Common questions after a workplace injury
Every hour, between 600 and 700 employees in the United States suffer injuries at work. From the moments to the days and weeks after, workers may be in pain, confused about what to do, and unsure what their rights are. Fortunately, they don’t have to go through this alone. Commonly-asked questions can help illuminate the process and guide them through the steps they need to take.
What if it was my fault?
Workers compensation attorneys are often asked what happens if an employee is responsible for their own injuries. Mistakes at work can have serious consequences, particularly in industries that involve construction or heavy machinery. The employee may feel they shouldn’t file a workers compensation claim if the accident or injury was partly their own fault, or the supervisor may pressure them to stay quiet.
The fact is: it doesn’t matter who caused the accident. Under workers compensation statutes, an employer is responsible for covering fair medical costs and lost wages after an injury regardless of who is to blame. These laws were put in place to protect workers from being blamed for their own injuries.
Do I need to report the injury?
It is critical to report any workplace injury immediately, no matter how slight. Small injuries may turn out to have serious complications later on, and if an employee delays reporting, he or she may be barred from recovery at all. Reporting the injury right away, and documenting it carefully, can help prevent a workers compensation insurance company from claiming that injuries were independent or pre-existing.
Will I be fired?
The law is clear: an employer cannot terminate an employee for filing a workers compensation claim. An employer is not allowed to retaliate against an injured employee in any way, including reduced pay, lost promotion potential, or workplace harassment. However, an employer may still terminate an employee for misconduct or independent concerns.
If you believe you’ve been terminated or moved to a lower-paying position in retaliation for filing a workers compensation claim, you should speak to a workers compensation attorney immediately. Your attorney can advise you of your rights and discuss whether bringing an employment lawyer into the case is a good idea.
Can I recover for lost wages?
If you miss work because of an injury on your job site, your employer should still pay you for the time you are away. However, this isn’t free time off. You can only be paid if a medical provider agrees that you cannot work at all, so make sure you follow the recommendations of your workers compensation contact and stay in touch with your attorney.
More commonly, someone who has been injured due to a work accident will be paid for the time they spend away from the job getting medical treatment. If the old employment role requires strenuous physical activity, the employer should provide a reasonable accommodation to allow an injured employee to continue working. The employer should not pay less for this work, even if it is work commonly done by lower-paid employees.
What about my pain and suffering?
Workers compensation laws restrict the type of claim an injured employee can bring. In most cases, an injured worker can only claim payment for lost wages and the actual cost of medical treatment, along with future loss of earnings. Pain and suffering are not typically paid for. However, if a third party (such as an outside vendor or contractor) caused the accident, a separate claim can be made against that entity by a personal injury attorney, like Cohen & Cohen, P.C.