A recent study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, “Economic Consequences of Workplace Injuries in the United States: Findings from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth focused on the long term economic effects injured workers experience. The 12,000 participants in the study ranged in age from 14 to 22 years of age and were initially interviewed in 1979 until 2008. By the final year, 82 percent of the group had continued with the yearly interviews.
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Over the course of the 30-year study, data regarding employment history, income, health status and level of education was collected from the participants. The participants were split into three categories those who:
- Received work injuries that led to days away from work (DAFW)
- Received work injuries but had no days away from work (NDAFW)
- Did not receive work-related injuries
Participants supplied additional information as to whether:
- They filed for and received workers’ compensation
- Wages were lost
- Work hours were reduced
- They had to change jobs, were laid off or fired after being injury
The study found that construction workers were the most likely to suffer DAFW injuries than workers in non-construction jobs. However, while their injuries were often more severe than injuries that occurred in other occupations, construction workers were least likely to file for workers’ compensation, even though they were more likely to be approved for benefits. They were at higher risk of losing wages, having their hours cut or being laid off than other occupations.
From the data gathered, it was found that workers who suffered DAFW injuries were likely to experience a significant amount of income loss in the years following an injury. Those who suffered NDAFW injuries also showed a trend of making income when comparing these two groups to non-injured workers who showed steeper increases in income. The researchers surmise that work injuries could have an impact on an individual’s future earnings post-injury, but suggest further study is needed before drawing this conclusion.
What Does This Mean for Illinois Workers?
The study does not suggest that the mere fact of applying and being approved for workers’ compensation benefits has a direct impact on future income. However, it may be possible to assume in the case of the construction workers that not filing for workers’ compensation may have prolonged their recovery time by preventing them from seeking proper medical treatment or by returning to work too early for fear of losing their jobs. Not being able to fully recover from their injuries may have led to issues where workers may no longer be able perform their jobs in a satisfactory manner, which put them at risk for losing their jobs or being passed by for raises or job advancement.
Under Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Act, most employers are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees from the moment they are hired. Approximately 91 percent of Illinois workers are covered by this Act. Employers who fail to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees may be liable for up to a minimum fine of $10,000.
The Act provides three main benefits to injured Illinois employees:
- Payments for medical expenses
- Temporary benefits for total disability
- Permanent benefits for partial disability
Most work-related injuries and illnesses are covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act. By receiving these benefits, injured employees are more likely to receive the medical attention they need and are able to take time off from work to properly heal. This is important if the employee is to return to work at full capacity after a successful recovery.
After returning to work, if the employee needs to take additional time off for their injuries, they are entitled to being paid for that time off. They will need to notify their employer and physician that the time off was related to their previous injury.
Concern Over Possible Changes to Workers’ Comp
Recent events surrounding Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposals for an overhaul of the Workers’ Compensation Act has Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys concerned as injured workers may find it more difficult to receive work compensation benefits. Additionally, with many of the cutbacks targeting labor unions in the already at risk construction industry, there is cause for concern for many a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney.
Rauner’s proposals include:
- Tougher standards of proof that injury occurred on the job
- Reduction in reimbursement rates for healthcare providers and pharmacies that provide treatment to injured workers
- Using American Medical Association guidelines to determine how much money an injured worker should receive, instead of medical records from the treating physician
What is disturbing about this is that workers will stand to lose while businesses will benefit if these changes proceed. If passed, these changes will have an impact of the level of medical care injured workers receive. Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys will continue to monitor the situation to ensure their clients receive fair treatment under the law when filing for workers’ compensation benefits.