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Injured at Work in Texas? You May Have Trouble Getting Treatment.

hand bandage-37364_640.jpgThis blog has previously reported statistics about workplace injuries and deaths in Texas, statistics collected from state sources such as the Texas Department of Insurance. But how accurate are these statistics? According to at least one source, many injuries in Texas caused by workplace incidents in particular go unreported. Others are described incompletely by employers and insurance companies. As a result, it sometimes appears as if an injury never occurred or that it occurred very differently from the way it was described. 

This blog has previously reported statistics about workplace injuries and deaths in Texas, statistics collected from state sources such as the Texas Department of Insurance. But how accurate are these statistics? According to at least one source, many injuries in Texas caused by workplace incidents in particular go unreported. Others are described incompletely by employers and insurance companies. As a result, it sometimes appears as if an injury never occurred or that it occurred very differently from the way it was described.

Businesses that pay workers' compensation have a vested interest in not reporting or reporting inaccurately injuries their employees suffer. If an injury appears much less serious than it actually is, based on documentation provided by the employer, an employee might not receive needed medical care. Moreover, a company with too many workplace claims may see its insurance premiums go up.

This is not solely a Texas phenomenon. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that there are 3 million serious work injuries every year in the United States. However, the agency also acknowledges that this number is almost certainly less than the real story and that many more workplace injuries go unreported.

There are many examples in Texas and beyond of injured employees being refused medical treatment or instructed to lie about their injuries. One man working in a garage at the airport in Austin injured his hand when it went through a concrete wall he was demolishing. At first, the injuries did not seem serious and his supervisor refused to send him to a clinic for medical attention. 

However, the hand later became infected and swollen. The man continued to work while continuing to mention the injury at regular safety meetings. After six weeks, the supervisor drove the worker to a doctor, but the clinic refused to treat a workplace injury that had not been previously reported.

The supervisor then told the man to file paperwork reporting that the injury occurred more recently - within the 30-day limit for workers to report injuries under the Texas workers' compensation program. The man did what he was told because he knew that he needed treatment.

Unfortunately, he wound up in the hospital for a week because of the infection. The employer's insurance company refused to pay because the injury was not reported within the allotted time. Only after he hired an attorney and asked his co-workers to confirm his story was he awarded benefits to pay his medical bills.

Although incidents like this occur throughout the United States, they are particularly common in Texas because Texas does not require employers to participate in state workers' compensation insurance plans. Companies can buy insurance on the private market and have a huge incentive to not report injuries and deaths. Texas and Oklahoma are the only two states that do not require businesses to participate in state workers' comp. However, other states are considering opting out of state programs that are supposed to protect employees who are injured. Whether the Texas model becomes the norm remains to be seen.

Source: https://www.texastribune.org/2015/10/02/texas-injured-workers-struggle-be-counted/

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