How to Handle Getting Hurt on the Job
Nobody likes getting hurt, especially at work when you're trying so hard to earn a living for yourself and your family. Workplace injuries can be painful, and some can even lead to permanent disability and long-term suffering. After you've been injured, you may be wondering how to handle getting hurt on the job.
Every state in the US has laws concerning the safety of working conditions for employees. When employers disregard those laws and leave their workers vulnerable to workplace injuries, the employee has a right to financial compensation. Furthermore, injured workers have a right to receive worker's compensation. Suppose an employer is playing dirty by misreporting the injury or threatening retaliation for your workers’ compensation claim. In that case, those tactics are illegal and potentially grounds for a lawsuit. Let's take a deeper look at how to handle getting hurt on the job.
Notify your employer of your injury right away
Workplace injuries should be reported as soon as possible and in writing. If you make an oral report, take records. Be sure to document the time and date, any witnesses to the accident, the name of the person to whom you reported your injury, their title, and what their response was. Compile all the details and submit them to your employer in writing, making sure you keep a copy of everything for yourself. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do after a workplace injury. Insurance companies can use untimely reporting of an injury as grounds to deny your claim.
Additionally, some states have a very tight deadline for notifying an employer about injuries, some as little as a few days. The longer you wait, the more doubtful your employer and their insurance company can be about the validity of your claim. Plus, the quicker you start the process, the faster you can start receiving workers' compensation benefits.
Get medical attention as soon as possible
Obviously, if you were seriously hurt with a severe or life-threatening injury, you've already completed this step. However, even with seemingly minor injuries, it's crucial to get the professional opinion of a doctor. Frequently, pain and complications from an injury don't surface right away. Medical documentation is critical because it is evidence of the nature and severity of your injury. Furthermore, you'll need to heed the advice of the doctor so you can heal and recover. Save all medical bills and receipts for treatment, medication, and any medical devices.
File all the required paperwork
Follow all state guidelines when filing for benefits. Your employer should give you the necessary forms to fill out and will then submit the paperwork to their own insurance company and the state workers’ compensation agency. Depending on the state you live in, the initial filing can be the start of your worker's compensation claim. In other states, you may be required to file an official worker's comp claim with the state worker's compensation agency initially. Suppose your employer is not willing to help you with these requirements. In that case, you should talk to a lawyer and also the local workers' comp office immediately because they are up to no good.
What are my rights after an injury at work?
One of the most important things to protect your rights after a work injury is to report it to your employer right away and file a claim with your state's workers’ compensation agency. Both of these steps serve as formal notice to your employer and the agency. When the claim is filed, you have certain automatic protections.
Since worker's compensation laws are unique in every state, your rights will vary accordingly. However, some rights are largely common across the US, which are:
- The right to file a claim for your injury or work-related illness in workers' compensation court
- The right to seek medical treatment
- The right to return to work after receiving a work release from your doctor
- The right to disability compensation if you cannot return to work permanently or temporarily
- The right to appeal if you disagree with the decisions of your employer, their insurance company, or workers' compensation court
- The right to be represented by a lawyer of your choice throughout the process
Similarly, you have the right to refuse suggestions or offers made by your employers, such as using your own health insurance to treat your injuries or illness. If your employer offers an incentive to forgo filing a workers' compensation claim, that is illegal, and you have the right to refuse. Additionally, suppose your employer shows aggression or intimidation towards you linked to the workers' comp filing. In that case, they can face grave repercussions from the state's labor board.
Can you sue your employer if you get hurt on the job?
Generally speaking, you can't sue your employer for being hurt on the job because that is what workers’ compensation insurance is all about. It is a legal requirement in every state except Texas and South Dakota to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This type of insurance would cover the cost of your medical expenses and partial lost wages even if you were to blame for your own injury. The exception is if you were using drugs or alcohol when you were injured. Under those circumstances, your claim could be denied by the insurer unless you could prove that being under the influence had nothing to do with your injury.
