I’ve Been Injured at Work. Can I Sue?
October 18, 2017 | Personal Injury
Experiencing an injury at work is terrifying. Wondering who you can trust, what to do next and what will happen is overwhelming. You may feel fearful for your financial future and worried about your health. These are normal feelings, but with the right resources and guidance, you will be able to protect yourself and your family.
Injuries can happen at any workplace; however, they are especially common in the following industries:
- First Responders: Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS
- Professional Drivers
- Pilots and Flight Engineers
- Health Care
If you have been injured at work and are unsure what to do next, keep reading.
There isn’t a specific type of injury or injuries that workers are able to file a claim against. If the injury was sustained in the workplace, it is considered a workplace injury, and you may be eligible for compensation. In most states, businesses are required to cover paid employees with worker’s compensation insurance, no matter how small the company is.
The most common workplace injury claims are for:
- Being struck by or against an object
- Highway incidents, violence
- Machinery accidents
- Overexertion (carrying, lifting, pushing, etc.)
Before you move forward, you must establish whether or not the injury is indeed work-related. Typically, this means while at your workplace, conducting work duties (even off-site) and other tasks requested by your employer. Sometimes, this may include social events sponsored by your employer, even if the event isn’t on company-owned property.
Usually, disregarding workplace safety rules will make it harder to file a claim; however, some compensation policies will cover workplace injuries regardless. Workplace injuries typically only occur on company time, unless you take your lunch break on company property.
WHO IS COVERED BY WORKER’S COMPENSATION?
Worker’s compensation is generally available to all paid employees at a company; however, in some states there are exceptions. Independent contractors, seasonal workers, agricultural workers and undocumented workers are generally not covered. Domestic workers, like child caregivers who work in a family home, are also often exempt.
Even if you are not eligible for worker’s compensation, your employer may still be responsible for your workplace injury. These cases are highly specific; therefore, we recommend consulting with an attorney. If you file for worker’s compensation, you typically give up your rights to sue your employer. For this reason, we encourage you to be sure your injuries are minor and will completely heal before filing without legal consult.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
The most important thing to do is immediately report the injury to your supervisor. We highly advise detailing the incident in writing, giving a copy to your supervisor and retaining the original document.
We advise that you do this as soon as you are able to ensure you meet the filing deadline and retain your rights.
It’s critical to ensure that you receive quality medical care and that you let your doctor know that they are treating a workplace injury — the doctor or hospital will have paperwork to complete, too.
You may be able to select your doctor, or you may have to see a doctor selected by your employer. However, it’s unlikely you’ll have to see this doctor for the entire length of your treatment. You’re also able to ask for a second opinion — this is where seeking legal counsel would be highly beneficial.
WHEN DO I NEED A LAWYER?
Ultimately, this is up to you. We advise that you consider a lawyer if you have severe injuries or obtain an injury that results in ongoing medical needs. For example, if you obtain a head injury that requires stitches, but are also diagnosed with a concussion, you’ll be suffering from the consequences of the concussion long after the wound has healed.
We also recommend that you consult with a lawyer if you don’t understand the paperwork or are being pushed into signing documents without being able to review them. You should definitely hire a lawyer if you will be going into a court room.
There are some very specific situations in which you can hire a lawyer to sue outside of workers compensation:
- If a third party caused your injury — for example, if you get in an accident while driving a company car and sue the other driver for negligence.
- If your employer does not have worker’s compensation insurance — in these cases, you must prove the employer was completely at fault, which takes a calculated and thorough case.
- If the injury was a result of intentional actions — for example, if you are physically assaulted at work (cannot file these types of cases in all states, but permitted in West Virginia).
- If you were injured by a toxic substance — including asbestos and radium, etc.
- If you were injured by a defective product — for example, if you work with machinery and the machine was defective, the company who produces the machine may be responsible.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW?
When working through a workplace injury claim, you need to think long-term. Many people are excited that they’re going to get any type of compensation for their claim and often fail to consider whether their compensation is fair and adequate. If you obtain a head injury, you need to consider the very real possibility that the injury may cause headaches long-term. If the headaches are so severe that you have to take time off from work, you’ll continue to suffer from lost wages.
A lawyer can help you think long-term. Skilled and experienced lawyers know exactly how to fight for fair compensation to ensure that you are covered should the injury cause additional stress in the future.
Fair compensation isn’t just for current medical bills and immediate lost wages after the accident.
Fair compensation includes:
- Future medical bills
- Future lost wages due to ongoing issues with the injury
- Any necessary physical therapy/rehabilitation
Hiring a lawyer will also help you should the injury render you unable to do your job. In these cases, you may need compensation to help you learn a new skill in order to do a different job.
STEALEY LAW & MEDIATION | WV PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
In the case of a broken arm that your doctor is confident will heal normally, there’s not usually a need to seek legal help. You’ll be compensated for the medical bills and time off work through worker’s compensation, and when the bone has healed, you’ll be able to return to work.
Unfortunately, cases are seldom this simple. If you’re unsure, or feel uncomfortable about your case or how your employer is handling it — reach out to us. We will never charge you for a consultation, and we bring 38+ years of experience to the table.
Contact us below.