Report: Workers’ injuries in Texas often poorly documented

It is estimated that fewer than 40 percent of injured workers in Texas and across the country ever file a claim for compensation.

In 2014, a worker suffered an injury at a Texas airport. According to the Texas Tribune, the man had been using a hammer and rebar to tear through a concrete wall. His hand went through the wall, causing an injury. His supervisor initially refused to report the incident or get the man medical assistance.

Unfortunately, for countless people in Texas and across the country, this is the case. Many people struggle to get the workers' compensation they deserve due to a lack of responsible reporting.

The case

The worker described above developed cellulitis, causing his hand to swell. After six weeks of working with the condition, the man's supervisor finally took him to a clinic. Unfortunately, the clinic would not treat the man, stating that the workplace injury had happened more than 30 days prior to his visit. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, an employee must report an injury within 30 days of the incident.

In order to get the man coverage, his supervisor told him to lie and state that the accident happened more recently. The man did and spent a week in the hospital. Unfortunately, the insurance company still initially denied the man's benefits, stating the failure to report the injury in a timely fashion. The man had to hire an attorney and provide witnesses in order for the carrier to reverse its decision.

A common occurrence

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration published a report last year that stated that there are about 3 million people who suffer a serious work injury every year. However, the administration notes that the number only represents the reported incidents, as less than 40 percent of those eligible for workers' compensation ever file claims.

In fact, the Texas Division of Worker's Compensation issued a report that noted that people across the state are filing claims less and less. Over the past 10 years, there has been a 31 percent drop in the number of claims filed. While the report cites safety awareness and better technology as possible explanations, it also states that the under-reporting of incidents is possible.

What to do

The Texas Office Injured Employee Counsel reminds workers that after an injury, they must report the incident to a supervisor as soon as possible. Upon seeing a physician, the worker is required to tell him or her if the injury or illness is job-related. From there, the employee will have to complete a claim for compensation and submit it to the state's division of workers' compensation.

The claims process can be fraught with complications, which is why the TOIEC advises workers that they have the right to hire an attorney. Anyone with questions about job-related injuries should contact a lawyer.