Workplace injuries are commonplace in our country regardless of industry or occupation. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were over 2.8 million workplace injuries reported in the United States in 2019. Included in that number is over 5,000 fatal injuries, and over 850,000 nonfatal injuries that caused a worker to miss at least one day of work. The most common types of workplace injuries are overexertion, falls/slips/trips, contact with objects or machinery, workplace violence, and transportation accidents.
Workplace injuries can happen for a number of reasons, but are commonly caused by unsafe work practices, unsafe conditions, or negligence of employers, or other workers on the job.
Work-related injuries are unique in the legal issues involved. These issues include what remedy or type of case is available to you, who is liable for your work injury, whether you are considered an “employee” or “independent contractor,” and how you obtain recovery for your injuries. In Illinois, most workers are protected by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, including those injured in another state while working for an Illinois company, and workers of an out-of-state company working in Illinois. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act provides for payment of medical bills and lost time regardless of fault, so long as you were injured while performing a job-related activity.
In certain situations, you may be injured at work due to the negligence of someone other than your employer or a co-employee. In those situations, you may have both a workers’ compensation claim and a negligence claim against the at-fault party. For example, look at the following scenarios:
- You work for UPS as a delivery driver and are injured in a motor vehicle collision that is someone else’s fault.
- You are an electrician on a construction site who falls from a balcony because the general contractor failed to put up adequate guardrails.
In these types of cases, you would be able to have your medical bills and lost time paid through workers’ compensation and retain the right to pursue damages against the at-fault party. If your claim against the at-fault party is successful, a portion of the workers’ compensation benefits may have to be paid back from the proceeds of the recovery against the at-fault party. However, the damages available to you under a negligence claim include elements that a workers’ compensation claim does not (pain and suffering, disability/loss of normal life, disfigurement, emotional distress, etc.).
What to Do if You’re Injured at Work
If you are injured at work, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention, if needed. When seeking medical care, let your medical providers know how the injury was obtained and that it was work-related. Keep record of all medical providers you see related to your injuries.
Once you are medically stable, you must notify your employer as soon as possible after seeking medical attention. Be specific in your notification, informing your employer when, where, and how the incident happened and what you believe your injuries to be.
Next, contact an attorney. An attorney will be able to discuss with you what type of claims are available to you, who is liable for your injuries, and how best to obtain a recovery for the damages you are entitled to. As discussed above, there can be complex legal issues involved in a workplace injury case. There are also time limits within which to bring your claim. Those time limits vary depending on the facts of your case, which is why consulting with an attorney early on in the process is an important part to helping you move forward after an injury on the job.
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