How Obesity is Affecting U.S. Workers’ Compensation Claims

by Ladyblogger on July 20, 2012

Obesity in America is not just affecting the overweight, but it has affected employers as well. Workers’ compensation claims among the obese are on the rise and payouts are often three times as high as those for people of an average weight. The obesity epidemic in the United States is not only a personal issue, but one that businesses are being forced to face at a growing rate. Here are five ways that obesity affects workers’ compensation:

1.Prolonged Cases

Compared to cases filed by people of an average weight, those filed by the obese lasted significantly longer. According to the Montgomery law firm of MM&L, while an injured worker may take several weeks to heal and return to work, it can take an obese worker with the same injury several months to heal and return to work. Obesity often complicates both treatment and healing time, prolonging workers’ compensation claims.

2.Atypical Treatments

For a person of normal weight, light physical therapy may be all that is required for a sprained ankle. For an obese person, physical therapy may not be enough. Often, doctors recommend that the obese undergo gastric bypass surgery or, at best, enter a weight loss program. Once a physician recommends this type of medical treatment in relation to an injury, it’s not unusual for an employer to be on the hook for the costs.

3.Higher Claims

Higher claims go hand-in-hand with atypical treatments. For instance, in the case of a knee injury, a person who is obese may require a knee replacement to correct the problem. On the other hand, a person of average weight may only require rest to recuperate. Compare the costs of a total knee replacement with the cost of an ice pack and a few days off of work, and you can easily see how obesity can lead to higher claims.

4.Missed Work

Not only are the obese more likely to require extensive treatment than their average-sized co-workers, but they are more likely to miss up to 13 times the amount of work after an injury that a person of normal weight would miss. When this is the case, not only are employers losing money by paying for a claim, but they are seeing a reduction in productivity with the extended absence of an employee.

5.Permanent Disability

People who are obese or morbidly obese are more likely to be permanently disabled by an injury sustained at work than those people who maintain a healthy weight. A Philadelphia injury lawyer may be better able to explain the options when filing for permanent disability. Employers aren’t the only people affected when a worker is placed on permanent disability; the public is affected as well. When a worker is placed on disability, the public taxpayers are then made responsible for maintaining that person’s lifestyle. Being placed on permanent disability ensures a monthly stipend that is essentially provided by every tax payer in America.

Because of the tremendous cost of obesity, many employers are looking for ways to protect themselves. A Philadelphia injury attorney can tell you that it is illegal to discriminate against a person because of their size. Employers may find it in their best interest to offer free weight loss programs, gym memberships or nutritionists to their employees. If something is not done about this growing epidemic in America, it’s not only the overweight who will suffer.

Molly Henshaw is a freelance writer and law student in the DC metro area. She also contributes as a writer for the attorneys of It is important to consult a professional when you are questioning whether your injury is work related!

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