The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency charged with protecting the safety of 130 million workers (according to OSHA). 2015 statistics quoted on their site state that 4,836 workers were killed on the job. The fatality number is down from almost 3 times the amount in 1970, showing some of the important work that OSHA has been accomplishing. However, if you are one of the 4.1 million American workers hurt on the job in a given year, you certainly want to know your legal rights.
WHAT IS A WORK ACCIDENT?
Work accidents are injuries that occur at work that are unintentional. They generally are accidents occurring in connection with the person’s duties. The most common accidents include ones associated with heavy lifting, falling object, ladders or stairs, vehicular injuries, or slips. Imagine you had an accident with a slush maker machine.
WHAT TO DO?
The first step after an accident is to create an accident report. Even if you are not sure if you are really injured or not, there are often short windows of time to report your accident to be eligible for compensation. In the end, if you are not injured, there is no harm in having reported it and can help to alert your employer of unsafe conditions. Similarly, dependent upon the severity of the injury, an emergency room or doctor’s visit should be sought quickly after the accident. Many employers have a doctor they work with for workplace injuries – you would be required to see that doctor if you are seeking compensation from your employer. However, it is also your right to seek a second opinion if you do not agree with the report. It is also helpful to schedule an appointment with your regular practitioner as they know you better than a doctor seeing you for a first visit.
Nearly every employer is required to maintain workplace insurance that provides workers compensation coverage for employees. A worker does not have to prove employer negligence to collect workers’ compensation. However, if an employee is compensated under workers’ compensation, the employee cannot sue their employer. Employees are encouraged to follow-up with their employer to ensure that the claim was filed. You are also allowed to obtain a copy of the claim.
Even with workers’ compensation, there are attorneys available for consultation to make sure you are receiving the benefits you are entitled to receive. In addition, there are times when legal disputes can arise between employee and employer, especially if employer is not willing to take any responsibility for injuries. If there is a disagreement, you should make sure to keep all documents related to the injury, including time sheets, pay stubs, medical treatment, medical records, and statements from coworkers who witnessed the event. A lawyer should definitely be consulted if there were other characteristics associated with the injury such as being injured by a defective product or by a toxic substance, if your employer does not have workers’ compensation, or if your employer does not act in a responsible way to handle the situation.