A slip and fall at work should be covered by your employer’s workers’ comp insurance. Here’s what to do after a fall to maximize your compensation.
Slip and falls are one of the most common types of workplace 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.
No matter your line of work, you could be seriously injured by a workplace fall. Knowing what to do after an on-the-job injury can help you maximize your workers’ compensation benefits and preserve your legal rights to compensation from other potential sources.
What to Do After a Fall at Work
1. Get Prompt Medical Treatment
First, get emergency medical attention as needed. If you don’t need an ambulance, at least go to an urgent care center or get checked by your primary care provider.
It’s best to seek medical treatment the same day as the slip and fall. Tell your medical providers exactly when, where, and how you were injured.
To protect your right to compensation, it’s critical to have medical records that link your injuries to the workplace slip and fall. Don’t wait to see how you feel over the weekend, or the insurance company can say your injury didn’t happen at work.
2. Immediately Notify Your Employer
After getting prompt medical care, promptly notify your employer of the accident. Include details about what caused the fall, describing any body parts that were twisted or impacted, if you hit your head, felt pain or dizziness, or any other details that indicate potential injuries from the fall.
Your right to injury compensation can depend on reporting the accident to your employer quickly.
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.
Delayed Symptoms are Common
Some workers are seriously hurt in slip and falls, with visible injuries like broken bones, bleeding wounds, or loss of consciousness. Sometimes, a worker can have serious injuries that aren’t visible, like with a closed head injury. Their symptoms can develop over hours or even days.
Many other workers suffer soft tissue injuries from slips, trips, or falls at work. Soft tissue injuries include 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.
The more time between when you suffer your injury and when you report it to your employer, the greater the chances workers’ comp will deny your claim. Don’t wait. Report your injury as soon as possible.
3. File Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
After notifying your employer of the accident and your injury, you should be given the forms and instructions for filing a 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.
4. Check Your Wage Benefit Calculations
Worker’s comp wage replacement benefits are roughly two-thirds of your average wages for the prior 12 to 18 months. If the workers’ comp insurance company makes a mistake, you can be sure it won’t be in your favor.
An easy way to maximize your compensation is to double-check the workers’ comp insurance company’s calculation of your wage replacement benefits to make sure they came up with the correct amount.
You have a right to see the amounts they used to account for your prior year’s wages. Be sure they included any raises you received, and perks like a gas or meal allowance.
If you find any discrepancies, notify the workers’ compensation insurance company in writing. Keep a copy of the letter for your records. If the insurance company ignores your letter, or refuses to adjust the calculation, contact a workers’ compensation attorney.
Benefits Included in Workers’ Compensation
Employees injured in workplace accidents have a right to receive benefits from workers’ compensation.
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 the level necessary to deny him coverage.
Common Causes of Falls at Work:
- Spilled liquids
- Cracked, torn or uneven carpeting or 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
Medical Care After the Accident
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 get coverage for your medical bills.
Your total compensation may include a lump-sum settlement if your treating physician determines you’ve suffered a permanent disability from your work 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 personal injury claim or lawsuit against the at-fault third party. You can seek compensation from the third party in addition to your workers’ comp benefits.
Workers’ compensation benefits are generally limited to approved medical expenses 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 attorney for solid legal advice about the pros and cons of a third-party injury lawsuit.
Awards from third-party lawsuits are usually much more than workers’ compensation benefits, so 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. Most injury attorneys offer a free consultation to injury victims. There’s no obligation, and you’ll feel better when you know where you stand.
Compensation for Serious Injuries
If you are seriously injured, especially if you may be totally or partially disabled, you have too much to lose by fighting the insurance company on your own.
Disabling injuries are high-dollar 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 large settlements 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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