Visitor Question

Recourse for injured mail carrier?

Submitted By: Anonymous (Menomonie, Wisconsin)

I was injured on February 17 while walking my route delivering mail. I slipped on ice and fell while delivering mail to a private home.

My head hit the ice so hard that it bounced up and whipped forward. I’m not sure if my head hit the ice again afterwards, because I don’t remember anything after my neck whipping forward and feeling all my muscles pulling.

I broke my tailbone, got whiplash, hurt my hips, and got a concussion that is now a post concussion.

Then in October, I had medical restrictions to limit my days to 8 hours on really painful days.

On October 27th I informed my supervisor that I was really in pain and could barely function. My supervisor told me that they could not honor my restrictions even though I was showing over 3.5 hours of overtime on my route.

The supervisor said she had to help the carriers who were not on the overtime list first, and because I was on the overtime list she could not help me, even though I had restrictions.

The longer hours made my injuries so bad on the 27th that I called in sick about 7 times over the next 2 weeks. During that time I went to the doctor or ER about 5 or 6 times thinking I was going to die or be paralyzed.

Do I have any recourse against the postal service for disregarding my restrictions? Is it too late for a third-party lawsuit against the homeowner?

Thank you for whatever information you can give me.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your email. Your employer should’ve accommodated your work restrictions. But while you can’t file a lawsuit against the postal service, you can likely initiate a third-party suit against the homeowner.

Work Restrictions

When you receive medical treatment for a work-related injury, your doctor may place restrictions on your work duties or performance.

Your employer can’t fire you for these restrictions. Also, employers can’t force you to not follow these restrictions. Instead, employers must comply with your restrictions and, if applicable, find you alternative work.

We recommend that you speak with your supervisor and professionally explain the information above.

If the supervisor continues to disregard your restrictions, you should contact an attorney for help. An injury lawyer can explain the pertinent laws to your employer and help ensure that it adheres to your restrictions.

Lawsuits Against the Government

The federal government and its agencies are immune from public employer liability, including personal injury claims by federal workers alleging that the agency acted carelessly or negligently.

In short, you can’t sue the postal service on the grounds that it ignored your restrictions and helped cause your injuries.

Third-Party Suit

While you can’t sue your employer, you can pursue compensation via a third-party lawsuit against the homeowner. The homeowner here is a non-government person who helped bring about your injuries.

You can file a slip and fall suit against the homeowner to recover your medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. To succeed, you’ll need to prove that the homeowner was negligent.

The critical elements of negligence in a slip and fall case are:

  • Duty of Care: The property owner had a duty to avoid causing harm to others.
  • Breach of Duty: The property owner breached their duty by doing something wrong or failing to do what any reasonable owner would do in the same circumstances.
  • Cause: The property owner’s breach of their duty of care was the proximate cause of your injuries.
  • Damages: You have provable injuries, supported by medical bills and records, and other documentation of expenses.

Here, it’s likely that you can show duty, cause, and damages. Homeowners have a general duty to clear ice and snow from their driveways or paths. The ice in this case obviously caused you to slip, and you were clearly damaged in your fall.

We’d need more facts, though, to say that the homeowner breached their duty of care with any level of certainty. The key question turns on whether they:

  • Ignored the ice
  • Made a futile attempt to remove the ice
  • Reasonably tried to clear the ice and create a safe environment

If the first or second scenario, then the homeowner probably breached their duty of care. In the third scenario, the homeowner likely upheld their duty by making a reasonable effort to keep the walkway safe.

Contact an Attorney for Help

We recommend contacting a local personal injury lawyer to discuss the strength and value of your injury claim. A local attorney will know the specific codes and applicable case law to help determine whether the property owner was negligent.

Also, Wisconsin law says that an injured victim must file a personal injury lawsuit within three years from the date of the injury. This is known as a statute of limitations.

An attorney will help ensure that you timely file your insurance claim or lawsuit and help protect any compensation you may recover from the homeowner’s insurance company.

Keep in mind, as well, that if you recover money from the homeowner for your slip and fall injuries, federal law requires that you must reimburse the federal worker’s comp system for its payments made to you.

A lawyer will help make sure that this reimbursement doesn’t mean depleting a substantial portion of a favorable settlement or jury award.

Learn more here: Federal Workers' Compensation Claims

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,

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