Workers Compensation Statistics

Workers’ compensation insurance covers more than 140 million U.S. workers, over 94 percent of employees. The total cost to employers of workers’ compensation insurance is more than $95 billion annually(1).  Most of the 50 states, and several U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and Guam, require businesses to purchase workers’ comp insurance. And workplace injuries are much more common than most people think. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3 million nonfatal workplace accidents occurred in 2012. That adds up to 3.5 injured workers out of every 100 full-time workers. Most of these cases, almost 95 percent, involved occupational injuries, while workplace illnesses accounted for the other five percent(2).
 
Five occupations accounted for nearly 20 percent of the days-away-from-work cases. The most dangerous occupations are: laborers, nursing aides, orderlies and attendants, janitors, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, police officers and sheriff’s patrol officers. Policing was the most dangerous work, with an incident rate five times greater than all other occupations(3). 
 
Sadly, 4,609 Americans died on the job in 2011 alone. About 40 percent of work-related fatalities were roadway incidents involving motor vehicles. Smaller numbers of work-related fatalities involved slips, trips, and falls, workers struck by objects and equipment, and workplace violence which included 458 homicides (4). 
 
While workers’ compensation insurance is intended for those injured and killed, there are some who take advantage of the system in various ways. Workers’ compensation fraud costs businesses and insurers tens of billions of dollars a year in stolen premiums and bogus claims (5).  The most common form of workers’ compensation fraud is employees claiming they were hurt at work when they were injured elsewhere. The second most common fraud is inflating a minor injury to be much more serious in order to collect more money and stay off the job longer. Fake injuries are the third largest fraud, which most often involve employees falsely claiming soft-tissue problems in the back or neck(6).
 
Employers can join the fraud game too. The number one employer fraud is claiming that employees work less hazardous jobs than they do. For example, a contractor might classify a welder as a secretary to pay lower premiums. Hidden employees is the number two employer scam. This happens when a business falsely says full-time workers are independent contractors who do not require workers’ comp coverage.
 
Scams hurt the vast majority of employers and employees who are honest. However, the system works well for the millions of workers and companies protected by workers’ compensation, one of the most successful insurance programs in history.
 

  1) David F. Utterback and Teresa M. Schnorr, “Use of Workers’ Compensation Data for Occupational Injury & Illness Prevention,” Department of Labor, 2010, www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2010-152/pdfs/2010-152.pdf.
  2) “Workplace Injury and Illness Summary,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 25, 2012, www.bls.gov/news.release/osh.nr0.htm.
  3) “Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away From Work,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 8, 2012, www.bls.gov/news.release/osh2.nr0.htm.
 4) National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2012, Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 22, 2013, www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf.
  5) “Workers Compensation Scams,” Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, 2013, www.insurancefraud.org/scam-alerts-workers-compensation.htm#.UdynRT7F2bg.
 6)  “Workers Compensation Scams,” Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, 2013, www.insurancefraud.org/scam-alerts-workers-compensation.htm#.UdynRT7F2bg.

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