Suffering a slip and fall while you are working can lead to significant injuries. We have handled hundreds, if not thousands, of this type of case. It is extremely important to understand all of your rights if such an event occurs. Your employer is responsible for the payment of your medical bills and lost wages that result from a slip and fall while working. Some slips and falls are no one’s fault – there is no identifiable substance on the ground, you just had a clumsy moment. Others are the result of negligence of a property owner or a maintenance service. It is important to know that you have Workers’ Compensation benefit rights in both scenarios. However, it is equally critical to know your additional legal rights beyond workers’ compensation benefits in the latter scenario. We will examine all these nuances below.
Injuries from slips and falls can range from relatively minor scrapes and bruises to catastrophic outcomes. A worker could fall in awkward positions and twist a knee or ankle. It can be natural instinct to try and catch your fall with your arms and you may sustain hand, wrist or shoulder injuries. Many falls can really jolt your spine and cause significant lower back and neck injuries. Unfortunately, some falls can happen so fast and violently that a worker may strike their head and sustain a concussion or a more serious traumatic brain injury. Regardless of the injury, an injured worker is entitled to have their medical bills and lost wages paid by the employer and their workers’ compensation insurance carrier. It is critical to know that even if the fall was no one’s fault, or even your own fault, you still have these important rights.
The location, timing and cause of the slip and fall are extremely important to evaluate. Let us start with location. If you are in the middle of your workday and slip and fall where you work, you absolutely have a workers’ compensation claim. Some employees do not have a fixed place of employment. A great example is delivery drivers. If you travel as part of your job duties and slip and fall on someone else’s premises while performing your job, you absolutely have a case for benefits. If you work from the same location each day and have a slip and fall on your way into or out of work – the parking lot, a sidewalk, a lobby – these are all compensable locations for a work injury.
The timing of a slip and fall is also important to consider. It goes without saying that sustaining a fall in the middle of your job duties absolutely gives rise to a workers’ compensation claim. However, it is important to know a worker may also have legal rights for a slip and fall before or after work. Even if it is before or after your shift (before or after you clock out, if your employer has such a system), if you are injured on the employer’s premises or in a location where you must be in order to enter/exit the building, you very well may still have rights under workers’ compensation laws. It is important to have a knowledgeable attorney evaluate this for you. Moreover, if you sustain a slip and fall during a minor deviation from your work duties, your injuries may still be covered. A good example of a minor deviation is a restroom break. We have handled many claims for clients that have slipped and fallen on liquid on the ground in a bathroom.
Finally, it is of the utmost importance to examine the cause of an injured worker’s slip and fall. Workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system. This means that no matter what caused the slip and fall, if you are injured, you have a valid claim. In other words, if the slip and fall was your fault, someone else’s fault or no one’s fault, your rights are still the same under workers’ compensation laws. However, the analysis of cause becomes extremely important in determining whether you also have a negligence case against a third party in addition to your workers’ compensation case. Yes, you can have two cases resulting from the same fall. The truth is that many slips and falls are the result of someone else’s neglect. The failure of a property owner to remove snow and/or ice is perhaps the most common example. If your job requires you to be on someone else’s premises and they have failed to properly maintain their grounds, then you also have a claim against that property owner for their negligence. These cases will run in tandem with your workers’ compensation case. It is also important to note that even if you work from a fixed location and you have a slip and fall there, a third party still may be at fault for your accident. Many employers use outside snow/ice removal services. Additionally, certain employers use outside contractors for maintenance in the building. So, a slip and fall on a puddle of water in the middle of the hospital may be the responsibility of an outside janitorial service. You may do yourself a disservice if you do not examine all possible legal actions that stem from your slip and fall while working.
