From the Desk of Jeff Shaw, Attorney at Law

I Slipped and Fell at Work -- Now I Can't Work and Need Medical Treatment -- What Should I Do?

Posted by Jeff Shaw | Jan 24, 2017 | 2 Comments

You fell and injured yourself at work.  You have pain and can't work effectively.  You need a doctor.

What do you do?

Most often, you start a "worker's compensation" claim with the help and assistance of your employer.

Slip and falls are one of the most common types of work related accidents. According to the National Safety Council, slip and fall injuries account for over 20 percent of all workplace injuries. That's more than 1,000,000 worker's compensation claims started each year.

The majority of those injuries are minor, but a large percentage of slip and falls result in much more serious injuries: these include head trauma, disk herniations in your spine, broken bones, or burns.

With few exceptions, employers are bound by rules set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its regulations. These regulations mandate safety measures in the workplace. An investigation by OHSA can review violations and the employer can be fined.

But, slip and falls are the most common injury at work.

The most common causes of falls at work are:

  • Spilled liquids
  • Cracked, torn or uneven flooring
  • Inadequate or non-existent warning signs
  • Poor lighting
  • Holes in the floor or parking lots
  • Broken or uneven stairs
  • Exposed cables running along the floor or ground

 One of the lesser-known laws in Indiana is that a person cannot sue his or her employer directly for negligence (except in rare circumstances), if the injury occurred while working.

Accident at work

These laws were intended to protect employers and to entice companies to locate to Indiana so that people could be hired and the economy grow.

Worker's compensation "exclusivity" -- as the law is called -- means that an injured person can bring a worker's compensation claim and seek payment of medical bills and for permanent and temporary injuries, but typically at reduced rates set by the Indiana legislature.  If you have a worker's compensation case, we might be able to help you.

But, you should do one step more. Call an attorney.

You'd be surprised how many work accidents happen on property that was owned by somebody other than the employer or on property that was to be maintained by somebody other than the employer due to a contract to maintain the area -- these are called "Third-Party Actions."

In those cases, where a slip and fall at work may result in a "third-party" personal injury claim or lawsuit against parties other than an employer, you could be entitled to payment of medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses, the full amount of lost wages, AND an amount for pain and suffering.

That's why it's so important to consult with an attorney -- even if your worker's compensation is still pending -- to determine all available rights of action.

Here's an Unfair Law -- If You Sue Somebody Else for Your Fall, The Defendant Can Still Blame Your Employer to Escape Full Responsibility for Your Damages in Indiana

Indiana has "comparative fault."  In short, this means a jury decides whose fault an accident might be and divides it into percentages.  In Indiana, a defendant can attempt to place fault on people/businesses that are NOT part of your lawsuit -- such as your employer.  This is especially common if OSHA investigates and finds the employer did not follow safety rules.  This investigation can then be used in court in the third-party action, which allows the defendant to sometimes blame the employer in any injury-producing accident.  This perversely allows the defendant to lower its responsibility to pay the injured worker by blaming the employer, too -- EVEN IF THE EMPLOYEE CANNOT SUE THE EMPLOYER DIRECTLY.

An example is if you are struck by a truck in a parking lot.  You can sue the truck driver and his company, for sure.  But those defendants might be able to blame the store where you worked for having inadequate parking lot security or rules.  I've seen it happen.  It's unfair.  You can't sue your employer to recover full damages, but the defendant can blame your employer to reduce your damages.

It's a hard world out there for people injured while at work. 

How Worker's Compensation Works

Employees injured in workplace accidents have a right to workers' compensation benefits.

You do NOT need to prove the employer did something wrong ("negligence" not required).

An employee who contributed to the cause of his workplace injury is entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Just as it isn't necessary to prove the employer was negligent, workers' comp laws do not bar the employee from coverage if the slip and fall accident is entirely his fault.

