What to Do After Suffering a Workplace Injury
Every seven seconds an American worker is injured on the job, according to the National Safety Council. This adds up to 12,900 people injured a day and a staggering 4,700,000 injured every year. Most workplace injuries are caused by 1) overexertion, which includes performing repetitive motions and lifting and lowering objects; 2) being struck by or caught in objects, equipment, or collapsing structures; and 3) slips, trips, and falls.
The occupations that suffer the most injuries that result in lost time at work are service jobs, including police and firefighters, and workers in:
- transportation and shipping
- production and manufacturing
- installation, maintenance and repair
As the workforce continues to expand each year, injury numbers are almost certain to climb as well, and many people aren’t sure what to do when they are injured on the job. But there are important steps you can take to help ensure that you are covered financially should you be injured on the job and unable to work.
Seek medical treatment
One of the first things you should do is seek medical treatment for your injury. While injuries might not always be obvious, having a doctor verify that you did indeed suffer an injury will be critical when filing for workers’ compensation or another injury claim. Of course, if you are very severely injured, you should call 911 for emergency assistance. If you are unconscious or otherwise unable to call, your management or coworkers should make the call for you.
Report your injury
Report your injury in writing to your supervisor and your human resources representative. If you are in a union, report the injury to your union representative. Be sure to report as soon as you are physically able as reporting time can affect workers’ comp claims. Report your injury even if it seems minor. Seemingly small injuries can become more serious over time and potentially lead to lost days on the job or affect your ability to work for the long term. Your company or organization might also have an additional reporting process, such as an on-site medical office you may need to visit. Cooperate with the company’s reporting process.
Keep injury-related documentation
Gather all documents and correspondence related to your injury. This paperwork might include your own statement about what happened, any eyewitness reports you can gather, doctor reports and other information, such as from emergency responders. A police report may also be available if your injury was caused in an on-the-job motor vehicle accident, for example. Also, be sure to keep a file of all your medical expenses related to your injury. This file may include ambulance bills, doctor and occupational therapy expenses, medications, transportation costs to medical appointments, and other expenses.
File for workers’ compensation
If you are unable to work because of an on-the-job injury, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation through your employer. Eligibility and coverage vary by state.
Consider getting legal assistance
If your claim for workers’ compensation is denied, you may wish to file an appeal. Consider getting advice and assistance from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney when appealing. Even if you receive workers’ comp benefits, they may not be enough. In some states employers can be made to pay additional claims, or third parties such as subcontractors and others may be held liable for injuries.
Texas is the only state in the country that allows employers to opt out of the workers’ comp system. Companies that opt out are called “nonsubscribers.” While these nonsubscribers leave their employees without coverage in the event of injuries, they also open themselves up to liability claims.
In any case, a qualified attorney can advise you as to the best steps to take to receive fair compensation for lost time at work, medical and related expenses, and other pain and suffering.