Workplace back injuries cost employers billions of dollars every year. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers pay around $1 billion dollars per week in direct compensation, with back injuries accounting for a substantial part of that amount. Compensation for upper and lower back injuries account for approximately $39 to $78 billion dollars in indirect costs annually.
Average Costs Per Claim
The National Safety Council compiles workers' compensation statistics in its Injury Facts publication, classifying back injury-related workers' compensation claims according to whether the injury occurred to the lower or upper back.
It also looks at specific industries individually to note how many injuries occurred within each industry. It tabulates how many back injuries resulted in a given year across fields as disparate as educational and health services, government and leisure and hospitality.
According to Injury Facts' 2017 data, total costs per claim to the upper back were almost $34,000.
During the same time frame, workers' comp claims for the lower back amounted to almost $40,000, or higher than the average cost for injuries to various body parts.
Multiple Body Parts
If the back was injured in conjunction with other body parts, such as head, leg or neck, the cost of the claim surpassed $64,000, according to the same survey.
Cause of Injury
The ultimate cost of the settlement can also be affected by how the back injury occurred. As per Injury Facts 2017, a fall or slip injury cost nearly $10,000 more than one caused by being struck. Injury due to a car accident amounted to almost $74,000. The average cost of a claim from all causes of injury, including falls and slips, strains and cumulative injuries, is about $40,000.
Characteristics of Injury
The disposition of the back injury is another factor in the eventual cost of the settlement. Claims for injuries resulting in fractures or crushing were almost $6,000 more expensive than those producing other trauma. Claims for injuries resulting in inflammation, cumulative injury, or sprain or strain average less than those producing other trauma.
Permanent Partial/Total Disability
As legal information resource Nolo notes, if a back injury is permanent, the level of impairment does not have to be on the level of a disability for the person to receive permanent partial disability (PPD). To be sufficient for PPD, work restrictions can be limiting in the following manner:
- no walking on uneven surfaces
- no sitting down for more than two hours at a time
To derive a settlement, an insurance company takes a disability rating – a percentage designating the level of disability as determined by a doctor. Depending on how your state handles this rating, the rating can either specify a certain number of weeks of compensation you are entitled to, or an exact dollar amount.
Total permanent disability can involve life pension payouts in addition to PPD.
Temporary Partial/Total Disability
Also called time loss compensation, temporary disability compensates you for lost wages during a given period of recovery. If the company or its insurer fails to pay or does not do so in a timely manner, your employer may also have to pay late penalties.
Unless your disability rating is 10 percent or less, you would do well to hire a workers' compensation attorney to ensure you obtain the highest possible settlement for your occupational back injury. Since a settlement does not become finalized until reviewed by a workers' compensation judge, who has leeway to change it based on the settlement's fairness, a workers' compensation attorney can help with knowledge of potential traps such as reductions in Social Security disability benefits.
- Nolo: Getting a Fair Amount From Your Workers’ Comp Settlement
- Disability Secrets: Understanding the Permanent Disability Rating System
- Ohio State University Spine Research Institute: Addressing The High Corporate Costs of Back Pain (and other MSDs)
- Ohio State University Spine Research Institute: Indirect Costs of Back Pain and MSDs
- National Safety Council: Injury Facts 2013 Edition
- NOLO: How Much Do You Get for a Workers Compensation Benefits Settlement?
Timothea Xi has been writing business and finance articles since 2013. She has worked as an alternative investment adviser in Miami, specializing in managed futures. Xi has also worked as a stockbroker in New York City.