Work comp claims soar in worst-hit prefectures

Kyodo

Over 1,500 applications for workers’ compensation have been filed, as of Wednesday, for those who died or vanished while on the job during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in the three worst-hit prefectures, according to a tally by a local labor bureau.

Approval has already been given for insurance benefits to be paid in 1,305 cases, equivalent to about one-third of payments made nationwide in fiscal 2010. The number of payments made is almost certain to become the largest ever for a single natural disaster.

This compares with the 67 cases of compensation payments made in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, which struck before dawn, and 10 cases following the 2004 quake that struck the Chuetsu area in Niigata Prefecture. The March disaster struck on a Friday in midafternoon.

According to the Miyagi labor bureau, 1,005 applications were made in Miyagi Prefecture, almost all by family members of workers who died or disappeared in the tsunami. Also, 399 were filed in Iwate Prefecture and 131 in Fukushima Prefecture. These numbers are expected to rise.

“I believe there are bereaved families who do not know about the existence of the Workmen’s Accident Compensation Insurance or are hesitating about applying. I hope they will consult us,” an official at the labor bureau said. Once approved, the families will each receive a ¥3 million special payment, in addition to pension and other benefits.