What To Do After An Accident At Work

Having worked in the restaurant industry for many years, I have seen many accident at work.  I've seen everything from cut fingers, to burns, to slip and falls.  As the manager it was my job to make sure that the employee made it to the hospital and was compensated through Worker's Compensation for their time off.  From some of the horror stories I've heard from other employees, not all management see things this way.  They have been left to deal with their injuries on their own and had to fight just to get their employers to fill out their Worker's Compensation paperwork.

In almost all cases when you have an accident at work it's the employers responsibility to cover your medical expenses and lost wages, except when the injury is due to extreme negligence then you're on your own.  Employers pay into the Worker's Comp fund so that you are covered when you are injured.  In cases when you are paid (illegally) under the table, or in some contract or freelance situation you are responsible for your injuries.  If you're a normal employee and have an accident in the worklpace read on to learn what your next steps are.

Image courtesy of ZigaZou76 via Flikcr.
Image courtesy of ZigaZou76 via Flikcr.

Get Better!

In most injuries that I've seen the employee wants to return to work as soon as possible, usually before the doctor has cleared them to return.  They want to return because the Worker's Compensation usually only pays 60% of their normal wages and are strapped for cash.  This is a bad idea for two reasons: 1. You are running the risk of aggravating the injury further which will lead to 2. You are jeopardizing your employers and your Worker's Compensation coverage.  If your employer loses its coverage due to you coming back to work before a doctor clears you to do so you'll be stuck funding your healing on your own.

Also, keep in mind that doctors aren't idiots.  They probably have a good reason for keeping you from working for the period of time.  Just because you're feeling better doesn't mean you're ready to return to the job.  Many doctors will add on extra time to make sure that your injury is completely healed, this prevents you from missing more time later on from aggravating the injury.

McDonald's Denies Worker's Comp

Injuries Due To Negligence

If you are hurt by your employer's negligence you have some options for extra compensation.  Every case is different so I can't give any advice on yours, but I can show you what your options are.  Taking legal action against an employer is an option that you should discuss with a lawyer or attorney.  Personal injury attorneys are a dime a dozen, so be sure to get thorough references and discuss their experience before signing on with one.  Most legal cases for accidents at work are settled out of court.  Most employers choose to pay out to prevent the bad media that comes from a public court hearing.  If this is the route that you choose, be sure get documentation for everything that you do.  This includes medical records, documents that your employer gives you, and any sort of evidence that can prove employer negligence.  If there are any witnesses to your work injury it's a good idea to wait until you have legal representation before you start asking for statements.

Another option you have to go through Occupational Safety And Health Administration (OSHA).  Contacting OSHA will get the government involved in your situation.  When there are work injuries due to employer negligence, OSHA will drop the hammer on a company.  The outcomes will vary from fines to compensation to you.  Some legal cases will also involve OSHA.  The legal representation will have OSHA investigate the company to help build their case.

After The Dust Settles

If you return to the same job after taking legal action for your work accident, you have further rights to protect you.  OSHA has whistleblower protection, and most states have laws that prevent an employer from retaliation.  Keep your lawyer's phone number on speed dial in case you are getting harassed or treated unfairly after returning to the job.  Always keep in mind that you did the right thing, and you may have prevented an unnecessary fatality or more injuries by doing what you did.

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