Injured at Work? Here’s What You Do
Few things are scarier or more frustrating than getting hurt at work. Not only is it painful and embarrassing, but you have to worry about your paycheck. Will you be able to continue working? Who will pay for the medical bills? What will happen?
Workplace Injuries: More Common Than You Might Think
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 2.8 workplace injuries per 100 full-time workers (annually). Thankfully, this figure has dropped pretty steadily over the past decade and a half, but it still represents a significant number.
Certain industries are obviously more prone to workplace injuries than others. The highest incident rates occur in the following fields and occupations: registered nurses and nursing assistants, truck drivers, material movers, construction laborers, maintenance and repair workers, janitors and cleaners, and retail salespersons.
The most common types of workplace injuries are:
- Sprains, strains, and tissue/muscle tears
- General pain and soreness
- Lacerations, cuts, or punctures
- Heat burns
While the total number of workplace injuries is on the decline, fatal workplace injuries are unfortunately on the rise. These incidents are usually caused by transportation accidents, violence caused by other people, slips and falls, contact with objects and equipment, and/or exposure to harmful substances.
How to Respond After a Workplace Injury
If you’ve been injured on the job, it’s important not to ride things out and hope your symptoms get better. You have to respond quickly. Here are several suggested action steps:
Get Immediate Medical Attention
The first step should be obvious, but it’s amazing how often people will put off medical care. You might not have to call EMS to the scene, but you should at least pay a visit to your doctor.
Getting immediate medical attention does two things for you. First off, it ensures your injuries are analyzed by a medical professional and the correct treatment plan is put into place. Secondly, it establishes a documented record of your injury. Should there be a claim or lawsuit, this initial visit offers proof that you were actually hurt.
Hire an Attorney
After getting medical attention, you should hire an attorney. At the very least, schedule an initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer to figure out what the best course of action is. They’ll let you know if you have a potential case, what you should do, and (perhaps more importantly) what you should not do.
As a note, your employer will most likely want you to speak with the company lawyer. However, you shouldn’t let this lawyer represent you. They might act like they want to help, but their loyalty ultimately lies with the company.
Report the Injury
Once you hire an attorney, they’re going to ask you a simple question: Have you filed an accident report? And if the answer is no, you'll need to do it ASAP.
As Nolo points out, “Many states have very short deadlines by which you must report an accident in order to be covered under workers' compensation laws. As a result, you should report any accident in which you're involved on the job, whether or not you believe you're injured.”
It doesn’t matter if you feel like the injuries are minor and will heal very soon, you should still file a report. Not only does this protect you in the instance that your symptoms are worse than you thought, but it could also prevent the same injury from happening to one of your coworkers in the future.
Focus on Healing
After getting medical attention, hiring an attorney, and reporting the injury, your number one priority is to get better. Rest, sleep, and proper diet and hydration are key factors in the recovery process. If the doctor gives you medication or exercises to speed up the healing process, follow them exactly as they’re laid out. (A failure to do so could hurt your recovery and negatively impact your legal claim.)
Be Prepared for Anything
Every workplace injury is unique. However, one thing is for sure: There will be some friction between you and your employer. While it won’t always be comfortable, you have to embrace the fact that, in this isolated situation, it’s you versus them. By getting immediate medical attention and lawyering up, you can protect your own rights and best interests.