Thousands of hard working people are injured on the job each day. Workplace accidents are catastrophic when heavy equipment is involved. It may take weeks, months, or even years to recover from those workplace injuries. Some injuries are so severe and permanent that the worker may never be able to work again. Here are some tips on some steps to take after such an event.
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Never assume that a proper investigation will be completed after a workplace injury. Oftentimes, companies do very little investigation and reporting. Companies rely heavily upon governmental agencies, such as OSHA, to document the accident. Unfortunately, the government’s resources are limited and investigations fall short. Consequently, after a workplace injury, you will want to carefully document all conversations you have with your employer or any other company. Avoid phone calls, if possible. Written correspondence, such as letters, emails, or texts, is preferable. Take written statements from any and all witnesses that you are aware of. Some states, such as Utah, permit you to record a conversation between you and another person without giving notice to the other person. Some valuable information can be recorded in these conversations and later used to your advantage. People tend to be more honest just after the accident. It’s funny how facts change when attorneys and company presidents have gotten involved.
Do everything you can to document the scene of the workplace accident. Take photographs, video, and measurements of the scene. Rely upon family members to help with this. It is common for the guilty party to quickly change the scene to cover up the wrongdoing. It is imperative that you take all steps to document the scene to preserve the evidence.
Your state will likely require your employer to carry workers compensation insurance. This insurance covers any accident that happens while you are “on the clock” and in the course and scope of your employment. This is true regardless of who caused the accident or how badly you are injured. As soon as possible, you need to report the accident to your human resources department. Your HR rep can then report it to the work comp carrier. If you have not received a call from the work comp case worker within three days of reporting it to your HR department, 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, work comp will cover your medical bills and 2/3 of your lost wages. Unfortunately, workers compensation insurance 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 qualify for work comp benefits as a “statutory employee.” You may be termed 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.
Depending on the facts of the accident, you may recover additional money from a third-party. This is true even if you are receiving work comp benefits. Do not overlook this possibility as it could mean a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Consider 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. He would then receive work comp benefits since he was on the job when he was injured. Next, he would bring a third-party claim against ABC Excavation for digging a faulty trench. Therefore, Bob could recover 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.