuing benefits through workers’ compensation can be an uphill battle. Procedural hurdles make it difficult to navigate the system. Perhaps reflecting this reality, a significant percentage of injured workers don’t even bother to apply for benefits, even though they are eligible to do so.
Second, many employers are responding to financial pressure by misclassifying workers as independent contractors instead of employees. This distinction is crucial. In most states, including Texas, independent contractors are generally not eligible for workers’ compensation coverage under their employer’s policy.
Third, changes in our nation’s workforce have led many employers to hire a greater number of temporary workers. These workers are more prone to accidents. They typically have less on-the-job experience than permanent workers, and they may not receive the same robust level of training. The same is true of seasonal workers.
These three concerns are especially relevant to Texas workers. Occupational hazards are common in the state’s manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and oil and gas industries. According to the Workers’ Compensation Division of the Texas Department of Insurance, in 2013 alone, nearly 200,000 workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in the private sector across all industries.
For Texans injured on the job, the takeaway is simple: Don’t write off your opportunity to pursue benefits and coverage through workers’ compensation. A lawyer can help you determine whether you qualify.