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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.