There are a few exceptions. If actions that result in an injury are intentional (actions that have a high probability of causing injury or exhibit a "wanton disregard of probable consequences"), a work accident claim may be denied. These situations are normally found in "fraud" cases of injury or when a worker intentionally does something he knows is unsafe.

Normally, your injury alone is sufficient for you to file a workers' comp claim and receive benefits.

Benefits can include:

  • Payment of Medical Bills
  • Payment for Physical Therapy
  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses for Medicine or Crutches or Wheelchairs/Scooters
  • Lost Wages, but not at a full repayment rate (sometimes 2/3)
  • Medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and a portion of lost wages but workers' comp benefits do not include payment for pain and suffering (but an injury resulting in a disability may entitle the employee to a separate cash settlement award).

How to Begin Your Work Accident Claim

To begin a work accident claim, you have to file a "first report of injury" form (DWC-1) with your employer. You must enter specific information about the date, time and cause of your slip and fall accident on the form. If your injuries are serious enough to require immediate hospitalization, you may complete the DWC-1 form once you're feeling okay enough to do so.

Then, your employer will provide you with a list of "company-approved" physicians. The workers' comp insurance company of your employer then pays these physicians.

Despite obvious potential conflicts of interest, in most cases you have no choice.  If you want your bills paid, you see the company's doctors. You can see your own doctor, but it might not be paid for.

Then you choose one of these physicians as your "primary treating physician."

How the Treatment Works

Your primary physician examines you and, if necessary, refers you to a specialist. These can include surgeons, podiatrists, orthopedic doctors and neurologists or other doctors whose practices are involved in the medicinal area of your injury.

If you believe your injury is much more severe than your primary treating physician is willing to acknowledge (or that your physician isn't acting in good faith), you may request a second opinion from another company-approved physician. You can see your own physician, but there's no guarantee you'll be reimbursed by workers' comp. You might be personally responsible for any fees your private doctor charges.

Your workers' comp physician determines when you've reached a level of MMI (maximum medical improvement). At that time, he can provide the "return to work" form, finding that you are able to return to duties.

How to Return to Work

Your treating physician can also diagnose:

  • Temporary Partial Disability -- you can resume your former job duties only after a time period of recovery.
  • Permanent Partial Disability --  you may be able to return to work, but not at your former job.
  • Permanent Total Disability - you won't be able to return to your former job or do any other type of work.

Your employer may give you a different position that accommodates your disability or you may have to seek employment elsewhere if such a position isn't available.

What We Can Do for You

At Shaw Law Offices, we can certainly help you do a worker's compensation case or locate somebody who can.

But, we also investigate whether you can sue somebody else other than your employer -- these are called "Third-party Actions."

You'd be surprised how many work accidents happen on property that was owned by somebody other than the employer or on property that was to be maintained by somebody other than the employer.

In those cases, you must prove fault ("negligence").  We can help with that, too.

Life Can Knock You Down in Many Ways.

We Get You Back on Your Feet.

About the Author

Jeff Shaw

Jeff Shaw has over 25+ years of experience trying personal injury lawsuits with over 100+ jury/bench trials. His reputation is one of fierceness in the court room mixed with good humor.

