Slip and Fall Accidents in the Workplace
Slip and fall accidents in the workplace can be devastating incidents that cause severe injuries. At times, they are considered minor annoyances. However, when someone sustains a work injury, they must take steps to recover compensation before they no longer have the capacity to file a claim. Reaching out to a South Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer helps the victim secure the compensation they deserve. Avoiding work accidents and creating a safe environment are good ways to avoid these issues, but accidents still occur throughout New Jersey.
Are Slip and Fall Accidents Common in the Workplace?
Approximately one million people go to the hospital for emergency assistance every year because of slip and fall accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These accidents are the most common incident involving workers over age 55 and can cause severe injuries. The most common being a fractured hip. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that New Jersey’s rate of workplace injuries is lower than the national average, but that does not mean workers are not suffering. In New Jersey, over 20 percent of accidents in the workplace are slip and fall accidents. The state records about 2.6 accidents per 100 employees, and the diverse range of industries and businesses in the state contributes to accidents and dangerous situations.
What Should I Do if I Slip and Fall at Work?
When workers are injured in slip and fall accidents, they must follow the protocols established by their employer. Anyone who is injured, irrespective of their employment status, should report the injury to their immediate supervisor. At the time of the accident, victims have two options. They can seek medical attention and report the accident directly to their supervisor, or they can call 911 and wait for the ambulance to arrive. At this point, the accident might be reported formally after the victim receives medical care.
At the scene, victims or anyone nearby should try to take pictures of the area that shows where the victim was hurt and any products or tools that were involved. Moreover, the victim may not remember much about the accident, and they need these pictures to better explain the situation. In the aftermath of the accident, several other things could occur that will confuse the victim. A supervisor or representative of the business might come forward trying to settle the accident on the spot. They might offer a cash settlement before an insurance claim is even filed. Accepting these offers allows the business to claim that the victim received due compensation, and this might prevent the victim from filing suit for additional damages.
Victims are also encouraged to collect as much evidence as they can about their accident. Timecards, statements from the victim, and eyewitness accounts help a lawyer build a compelling case. If the victim had pre-existing concerns about the equipment, tools, or vehicles that were involved in the accident, they should explain those concerns.
How Do Workplace Slip and Fall Accidents Occur?
A slip and fall accident is any incident in which the victim slips or falls through no fault of their own. These accidents most often occur in offices, commercial buildings, or industrial facilities. Someone who works in one of these places might slip on a wet floor, trip down the stairs, or stumble over boxes that were left along the wall of an office. The victim could slip while they are climbing a ladder, or they could fall off scaffolding.
In other circumstances, victims might trip while working in a cluttered retail store. Victims could fall when they are walking across a massive industrial complex, or they could fall off the service ladder that allows access to the roof of a large building. Workers might also slip when they are traversing a large property or trying to reach remote locations. For example, plumbers who service wells on large properties could be injured when they stumble on the property. Even a service worker who enters a customer’s home could be injured when the house is not maintained properly.
What are Common Injuries Suffered in Work Accidents?
Injuries suffered after a slip and fall accident can be quite benign, leading the victim to believe nothing is wrong. These injuries often cause problems later when the victim has not reported the accident and does not realize that the accident might be the cause of their issues. Common minor injuries include the following:
- Soft tissue injuries
- Ligament damage
- Sprains or strains
- Muscle damage
- Cuts or scrapes
Major injuries suffered after a slip and fall incident may not seem severe at the time, but the symptoms may worsen. Someone who suffers head trauma during an accident may start to feel nauseous, experience severe headaches, or even lose consciousness. Victims should take these symptoms seriously because they often point to a traumatic brain injury, which can cause physical, mental, and cognitive decline.
Is Compensation Available After a Work Accident?
Compensation after a work-related accident takes two forms. The victim has the right to seek workers’ compensation coverage from the insurance provider. If the insurance provider is denying coverage, a lawyer may file suit against the insurance carrier for acting in bad faith. Workers’ compensation insurance, under the law, prevent victims from filing claims against their employers. There are rare exceptions to this rule, and victims should review these exceptions with a lawyer before proceeding.
A lawsuit against the insurance company might result in a settlement for the coverage that the victim should have received. If not, the victim might reach a more lucrative settlement agreement with the insurance carrier. Under workers’ compensation law, victims should receive one of the following types of coverage:
Temporary partial disability: These benefits are paid to injured workers who have the clearance to return to work part-time with restrictions.
Temporary total disability: The victim receives 70 percent of their average weekly wages while in recovery. Under New Jersey law, the victim receives their wage-loss benefits after they miss work for seven days. These benefits continue until the worker is cleared to return to work by the attending doctor, reached maximum medical improvement, or received up to 400 weeks of benefits.
