Navigating Post-Injury Protocol: What to Do After a Workplace Injury
Workplace accidents can strike when we least expect them. Even at organizations with extensive safety programs, a momentary lapse in focus or a small equipment malfunction can put employees in harm's way and permanently change lives. When the unthinkable happens on the job, it’s crucial that proper protocols are followed in the aftermath to protect the injured worker and set them up for the best possible outcome.
As an employee, responding appropriately after a workplace injury occurs ensures that you receive urgent medical care, the incident is reported properly, follow-up actions are taken, and your long-term health, compensation, and recovery are prioritized. While focusing on procedure immediately after an accident may be daunting, following the steps in this article closely is vital for your wellbeing.
What is Workers' Compensation?
Workers’ compensation insurance provides benefits and coverage to employees who suffer job-related illnesses or injuries. Unlike standard health insurance, workers' compensation is a form of no-fault insurance required of most employers - this means the employee need not prove negligence or fault on the company's part in order to receive benefits.
Workers' Compensation Laws, Explained
Nearly all employers in the United States are required to carry workers' compensation insurance. If an employee gets injured while performing work duties, workers' comp coverage pays for:
Doctor visits, physical therapy, medications, and other medical costs related to the work injury. This includes both initial treatment and ongoing care if needed.
Temporary total disability checks that replace a portion of the employee's wages while they are off work and recovering. The amount is usually 60-70% of the worker's normal weekly income, up to state limits.
Permanent partial or total disability benefits if the employee sustains permanent impairment that reduces their ability to work long-term. The amount depends on the severity of disability and state formulas.
Vocational retraining for employees who cannot return to their previous jobs due to permanent physical restrictions. Retraining prepares workers for new occupations they can perform within their capabilities
Death benefits for surviving dependents if a work-related accident proves fatal. This may include burial costs and ongoing income for spouses and children.
While workers' compensation functions as a no-fault system, employees can sometimes pursue third-party liability claims against manufacturers, property owners, or other entities responsible for their work injuries through negligence.
With the basics of workers' compensation covered, here are the steps to take after a workplace accident occurs:
Your first priority should always be to protect yourself from further harm. Avoid making any sudden movements, especially if you suspect severe injuries. If possible, move away from any immediate hazards like machinery in operation or exposed electrical wires, but only if you can do so without exacerbating your injuries. If others are around, alert them to the situation. They can help keep you safe, assist with first aid, and inform supervisors or management. Answer questions about how you feel but avoid unnecessary movement until professional medical help arrives. Keep yourself calm and stable.
If your wounds are extremely serious with heavy bleeding, confusion, or other life-threatening symptoms, call 911 immediately.
Once any immediate dangers have been addressed, formally report in detail what transpired to your designated supervisor or manager as soon as possible, noting the nature of the accident, your injuries, and your current condition.
You should also submit a written incident report within 24 hours that documents the date, time, exact location, witnesses present, events preceding the accident, and sequence of events.
Even if your injuries seem minor at first, prompt professional medical care is crucial. Sprains, bruises, or internal trauma may not be obvious initially, and delaying treatment can worsen complications.
Have your supervisor direct you to visit an approved occupational clinic or emergency room immediately. Doctors can assess your wounds, provide needed care, evaluate required therapies, and determine if work absence is necessary for proper recuperation.
The medical report from this visit also documents important evidence for insurance claims and any future legal action if warranted. Make sure that you follow all doctor recommendations carefully, and make a record of doing so.
Your employer is required by law to carry workers' compensation insurance to cover you when you are hurt on the job. Either you or your employer should notify the insurance carrier about the injury right away and provide documentation like your incident report and medical evaluation records.
Workers' compensation typically covers expenses like doctor visits, medications, therapy, medical devices, income replacement while off work, and compensation for any permanent disabilities resulting from the accident. An experienced attorney can advise you on efficiently accessing your full entitled benefits.
Determining your next steps after a workplace injury starts with understanding your workers' compensation eligibility. If eligible, you typically cannot sue your employer directly, but can file a workers’ comp claim for benefits. Our experienced workers’ comp attorneys can clarify whether you may have grounds to pursue additional legal action through a lawsuit against negligent third parties.
Our workers’ compensation lawyers can help you understand:
- If your accident or injury qualifies for workers' compensation coverage
- What benefits you are entitled to through the workers' compensation system in your state
- Whether any other individuals or corporations beyond your employer bear liability for your injuries through negligence, inadequate safety or training, defective machinery, or preventable hazards
- If you have a potential personal injury or product liability lawsuit, based on the circumstances of the accident
- What the process would be for building a strong legal case and seeking damages through litigation if warranted
Our attorneys can protect your rights by thoroughly investigating your workplace accident, advising if you have a valid lawsuit, and representing you through the legal process if you do. They can also guide you if your workers' compensation claim gets wrongly denied, assisting you with the appeals process to obtain the benefits you deserve.
