If/when you get injured or hurt, depending on the type of injury or location, it can impact your ability to work and earn an income. I can now better understand how injuries can impact a families budget, as I may be facing surgery. This is an issue faced by hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, a majority of whom can’t even afford to miss one paycheck.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on injuries or illnesses (that occurred in the workplace) each year, and it tends to range in the high 2 million – close to 3 million number. But this would not account for injuries at home (or just old age like me!) as there will be other “non-work injuries” that can also impact someone’s ability to work. That number also includes work related illnesses.
Now the BLS estimates that only about 40% of injuries at work result in missed work time, and the average number of days missed is about 8. So less than one-half of injuries result in missed income for the person injured or that is ill.
But once again, those stats would not account for non-work injuries. In my case, about 1.5 years ago I tweaked my shoulder. I think it was just wear and tear over the years from working out, bad posture on my 6’1”+ frame, etc. That injury impacted my ability to sleep, work out, and live life. So I went to physical therapy a year+ ago, and over the subsequent weeks my shoulder improved.
Now a few months ago my right shoulder and upper arm area acted up again, this time more seriously. It can be painful on some days to lift my arm over my head, and I can wake up in the middle of the night in pain. It impacts my ability to jog, sleep, life weights, volunteer, and other aspects of my life.
I have done physical therapy, massages, and even just had an MRI to try to diagnose and heal the shoulder. While 2 different doctors had different advice on what was wrong and what to do, one doctor recommended surgery for what is called a SLAP tear. If I go through with the surgery, my arm may be in a sling for 1-4 weeks. While the work thing is not as pressing for me, a sling of 1-4 weeks obviously impacts everything in life as I would in effect only have one good arm to use. Not only may the arm be in a sling for a few weeks, but it could take 3-9 months to “fully” recover. Or I can not get surgery, just live with the discomfort, continue to change my lifestyle, and hope it doesn’t get worse and/or heals on its own over an extended period of time.
Injuries and financial hardships
For many people, having their arm in a sling for weeks could put them into a real financial hardship. Or even if they miss just a few days of work it can cause issues to their household budget. It can cause them to miss work. Maybe they will fall behind on some bills, their rent, or more. And it could also lead to higher medical costs or other expenses.
As we report on, most Americans have little or no emergency savings. Bankrate reports that about 25% of households have zero savings for an emergency, and missed work is considered a type of emergency that Americans are unprepared for. Only about 22% of Americans have enough saved to cover two months of their bills according to this same survey.
Other surveys show similar results, and the fact is probably 50% to 66% of Americans can’t cover a few weeks of their bills if they miss their income. And that is not only true of low income as well as higher income Americans, as most of them live beyond their means.
What can be done if you are injured? When someone gets hurt, most companies offer some form of sick time. Or employees can dip into vacation time due to an injury at work. There are also short term disability and long term disability programs, so most employees have some protections. Read more on financial aid for the disabled.
But those “worker protections” and benefits are not true of everyone. If the person is working an hourly job, say like fast food or many other similar type of positions, they may not have any benefits or even vacation time/injury time. They may not also have health insurance, or they have a plan with high deductibles/costs. Some companies may even try to “fire” someone who misses time…while illegal, employers may and have tried things like that in the past. In cases faced by workers with limited benefits/protections, a few missed pay of work, could even put them more at risk due to the lost income or even their job. Or it could overwhelm them in medical bills.
Injuries, whether at work or not, can put a strain on most people’s budgets. While anyone can get sick or hurt, always do your best to protect yourself. Do not put yourself in risky situations. Live healthy, exercise with correct form, eat well, stretch, and do whatever you can to keep your body strong and healthy. While it will not prevent every injury or illness (like mine as I do take care of myself), living healthy may reduce your risk.