Workers' Compensation Benefits for Slip-and-Fall Injuries

If you slipped and fell at work, you could be entitled to workers' comp benefits, even if your employer wasn't at fault.

By , Attorney

Slip-and-fall accidents are among the most common types of workplace accidents in the United States. If you're unfamiliar with the workers' compensation process, here's what you need to know about pursuing a workers' comp claim for a slip-and-fall injury.

Purpose of Workers' Compensation

The workers' compensation system is designed to provide financial support to employees who have been injured in work-related accidents or suffered an occupational illness or disease. This means you can recover medical costs, lost wages, and rehabilitation expenses if you prove you were injured in the course and scope of employment.

The workers' compensation system is not based on fault. An injured employee does not have to prove that the employer was to blame for the accident. While this makes it easier for the employee to recover, the benefit amounts are strictly regulated by statute and generally less than what a jury might award for a similar injury in a typical personal injury lawsuit.

Types of Workers' Compensation Benefits

There are four categories of workers' comp benefits, depending on how long you'll be out of work and the seriousness of your illness or injury:

  • Temporary total disability occurs when you are unable to work for a limited time but are expected to return on a full-time basis. A portion of your lost wages are generally awarded for the time you couldn't work.
  • Temporary partial disability describes the situation in which you are physically able to work on a limited basis, but you suffer a reduction of wages because you cannot perform all your job duties. These benefits are also temporary because it is expected that you will make a full recovery.
  • Permanent Total Disability is an injury that renders you totally disabled and prevents you from returning to work.
  • Permanent Partial Disability is when you have reached a maximum level of medical improvement but are still left with a permanent disability that impairs your ability to work.

In most cases, family members and dependents of an employee who died in a work-related accident or succumbed to an occupational disease are entitled to death benefits for the loss of financial support that the deceased employee provided.

Causes of Slip-and-Fall Accidents

Slip-and-fall accidents can happen at any time and in any setting, be it a construction worksite, country farm, urban factory, or high-rise office. Common causes of these accidents include:

  • ice
  • spilled liquids
  • poor lighting
  • uneven flooring
  • defective stairs or steps, and
  • inadequate warnings.

Regardless of the reason for your fall and the severity of your injury, what you do immediately after the accident can make a big difference in your workers' comp case.

What to Do After a Slip-and-Fall Accident

Each state has its own workers' compensation statutes so there are legal nuances from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But no matter the state, these are the steps you should take after a workplace slip-and-fall injury to help protect both your health and your claim.

  • Seek medical attention. Some employers will require injured employees to go to the hospital or seek medical care, but regardless of the company policy it is always a good idea to have your injury evaluated as soon as possible. Delaying treatment could make your injury worse and create doubt as to whether it was truly caused by your work accident.
  • Report the accident to your employer. Most employers have a procedure for reporting work-related accidents. Check your employee handbook or ask your human resources department to find out what your employer expects. A delay in reporting the accident could make your employer question the severity of your injury or whether your slip-and-fall even occurred.
  • Gather evidence. Write a detailed account of how you were injured while it is still fresh in your mind. Take photos of the accident scene. Determine whether security cameras could have captured your slip-and-fall.
  • Make a witness list. It is important to get accurate contact information for any co-workers, clients, or customers who may have witnessed the accident. Do not take access to co-workers for granted because they could be difficult to track down if they move or change jobs before your claim concludes. Get their business and personal contact information as soon as possible.
  • Keep track of your medical records. It's especially important to maintain a record of diagnostic tests conducted by hospitals, urgent care facilities, and your treating physician. These records will be needed to prove your claim.

File Your Workers' Comp Claim on Time

This may seem like a no-brainer, but many workers don't realize that reporting the accident to your employer and filing a formal claim are two different things. In some states, your employer is required to file on your behalf while in others you must file the claim yourself. But every state has a deadline within which the claim must be filed.

Your employer should be able to help you, but it is always a good idea to contact your state's department of labor to determine the exact filing deadline. Many state government websites are also valuable resources for understanding the entire process.

The New Jersey Department of Labor, for example, identifies the benefits available to injured workers, details how and when a worker should file a claim, provides access to claim forms, and outlines how to appeal.

Adhere to All Rules and Deadlines

After filing your claim, you may have to undergo additional medical evaluations. If your employer disputes you claim, there may be court hearings that you must attend. This will undoubtedly require filing more paperwork by specific deadlines. It is important to comply with all these requirements, and don't delay contacting the court should any problems arise.

Does the Location of My Fall Matter?

It is worth emphasizing that the key in any workers' compensation claim is whether you are injured in the course and scope of employment. This means that you can recover workers' compensation benefits for a slip-and-fall that occurred off your employer's premises if you were working at the time of the accident.

Suppose, for example, you are a lawyer taking a deposition at a rival firm in another part of the state. If you slip and fall while you're on the other firm's premises for the purpose of taking the deposition, you would be entitled to workers' compensation benefits for your injury.

Parking lots sometimes cause confusion. If you have a slip-and-fall accident in a parking lot owned or leased by your employer while you are coming to work or going home after the workday, there is a good chance your claim will be covered. This is because your employer exercises control over the parking lot.

If, however, the parking lot is owned by a third party, your slip-and-fall will not be considered work-related in most cases. This is because the third party, not your employer, has control over the parking lot. You could, however, have a valid tort lawsuit against the third party if the accident was caused by the third party's failure to maintain the parking lot, or clear snow and ice after a storm.

Seek Legal Help

Negotiating the workers' compensation system can be tricky, even for something as straight forward as a slip-and-fall accident. Failing to file documents and missing deadlines could derail your claim before it even begins. Just like any other bodily injury claim, it is a good idea to contact an attorney who specializes in workers' compensation, especially if your disability is permanent or so severe that it prevents you from working a long period of time.

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