If you’ve ever had a workplace injury, you’re far from alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly 2.9 million workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in 2015 alone. That’s three for every 100 full-time workers!
Dealing with the consequences of an injury can take months or even years—but it’s what you do immediately after an accident that matters most. If you’ve been hurt on the job, here are a few key steps to get you on the road to recovery.
Concentrate on Your Injury
When you’ve suffered an injury at work, the first thing to do is to call for help. Every workplace should have both a first aid kit and at least one staff member trained in first aid. Have this staff member do a full assessment, even if you think the injury is minor, and call for emergency assistance as needed.
Capture Evidence of the Injury and Accident Scene
It’s always a good idea to have photo or video evidence of your injury and the accident. These types of evidence are difficult to dismiss if a dispute arises.
Take photos of your injuries as soon as you can after the accident. If you can, you should also take pictures of the area where the accident took place, including any equipment placement, slippery conditions, signs, or other useful information.
In addition, you may also find it helpful to keep a journal of your symptoms after the accident. If you end up filing a claim, it can be difficult to remember aches, pains, and difficulties in the months and even years it can take to see the claim’s results. To keep everything straight in your mind—and to provide accurate evidence—write down your symptoms as they occur.
See a Medical Professional for Your Workplace Injury
Whether or not you believe you’ve suffered physical damages, it’s important to follow through with this step. A doctor can help you develop a treatment plan and diagnose any underlying issues you may not have noticed. What’s more, they can help you understand your long-term prognosis.
Be sure to tell your doctor that the incident that caused your injuries was work-related. Your doctor will need to note this in your personal file and document your injury accordingly. In some cases, an insurance company may deny a claim if the responding medical team never noted that the injuries were related to a workplace accident.
If you are considering making any kind of legal claim at this time, you’ll also want to request copies of any medical notes and documentation as evidence.
File an Accident Report
If you hope to be covered under your state’s workers’ compensation laws, you’ll need to file an accident report in a timely manner. Different states have different deadlines, so it’s important to know the restrictions in your area and to file as soon as you can.
Remember that you should file an accident report whether or not you believe you have been injured, for several reasons.
First, in reviewing your accident report, your employer may notice a workplace irregularity that should be changed. Your accident report may be the push your employer needs to make a critical adjustment that keeps similar (or worse) accidents from happening later down the line.
Second, you may not initially realize the extent of the damages you’ve suffered. Sometimes, injuries don’t appear until days or weeks later, caused by internal traumas or subtle misalignments. In cases like these, filing an accident report means you’ll still be protected under workers’ compensation for any potential symptoms you notice in the future.
Third, some employers, after realizing that an employee’s injuries may require a major payout in terms of compensation, will look for reasons to fire the employee in question. If you have filed an accident report, it’s one step in a paper trail that can protect you from wrongful dismissal.
You may need to file more than one report. In some cases, you’ll have one for your workplace, and one OSHA-specific report. Make sure to get a copy of both for your own records.
Keep Careful Records
As you begin to work toward healing, it’s important to keep records of any changes related to your workplace injury. These records can help you get the compensation you need to deal with the injury. In most states, workers’ compensation laws require a worker to get paid wages for missed workdays, travel expenses for medical appointments of a certain distance, and even certain out-of-pocket expenses.
However, you’ll need to provide documentation. Make sure you’re taking careful note of your missed workdays, doctor appointments, out-of-pocket expenses, and even travel.
You’ll also want to keep evidence of your medical treatment. Keep records of medications, paperwork, scans, tests, and X-rays. Any or all of these may be useful as evidence if you must file a claim.
Find a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Navigating the ins and outs of a workers’ comp case on your own can be stressful, confusing, and time-consuming—which is why it’s a good idea to seek expert help.
A workers’ compensation lawyer can provide advice and support on every aspect of your claim. They’ll also be able to help you understand whether you’re getting fair treatment and whether you should fight for additional compensation. A good attorney will even handle the workers’ compensation insurance company on your behalf, ensuring you don’t have to struggle to understand their terms and conditions.
However, it’s important to note that the nuances of workers’ compensation law will vary from state to state, so you should get a personal injury lawyer with experience where you live. Note, of course, that regardless of where you live, a reputable attorney will never charge fees unless they’ve helped you get compensation.
Get on the Road to Recovery
The minute a workplace injury happens, you’ll need to follow through on a sequence of events that can last for weeks, months, or years. Your response to this incident will determine your ability to get the compensation you deserve, whether your employer provides it or whether you must fight for it. With a little knowledge—and an experienced attorney on your side—you’ll be able to get on the road to recovery and return to work.
For more of the legal and business tips you should know, be sure to check out our other posts.