The value of a slip and fall case is based on a variety of factors. Under workers’ compensation law, you are entitled to the payment of medical bills and lost wages from your fall. The extent of your injuries will determine how much medical treatment is required. Additionally, how much you earned weekly before your fall and how long you will be out for will ultimately determine what an injured worker receives in the way of lost wages. It is critically important that you are treating with doctors that will look out for your best interests rather than some doctor that the employer tells you that you must go see, who may only be interested in preserving your employer’s bottom line. Getting the proper medical care will not only help you achieve the best outcome in your recovery from your injuries, but it will also enhance what your case is worth. In addition to being able to recover a weekly or bi-weekly check to compensate you for your inability to work, often times a slip and fall case will ultimately end in a lucrative lump sum.
Furthermore, as discussed above, if your slip and fall is the result of negligence from a third party, you will have a second case against the neglectful party. While workers’ compensation cases are generally limited to the recovery of lost wages and medical benefits, a negligence case also allows you to recover pain and suffering, punitive damages and other compensatory monies. In order to maximize your case worth, all of your potential cases must be explored.
It is extremely important to get legal representation if you slip and fall while working. As discussed in detail above, there are a variety of factors that must be analyzed to fully understand all of your rights. However, even before you secure the right lawyer, there are a few important tips to keep in mind. First, after you fall, take note of your surroundings. Where did you fall – if you are on the premises of another property owner, note who that is and the address. Additionally, carefully examine why you fell. It may be obvious, for example, you land right on a pile of snow and ice. However, the reason for your fall could be more subtle. You may note liquid on the ground and see a trail of that liquid emanating from another location. We have handled significant cases where a worker fell on liquid on the ground that actually got there from an outside contractor’s maintenance work nearby. The more information you can gather, the better position you will be in to determine who, if anyone, was at fault. If you have the ability to photograph what made you fall, that can be particularly helpful.
It is certainly understood that these types of falls can cause embarrassment if witnessed or a rush of adrenaline and you may not realize immediately the severity of your injuries. It is not uncommon for someone to hop back up and proceed on and then experience increasing pain later. That is okay. Sometimes you can return to the scene later and still determine why you fell. Furthermore, we also know that if your injuries are immediately severe or you sustain a loss of consciousness, you will be in no position to do any fact-gathering. Good lawyers can get investigators to the scene and your own memory as to what occurred can be used even in the absence of “proof.” It is also critical to remember what we discussed above – workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system. So, regardless of whether anyone was at fault or whether you were able to gather any proof of why you fell – this is of no importance to your workers’ compensation case. You have legal rights no matter why you fell! We only make the above recommendations for purposes of evaluating whether you may have any cases in addition to your workers’ compensation claim.
Following a slip and fall, you should notify your supervisor or manager. As long as it is done verbally, you have done your part. Providing this notice is essential to your case. If the supervisor or manager chooses to do an injury report with you in writing, that is fine. Yet, putting it in writing is not required. As long as you verbally informed your boss, “notice” under the law has been fulfilled. The law also allows you 120 days to provide this notice. So, do not think that you do not have a case since you waited to report it. We have represented many workers that fell and tried to keep working without telling anyone, only to realize the extent of their injuries days, or even weeks, later and then they told someone in a supervisory capacity. This is okay. Do not feel discouraged if you waited – you still have the same legal rights.
If your injuries warrant after a slip and fall, immediately get medical care. Emergency Room treatment for a slip and fall while working must be paid by your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Do not delay necessary treatment. However, once your injuries stabilize, this would be a good time to contact a workers’ compensation lawyer. After you obtain emergent medical treatment, it is advisable to speak to an attorney that specializes in this field to understand what would be in your best interests in terms of follow up care and how your employer is provided notice of whether you can or cannot work – and, if you can work, what restrictions you may require.
The lawyers at Stern & Cohen have successfully handled cases involving slips and falls while working for decades. We understand all of your potential rights when such an accident occurs. We are adept at evaluating all angles of your case. We have achieved numerous large settlements as a result of such unfortunate slips and falls. Employers and insurance companies know that we are willing to spend whatever it takes to win a case. We have proven a willingness to litigate our cases all the way to conclusion and win. Therefore, knowing that we will not just fold up our case for a small settlement has resulted in sizeable case outcomes. Call us to explore your rights – the consultation is always free.
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