The Workers’ Story: Results of a Survey of Workers Injured in Wisconsin


December 1, 1998 Related Topics: Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Outcomes for Injured Workers, Return to Work

As escalating costs have stabilized or fallen in workers’ compensation, policymakers are increasingly shifting their emphasis to how well the system is meeting the needs of injured workers. Although many studies have assessed workers’ compensation systems by statistical analyses of numbers and types of injuries, benefits paid, and system costs to employers, few studies to date have examined the financial and personal changes workers themselves attribute to the work injury. This survey begins to do that.

Nearly 1500 workers with back injuries responded to this survey that addressed preinjury employment history, postinjury health status, financial and non-financial consequences, return-to-work experience, and the amount of attorney involvement following the injury. The result is a study with a very rich set of information about workers’ experiences with the workers’ compensation system.

Although the study is not designed to identify causal relationships, it does highlight areas that could help policymakers and others better understand how the system is addressing the needs of injured workers. This study is an important first step in understanding how workers, employers, jobs, injuries, and claim characteristics interact to produce different outcomes.

A few of the findings follow:

  • Workers whose claims were resolved with compromise-and-release settlements reported the worse outcomes overall. The survey also found that preinjury job characteristics of workers with compromised cases differed from those of workers receiving periodic permanent partial disability or temporary total disability benefits.
  • Although the majority of workers surveyed returned to work after the injury, the survey found 15 percent of those in the compromised benefit group, 5 percent in the permanent partial disability group, and 1 percent in the minor injury group were not working 4-5 years post injury "because of the injury."
  • In all benefit groups a significant number of workers reported financial strain as a result of the injury. For example, at least 22 percent of the workers surveyed had to use household savings in order to maintain their standard of living after the injury.

The Workers’ Story: Results of a Survey of Workers Injured in Wisconsin. Dr. Monica Galizzi, Dr. Leslie I. Boden, Te-Chun Liu. December 1998. WC-98-5.

Copyright: WCRI

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