Your Guide to Filing a Work Injury Lawsuit
May 02, 2022
When the worst has happened at work, and a workplace accident has left you injured, navigating the legal system to ensure you're fairly compensated can be confusing and difficult. When you're busy recovering from your injury and juggling medical appointments, you shouldn't have to worry about how you're going to pay for your medical treatment or cover your bills while you are off work. States have set up workers' compensation systems intended to ensure injured workers are given compensation relatively quickly without having to go through a lengthy lawsuit.
But if your employer isn't paying all or part of the compensation you're owed, you can file a lawsuit. Although the process can vary in different states, some basic principles apply in most. Read on for more about how you can prepare to file a work injury lawsuit.
How To File a Work Injury Lawsuit
Filing a work injury lawsuit can seem daunting, but there are some things you can do to ensure your lawsuit has the best chances of success, starting immediately after your workplace injury. Most employers have a process set up for workplace injuries, and you should start there.
File a Workplace Accident Report
As soon as you are able, you should file a workplace accident report. The sooner you report your injury, the more credible you will be if your employer tries to claim that your injury did not happen at work. Most states also have deadlines for filing the report.
Fill out the form to the best of your ability. If there are witnesses to your accident, or if you have details about how the injury occurred, you may include them if the form has a place for them, but you should not try to guess if you do not remember exactly what happened. You want to be as accurate as possible on your form, because any inconsistencies with later versions of your accident may be used against you.
Ask Your Employer About Workers' Compensation Benefits
You should ask your employer directly about workers' compensation benefits. Depending on the state where you work, the size of your employer, and other circumstances, you may need to fill out a special form to start the process. Do not rely on any assurances that you will get benefits. You should still carefully take steps to protect your legal rights in case your employer decides to contest your claim later on.
Seek Medical Care for Your Work-Related Injuries
One of the most important things you can do is to seek medical care for your job injuries right away. Most states permit you to choose your own medical provider. Your employer may direct you to go to a certain doctor or clinic, but in those states, the employer cannot force you to choose a certain medical provider.
If your injuries were caused by a specific workplace accident, the sooner after the accident that you seek medical care, the more likely your claim for workers' compensation will be covered. When you are examined, be sure to tell the medical provider how you were injured and that your injury was work-related.
If you suffer from a more chronic or long-term condition that developed over time, such as a back injury or carpal tunnel syndrome, you should talk to your medical provider about how you think your job duties may have caused your condition. If your claim is later contested, the notes from any medical treatment may be used as evidence.
Employers May Deny Compensation Claims or Lack Compensation Coverage
Just because you suffer an on-the-job injury doesn't mean that your claim for workers' compensation will automatically be covered. Depending on your state, employers have many types of defenses to cover workers' compensation claims. Some examples of these may be that your injury occurred outside of work or while you were off the clock, you were breaking a safety rule at the time of your injury, or you were exaggerating or making up your injury.
In other instances, your employer may not have workers' compensation insurance. If your employer lacks workers' compensation coverage, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer. Usually, separate personal injury lawsuits outside of the workers' compensation system aren't allowed for work injuries, but there are exceptions to this in some states, such as when your employer failed to secure workers' compensation insurance.
Report Violations to Your State Commission
Since, in most states, you need to file a claim for compensation with the state commission governing workers' compensation right away, many disputes about coverage will automatically be handled by the state commission. However, you should still notify your state commission if your employer refuses to cover your claim or if you learn your employer does not have workers' compensation coverage. Nearly every stage of the claims process, from when your claim is filed to any appeals of your claim, has a short time period in which you must take action. If you fail to take action before the deadline, you may lose your legal rights to workers' compensation benefits, so do not delay.
Accepted Claims Receive Financial Compensation
Depending on your state's workers' compensation system, your employer may be able to accept or certify your claim right away. That means that your employer accepts that your injuries are work-related injuries and you will begin receiving compensation. Depending on the circumstances of your injury, you may get disability benefits for time off work; regular, permanent disability payments; medical benefits; or a lump-sum payment for a permanent partial injury. If your loved one died because of a work-related injury, you may be entitled to death benefits.
Disputed Personal Injury Claims Go to Trial
If your employer disputes your personal injury claim, then your claim may go to trial. In many states, before going to court, you will have administrative hearings at your state commission. The hearings may be similar to a trial in court because medical reports, witness statements, and other evidence may be presented before a hearing officer or administrative law judge. Administrative hearings are usually less formal than a trial. If you or your employer disagrees with the outcome of the administrative hearings, then your claim may be appealed in court in most states, but pay close attention to time limits.
Once your claim goes to court, you may need to gather more formal evidence, as, for example, by taking depositions of witnesses and medical experts. You and your employer may also discuss settling your claim. If your case does not settle, you will also need to prepare for a formal trial before a judge or jury.
Find a Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Workers Compensation Claim
The process for a work injury lawsuit can be full of minefields. From meeting the tight deadlines to ensuring you have evidence to support your claim, you need a workplace injury attorney to help you successfully navigate the process and protect your legal right to compensatory benefits. A personal injury lawyer with a law firm that regularly handles all types of personal injury cases is best equipped to handle a work-related accident lawsuit. Contact Spence Law Firm immediately for a workplace injury lawyer who can protect your rights.
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If you are struggling with a serious injury, or are fighting against seemingly impossible odds against big corporations, insurance companies or the government, call us to speak with our team of trial lawyers who will fight for you. We take no fee unless we earn it by winning your case.