Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Aging Workforce and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation

It is projected that in 2012, 19.1% of the workforce will be 55 years old and older, and will include more than 21 million workers. Many older workers are working longer and delaying retirement because they enjoy their jobs, and want to continue working. In these tough economic times, however, many older workers are forced to keep working due to their financial circumstances.

While studies show that older workers incur fewer on the job injuries than younger employees, older workers generally suffer more severe work injuries. This is due, in part, because older workers typically have decreased physical abilities than younger workers, they tend to have more degenerative-type injuries or conditions, and they typically take longer to heal than younger workers.

Older workers tend to be at greater risk for knee problems, rotator cuff conditions, and carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as degenerative conditions of the neck and back. Workplace risk factors increase the likelihood of these types of injuries, including work positions that require kneeling and squatting, work positions requiring lifting over the shoulders, job duties requiring heavy lifting, work equipment that requires awkward positioning of body parts, and job duties that require bending for prolonged periods.

Older workers often face additional legal battles over their Minnesota workers’ compensation claims. Specifically, older worker claims are more frequently denied on the basis that their condition is pre-existing. Older workers are also frequently denied wage loss benefits based on the argument that the worker “retired.”

Some types of injuries and conditions tend to develop over a long period of time, as a result of gradual wear and tear. These types of conditions are often described as “degenerative.” Injuries that develop over a long period of time, which are substantially caused by an individual’s work activities are generally referred to as repetitive motion injuries or Gillette-type injures. Even where a worker has an underlying condition that is not work-related, if that condition is aggravated or accelerated by that individual’s work activities, it is still an injury that is covered by workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation insurance companies very commonly deny these claims on the grounds that the condition is pre-existing. Just because the insurance company says your condition is pre-existing doesn’t mean they’re right! 

Even where an older worker has sustained an injury, and the workers’ compensation insurance company has accepted responsibility for the injury, the insurer often refuses to pay wage loss benefits if the worker cannot return to work. The workers’ compensation insurer often argues that the worker “retired,” and withdrew from the labor market, and that they are not responsible for wage loss benefits. This is particularly common in cases where the worker is close to retirement age, or if the worker accepts a pension or retirement package from the employer. More often than not, however, that injured worker would have kept working had they not been hurt on the job. In that case, usually the injured worker will be eligible for wage loss benefits. Just because the insurance company says you retired, doesn’t mean they’re right! 

If you’ve sustained a work injury, and you’re over the age of 55, you may face additional difficulties in securing all of the Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits you’re entitled to. Learn about your rights! For a free, no-obligation case consultation, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a time to speak with one of our Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers.


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