“I’m In It for the Money!”

Today’s post comes from guest author Roger Moore from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Surprisingly, many employers and insurance companies actually believe workers hurt themselves on purpose or at the very least put themselves in positions where they think an injury is likely. We hear this a lot as a basis for not settling claims for existing employees. Employers are worried that it will encourage other employees to get injured as well. What does that say about the particular employer who believes this? Either they are downplaying lots of injuries or they truly believe employees are willfully getting hurt. 

The reality is that most of our clients come to us because their injury-related medical bills are not being paid or they’re not being paid for time off from work due to their injury.

In this age of limited, and in some cases very limited, workers’ compensation benefits, you would have to be an imbecile to actually believe people are willingly causing permanent injuries to themselves to cash in on the “windfall” that is workers’ compensation. Who would honestly trade even thousands of dollars for a lifetime of uncompensated pain and suffering? The reality is that most of our clients come to us because their injury-related medical bills are not being paid or they’re not being paid for time off from work due to their injury. The vast majority of them don’t even ask how much they could get for their injuries in their initial meeting with us, as I’m sure is the case with most workers’ compensation law firms. 

This is one of a long line of personal-injury myths perpetrated by the insurance industry to make filing a workers’ compensation claim a stigma. It’s similar to the one about “if you file a claim our premiums will go up and they’ll have to shut down the plant.” Shouldn’t the question really be: are we requiring too much physically of our employees, and if so, what can we do to make things safer? Instead, it seems too many employers are concerned about faster and faster production with fewer and fewer employees. In Nebraska, an average of about 1/3 of all meat-packing employees suffer some sort of work injury each year. No significant changes have been made to the industry in years. It’s just not economical to do so. Therein lies the answer. The truth is companies make a cost-benefit analysis about how much work injuries will cost them versus the rate of production. Most companies know how much a certain rate will cost them in terms of physical injuries to employees and knowingly put them in harm’s way. 

It’s ironic then that those same companies blame the injured worker or some trivial hobby when the inevitable and expected injuries occur. Ironically, they also claim there is a financial reason behind the report of a work injury as well. While there are some employees who are not honest about work injuries, the vast majority are hard working, devoted employees who simply can’t deal with the physical pain of the work involved. The last thing they’re thinking when the pain comes on is some juicy settlement that will enable them to retire.