Slip and Fall Injuries at Work

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 What Happens if I Slip and Fall at Work?

No one ever wants to be injured, especially not while on the job. However, workplace injuries are quite common in the United States. Sources indicate that at least one person is injured every seven seconds at work. Besides being painful, an injury can cost you money – time lost on the job, medical bills, and more.

If you have been injured at work due to a slip and fall accident, you may be able to sue your workplace to recover for your injuries, or you may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim.

Workers’ Compensation

Costs associated with on-the-job injuries are usually handled by your state’s workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation is a state-mandated insurance program that compensates employees who suffer injuries while on the job. The employee is guaranteed benefits without proving that the employer did something wrong. In return for workers’ compensation benefits, employees generally forfeit the right to sue their employer in court for damages for their injuries.

The qualifications for collecting workers’ compensation payments for an injury vary by state, but an employee must typically fulfill the following criteria:

  1. The person must have been hurt while working or as a consequence of the work environment
  2. The employee must have told their employer about the accident, generally within a few days to a few weeks
  3. The employee’s accident must have resulted in the need for medical care
  4. The employee must claim workers’ compensation with the proper state agency or insurance company.

Workers’ compensation benefits vary from state to state, but generally include:

  • Medical expenses: Such expenses include doctor appointments, hospital stays, medicines, and physical therapy
  • Lost pay: Employees are usually entitled to a portion of their lost pay when they cannot work due to an accident. The quantity and length of pay replacement benefits vary from state to state
  • Temporary disability benefits while you are unable to work
  • Permanent disability benefits: If an employee becomes permanently unable to work due to a job-related accident, they may be eligible for compensation for their loss of earning capability
  • Vocational training: Some states provide vocational rehabilitation benefits, including employment training or education
  • Death benefits: Employees’ dependents may be eligible for death benefits if an employee dies due to a job-related accident or sickness

What if My Employer Doesn’t Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

Not every company subscribes to workers’ compensation. If you are injured on the job, and your employer does not subscribe to workers’ compensation, the company may be liable for the full extent of your injuries.

  • Note: If your employer has workers’ compensation insurance, then the amount and type of compensation you may receive in a lawsuit will likely be quite limited. Unless the employer acted egregiously, such that punitive damages are merited, suing an employer with workers’ compensation insurance is not worth the trouble. (Punitive damages are high dollar value damages that a court awards as a form of punishment to a defendant. They are awarded in addition to any straightforward damages.)

If you learn that your workplace does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, then you may wish to file a civil lawsuit against them. You must prove that they were negligent to have a successful civil lawsuit against them.

How Do I Prove My Employer Was Negligent?

Slip and fall injuries fall under the umbrella of personal injury lawsuits. When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you are typically seeking to recover for expenses arising from the injuries you suffered. Although the laws vary by state, for your employer to be liable for damages you suffered from a slip and fall injury while working, you must prove that they were negligent.

To demonstrate that your employer was negligent, you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e., it is more likely than not) the following elements:

  1. That your employer had a duty to warn or protect you from harm. This element is usually easy to meet since your employer owes you a duty to keep your workplace a safe environment
  2. That your employer breached the duty of care owed to you. This means that your employer did not keep the workplace reasonably safe, and a dangerous condition that they knew or should have known to exist was present
  3. That your injuries occurred while on the job, and your expenses arose because of that injury
  4. Due to that breach of duty, you suffered measurable harm

What if My Employer Did Not Cause the Dangerous Condition?

As mentioned above, your employer owes you to keep your workplace safe and free from dangerous conditions. Dangerous conditions that may cause a slip-and-fall injury include icy sidewalks or puddles and defective staircases or ramps. Importantly, even if your employer did not cause the dangerous condition, they may still be liable if they knew about it but did nothing to fix it.

For example, if your employer knows that there is a hole in a walkway, and you trip and fall due to that hole, then they will likely be required to compensate you for your injuries because they knew (or should have known) about the hole and should have corrected it promptly.

Another example: if your employer requires you to come in to work during a snowstorm, they should know that the sidewalks leading into the workplace may be icy. Therefore, since they owe their employees a duty to keep the workplace free from danger, they should have removed the dangerous conditions (perhaps by salting the sidewalks). If you fall due to an icy sidewalk, your employer will be liable for your injuries.

You should make sure to collect all evidence of your employer’s wrongdoing. For example, you will want to obtain the accident report your employer filled out, if any. Additionally, you may want to obtain testimony from anyone who witnessed the incident.

Other helpful forms of evidence include any videotape that may have captured the incident or testimony (preferably through an affidavit) from anyone who made your employer aware of the dangerous condition. If your employer does not cooperate and refuses to provide you with this information, all of the information may be obtained during the civil discovery phase of litigation.

Should I Hire an Attorney for Help with a Workplace Slip and Fall Case?

Suing your employer to recover from injuries from a slip and fall accident is often difficult. Therefore, if you have been injured at your workplace, contacting a knowledgeable and well-qualified workplace injury attorney is important. An experienced personal injury attorney can advise you of your best legal action against your employer.

An attorney can file a civil lawsuit against your employer, representing your interests in court, or help you file a workers’ compensation claim if your employer carries that insurance. A lawyer may assist the employee through the complicated workers’ compensation legal procedure, including submitting a claim, appealing a refused claim, and negotiating a settlement.

It is important to contact an attorney as early as possible. Each state has a statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits (a statute of limitations is the time limit you have to file a suit). If you wait too long, you will not be able to file a lawsuit.

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