Thousands of hard working people are injured on the job each day. It may take weeks, months, or even years to recover from those injuries. Some injuries are so severe and permanent that the worker may never be able to work again.
Whether the accident was your fault or not, you will want to make an insurance claim with your company’s workers compensation insurance carrier. If someone from another company caused your injuries, then you will want to make a claim against that company’s insurance company, in addition to a workers compensation claim with your company.
Here are some tips on some steps to take after such an event.
1. Obtain Useful Information About the Accident
Never assume that a proper investigation will be completed after a work injury. Oftentimes, companies do very little investigation and reporting and rely heavily upon governmental agencies, such as OSHA, to document the incident. Unfortunately, the government’s resources are limited and its investigations don’t go far enough. Consequently, after a work injury, you will want to carefully document all conversations that you have with your employer or any other companies.
Avoid phone calls, if possible. Written correspondence, such as letters, emails, or texts, is better. Take written statements from any and all witnesses that you know about. Some states, such as Utah, allow you to record a conversation between you and another person without giving notice to the other person. Some helpful information can be recorded in these conversations and later used in a lawsuit to your benefit.
People tend to be more honest just after the accident rather than several months later when lawyers and company executives have gotten involved.
Do everything you can to document the scene of the accident. Take photographs, video, and measurements of the scene. Family members she be relied upon to do this, as well. It is not uncommon for the guilty party to quickly change the scene to cover up the wrongdoing. It is imperative that all steps are taken to document the scene as it was at the time of the accident.
2. Report the Accident to Workers Compensation
Your state will likely require your employer to carry workers compensation insurance. Any accident that takes place while you are “on the clock” or at work will be covered by this insurance. This is true regardless of who caused the accident or how badly you are injured.
As soon as possible, you will want to report the accident to your human resources department so that HR can then report it to the workers compensation carrier. If you have not received a call from the workers compensation case worker within three days of reporting it to your HR department, you will want to follow up with your HR manager to ensure that the accident was reported. Do not assume that because you reported it to HR that your claim has been opened.
Once you have qualified for work comp benefits, your medical bills and a percentage of your lost wages (usually 60%) will be covered. Unfortunately, work comp will not include compensation for general damages, such as pain and suffering.
Keep in mind that if you are an independent contractor, you may still be able to qualify for workers compensation benefits as a “statutory employee.” You may be considered a statutory employee and qualify for work comp benefits if your work is under the direction and control of another contractor. If you believe that you may qualify as a statutory employee, then most states provide a labor commission or other administrative body that decides your status.
3. Consider Whether a Third-Party Is At Fault For The Accident
Depending on the facts of the accident, you may be able to get additional money from a third-party. A third-party is any other person or company that is not part of your company. This is true even if you are receiving workers compensation benefits. Do not overlook this possibility as it could mean a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Look at the following case as an example: Bob was working as a utility lineman in rural Utah. He and his crew were installing utility lines inside of a 5 foot trench. ABC Excavation dug the trench in a sloppy, dangerous manner. Soon after Bob and his crew entered the trench, it collapsed on Bob, severely fracturing his pelvis.
In this example, Bob would want to first report the accident to his employer and beginning receiving workers compensation benefits since he was on the job when he was injured. Next, he would want to bring a third-party claim against ABC Excavation for digging a faulty trench. Remember, ABC Excavation is a third-party because Bob does not work for ABC Excavation. Therefore, Bob could receive additional money from ABC Excavation for all of his damages.
It is always best to consult with a personal injury attorney about a possible third-party claim. Sometimes an experienced attorney can pursue a claim against a third-party that you did not know existed or was responsible.