Claiming Behavior in Workers' Compensation


  • Jeff Biddle,

  • Karen Roberts

  • Jeff Biddle is in the Department of Economics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Karen Roberts is at School of Labor and Industrial Relations, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. The authors would like to thank John Frank and Sandra Sinclair from the Work and Health Institute, Toronto, Ontario, for sharing their experiences with measures of overall, lower back, hand/wrist, and upper extremity health, enabling us to make an informed choice among many good measures. Thanks also to Jeff Katz for allowing us to use his and his colleagues' measure of hand/wrist health, while it was still in the developmental phase, and to Karen Clark for directing the collection of the survey data. This research is part of a larger project funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (5R01 CCR 512124). Other participants in that project, including Ken Rosenman, Ed Welch, Joseph Gardiner, Andrew Hogan, and Mary Joe Reilly, offered helpful comments on this article at many points.


Using administrative data on workers' compensation claims in Michigan combined with data collected from a sample of workers identified by physicians as having work-related pain in their backs, wrists, hands, or shoulders, this article provides evidence that a substantial number of potentially eligible workers do not file workers' compensation claims. Multivariate analysis identifies the effects of various factors on the probability of filing a workers' compensation claim, conditional on having a work-related health problem. We find that the severity of the worker's condition and the worker's general health are the most important determinants of the decision to file, and that the generosity of wage loss benefits also affects the decision of an eligible worker to file. Finally, claims propensities vary considerably across workplaces, holding all other measured factors constant.