Each year, thousands of individuals are killed and millions more are injured on the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there was a total of 5,250 work-related fatalities in 2018, up 2% from the previous year. And the fatal injury rate in the U.S. is currently 3.5 deaths for every 100,000 full-time workers.
There are an estimated 8.5 million injuries in the workplace each year, and the economic cost of these injuries is staggering. Estimates vary, but according to an Economic Policy Institute report that was published a few years back, workplace injuries and occupational illnesses cost the U.S. approximately $250 billion annually.
The economic costs of workplace injuries only tell part of the story, however. There is also a major human cost that is often overlooked. Workers who get injured while on the job suffer major physical and emotional pain that can go on for months or even years. And in some cases, the effects of the injury can be permanent.
Imagine the physical pain and suffering an injured worker goes through on a daily basis. Being in pain all the time means problems sleeping, trouble moving around, and difficulty or inability to do the things they once enjoyed. And the prospect of having your life turned upside down like this and not knowing if it will ever be the same is something that can seem nearly impossible to live with. These are intangible costs that are very real, and it is impossible to put a price on them.
How the Human Cost of Workplace Injuries Extends to Families
A work-related injury or occupational illness is bad enough for the individual who is suffering from it, but the costs do not end there. Families also suffer deep emotional and financial pain because of a loved one’s injury. Children tend to be hit the hardest by these types of injuries as they are forced to deal with the reality of a parent who has a medical condition that renders them unable to go to work and put food on the table.
Some of these injuries also significantly change the family dynamic by reversing various roles. For example, a parent who suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI) might be in need of continual assistance in order to get through the day. This thrusts the spouse and children into a caregiving role, which is something many people may not be emotionally ready to deal with.
The effect of workplace injuries on families in single parent households is even more devastating. When the one parent who the children depend on for everything suddenly gets hurt, finances are even tighter, and the duty to care for the injured parent may fall squarely on the children.
How does Workers’ Compensation Help Families of Injured Workers?
When someone suffers a work-related injury, they will usually look to their employer’s workers’ compensation policy for assistance. An injured worker can receive workers’ comp benefits to cover medical expenses and a percentage of gross wages for the time missed from work. These benefits are available regardless of who was at fault for the injury.
While workers’ compensation provides much-needed financial assistance, it does not reimburse an injured worker for all of their lost wages. With less income coming in, finances are much tighter and families in this situation are forced to significantly tighten their belts. The financial difficulties may also be a source of relational strife as the family is forced to make difficult choices about what they will have to do without.
To add insult to injury (literally), employers and their insurers often make it very difficult for injured workers to access the benefits they deserve. Insurance companies always want to pay out as little as possible to those who file claims, and they make the claims process overly complicated in an effort to frustrate workers. They will also look for any way they can deny a valid claim, even if they can do it on a technicality.
Can I Sue my Employer for a Workplace Injury?
Unfortunately, an injured worker who has workers’ compensation benefits available to them usually forfeits their right to sue an employer for reimbursement of noneconomic losses such as pain-and-suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life. This is not always the case, however.
For example, in West Virginia and some other states, it may be possible to file a personal injury lawsuit against an employer if it can be shown that the employer’s deliberate actions caused the injury. That said, deliberate intent cases are complicated and difficult to prove, and for this reason, it is absolutely imperative to speak with an experienced workplace injury lawyer as soon as possible if you are considering going this route.
One final note about workplace injuries. Some such injuries may be the fault of a third party, such as a subcontractor or the maker of a faulty product. If a party other than your employer caused or contributed to your injury, it may be possible to bring a lawsuit directly against them to recover damages over and above your workers’ compensation benefits.
Contact the Skilled and Knowledgeable Attorneys at Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C.
Workplace injuries take a major physical, emotional, and financial toll on victims and their families, and those who are injured often have great difficulty recovering the compensation they are entitled to. At Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C., we understand what you are going through, and we are here to help. Our attorneys have over four decades of experience standing up for injured workers in West Virginia and in other states, and we are ready to go to work for you.
Call our office today at (800) 497-0234 or (800) 296-6979 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment with a member of our legal team.