State workers' compensation laws prevent employees from suing their employer after a work-related injury. This is because the legislators decided it was better for everyone to have access to some form of compensation regardless of fault rather than it being put upon the employee to prove the employer was at fault. This legislation results in employer immunity from most personal injury cases, with a few exceptions.
What are the exceptions for employer immunity?
Employers are widely immune from personal injury cases after a work-related injury, with a few notable exceptions which are outlined here.
Your employer intentionally caused your injury or illness: If it can be proven that your employer caused intentional harm, you may be able to sue them for full compensation, including all medical-related expenses, lost wages, loss of future income, and pain and suffering.
Your employer showed gross negligence: The definition for gross negligence varies depending on which state you live in. However, gross negligence is generally an act of thoughtless or outright disregard for workers' safety.
Bad faith denial of workers’ compensation claim by your employer: If your claim was valid and your claim was denied or delayed, this could be labeled as insurance bad faith and may give your grounds to sue. However, you should be prepared to exhaust all other avenues to rectify the situation before proceeding with a court case.
A product your employer manufactures is the cause of your injury or illness: You could be able to sue in this scenario under the legal concept of product liability.
You are not an employee but an independent contractor: If you are an independent contractor, you are not an employee, and employer immunity is not a factor. You should be able to pursue a personal injury case and get full compensation for your injuries and related expenses.
Can I be fired for getting hurt at work?
It's no easy thing to think about suing your employer. It makes for an uncomfortable situation on both sides. And it's best to have a workers' comp attorney to help you navigate the process and protect your rights.
Employers do not have the right to retaliate against employees who file for workers' compensation because it is their legal right. However, your employer may not feel that you have the company's best interests in mind after suing them. In that case, they could have grounds to terminate your employment. Additionally, if the cause of the accident was your fault, and the accident was grounds to terminate you anyway, your employer is not legally required to employ you after you file a claim.
There are other situations where you can be legally fired after a work injury, but it all depends on your state’s laws. Some legitimate reasons for firing an injured worker are:
- Your doctor gives you a light-duty work release, but there are no light duty positions available
- Refitting a workstation to accommodate your disability would cause a financial hardship
- You no longer have the physical capacity to perform your job
- You refused to return to work after a medical clearance
- Your employer is a small business and cannot afford to hold your position until you get medical clearance
What are some employer red flags that mean you should hire a lawyer immediately?
You're learning how to handle getting hurt on the job and all the difficulties that accompany it, but here are some huge red flags that mean you should call a lawyer right away.
Misreporting: When you file a workers' comp claim, you should get back a document from the insurance company called a First Report of Injury report. Make sure all of the documentation matches the facts of the case, including your overtime pay if that is a common occurrence at your job. Sneaky employers will forget to include that when documenting the average weekly wage.
Not reporting injury quickly: It's not just up to you to report your injury quickly. Your employer has the same obligation because the insurance company can use failure to promptly report an injury as grounds to deny the claim. A shady employer may never file it and deny you ever reported it. To make sure, log on to the state department's website that handles workmans' comp claims to check the status.
Don't let your employer intimidate you into using their own medical staff to assess your injury, either. These company employees could be under pressure to make sure you return to work quicker than you should or minimize your injury.
The threat of retaliation: It is illegal for an employer to fire you for filing a workers' compensation claim. If your employer is using threats and intimidation, you need to talk to our workers' compensation lawyers immediately.
Light-duty schemes: Employers that claim they can accommodate a light-duty position until you receive a full work release and then force you to do work outside of that scope are likely laying the groundwork to fire you for cause. It's a dirty tactic, and you need the help of a lawyer to protect your rights.
How can Morgan & Morgan help?
Suppose you've been seriously injured or forced to work under hazardous conditions that caused an illness. In that case, you could be eligible to receive full workers' compensation benefits or more. At Morgan & Morgan, we have the experience you need to make sure you receive every dime you are entitled to for your injuries.
We've always been for the people and take on big insurance companies on a daily basis fighting for the rights of our clients. If you are not confident that your employer is doing right by you, or if you've been denied your claim, one of our attorneys may be able to help. Contact us today for a free, confidential case evaluation!