One out of four workplace injuries is the result of a slip and fall accident. Here’s how to get the compensation you deserve after being injured in a fall at work.
Slip and falls are one of the most common types of work-related accidents. The U.S. Department of Labor reports slips, trips, and falls cause over 25 percent of worker injuries resulting in days missed from work.¹
According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatal work injuries from falls, slips, and trips have continued to trend upward since 2011, to more than 800 workers killed annually. ²
Occupations with the highest percentage of fall-related fatalities are roofers, carpenters, tree trimmers and pruners, and tractor-trailer truck drivers.
Common Causes of Falls at Work
- Spilled liquids
- Cracked, torn or uneven flooring
- Inadequate or non-existent warning signs
- Poor lighting
- Holes in the floor
- Broken or uneven stairs
- Cables, cords, or wires stretched across the floor
- Abrupt, unexpected elevator stops
Filing Your Workers’ Comp Injury Claim
Employees injured in workplace accidents have a right to workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ comp benefits normally include payment of medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses (for medications, crutches, etc.), and approximately two-thirds of wages lost during treatment and recovery.
Workers’ comp insurance is good for employees because they don’t have to prove the employer was at fault for their injury. Workers can qualify for benefits, even when the injury was their fault, with certain limitations.
Example: Server disregards “Wet Floor” sign
Alex worked as a server at a local restaurant. He knew that he could increase his tips by serving more customers, so he worked as fast as possible.
The restaurant was very busy one evening when another server dropped a tray, spilling water and soda on the floor. The supervisor had a kitchen worker promptly mop up the spill, but the area was still slick. The supervisor also placed several “Wet Floor” signs in the area.
Workers had been trained never to walk through an area marked with Wet Floor signs.
The slick area blocked Alex’s quickest path to his designated serving area. He had to walk entirely around the restaurant to get to his tables.
Alex decided getting to his customers was more important than the risk of walking on a wet floor. Ignoring the signs and his training, Alex hurried through the slick area, fell and broke his leg.
Despite disregarding his training, the signs, and his common sense, Alex was still entitled to full workers’ compensation benefits. His actions did not rise to a level necessary to deny him coverage.
Immediately Notify Your Employer
First things first. Get emergency medical attention as needed if you’ve suffered a slip and fall accident at work. Then, promptly notify your employer of the accident.
Some workers are seriously hurt in slip and falls with injuries that are easy to see, like broken bones, bleeding wounds, or loss of consciousness. Sometimes, a worker can be seriously injured, like with a head injury, and the symptoms develop over hours or days.
Many other workers suffer soft tissue injuries from slips, trips or falls at work. Soft tissue injuries can be bruises, sprains, and strains to muscles, tendons or joints. The pain and stiffness from a soft tissue injury may not kick in for a day or two.
Don’t laugh off a slip and fall at work. You may be embarrassed because you made an error, or don’t want to say anything until you can’t straighten up the next day.
It’s illegal for your boss to come after you for reporting a work-related injury or filing a workers’ compensation claim. Immediately contact a workers’ compensation attorney if you are afraid of losing your job over a workplace injury.
Never put off telling your employer about the accident. Include details about what caused the fall, mentioning any body parts that were twisted or impacted, if you hit your head, felt pain or dizziness, or any other details that can indicate potential injuries from the fall.
Your right to be compensated for your injury can depend on prompt reporting of the accident to your employer.
The workers’ comp insurance company will jump at the chance to deny your claim, by arguing that your injury didn’t happen on the job, or that you couldn’t be hurt too badly, or you would have reported the accident sooner.
File Your Workers’ Comp Claim
After notifying your employer of the accident and your injury, you should be given the forms and instructions for filing your workers’ compensation claim.
Telling your employer isn’t enough. You must file a workers’ comp claim within the deadline in your state or risk losing the right to compensation for your injuries.
Contact your State Workers’ Compensation Office for more information about your state’s claim filing forms and deadlines.
If you’re taken to the emergency room or urgent care right after the accident, workers’ comp will cover those costs. Any medical care and treatment after that will have to come from doctors who are pre-approved by the insurance company.
