A recent report by ProPublica and National Public Radio exposed how states, including New York, have implemented cuts to worker’s compensation benefits which has resulted in shifting the costs of workplace accidents away from the employers and to the taxpayers. Employers are paying the lowest premium rates on workers’ compensation since the 1970’s. Both the risk of injury is increasing due to changing trends in the labor market, as well as the financial hardships suffered by employees who cannot work due to work related disabilities. Due to implementing cost saving strategies, insurance companies are seeing an 18% return in profits while workers are not getting the compensation they deserve. In many instances, the workers who suffer injury are forced into poverty as a result of being unable to return to their job, in addition to paying extraordinary medical expenses.
In New York, medical treatment guidelines were implemented in 2010 which lowered worker’s compensation costs for employers while limiting adequate treatment available to many workers. According to the ProPublica report, in 1988, the average rate for worker’s compensation insurance in New York was $2.98 per $100 of the worker’s wages. Last year, it was $2.85.
In a report published this month by OSHA entitled “Adding Inequality to Injury: The Costs of Failing to Protect Workers on the Job,” OSHA analyzed the economic burdens that work injuries place on families and the trickle-down effect low worker’s compensation pay out rates have on society. The injuries suffered by many workers affect their entire family structure. In many cases, a worker’s spouse will need to cut back on their own hours of employment in order to care for their disabled family member. In other cases, the non-disabled spouse may take on an extra job or extra hours to support their family. Such long days causes workers to run the risk of fatigue and illness which causes a 61% increase in both work related injuries and motor vehicle accidents. Additionally, because workers cannot sue their employers, they largely rely on paying out of pocket for their medical expenses.
It is also interesting to note the price tags attached to injuries regarding worker’s compensation benefits. For example, in New York, the maximum compensation for loss of an arm is $252,299. In many jobs that involve labor, a worker will be unable to return to his previous duty without a limb. In many cases, the worker will have to support a family in addition to paying medical expenses out of the amount provided. Nevertheless, New York’s worker’s compensation benefits are still higher for most body parts than the national average.
OSHA has asserted that the “acceptable number of work injuries, especially fatal work injuries is zero.” In order to accomplish this, employers must take preventative measures to eliminate dangerous conditions. The attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP have experience representing clients before Workers’ Compensation boards throughout New York City and Long Island, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.