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Department of Labor: Fewer than 40 percent of eligible workers seek workers' compensation

In the 1960s, the medical researcher Irving Selikoff established a link between asbestos particles and lung disease, and his work was instrumental in persuading the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to start regulating asbestos.

Selikoff, who knew how seriously workplace illness and injury can affect workers and their families, is also credited with saying, "Statistics are people with the tears washed off." What he means is that statistical analysis has a tendency to mask the suffering and challenges experienced by real people.

In recognition of the harm unsafe workplaces can cause, Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. According to the Act, workplaces in the United States must be "free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm." However, in the more than 44 years since, thousands of workers die on the job each year, and about 3 million job-related injuries and illnesses are annually reported by employers.

While 3 million may sound like a lot, multiple studies have shown that the actual number of job-related injuries and illnesses is likely much higher, as many employers don't record the injuries.

In fact, the Department of Labor reports that fewer than 40 percent of workers who are eligible for workers' compensation benefits actually apply for them. So the question is, "Who pays for work-related injuries?" Studies have shown the following:

  • Out of pocket: 50 percent
  • Workers' compensation: 21 percent
  • Private health insurance: 13 percent
  • Federal government: 11 percent
  • State and local government: 5 percent

If you have been seriously injured on the job, then you know the pain and the stress are real. What may seem less real is the possibility that your medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages and other injury-related costs can be covered. But covering those costs is a real possibility, and a work injury attorney can explain your options for receiving the compensation and benefits you and your family need.

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