excellent NPR investigative series–injury to insult:America’s vanishing worker protections

Click on this link to read an excellent investigative series of articles which highlight a new scheme by corporate America to avoid participation in state regulated Workers’ Compensation programs which often result in disastrous consequences for men and women injured on the job.

Most Common Minnesota Work Injuries

According to a recent article in Compact, a publication of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, the number of injury and illness cases in Minnesota’s workplaces continued its long-term downward trend. The most recent occupational injury and illness figures show that during 2010, there were an estimated 76,700 recordable injury and illness cases; about 21,500 cases involved one or more days away from work. The comparable figures for 2009 were 78,100 total cases and 21,000 days-away-from-work cases. There were 70 work-related fatalities in 2010, an increase from 61 fatalities in 2009, but below the annual average of 73 fatalities for the 2005 to 2009 period. These statistics, and many more detailing injury and illness rates and workplace fatalities for 2010, are available in the recently updated Minnesota Workplace Safety Report  on the Department of Labor and Industry website.

Most Common Injuries

The report contains some very interesting information, including confirmation of what we have seen in our practice over the years with respect to the most common injuries. According to the report for 2010, the most commonly injured body parts in workers’ compensation cases were:

1. Back (not including the neck)
2. Multiple parts
3. Knee
4. Shoulder
5. Finger
6. Arm
7. Wrist
8. Ankle
9. Foot/toe
10. Hand/except finger

Report All Injuries

Any work injury, even those that appear to be minor, should be reported immediately. Very often, an injury that appeared to be no big deal when it happened, gradually turns into something more serious and may result in the need for medical care or lost time from work. For more information on The Risks of Not Reporting a Work Injury, see this previous post.

If you have been injured on the job and have some questions about the Minnesota work comp system, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. You can contact us, anytime, with questions about your case or to arrange an absolutely free consultation. It won’t cost you anything and we will always give you our honest assessment about whether you need a lawyer to represent you.  If you have questions about How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Lawyer for a Work Comp Case, you can check out  this previous post.

Remember, you are dealing with an insurance company which handles hundreds or thousands of claims every day. They have experienced claims adjusters and attorneys managing their files. Even if you don’t need a lawyer at the moment, a little information about how the work comp system works can make a big difference for you in your dealings with the insurance company. At Bradt Law Offices, we have been providing assistance to injured workers all across northern Minnesota and the Iron Range for nearly 30 years.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog and please spread the word that we are a  good source for work comp information for workers injured in northern Minnesota and anywhere on the Iron Range.

The Risks of Not Reporting a Work Injury in Minnesota

A work injury can happen to anyone, at any time.  Injuries happen to people on the first day of a new job or after 20 years of injury-free employment.  There just isn’t any rhyme or reason to when an injury occurs.

An injury can be as trivial as a sprained thumb or as serious as a broken bone or spinal cord injury.  An injury may result in a few hours of discomfort or weeks to months of disability and lost time from work.  A serious injury resulting in medical care and lost time from work is a “no-brainer” when it comes to whether or not it should be reported.  In fact, in many cases, it doesn’t need to be reported because it was probably witnessed by coworkers or supervisors.  Those types of claims get filed, benefits are paid and the injured worker is “in the system” by no choice of his own and without any real options.

But what about the less serious injury that allows you to keep working?  How about an injury that requires a visit to the doctor but no lost time from work?  Or, what about that minor twinge you felt in your low back a few weeks ago that you barely noticed but is now becoming a more serious problem?

These are the types of injuries that many people, for a variety of reasons, choose not to report to their employer.  This topic comes to mind because I am convinced that the current scary economy is causing a lot of people to “work hurt”, without reporting work injuries.  You know who you are – you injured your back, neck, shoulder, knee – whatever – a few weeks or months ago but you haven’t turned in an injury claim.  You’re hoping that it will just get better, but it hasn’t.  You’re afraid that if you turn in the claim you might lose your job.  Or, if you go off work on comp, your job won’t be there for you after you’ve healed. So, you are one of many, many people who are “working hurt”.

What are the risks of not reporting a work injury?

Probably the biggest risk is that the injury may become more serious and it will then be too late to prove that it is a work comp claim.  For example, if you don’t turn in an injury report and six months or a year later you need surgery and are facing a prolonged period of disability, you may have a very difficult time establishing a work comp claim.  The insurance company will claim that you failed to give proper notice and that its now too late to file a claim..  The insurance company will also claim that you cannot prove your problems are related to an incident which occurred six months ago that you didn’t report.  Another problem will arise if you weren’t telling your doctor the whole story and there is nothing in your medical records about the injury happening at work.

While you may have health insurance to cover most of the medical bills, you will not be able to receive wage loss benefits, vocational rehabilitation assistance or reimbursement of your medical mileage.  These are all benefits which are provided under workers’ compensation.

What should you do if you get hurt at work and are afraid to report the injury?

My recommendation would be to contact an experienced work comp attorney.  A little information goes a long way in the work comp system. Most attorneys will provide you with a free initial consultation concerning your claim.  Once you understand your options, you can then make an informed decision about whether to report the injury or not.  It sounds like a simple solution, and it is.  Get some information about your potential claim and then make a decision.

For additional information on this topic, here are a couple of previous posts or other references:

Workers’ Compensation Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Get Fired for Filing a Work Comp Claim?

As always, thank you for visiting our blog and please tell your friends that we are a source of good work comp information for workers injured in northern Minnesota and anywhere on the Iron Range.

Workers Memorial Day events put focus on safety

(From an article published at Workday Minnesota)

ST. PAUL – Every year on April 28, unions observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the effort for safe workplaces.

“This year the struggle continues to create good jobs in this country that are safe and healthy and to ensure the freedom of workers to form unions and, through their unions, to speak out and bargain for respect and a better future,” the Minnesota AFL-CIO said. “It’s time for our country to fulfill the promise of safe jobs for all.”

April 28 is the anniversary of the day Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act to set and enforce standards for workplace safety.

Events are planned throughout the state to commemorate Workers Memorial Day. For a complete schedule of events and locations,  read the entire article at Workday Minnesota.