Injuries have been declining in the workplace for a few decades now due mostly to improved safety standards. However, many of the same difficulties and dangers still exist for workers.
What Is a Workplace Injury?
A work-related injury is an illness or injury that was caused by exposures or events in the workplace. Injuries at work occur on the job and are the direct result of tasks of a specific job. Workplace injuries or illnesses are usually physical, but psychological injuries may also occur.
Employees who have sustained a work-related injury may be compensated by their employer for lost wages and medical bills. Most employers are required by state and federal laws to provide worker’s compensation insurance, which will help employees recover from their workplace injury or illness. Some types of occupations such as independent contractors are not covered by workers’ compensation laws and in some cases, these employees may be eligible to sue employers for workplace injuries caused by violations of safety regulations.
Top Causes of Work-Related Injuries
At the top of the list of work-related injury causes are these three:
- Trips, slips, and falls
- Overexertion, body reactions
- Contact with equipment or objects
Surprisingly, the above three situations make up over 84% of nonfatal injuries that force employees to miss work. Let’s look at them more carefully below.
Trips, Slips, & Falls
- Tripping or slipping without falling – This occurs when employees don’t actually fall, because they catch themselves after tripping or slipping.
- A fall on the same level – This includes slipping and falling while sitting down, or falling against or onto an object that is on the same level.
- A fall to a lower level – This would include falls from scaffolding, roofs, or ladders; or a fall through a surface; or a fall from a collapsing item.
- A jump to a lower level – This is different from a fall, because it is voluntary and controlled.
Overexertion and Body Reactions
- No-impact injury – This occurs when excess physical effort is directed onto an outside source as in carrying, throwing, turning, holding, pushing or lifting.
- Repetitive motion – This happens when small tasks create strain or stress on a part of the body from the task’s repetitive nature without requiring strenuous effort.
Contact with Equipment or Objects
- A worker is struck by a moving object.
- A worker steps on, bumps into, or is thrown or pushed into an object.
- Some part of an employee’s body is compressed, pinched, crushed or squeezed in the following: equipment, or in a rope/wire, or between stationary or shifting objects.
- A worker gets caught, stuck or crushed in material, equipment or a collapsing structure.
- Pressure or friction between the source and the worker results in injury.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has compiled a listing of occupations that have the largest number of non-fatal workplace illnesses and injuries. In the agency’s Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report, we find that injuries related to the workplace are more prevalent than illnesses are. However, the occupations having the most workplace injuries also have the most workplace illnesses.
The report lists 10 occupations starting with the one that is the most dangerous and has the most work-related injuries that are non-fatal. The 10 occupations are:
- Health care field and social assistance had 32,700 illnesses and 544,800 injuries.
- Retail trade had 8,800 illnesses and 401,100 injuries.
- Manufacturing had 35,000 illnesses and 395,300 injuries.
- Food services and accommodations had 7,600 illnesses and 271,000 injuries.
- Warehousing and transportation had 8,300 illnesses and 213,100 injuries.
- Construction had 3,600 illnesses and 195,600 injuries.
- Wholesale trade had 3,700 illnesses and 157,100 injuries.
- Waste services and administrative had 5,800 illnesses and 112,800 injuries.
- Other services (not including public administration) had 1,900 illnesses and 70,800 injuries.
- Technical and professional services had 4,400 illnesses and 66,100 injuries.
When Is an Injury Work-Related?
It is imperative that employees suffering from a workplace injury confirm that the injury was work-related. The injury must have happened while the employee was performing his or her job duties or any other type of task on behalf of their employer.
Here are some important factors an employee should consider when determining whether their injury is work-related or not:
- Injuries that occur during a lunch break are usually not considered work-related unless it occurs on company property such as a cafeteria or involves the employer in some way.
- Injuries that occur at company events (parties, picnics, or social events) are usually considered work-related. Some states have exceptions where the employer doesn’t expect employees to participate in these events.
- Injuries, where a preexisting condition worsens, are usually considered work-related.
- Injuries that occur during the commute to or from work are usually not considered a work-related injury. The exceptions to this rule are when an employee is driving a company vehicle, traveling for business, using a personal vehicle for business use, or performing a special task for an employer. Jobs, where employees must travel regularly for work or do not have a fixed work site, are also an exception.
- Injuries that occur as a result of an employee acting against workplace safety rules are considered work-related and may still be covered by workers’ compensation. This depends on state laws and the level of misconduct.
- Injuries that occur over a cumulative period of time such as stress injuries and occupational diseases may be considered work-related and covered under workers’ compensation. However, it may be difficult to prove long-term physical injuries or psychological illnesses. There are rules and exceptions that vary by state, especially when it comes to emotional or stress injuries.
