Category Archives: Job

Getting Hurt on the Job Can Irreparably Harm Your Bank Account

Toward the end of adolescence and continuing straight on through to “over the hill,” many Americans spend the majority of those years working. Assuming that the average person works 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year from the age of 20 until 65, that’s 90,360 hours at work. With all that time spent on the job, it’s no surprise that a large number of accidents and injuries occur in the workplace. While all employees deserve to return home at the end of their work day alive and uninjured, the reality is that not everyone does. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more than 4,600 workers died on the job in 2014 and more than three million others suffered serious, non-fatal injuries at work. These alarming numbers include multiple categories of workers with varying levels of healthcare coverage: employees and independent contractors, full-time and part-time, temporary and permanent.

While the Affordable Care Act has given more people access to health insurance, medical bills and related costs can leave injured workers in a tough spot. Co-pays, high deductibles, co-insurance, travel to and from healthcare facilities, lost wages and daycare costs are just a few of the expenses that can add up quickly. A well-known actuarial firm that has published a medical index for the last 15 years known as the MMI (Milliman Medical Index) calculates that the average healthcare cost for a family of four has more than tripled since its value of $8,414 in 2001 and now stands at $25,826. This rate of increase exceeds the growth in the consumer price index (CPI) for medical services as well as the average two percent annual increase in median household income between 2004 and 2014. Compared to employers, employees are now responsible for more of the healthcare costs than they were 15 years ago – they now pay 43 percent, up from 39 percent 15 years ago.

It’s not hard to see how getting hurt at work can be financially devastating. Over the past decade, the average amount that middle-income households spent on health care increased by 51 percent, which is nearly double the growth in their incomes (30 percent) and three times the rate of growth in their spending for all other products and services. It’s no wonder then that unpaid medical bills are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy filings (62 percent), surpassing both credit card and mortgage debt. Job loss is another reason that people are unable to pay off their debts. Spending more than you make is easy to do when you have no income. Losing a job also means losing health insurance if you are the plan subscriber, and the high cost of COBRA insurance can be hard to sustain for long. Imagine, then, the economic difficulties experienced by someone who has the all-too-common experience of being injured at work and then losing that job, whether due to layoff, termination, or resignation.bankruptcy

Bleak financial scenarios are one very important reason to take steps to protect yourself if you have a jobsite-induced injury or illness. Whether it was an acute traumatic injury (like falling from a ladder) or a cumulative-trauma injury (such as carpal-tunnel syndrome), there are a few basic things you should do to protect yourself.

Report it. Tell your manager, supervisor, company nurse, union representative – whoever is in charge. Be clear about how the injury happened and that it happened at work. Report it immediately even if you think you are not seriously hurt. That knee you twisted or back you strained might not require medical treatment until a few days later, and then your employer can claim you were injured someplace else. While you are usually allowed between 30 to 90 days depending on your state, some companies impose shorter deadlines and can issue formal reprimands or suspensions of pay for not reporting an accident in accordance with their policies.

Keep good records. Being organized and having proof can make the difference between winning and losing financial reimbursement for a workplace injury claim. There will be medical reports, incident reports, and insurance paperwork, but you can also help yourself by keeping detailed documents of conversations and employment actions. Request copies of any papers your employer keeps on the incident and hold on to paystubs and timesheets showing income and hours worked. What you don’t document may not be covered, so try to keep a thorough record of all expenses that are a direct result of your work-related injury.

Consider contacting an attorney. Cases involving a workplace accident can be very complicated and can involve doctors, physical therapists, independent medical consultants, adjusters, insurance company lawyers, co-workers, equipment manufacturers, maintenance companies, and more. Because it may be difficult to determine all of the details and sort out all of the necessary parties, having your case evaluated by an attorney will maximize your compensation. Many workplace injury lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it’s often worth your time to talk to an attorney who can help while you are dealing with the aftermath of a serious injury or illness.

Workplaceinjuries stem from a wide range of incidents and an even wider range of causes. Some of the more common injuries include bodily reaction (bending, reaching, climbing, etc.), being caught in or between objects, falling from heights, repetitive motion, overexertion, slips and falls, falling objects, and vehicle accidents. Of course, construction workers have different on-the-job hazards than office personnel, but all workers can help themselves by practicing safe work habits appropriate for their jobs. Keeping work areas free of clutter and taking care not to rush (many injuries occur when people hurry and take shortcuts) are two practices that can benefit virtually any worker.

Things can go wrong even in the best run business, but not every employee is able to build up an emergency fund to draw from in the event they get hurt. Medical bills should not lead to financial ruin.Depending on the circumstances, there may be grounds for a legal cause of action. At a minimum, an experienced work injury lawyer may be able to advise you on your options, including negotiating with the medical providers, seeking out help from federal and state entities, and whether bankruptcy is truly the best choice for your situation.

Author: David Mann is a workers’ compensation attorney located in Macon, Georgia. He’s a member of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and is a past president of the Middle Georgia Trial Lawyers Association.