Trip and fall accidents happen in all types of workplaces, from office buildings with few apparent hazards to construction sites littered with dangerous equipment. Slick spots on the floor, debris, misplaced equipment, and uneven flooring can all cause trip and fall accidents. If you make sure to take the appropriate steps following your trip and fall accident, you can increase your legal protection and help prevent yourself from missing out on valuable compensation.
What Should You Do After a Trip and Fall?
Did you suffer a trip and fall accident at work? Your first thought might include getting back on your feet and to your job responsibilities. After all, you have work to do, and you do not want to get in trouble for perceived “slacking off” or failing to complete your job duties. If you tripped and fell at work, however, making sure to take the right steps can help increase the odds that you will receive compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
Step One: Seek Medical Attention
Any time you suffer workplace injuries, even if you think they are minor, you need to seek medical attention. Many companies have policies that require injured employees to immediately seek medical attention. Some companies may have a nurse or clinic on site, while others may have a specific clinic that they prefer you use. Others may allow you to seek medical attention from your preferred provider. Any time you trip and fall, however, you should see a doctor for evaluation. Immediate evaluation of your injuries can protect both you and your company. If you suffered serious injuries, you may require ambulance transport immediately to the emergency room. Minor injuries may result in a trip to urgent care at the end of your business day.
When you seek medical attention, keep track of any evidence of your injuries, which may include:
- Copies of any scans or x-rays
- Your medical records, including the bill for your visit to a clinic or emergency room
- Photos of your injuries
- Any statements made by physicians who examined your injuries
Step Two: Look for and Document Evidence
What caused you to trip and fall? Many things can contribute to trip and fall accidents, including things that your employer should have taken care of and that no one could have controlled. If you know the cause of your fall, document it. Use your camera phone to snap a quick picture. Also, consider the following:
- Unexpectedly wet flooring with no sign identifying it
- Uneven flooring, especially flooring that has grown warped with age
- Detritus cluttering the floor, especially in areas that should remain free of trip hazards
- Potholes in the parking lot
- Cracks in the floor or sidewalk
- Uneven staircases or staircases without proper railings
- Torn carpeting
- Fresh wax, especially with no sign identifying the hazard
- Poor lighting in the area, which may make it difficult to see around you
- Cables spread across the floor
Take an up-close shot of whatever caused you to trip and fall, then take a wider-angle shot of the area as a whole. Your picture of the wider area can help prove a lack of signs or other warnings about potential hazards in the area.
Step Three: Report the Accident
If you suffered serious injury, seeking immediate medical attention should be your top priority. Your next step should be to report your accident to your superior as soon as possible. Your employee handbook may include the proper procedure for reporting serious injuries; follow the procedure. In some restaurants, for example, even minor burns may require medical attention and a report. If you need to fill out an accident report or answer questions about your trip and fall, make sure you follow your workplace’s procedure. Avoid implicating yourself in your trip and fall or accepting fault. Try to avoid making statements like “I’m fine” or “I’m not hurt,” especially if you have not yet seen a medical professional.
Step Four: Contact a Lawyer
Any time you suffer injuries in a trip and fall accident at work, you may need to retain a lawyer to help you decide how best to proceed. A lawyer can help you navigate the difficult world of workers’ compensation and provide vital information about protecting your rights throughout your recovery. Not only that, working with a lawyer can help prevent you from making critical errors that may decrease the settlement or compensation that you receive.
Are You Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Slips, trips, and falls make up about 1 in 6 workplace accidents, resulting in lost time. If you slipped and fell on the clock or while at work for work purposes—for example, if your fall occurred on your way into the building to start your shift or just after you clocked out—you may receive workers’ compensation for your injuries. If you tripped and fell at your workplace when you visited for personal reasons—shopping at the grocery store you work at after your shift, for example—you will not receive workers’ compensation, since your injury did not occur while you were working.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation insurance, which most companies must legally carry, provides compensation to employees who suffer injuries at work. Workers’ compensation may also cover illnesses that occur as a result of something that happened at work: for example, an employee who inhales a dangerous substance that causes long-term sickness. In the case of a trip and fall accident, workers’ compensation will pay for a portion of the income injured employees would normally have earned if they worked during the period of their injury. Typically, workers’ compensation factors this payment according to a specific percentage of the employee’s normal income—usually about two-thirds of the worker’s income. Workers’ compensation also pays for any medical bills the patient acquires as a result of an injury that occurred at work, as well as out of pocket expenses for necessary items, like crutches.
How Will My Employer Determine If I Am Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?
