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Workplace injuries fall, yet disability claims rise

Over the past 10 years, the number of people in the U.S. filing for disability benefits from work-related injuries or illnesses has increased by about 4.5 percent each year, with one person on disability for every dozen in the active workforce. This has occurred at the same time that specific workplace injuries have shown a decline, with non-fatal work injuries or illness dropping from 11 per 100 people in 1973 to 3.5 per 100 people in 2010. One Wall Street analyst claims that this is evidence that people are filing fraudulent disability benefit claims.

If this is true, employees who are actually injured or sick as a result of workplace accidents or hazardous conditions may have a more difficult time convincing workers' compensation and disability benefits systems that they badly need benefits. False claims drain crucial resources that should be going to help those who really need help. Additionally, the presence of false claims often results in those with legitimate claims being unfairly regarded with suspicion.

There are, of course, some alternate explanations, including the possibility that workplace accidental injuries are sometimes underreported, or the possibility that many work-related disability benefit claims stem not from a single accidental injury, but from the long-term result of workplace exposure to harmful conditions. Disabilities can arise as a result of gradual response to exposure to harmful substances such as asbestos or lead in the workplace. Other disabilities can result in injury to the human body from repetitive stress and motions over time, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis, or from such things as gradual hearing or vision loss from continual exposure to workplace noise or glaring light.

Workplace stress, as well as job insecurity, may also be contributing to an increase of mental and psychological disabilities, which can be just as devastating as some physical injuries or illnesses.

Regardless of why disability applications have increased, it is important that Denver employees who are injured at work get the appropriate benefits following an accident.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Disability claims rise even as work injuries decline," Walter Hamilton, Aug. 22, 2012

Our practice includes work with Denver workers who have secured permanent disability benefits because of a workplace accident.

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