Comments

Kirk Gallegos Reply

Posted Feb 05, 2017 at 21:26:51

I was working over time on a Saturday at Honda Manufacturing, in Greensburg, IN. I am a temp with Elwood Staffing. The 15 or 16 of February I would be there six months. I drive the cars that come off the line to the repair destination, that is my job. My team and I were in a pool car which is a car that falls behind the car that have a long destination from one side of the plant to the other. Sometimes there is four cars and sometimes three. We took two cars to the other side of the plant we got back into the pool car. Drove back to get two more. While we were sitting there still, we were getting ready to get out. The the employee in the passenger seat got out to get a car, then I in the back seat behind the driver started to step out. My left foot was on the ground I pushed up to get out and then smack our car lunged forward knocking me into the right side of the door frame. The left side of the door frame hit my left side hitting the left side of my head, my left shoulder, I continued to move forward I was in shock I spun around when I got outside. I heard the smack smack as all of this was happening. As I was going forward out of the site of my left eye I saw the first blue 2017 Honda Civic bouncing off our car and the second car bouncing off of that one. They were driving at least 35 mlh I talked to the driver who was driving the pool car and he said that at least one was totaled they didn’t know if third car was totaled but he thinks both were because both bumpers were cracked. The bumpers were made to take a direct hit and be okay with just the body damage at a impact of 15-25 mlh. They took me to the emergency room I was sore all over my shoulder felt like someone hit me in the arm supper hard. As I sat there waiting for the doctor the pain got worse. My head hurt and arm/shoulder/ and chest. They did MRI, X-ray, blood test, then sent me back to work to take the rest of the night off and go back on Monday. All five of us took a drug test me, the two employees in my car, and the Two drivers in the two civics. The doctor said that I would be sore. I woke up Sunday and I was really really sore, all over. I went to work on Monday and still hurting pretty bad. My supervisor told me to go straight the onsite Honda clinic. I went there had to fill out some forms they said I had to do all of this and see their nurse practitioner, so they did a fisical also. She checked my shoulder, head, and kneck. Her dinoises was I had whiplash that is what she told me. She gave me muscle relaxers and Ibuprofen then they sent me to the onsite Elwood Staffing office. There Elwood had me do a accident report for their investigation that took an hour of paperwork. Same questions over and over. Then I talked to them they said that they talked to the Honda clinic. They wanted to get home and started on my medicine. My wife is due with our 3 rd child any day and I have to take my daughter to school every morning and I work second shift which starts at 4:30 to 1 am. So for me to take my muscle relaxers at night or 2 am when I get home I would wake up in the morning very tired. The first day I took my muscles relaxer I called the next day two hour before my shift and told the Elwood office that I was very tired still and sleepy and I didn’t want to drive the half hour to work feeling this way. And I was supposed to take the muscle relaxers twice a day. I did not take the muscle relaxers in the morning the second day. So I was still pretty sore even with the ibuprofen. I didn’t take it because I was supposed to be at work. I called them to tell them that I didn’t want to risk driving with just my right arm and I explained to them the medication thing. The lady at Elwood staffing she said that they tried to call me later that day to tell me to go into the priority care office here in Shelbyville, IN so here I go again getting pocked and pulled on so she the nurse practitioner there tells me to do light duty and gave me prescriptions for muscle relaxers and ibuprofen. At the same time she puts me on light duty and not to lift anything over 5 pounds or bind or lift my left arm. They called me at 10 pm that night and told me to take the paperwork to the Shelbyville office and that I would be doing light duty in the office until priority care takes me off light duty and to be there at 8 am. I showed up at 8 am and went in told them who I was and why I was there they acted like they didn’t know what was going on. I talked to two different women to talk about what was going on. Finally the main lady in charge to go sit until they figure it out I sat and waited for an half hour to come over and sign a paper that stated what I would be doing in the office. And she still didn’t have any information from the Honda office so they sat me in a cubicle in the back of the office all by myself all I did was sit there for 8 hours and do nothing she told me that I should bring a book or something when I was signing the papers so at lunch I went home and got a crossword puzzle book and sat there 5 more hours. It just didn’t seem right. I felt like they were hiding me from the OSHA investigation that one of the employees that worked with me in my area that told me on the phone that our supervisor showed them on the computer why we needed to be careful and watch and say what we do when there is an accident at work. Mainly telling them that it stirs up a bunch of problems. So that’s what that employee told me on the phone. Then they called me on Friday night and asked me to go to the Greensburg hospital and get paperwork or report from them because they would not release them to Elwood Staffing.

Jeff Shaw Reply

Posted Feb 10, 2017 at 23:43:28

Sorry to hear your troubles.

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