What happens if you get hurt in the workplace? Find out what you need to know about workers’ compensation after an industrial accident.
Personal injuries happen in a variety of situations. Among these are injuries in the workplace, known as industrial accidents. Every job has its hazards.
Even office jobs that we don’t think of as dangerous can present risks. Slippery floors, repetitive stress injuries, and other hazards can cause serious problems, including traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Even so, some jobs are more dangerous than others.¹
Some of the riskiest jobs include:
- Construction worker
- Delivery driver
- Oil refinery worker
- Coal miner
Careless forklift operation can maim warehouse or construction workers. Badly maintained manufacturing equipment can amputate hands and feet. Improperly handled crude oil or ammonium nitrate can cause serious burns.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,333 workplace injuries in 2019. There were an average of 3.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.
Obviously, it is impossible to make anything 100% safe, nor can we prevent all workplace incidents. Injured workers can, though, hold the people who hurt them responsible.
This article will take a look at injuries arising from industrial accidents. First, we’ll look at some common types of workplace injuries and their causes. Second, we’ll look at government oversight and reporting of industrial accidents. Finally, we’ll talk about what you might need to do if you have suffered a workplace injury.
Industrial accidents are unique and complicated. You should take care in putting together your claim, and hire an attorney if necessary.
Injuries Caused by Industrial Accidents
Generally speaking, two things make an injury the result of an industrial accident. First, the injury happens at work. Second, the cause of the accident must be within the company’s control or responsibility.
Injuries caused by defective machinery or premises qualify as industrial accidents, as do actions taken by other employees who are acting in the scope of their duty. (For example, if a coworker makes a mistake that injures you, that is an industrial accident.)
Causes that are not within the control of a business or its workers are not industrial accidents.
Consider this example: Pauline and Margaret are working at a cannery. Pauline is not paying attention when using one of the canning machines and accidentally catches Margaret’s hand in the machine. Margaret loses two fingers. This would certainly be an industrial accident.
But what if Margaret is injured in a different way? Let’s say that she and Pauline are going to lunch at the diner next door. While she is ordering, Pauline accidentally hits Margaret in the head with a plate, causing Margaret to need stitches. Even though this injury involves the same people, it’s not an industrial accident because it does not happen under the cannery’s control.
Because there are so many industries in our country, “industrial accidents” is a broad term. There are categories of injuries, though, that often recur.
Common injuries resulting from industrial accidents:
- Closed-head brain injuries (including, concussions, brain contusions, and other TBI)
- Amputations by manufacturing or other industrial equipment
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Chemical exposure (e.g., asbestos or other carcinogens)
Whatever the actual injury, the cause is important. Some injuries, like being run over by a forklift, may be due to simple human error. Others, like a hand amputated by machinery, may be the result of many factors, including human error, bad equipment, or a lack of concern for workers.
Still, other injuries may have more insidious causes. If your company knowingly exposes you to hazardous chemicals, it can ruin your life. That intentional behavior is punishable both by criminal penalties and punitive damages.
Use Safe Workplace Laws to Help Your Claim
Hazardous workplace conditions are not just about the company and injured workers.
Many government agencies have an interest in making workplaces safe and preventing accidents. These agencies conduct their own investigations. They may also have information useful for your personal injury claim.
1. OSHA and Other Federal Agencies
The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that ensures our workplaces are as safe as possible. It creates workplace standards and regulations. It also investigates workplace health and safety complaints and safety violations.
If you suffer an industrial accident injury, OSHA is a good resource. You should review OSHA information and file a complaint if necessary. This process could help you later by preserving relevant evidence. It can also force your employer to provide information to OSHA. That information may be difficult or impossible to get in private litigation.
The federal government may have another interest in your industrial accident. If it involves a hazardous chemical or oil spill, other agencies may investigate.
If you are injured in a major industrial accident, there are more moving parts. Organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Coast Guard may get involved. They might conduct their own investigations and reach conclusions about the incident that are helpful to your claim.
For example, let’s say the EPA determined that your chemical plant’s negligence caused a toxic spill. If you suffered chemical burns from that spill, the investigation supports your claim. Agency records could give you powerful evidence for a lawsuit.
2. State and Local Government Resources
State and local governments are also concerned about safety violations that injure workers. California and Indiana, for example, have their own state-level OSHAs conducting workplace inspections. Like the federal agency, they accept complaints about workplaces in their respective states.
Other states accomplish these goals with different government agencies. In Texas, unsafe working conditions should be reported to the state Division of Workers Compensation. Massachusetts does it in partnership with OSHA and its own Workplace Safety and Health Program.
Don’t overlook local agencies, either. For example, the New York City Department of Buildings is in charge of making sure the buildings are safe. Because these violations are publicly recorded, they can be useful records to prove safety hazards.
Even if these agencies cannot help you with your specific company, they can still give critical information about safety rules and regulations. This information can help you craft a demand letter or lawsuit against the company responsible for your injury.
What to Expect If You Are Hurt
If you are injured in an industrial accident, you’ll have a lot to do.
First, you must make sure you’re getting adequate medical care. Without your health, you have nothing. Also, if you don’t take care of yourself after an accident, it may negatively impact your claim. This is because in most states you must mitigate your damages to win your claim.
Make sure you collect and preserve all evidence of your treatment. Important documents include medical bills and records of your prognosis. As always, your medical records and treatment history will be critical in getting you the compensation you deserve.
Besides recuperating from your injury, you may need to work with OSHA and other agencies investigating your accident. This may take considerable time and energy, but making sure that your incident is reported and documented can only help your claim in the long run. It can also prevent similar injuries to others.
Be careful not to rely solely on government investigators for your evidence. Talk to witnesses and coworkers for information that may be pertinent to your claim. Try to get written statements as close to the date of the injury as possible.
Most workplace injuries are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp will cover all your accident-related medical expenses and pay a non-taxable wage benefit.
You don’t have to prove the company was negligent to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. However, in most states injured workers are not allowed to sue the employer unless the employer was grossly or maliciously negligent.
You should consult with one or more injury lawyers. They can help you understand what type of evidence will help your claim. They can also help you negotiate with the insurance company. If necessary, they will help you file a lawsuit against your employer.
Stay Safe in the Workplace
Workplace injuries and accidents are common in many different settings. Companies have an obligation to protect the workers powering their business.
Government agencies make rules designed to keep you safe. When those regulations fail, you have to make an injury claim to get compensation. You should also not overlook the opportunity to assist in making your workplace safer.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an industrial accident, you have a lot on your plate. But it’s critical that you do not delay either reporting your injury or pursuing your rightful compensation. Contact a qualified personal injury law firm in your state for a free consultation.
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