If you believe your physician isn’t acting in good faith, or that your injury is more serious than the doctor reports, you may request a second opinion from another company-approved physician.
You can see your personal physician, but there’s no guarantee you’ll be reimbursed by workers’ comp. Depending on the state, you may be allowed to change doctors after a specified time period and still have coverage for your medical bills.
Your total compensation may include a lump-sum settlement if your treating physician determines you’ve been permanently disabled by your injuries.
Definition of Workers’ Comp Disability Categories
- Temporary Total Disability completely prevents you from working for a limited amount of time.
- Temporary Partial Disability prevents you from doing some, but not all of your job duties for a limited amount of time.
- Permanent Total Disability prevents you from ever returning to work, whether for your current employer or another employer.
- Permanent Partial Disability is a permanent injury that partially impairs your ability to work.
When Your Worker’s Comp Claim is Denied
If you were injured while intoxicated or committing a crime, your claim could legitimately be denied. In some states, you may be denied workers’ compensation benefits if you were hurt while violating company rules.
Here’s what to do if your worker’s compensation claim is unfairly denied.
Filing a Third-party Injury Lawsuit
Most workplace slip and fall accidents limit an injured employee to the benefits available from workers’ compensation.
You can’t sue your employer unless they caused your injury by “gross negligence,” meaning your employer did something extremely shocking and outrageous that led to your fall.
Sometimes workers are injured by circumstances caused by a third-party (an individual or business other than your employer.) In these cases, the injured worker has grounds for a third-party lawsuit for compensation in addition to workers’ compensation.
Workers’ compensation benefits are limited to approved medical costs and a portion of your lost wages.
With a third-party lawsuit, you can demand compensation for all of your medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses, replacement service costs, consortium claims by family members, the full amount of lost wages, lost future earnings, and an amount for your pain and suffering.
To have a legitimate third-party injury claim, proof must exist that a party other than the employer was negligent, and the other party’s negligence is directly responsible for the injury.
Example: Roofer Knocked Off Ladder
Henry worked for a construction company as a roofer. His job duties took him from one building site to another, and he worked with several private sub-contractors on each site.
While Henry was climbing a ladder to a roof, an employee for a lumber company backed his truck up to the site. He struck the ladder, causing Henry to fall more than thirty feet to the ground.
Henry suffered a fractured arm and several broken bones in his legs, some requiring surgical insertion of rods and pins.
He collected benefits through his employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. He also retained a personal injury attorney to file a third-party lawsuit against the lumber company.
Henry won his lawsuit and was compensated for all his damages, including his pain and suffering.
Reimbursing Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation laws permit insurance companies to recover benefit payments when the same worker receives a settlement in a third-party claim or lawsuit.
Talk with an experienced attorney about the pros and cons of a third-party injury lawsuit.
The awards from third-party lawsuits are usually so much more than the workers’ compensation benefits that the injured worker still comes out ahead, even after paying attorney fees.
Maximizing Slip and Fall Compensation
Workers’ compensation claims for minor slip and fall injuries are usually straightforward. If you’ve suffered a minor soft-tissue injury like a sprained ankle or torn muscle, and you expect to fully recover in a few weeks, you probably won’t need an attorney to help with your claim.
Of course, if your claim is denied, your employer is hassling you, or you just don’t want to deal with the insurance company’s games, don’t hesitate to consult an attorney. There’s no obligation, and you’ll feel better when you know where you stand.
If you are seriously injured, especially if you may be totally or partially disabled, you have too much to lose by tackling the insurance company on your own.
Disabling injuries are high-dollar worker’s comp claims. You will usually be entitled to a lump-sum settlement in addition to the standard worker’s comp benefits. The insurance company is not on your side and has plenty of tricks to avoid paying a large settlement to claimants like you.
Insurance companies are notorious for under-calculating wage replacement benefits and making lower offers to claimants who aren’t represented by an attorney.
Protect yourself and your family’s financial future. It costs nothing to find out the full value of your injury claim and what a skilled workplace injury attorney can do for you.
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Slip and Fall at Work Questions & Answers
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