Injuries can occur as a result of accidents, or they can develop slowly over time. They can affect your ability to work and your quality of life. Some types of injuries can give you the right to recover damages from the person who caused your injuries or was responsible for them. A person who causes a car accident, for example, could be liable for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages suffered by people who were injured in the accident. If you have suffered injuries while working, you might be able to recover damages through the worker’s compensation system. “Worker’s comp” pays benefits to eligible injured workers regardless of who was at fault for the injuries. You might also have a legal claim against your employer or someone else. A personal injury attorney with experience handling workplace injury claims can tell you more about your legal rights. They can help you prepare a claim for damages and advocate for you in worker’s comp proceedings or in court. Read on to learn more about what you can do if you have suffered a workplace injury.

What are work-related injuries?

The term “work-related injury” could refer to any injury sustained while working, but it often has a more specific meaning. State worker’s comp laws define the term as injuries that a worker sustains in the course of performing their ordinary job duties. It includes injuries that occur both at and away from a worksite, as long as the worker was doing their job at the time the injury occurred. A delivery driver, for example, can sustain a work-related injury in a car accident as long as they were making deliveries at that time.

Work-related injuries can result from  a wide range of events, including:

  • Slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidents;
  • Falls from a height;
  • Falling tools, equipment, or materials;
  • Car or truck accidents;
  • Construction accidents;
  • Defective equipment;
  • Improperly-handled equipment;
  • Negligence or carelessness;
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals;
  • Overexertion, such as from lifting heavy objects or working in hot conditions;
  • Repetitive motion, such as typing or operating a machine; and
  • Intentional acts, including violent acts like assault.

Injuries that may result from incidents in the workplace may include:

  • Bruises;
  • Cuts;
  • Torn or sprained ligaments or tendons;
  • Broken bones;
  • Whiplash;
  • Back and neck injuries;
  • Spinal cord injuries;
  • Traumatic brain injuries;
  • Herniated discs;
  • Crush injuries;
  • Burns;
  • Electrocution;
  • Heat stroke;
  • Dehydration;
  • Repetitive motion injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome;
  • Illness caused by hazardous chemical exposure;
  • Amputation; and
  • Wrongful death.

Some injuries sustained in the workplace or while on the clock might not count as “work-related injuries,” at least in a legal sense. If the injured person was doing something other than their job duties at the time they sustained the injury, they could be ineligible for some types of damages, such as worker’s comp. The delivery driver mentioned above might not be “on the job” if they are taking a detour from their delivery route to handle a personal matter. A construction worker might not be performing their job duties if they are behaving recklessly on the worksite.

Each state has its own laws relating to personal injury claims and worker’s comp. A workplace injury attorney in your area can advise you about the specific requirements for asserting legal or insurance claims.

What steps should I take after a work-related accident?

If you are involved in a work-related accident, you need to act quickly to take care of yourself and others and protect your legal rights. Each workplace accident presents unique circumstances, but the following steps can help you preserve evidence that you will need for a legal claim. A personal injury lawyer can assist you with many of these steps.

Get somewhere safe

Some workplace accidents present an ongoing danger to yourself and others. Get yourself to safety if possible so that you can see how badly you are hurt.

Seek medical assistance

You might need immediate medical attention, depending on the extent of your injuries. You or someone else might need to call 911 to request paramedics.

If you do not need medical care right away, see a doctor as soon as possible after the accident. They can diagnose your injuries and provide documentation that will be necessary to claim damages.

Contact the police if necessary

Some situations, such as a car accident, may require police involvement. The police will prepare an accident report that you can include with your claim.

Document your injuries

If possible, take pictures of your injuries as soon as possible after the accident. Write down as much as you can about your injuries. You might also keep a journal in the weeks and months after the accident to document how your injuries are affecting you. Have your injuries kept you from working? How have they affected your quality of life?

Document the accident site

Try to take pictures of the scene of the accident if possible, but do not put yourself in harm’s way. If the police are present, do not get in the way of their investigation. When you are able to do so, write down as much as you can remember about the accident. Include information about what happened, when it happened, who was involved, and who witnessed it.

Talk to witnesses

Identify as many witnesses as you can. An attorney can help you get statements from people who could serve as witnesses in a worker’s comp claim or lawsuit.

Notify your employer

Let your employer know that you have sustained a work-related injury. Most states require you to submit a formal notice before you can make a worker’s comp claim.

Contact a worksite injury attorney

An experienced worksite injury lawyer can offer invaluable help during this process. You might be seriously injured, so the last thing on your mind is how to build a legal case. Your attorney can handle many of the steps on this list so you can focus on recovering from your injuries.

What about work-related injuries that do not result from accidents?

Not all work-related injuries result from accidents. Some occur slowly and might only become noticeable over time. Injuries from repetitive motion, overexertion, or toxic chemical exposure, for example, can take months or years to become noticeable. Eventually, they can have a serious impact on your quality of life. The following steps can help you prepare a claim for damages:

Seek medical attention

As soon as possible after you become aware of your injury, talk to a doctor and get a diagnosis. You might need treatment or surgery.