Permanent partial disability: This is paid after the victim is found to be too disabled to return to work as they once did, meaning that they must retrain in a new field. When this is the case, the victim requires job training that is offered by the state and a wage-loss payment that covers the difference between what they used to earn and what they can earn today. If the victim experiences the loss of a limb, loss of the use of that limb, or a loss of hearing or vision, they can receive an unscheduled loss payment.
Permanent total disability: If the victim is deemed completely disabled from returning to work, they will receive permanent total disability benefits for 450 weeks. After that time, the insurance carrier or employer can request a medical examination. The medical examination is performed by a doctor chosen by the insurance carrier or employer to ascertain if the victim can return to work or benefits will be extended.
Death Benefits: The victim’s family may receive death benefits if the victim is killed during a slip and fall accident at work or succumbs to their injuries. These benefits include a $3,500 credit the family can use for burial and funeral expenses. Death benefits pay the dependent spouse and children 70 percent of the deceased’s wages, but dependency is often determined by an administrative law judge. At times, other family members may be named as dependents based on the support they received from the deceased.
Can I Sue a Third Party for My Injuries?
When a slip and fall accident occurs at work, the victim cannot sue their employer if they are receiving workers’ compensation benefits. However, the victim may have claims against third parties that caused the accident. Slip and fall accidents are not always as simple as someone slipping on a wet floor. When these accidents occur as a result of someone else’s negligence, it is important that the victim seek compensation.
Suing a third party for a slip and fall accident might be as simple as suing the office building where the victim works because no wet floor sign was posted. If the worker was using scaffolding or ladders to do their work, they may file suit against the manufacturer for compensation if the equipment proved faulty. Slip and falls might occur when a scissor lift, cherry picker, or hydraulic lift tips over. When filing suit, a lawyer will seek compensation that includes the following:
Medical expenses. Expenses for medical care often start when the victim requires emergency care. This type of compensation can extend into the future, and a lawyer will work with medical experts to determine how much compensation is needed to cover the years of physical therapy or surgeries that might be required. Medical compensation also pays for medical equipment, such as walkers, canes, and braces. Prescriptions and transportation for medical care may also be recovered.
Lost income and lost earning potential. Compensation for lost income should pay the victim from the moment they miss work for the first time. Although the victim might receive wage-loss benefits under workers’ compensation, they are not making all the money they are supposed to earn. When the victim simply cannot earn enough money to support themselves, they can file suit for the money that they had the capacity to earn before they were hurt. These wages might include raises, cost of living increases, promotions, bonuses, and commissions.
Pain and suffering. This is a non-economic damage common in personal injury lawsuits that helps the victim recover compensation for the pain they feel daily. Even if the victim feels discomfort, cannot sleep, or cannot enjoy their life, they may seek these damages.
Emotional anguish. Compensation for emotional anguish is another non-economic damage that pays the victim for their fear, anxiety, depression, lack of focus, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mental health conditions that arise. A medical expert may need to come forward to verify the victim’s diagnosis or symptoms.
Punitive damages. In New Jersey, punitive damages cannot be awarded unless a judge or jury believes the victim was subject to such a high degree of malice that the defendant must be punished even more.
Wrongful death: If the victim dies in the accident or cannot survive their injuries, the family can convert this personal injury lawsuit to a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of lawsuit allows them to recover additional funeral costs, administrative costs, and noneconomic damages. When filing a wrongful death lawsuit against a third party, the victim’s family must choose someone to represent them. Typically, this is the administrator or executor of the estate. At other times, it might be a dependent spouse or child. That person will work with a lawyer to build a case and file the lawsuit. The money awarded in the case will go to the estate, and it will be divided based on the intestacy laws of the State of New Jersey.
Why Do I Need a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
A workers’ compensation lawyer is a necessary resource for anyone who is injured on the job. Retaining a lawyer is a simple way for victims to begin the legal process and uncover information. Lawyers understand the tactics insurance carriers use to avoid payment of claims. Additionally, insurance companies pay millions every year to hire lawyers to protect their interests. A workers’ compensation lawyer is the appropriate person to thoroughly investigate the accident and uncover all the information needed to file the claim successfully. Lawyers understand what types of evidence will be useful when they file a claim, and they will continue negotiating with all the parties involved in the accident.
Once a lawyer has all the evidence that they need, they can file a lawsuit. When the lawsuit is entered, the defendants respond, and the discovery phase begins. The victim’s lawyer will continue investigating and attempt to negotiate a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, a lawyer will argue the case at trial.
South Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP Help Victims Recover Compensation
When you have been injured at work, legal support is sometimes the only way to recover and get back to normal. The South Jersey workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP are ready to assist you when you are injured on the job. We will take the time to thoroughly document all the ways in which your injury or loss has affected your life. Our legal team will help you recover the compensation you deserve, including medical expenses and wage loss compensation. Call us today at 856-761-3773 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we proudly represent workers throughout South Jersey, including Camden, Cinnaminson, Delran, Maple Shade, and Pennsauken.