Steps After a Workplace Injury
Report the Accident Right Away. Many people fail to follow the most basic principle after being injured in a workplace accident. They fail to report it to the employer immediately. There are time restrictions for filing claims such as workers’ compensation. Every state has its own deadline. An employee who has been injured at work must report it properly to qualify to receive benefits. There are very few exceptions, but the faster the employer gets notification, the faster the information can be given to the insurer.
Because fraud is so rampant, an employer may suspect a false injury claim if there is a time delay in receiving the accident report. The integrity of the claim is less likely to be questioned if the injury is reported quickly.
Disclose All Previous Injuries. It is critical that injured employees disclose any past work-related injuries. Even if it seems the previous accident wasn’t significant, or if it hasn’t even been reported before now, it absolutely needs to be divulged to maintain the integrity of the current claim.
If a previous injury is not disclosed, the employer and the insurer could make a determination that fraud exists. In order to not be penalized, lose any compensation, or have to repay money already received, it is imperative that all former job-related injuries be reported.
Tell the Doctor About All Current Injuries. An injured employee needs to inform the physician of every injury symptom present from the accident. Don’t think that an aching shoulder is insignificant while concentrating on a broken leg. If all injuries are not initially reported, and then another one is brought up later, this action could give the impression that additional compensation is being sought through fraud.
An injured worker might not relate certain symptoms to the accident and, therefore, not mention them to the physician. Regardless, every symptom needs to be disclosed. Stomach distress, flu-like symptoms, blurry vision and motor function problems can be indications of further injury from a workplace accident. This is especially true if chemical exposure or head injury is involved.
Go Back to Work as Soon as Possible. The injured employee should go back to work right away after being released by the physician. It may be that the employee returns to find a lower-paying position is the only one available. However, the position should still be accepted. If refused, the company could interpret that as the employee voluntarily choosing loss of income. In these circumstances, the employer can discontinue compensation and any further benefits. Additionally, the employee could be terminated for “refusal to work.”
The returning worker may feel unable to perform the duties of the offered position. In any case, though, the employee must still try. If, after trying the duties, the worker cannot perform in this capacity, the employee should inform the company that the duties are beyond his or her restrictions and abilities.
Each state has its own version of workers’ compensation guidelines and laws. Because of the autonomy afforded to the independent states, the rights of injured workers can vary widely from one to another. Additionally, there are varying legal procedures for ensuring these rights.
In general, some legal rights remain the same for most of the states. These rights include:
- The right for a workplace illness or injury claim to be filed in a workers’ compensation court or in state industrial court
- The right to a physician’s care and to receive medical treatment
- The right to go back to work after being released from the doctor
- The right to some form of disability compensation if the illness or injury temporarily or permanently prevents returning to work
- The right to appeal any decision made by the workers’ comp court or the employer or an insurance company
- The right to have legal representation by an attorney during the entire process
An employee also needs to understand the right to decline offers or requests being presented. As an example, if a company asks an injured worker to use personal health insurance to cover medical care for an on-the-job injury, the worker has the right to refuse.
Additionally, if an employer promises an incentive to the injured worker if he or she will forego filing a claim, the employee should refuse the incentive. This is an illegal action on the part of the employer.
Laws in place in each state guarantee an injured worker the right to file a workers’ comp claim free of any harassment or reprisal from the employer. Severe penalties await any employer who creates difficulty for a worker who is exercising these rights. A supervisor or boss is strictly prohibited from harassing the worker or making it hard for the employee to fulfill work duties, if such behavior from the authority figure is in retaliation for a workers’ compensation claim.
When is an Attorney Needed?
The complicated nature of an on-the-job accident leads many injured workers to enlist the help of someone who has extensive legal knowledge and experience with these issues. The Eichholz Law Firm has successfully handled such cases and brought them to culmination with the injured worker getting proper, deserved compensation.
The following is a listing of circumstances where an injured worker would likely want to have experienced legal representation:
- A preexisting condition is involved
- A permanent disability rating is disputed
- Injured employee’s ability to work is negatively impacted
- Injured employee cannot receive proper treatment
- Injured employee already receives some government benefits
- A claim for workers’ compensation is denied
- A meeting is pending with workers’ comp representatives
A workplace injury may completely change the course of life for an affected employee. If the quality of living is affected for merely a number of months, it can still cause the injured worker to miss out on some very significant moments in life. For some accident victims, though, the injury causes such devastating health problems that their life never returns to any semblance of normal like it was before.
Workers’ compensation benefits often never even begin to touch on the real cost of a workplace accident. Legal counsel at The Eichholz Law Firm can help ascertain what a victim should really be receiving in the way of compensation.
Call the Eichholz Law Firm today at (855)-551-1019 or fill out an online form for a free consultation.