Every New York worker has the right to work in a safe working environment. When employers do not take the proper precautions to keep employees safe, workplace accidents can occur and lead to injuries. When an employee sustains a workplace injury, that employee is entitled to workers’ compensation.

Workers’ compensation covers costs that are associated with workplace injuries and illnesses. This includes lost wages, pain and suffering and medical bills that the employee incurs because of the incident. Employees should not and do not have to pay for these expenses.

Unfortunately, according to a new study, injured workers are paying for workplace accidents and injuries out of pocket. According to the study, workers and their families across the United States paid more than $10 billion in 2007 for injuries that were covered under workers’ compensation claims.

This study also shows that other sources are paying for injuries that should be covered under workers’ compensation. These sources include private health insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability.

This shift in payments is a problem for employees because it ultimately lowers workers’ compensation insurance premiums for employers. When the premiums are so low, the employers have no incentive to make sure that the work environment is safe. Therefore, employees have a higher risk of suffering from a workplace accident and then are being forced to pay costs associated with their injuries. And if employees are paying the costs, insurance premiums stay low for employers, and a cycle is created.

This cycle is unfair to employees who are injured while trying to do their job. Workers’ compensation exists for a reason and needs to be used to help, not hurt, employees. The study suggests that this problem could be solved if more employees used workers’ compensation after workplace accidents, and if only employers with good safety records were given lower insurance premiums.

Source: Futurity, “Most job injury costs not paid by worker’s comp,” Karen Finney, June 1, 2012