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Many Injured Workers Complain About Care: Report

December 27, 2018

There’s troubling news in the latest Workers’ Compensation Research Institute report on workplace injuries.

Worker wrapping injured hand.
CCIG’s Javier Rivera.

The institute, which tries to help policymakers and legislators identify ways to improve workers’ comp systems, said its surveys found many injured workers are not at all happy with the medical attention they get after suffering a workplace injury.

How many?

Well, an average of 16.7% reported difficulties getting the health services they wanted or that their physicians requested, the report said. Depending on where they lived, up to 20% reported being “very dissatisfied” with their care, according to the institute.

That leaves about 80% presumably satisfied to one degree or another but also suggests definite room for improvement.

Injured workers who can’t get the medical attention they need obviously can’t return to work, or at least cannot return to the jobs they held before their injury. That makes both employees and their employers unhappy.

Exactly when to return to work after an injury is one of the most difficult decisions patients and their health providers must make. If it’s too early they may risk further injury, but left too late and they can run into other problems.

Indeed, the institute found that an average of 10.5% of workers never return to work as the result of a workplace injury. That’s a significant slice of the labor pool, especially at a time when unemployment is so low.

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the other important findings in the report was that an average of 7.9% of workers reported earning “a lot less” after their injuries.

None of this is welcome news, obviously, but it’s especially disconcerting at a time when recruiting young workers into trade professions is more challenging than ever.

“By examining outcomes of injured workers, policymakers and other stakeholders can better understand how different state workers’ compensation systems compare in order to identify and prioritize opportunities to improve system performance,” said Ramona Tanabe, WCRI’s executive vice president and counsel.

Let’s hope so.

There are, of course, some simple solutions to ensuring the medical attention your employees receive is as responsive, if not compassionate, as possible.

  • Get to know your healthcare providers and help the employee with scheduling and appointment reminders.
  • Stay in regular contact with the employee while they are out of work or on light duty, reassuring them of short- and long-term goals to get them back to full duty.
  • Work closely with the carrier to ensure questions are answered in a timely manner to avoid any hold-ups in wage payments or treatment.

The institute, for the record, drew its conclusions based on telephone interviews with 9,730 injured workers who were hurt at work between 2010 to 2014. The states where workers were surveyed included Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The surveys were conducted, on average, about three years after the workers were injured and involved claims with more than seven days of lost time. Each claimant interviewed received an income benefit payment and medical care paid by workers’ compensation.

Javier Rivera is CCIG’s Director of Risk Control. Reach him at 720-330-7941 or

CCIG is a Denver-area insurance brokerage with the full-service capabilities of a national brokerage. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We help you manage your long-term cost of risk with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.

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