Most employers have clear procedures in place that help determine whether an employee receives workers’ compensation and for how long they will receive it. Typically, this procedure includes regular visits to a doctor selected by the employer or by the company that provides the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. The physician will evaluate the extent of your injuries, assign a percentage to your disability, and assess whether you can return to work. The physician may also issue a statement about when your injuries likely occurred. If you have injuries that could not have been caused by the type of accident alleged in your accident report, for example, the company may deny your claim. The company may also deny your claim for any injury that you caused deliberately. A lawyer can help review your company’s workers’ compensation policy to help determine your eligibility.
Note that in most cases, you may remain eligible for workers’ compensation even if you chose to disregard signs or ignored warnings and policies that could have prevented your injury. Workers’ compensation covers most injuries that occur at work for any reason, even if the worker bears personal fault for the accident. You are not required to prove that you did not cause your accident to receive workers’ compensation insurance.
Consider this scenario: on a construction site, you chose to climb a ladder to the roof. You chose not to wear a harness or other safety gear meant to help secure you as you move across the roof. Unfortunately, you tripped, fell, and suffered serious injuries. You may still receive workers’ compensation coverage even though your actions contributed to your injuries.
For How Long Will You Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
After a trip and fall accident, workers’ compensation will pay a portion of your income while you remain unable to work. Most companies have a cutoff point for how long an individual can receive workers’ compensation benefits. In general, after a trip and fall accident, your workers’ compensation benefits will terminate once you return to work. You may receive partial workers’ compensation payments if you return to work in a limited capacity following your injuries. In some cases, however, returning to work may leave you ineligible for workers’ compensation coverage. Carefully review your policy with an attorney before deciding how to handle returning to work.
Are There Problems That Could Prevent Me From Getting Workers’ Compensation Coverage?
You suffered injuries in a slip and fall accident at work: traumatic brain injury, broken bones, or even paralysis, depending on the severity of your fall. Your injuries occurred at work and during work hours. Could you miss out on workers’ compensation anyway? Certain circumstances can actually prevent you from receiving coverage. Consider the following:
- You failed to report the accident. When you first tripped and fell, you got back to your feet quickly and went on with your day as usual. Unfortunately, you noticed symptoms of traumatic brain injury days later, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. While you can still receive workers’ compensation coverage, you may have more trouble getting that coverage without an incident report. Any time you have an accident at work, even if you think that no injury occurred, make sure to report the incident as soon as possible. If your injuries require an immediate trip to the hospital, follow up to ensure that your supervisor filed an appropriate incident report.
- A private investigator collects evidence of you failing to follow the advice of your physician. In some cases, after a slip and fall accident, your company may hire a private investigator to evaluate your behaviors. If the investigator catches you doing things that you claim you physically cannot do—for example, cleaning out your garage and hauling heavy boxes when you claim you cannot handle heavy lifting—your benefits may stop. If you show evidence that your injuries cause less limitation than you claimed, you may lose your workers’ compensation benefits.
- You quit your job while still receiving benefits. If you quit your current job, you may lose eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. You may also lose benefits if you accept another job during your supposed convalescence, especially if you show intent to quit your job but appear to remain only to collect workers’ compensation benefits.
- Your employer offers light duty, but you turn it down. Your employer wants to work with you to get you back to work in some capacity, often with reduced duty. You may, for example, work from home or stay on desk duty while your injuries heal. If you refuse the modifications that your company offers, you may lose your workers’ compensation benefits.
- You perform unexpectedly on the Functional Capacity Exam. The Functional Capacity Exam shows what you can do in spite of your injuries. If the doctor in charge of your exam believes you self-limit your movements or that you showed capabilities that would allow you to return to work, you may lose your workers’ compensation benefits.
You Need an Attorney After a Trip and Fall at Work
Trip and fall accidents often lead to long legal battles, as can workers’ compensation claims. If you suffered injuries during a trip and fall at work, you may need a lawyer to work with you—someone who can:
- Fill out the complicated legal paperwork. You do not want to miss out on benefits because you filled out paperwork improperly. Letting an attorney do it for you can significantly reduce potential complications.
- Represent you to your company. Often, your company will push hard to have you return to work, even before you feel ready. They may ignore your doctor’s restrictions or try to push you to do things that you physically cannot do after your accident. Retaining a lawyer can help cut through the red tape and reduce the pressure.
- Make sure that your legal rights are protected. Did you know that you have the right to an independent medical evaluation performed by a doctor not paid by the workers’ compensation fund? Do you know what funds you should receive after a serious accident at work? Your lawyer can help you better understand your rights.
- Keep you updated about all the circumstances surrounding your case. An attorney can help explain the legal proceedings in a way that you understand, rather than leaving you confused and upset about what might happen next.
Call Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers Now if You Fell at Work
If you suffered serious injuries in a workplace accident, let us help! Call Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers today at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or contact us online, to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced litigators.
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP
100 SE 3rd Ave, 10th Floor
Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 33394