With medical expenses and lost wages covered, it’s important to fully comply with all prescribed treatments and therapy to properly heal. Try not to rush healing, but transition back to your job only when physically able - perhaps on temporary modified duties. Close collaboration between you, your doctors, and employer is key to facilitating a safe return to work. Patience throughout your recovery process will lead to the best outcome long-term.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are injured at work, verbally notify your supervisor as soon as possible after the incident. Provide details on what happened, the nature of any injuries, and your current condition. You should also submit a written report with information on the date, time, location, witnesses, events preceding the incident, and exact sequence within 24 hours. Prompt, detailed reporting creates a record and starts the claims process.
Workers' compensation is an insurance system that provides benefits to employees injured while on the job, covering the cost of medical treatments, rehabilitation, lost wages due to missed work, and compensation for permanent impairment or disabilities stemming from the work injury. Workers' compensation laws and regulations vary by state.
It's advisable to consult a workers' compensation attorney to protect your rights and navigate the claims process, especially if the injury is severe, benefits are denied, or liability is disputed. An experienced lawyer can handle reporting procedures, gather evidence, communicate with insurers, facilitate medical treatments, maximize benefits based on regulations, and appeal wrongful denials. Without an attorney, you may fail to receive your full entitled compensation.
Deadlines for reporting workplace injuries vary based on state laws, but reports should be made immediately after seeking emergency care. Verbally informing supervisors and filing formal written reports should happen within 24 hours. Quick reporting properly documents the incident while events are still fresh. Failure to report injuries in a timely manner can jeopardize your workers' compensation claim.
Absolutely. Even if the injury seems minor, it's essential to get prompt medical treatment to rule out underlying issues and have a proper record of the injury. The medical report can be crucial evidence when filing your workers' compensation claim or potential lawsuit. Delaying treatment also risks worsening any complications.
Workers' compensation laws require employers to carry insurance that covers medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs when employees are injured at work. This protects workers and their families from bearing costs. Laws also prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who file injury claims. Workers' compensation provides a safety net for those harmed while doing their jobs.
Prevention is key. Employers must adhere to safety guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), provide protective equipment, regularly inspect equipment, address hazards promptly, and properly train workers on protocols. Staying vigilant, following policies, reporting concerns, and never taking shortcuts on safety greatly reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents.
Typical workers' compensation benefits include coverage of all reasonable and necessary medical costs related to the injury, payment for missed work time proportional to the worker's wages, funding for vocational rehabilitation if required, and financial awards for any permanent partial or total disability resulting from the accident. Policies and benefit limits vary by state.
Generally no, receiving workers' compensation benefits prohibits you from suing your employer directly. However, experienced attorneys can determine if third parties beyond your employer, like equipment manufacturers, may bear liability through negligence. Severe injuries or denial of benefits may also sometimes warrant legal action. An attorney can advise if grounds for a lawsuit exist.
Start by reporting the injury to your employer and seeking any needed urgent medical care. Submit the physician's report to your employer's workers' compensation insurance administrator along with a formal claim application detailing the accident circumstances. Insurers and states have forms you must complete. An attorney can ensure proper procedures are followed.
If your claim is denied, you can appeal the decision. An experienced workers' compensation attorney is highly recommended to ensure your rights are protected and maximize the chance of winning the appeal. Do not simply accept a denial without exploring your options. Legal expertise can often get denied benefits awarded.
It is illegal for employers to punish or fire employees for filing legitimate workers' compensation claims. Report any threats or signs of retaliation like demotion, harassment, or discrimination immediately. Consult an attorney, as you may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit in addition to your workers' comp claim.
Some states recognize job-related mental or psychological injuries like PTSD as eligible for workers' compensation. However, strict requirements around documenting the injury and proving it resulted specifically from work duties present challenges. Consulting with an attorney experienced in this nuanced area is advisable before filing such claims.
If your doctor medically clears you to return to work while a claim is pending, communicate clearly with your employer about any restrictions so they can modify your duties accordingly. However, be aware that voluntarily returning early before fully healed could potentially be used to reduce your benefits award later.
HERE'S WHAT TO DO NEXT
If you or a loved one have been injured and think you might have a case, call us now for a free consultation.