What Happens If I Get Injured at Work?
When a worker gets injured on the job in California, the worker’s employer is often legally responsible for paying the costs of any medical treatment and replacing lost income while the worker recuperates. The injuries have to be legitimately connected to a work-related purpose. In addition, the employer is not the only party that may be responsible for an employee’s injuries. Workers may come into contact with other businesses or people throughout the workday. A third party who causes an employee’s injuries can be liable for personal injury damages.
Work injuries can significantly impact a person’s life and their ability to help provide for their family and other loved ones. Workers in California can benefit from knowing their legal rights and understanding the potential resources available to compensate them for work-related injuries.
Industries Where Work Injuries are Common
The risk of getting injured at work is obviously greater in some occupations than others. The construction, transportation, and warehousing industries produce the most work-related fatal accidents in California, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The following top four occupational events resulted in the most worker fatalities in California in 2021:
- Transportation incidents
- Exposure to harmful substances
- Injuries by persons or animals
- Falls, slips, and trips
Worker deaths from exposure to harmful substances are considerably higher in California than the national average. Workers in California are also more likely to die from injuries caused by persons or animals than the average U.S. worker.
How Employers Can be Sued for Work-Related Injuries
Employer conduct that can give rise to personal injury liability for work-related injuries to employees includes:
- Injury caused by a willful physical assault
- Aggravation of the injury due to an employer’s attempt to conceal the injury and its connection to the employment
- Use of an employer-manufactured product provided to an employee by an independent third party
- Wrongful denial of an employee injury claim
When Employers are Not Required to Compensate Injured Employees
Employers are required to compensate employees who are injured on the job because the employees are engaged in activities benefiting the employer. When employees engage in activities that are specifically prohibited or are for a purpose not related to employment, employers are not required to compensate them for their injuries.
Even though an employee’s injury occurs while on the clock for their employer, the employer is not required to financially compensate an employee who:
- Intentionally self-inflicts the injury
- Is under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the injury occurs
- Is the initial physical aggressor in an altercation that causes the injury
- Is injured during voluntary participation in recreational, social, or athletic activities unrelated to work
In situations where an employer denies benefits to a worker, the circumstances need to be carefully reviewed to see if there are adequate grounds to file a lawsuit against the employer. If you were hurt on the job in California and your employer or another potentially responsible party is refusing to compensate you, you should speak with a California work injury lawyer to learn more about your legal rights.
Third-Party Liability for Work-Related Injuries
An employee may come into contact with various third parties during an average employment shift. An employer may contract with other businesses to do work alongside its employees. Workers may need to leave their place of employment and go out in the community on behalf of their employer where they can come into contact with any number of hazards.
Third-party liability can occur, for instance, when a repairman is hired to fix an employer’s electrical problem, and an employee is electrocuted due to a mistake made by the repairman. Third-party liability may also occur when an employee is hit by another motorist while on a work errand.
A claim made against a third party is typically a personal injury lawsuit, and the damages that can be collected are not as limited as they might be against the employer. For example, a third party may have to pay an injured worker compensation for non-economic damages for the suffering caused by the injury. Benefits provided by an employer, however, will largely only cover only economic losses and not pay for a worker’s pain or diminished quality of life, among other such damages.
Steps To Take After You Get Injured at Work
When you are injured at work, it is important to document the circumstances of the injury because how the injury occurred can have everything to do with the ability of an injured worker to be eligible for employer benefits and/or to establish the foundation necessary to file a work injury lawsuit. After a work injury, a worker should take the steps listed below to protect their legal rights to be compensated for their on-the-job injuries.
Get medical treatment as soon as possible. Getting medical treatment for claimed injuries is critical to linking the injury to the work situation that caused it. Medical records are necessary to prove the injury occurred and as evidence of the extent of the damage. Medical bills and other receipts for treatment-related expenses are also important to keep, as they are compensable damages.
Gather evidence right after the injury occurs. A work injury may put a worker in an adversarial relationship with an employer, and evidence about the injury may not be available later if it is not preserved right away. Take pictures and/or video. Get the names and contact information of witnesses. Write down everything you can remember. If you are injured to the point that you are unable to do these things, a coworker or another person on the jobsite at the time of your workplace accident can help.
Report the incident to your employer. Delayed reporting the incident that caused your injuries can affect your ability to recover financial compensation and may jeopardize the credibility of your personal injury claim.
Keep a journal or log detailing your experience. Injury claims are more credible if there is a written history of the effects the injury has had and the progress toward healing. Entries should be dated and made at least every few days. This type of record can be written, typed, or even recorded, depending upon the ability of the injured party.
Being injured at work can prevent you from earning a living and involve costly medical treatment. Getting the most compensation available is crucial to both your financial survival and your mental and physical health while your injuries heal. A free consultation with a California workplace injury attorney can help you sort through legal issues, put together a credible claim, and obtain everything you are entitled to receive.