Document your injuries and the worksite

When an injury develops over time, it can sometimes be difficult to connect it to your job. You must be able to demonstrate that the injury resulted from your job duties and not anything that happened outside of work.

You might not have visible injuries that you can photograph, but you can create a written record of your condition and its effect on you. You might also be able to take pictures of the area or areas where your injury has developed. If you have a repetitive-motion injury from operating a machine, for example, you could take pictures of the machine and your workspace.

You can also identify witnesses who can talk about your job and the working conditions you face. They can help you establish how your specific injuries were the result of your daily job duties.

Notify your employer

As with any on-the-job injury, you must notify your employer about it. You may also have to inform them that you will be filing a claim with worker’s comp or their insurance company.

Talk to a worksite injury lawyer

A personal injury attorney can help you build a case for damages due to long-term work-related injuries. They can gather documentation and evidence that connects your injuries to your job. You can then direct your attention to healing.

What legal remedies do I have for a work-related injury?

The types of damages that you can recover depend on the laws in your state and the nature of your injuries. You might be able to file a worker’s comp claim, which will cover damages like out-of-pocket expenses and lost wages. Other types of damages might require a lawsuit, which will be subject to the laws of your state.

What damages can I recover?

Personal injury law recognizes three main types of damages:

  • Economic damages: Also known as “actual damages,” these are losses that come directly out of your pocket, such as:
    • Medical bills;
    • Lost wages;
    • Future medical expenses;
    • Loss of future wages or earning capacity;
    • The cost of modifying your home, such as adding a wheelchair ramp;
    • Home care expenses, which may include services like caregivers and grocery delivery; and
    • Funeral expenses in wrongful death claims.
  • Non-economic damages: This type of damages compensates you for the impact of your injuries on your quality of life. Unlike economic damages, you cannot prove non-economic damages by showing receipts, invoices, or pay stubs. They are much more subjective than that. Examples of non-economic damages may include:
    • Pain and suffering;
    • Emotional distress;
    • Loss of enjoyment of life;
    • Disfigurement; and
    • Loss of consortium, which is a claim that an injured worker’s spouse or partner can bring for the loss of intimacy or affection caused by their injuries.
  • Punitive damages: The purpose of both economic and non-economic damages is to compensate an injured worker for their lossies. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are about punishing someone for egregious behavior or gross negligence. State laws only allow punitive damages in limited circumstances.

What is worker’s compensation?

Recovering damages for an injury usually requires proof that someone is legally at fault. Worker’s comp insurance, however, pays benefits to eligible workers no matter who is at fault for their injuries. Every state in the country except Texas requires employers to have worker’s comp insurance.

There are a few catches to this system:

  • In exchange for not having to prove fault, workers who recover benefits from worker’s comp waive the right to make any further legal claims against their employers. In other words, if you receive worker’s comp benefits, you cannot sue your employer over your injury.
  • Worker’s comp typically only pays economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages.

How do I get damages from worker’s comp?

While each state has its own procedures for worker’s comp claims, they have numerous similarities:

  • File a claim: The process begins when you file a claim with the worker’s comp system.
  • Participate in the review process: They will review the claim, and they may request additional information from you. You may have to see a doctor assigned by worker’s comp, who will provide their own assessment of your injuries. You have the right to see your own doctor for treatment.
  • Attend a hearing: Your attorney can advocate for you before an administrative law judge (ALJ) if necessary.
  • Appeal a denial of benefits: If the ALJ or another official denies your claim, you can appeal to a review board.

Can anyone besides my employer be liable for damages?

In some situations, you might be able to claim damages from someone other than your employer. Suppose your injuries resulted from a car accident while you were driving as part of your job. The other driver could be liable for your injuries. If defective machinery or hazardous chemicals caused your injuries, the manufactuer could be legally responsible. A personal injury lawyer can advise you about your specific case.

Do I need an attorney to file a Workplace Injury lawsuit?

Our legal system does not require you to have an attorney when you file a lawsuit or other claim for a workplace injury. A lawyer has experience and knowledge that can vastly improve your claim’s chances of success. The Cochran Firm can help you with your claim in a vast number of ways:

  • Gathering evidence of your injuries, including medical records, employment records, photographs, and witness statements;
  • Creating a strategy for your legal claim with the worker’s comp system, the insurance companies, or the courts;
  • Drafting claim paperwork that addresses all of your legal rights;
  • Advocating for you before ALJs and judges;
  • Taking the burden of asserting your rights off of your shoulders, allowing you to take better care of yourself and your injuries.

Do not wait to assert your legal rights

The Cochran Firm was founded over 50 years ago by famed litigator Johnnie Cochran. Over the years, it has become one of the nation’s top plaintiffs’ litigation and criminal defense firms. Its knowledgeable and skilled workplace injury attorneys advocate for the rights of clients who have suffered harm because of on-the-job injuries and accidents. The firm handles all workplace injury and wrongful death cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that you owe the firm nothing until they recover money for you.

Our call center staff is available 24/7 to discuss your case. Contact us today to speak with a Cochran Firm intake specialist or attorney and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation:

Our team will discuss your legal matter with the confidentiality, understanding, and respect you deserve.