Suffering a personal injury at work can be stressful both for the injury itself and from pressure to not report the injury. Especially for relatively minor injuries, you may feel uncomfortable telling your boss about the injury thinking it isn’t severe enough to even mention. Not reporting a work-related injury can be a serious mistake, especially if a minor event later leads to serious injury. Failing to report even a minor injury is probably a risk not worth taking. Each state operates workers compensation laws different, but no matter your injury, you should be covered. While workers compensation coverage may be limited, it’s a secure resource to help cover your losses (and it’s a lot better than trying to collect from a bankrupt or zero-asset employer).
People often think about industrial accidents when they think about workers compensation. Keep in mind, however, that other less traumatic injuries can also be debilitating. Take, for example, a secretary who dedicated years to typing and data entry and now cannot even tie her own shoes due to carpal tunnel syndrome. Some seemingly minor injuries can have lifelong profound effects, and when they’re caused by on-the-job activities, workers compensation is there as a safety net. The best way to see if your injuries may be covered is to speak with a workers compensation attorney today.
Sometimes just being at work and being injured is not enough to qualify you for workers compensation coverage. Contact a personal injury lawyer and explain your situation. A thoroughly evaluation is necessary to see if your case might be covered by workers compensation. Here are a few scenarios that might be outside workers compensation coverage:
Your lunch hour: Personal injury suffered during your off-the-clock lunch break can be a tricky situation. You may not be eligible for workers compensation benefits if you tripped and broke your wrist while walking to the deli for a sandwich. But what if your personal injury happened in the company’s cafeteria or in the conference room? What if you were also picking up a sandwich for your boss or coworkers?
Travel: Your commute to and from work usually isn’t considered work-related. However, if you are traveling under company orders, driving a company vehicle or the nature of your work requires you to constantly be on the go, a personal injury suffered during work-related travel probably will be covered. Business travel outside your usual commute is also likely covered by workers compensation, but might also give rise to a negligence claim against non-employees or others.
Work Events: What about company events that are not on-the-clock and are not mandatory? Injuries incurred during company-sponsored sporting events, picnics, team-building exercises, work summits, holiday parties all may give rise to workers compensation coverage, but each situation will require a careful analysis of the facts. A good workers compensation attorney can assess the facts and help you decide if a workers compensation claim is the right approach.
Workplace Misconduct: Interestingly enough, workers’ compensation may cover a personal injury incident in which you were breaking a safety rule, performing a prohibited act, or even acting in a criminal manner. As a general rule, you do not have the right to sue your employer for workplace personal injuries since workers compensation applies regardless of who is at fault. However, if your injury was self-inflicted, you may not be eligible for benefits.
Illness and Disease: Suffering a life-threatening disease is not usually what someone thinks about when they think of workers compensation. However, your work environment can lead to injuries that don’t arise until years later. For example, asbestosis exposure and black lung disease are proven work-related injuries even though they developed years after the fact. When you consider work-related injuries, it’s not just about trauma. Understanding how your medical condition relates to your employment history can be difficult without the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Loss of Hearing: Hearing loss is a serious personal injury most common in loud work environments, such as construction sites or industrial factories. Hearing loss usually develops over a longer period of time. Work-related hearing loss should be covered by workers compensation, but don’t be surprised if you are asked about other possible causes.
Mental Conditions: From high-stress situations to witnessing a traumatic event at work leading to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), mental trauma or illness may be covered by workers compensation. Proving a mental trauma or illness can sometimes be difficult, especially if there is not a single traumatic experience to relate to. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you evaluate the situation and make informed choices.
Preexisting Conditions: A personal injury stemming from a preexisting condition may be covered by workers compensation. For example, you may have suffered from a bulged disc for years, but when you attempted to lift a heavy box at work your disk ruptures. While you may be covered by workers compensation, the success of your claim may depend on the way you, your doctor and your attorney approach the situation.
Workers Compensation and Defective Machines
If you suffered a personal injury from a defective machine or industrial equipment, your best recovery might not be under workers compensation. Defective machines are either build inherently dangerous (for example, without adequate guards or warnings) or they have a one-of-a-kind defect. Either way, you may have a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of a defecting machine, which may yield greater results for you. There are other types of cases that can get you outside workers compensation limits. These include chemical injuries (toxic tort lawsuits), intentional or willful conduct (for example, if your boss punches you in the nose, you can sue outside workers compensation), or for a third party’s conduct (or example, you’re in a car crash on-the-job but the other driver is at fault).
If you are unsure how to proceed, or which option to pursue to get you the maximum recovery possible, talk to a personal injury lawyer before you do anything else.