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Hardly anyone wakes up one morning and goes to work to get themselves injured deliberately. Yet, despite your best efforts at adhering to safety procedures, you could get hurt at work. And while some industries such as logging, fishing, roofing, garbage collection, trucking, sports, power line works and steel works have a higher incidence of injury than most, no workplace is completely immune from an accident.
Make no mistake—when an accident occurs, the employer’s primary goal is self-preservation. Irrespective of how kind and well-meaning they appear, no company will want to go out of business or pay hefty penalties on account of an injured worker if they can avoid it. Ergo, act on the assumption that no one else will protect your interest except you. The steps you take after the accident are crucial.
Here’s a look at the most important ones:
1. Obtain Emergency Care
Compensation for a workplace injury is vital. Nevertheless, it doesn’t serve your long term interests in any way if you allow an injury to be exacerbated (in the worst case, leading to death) due to your delay in seeking emergency treatment quickly. Your immediate priority should be to contain the damage as quickly as possible.
Make sure the paramedic, nurse, doctor or other healthcare provider involved knows that it’s a work-related injury.
2. Inform Your Supervisor
Informing your employer immediately the injury occurs should ideally be the first thing you do. Not only does it formally kickoff the workplace injury protocols but it also draws in high-level procedural approval from the get-go. You’ll have a plethora of hands and key decision-makers already engaged and accelerating your transportation to a healthcare facility.
Nevertheless, it’s not all the time that you and your supervisor, or even a work colleague for that matter, will be in the same location. For example, if you are injured while driving to a client meeting, calling your supervisor first may not be possible if your injury is severe. Reaching emergency lines will take precedence.
3. Collect Evidence
As soon as your health allows you to, begin to collect as much evidence of the accident scene as you can. Take videos and photos, obtain copies of documents, speak to witnesses and obtain witness’ contacts.
If you cannot do so yourself, contact a coworker, relative, friend or your attorney to do the evidence collection on your behalf.
4. Explain Circumstances and Symptoms to the Doctor
It’s the doctor’s duty to capture the full extent of your injury and thus accurately diagnose you. The doctor’s notes and reports will be one of the most important factors in any workers’ compensation claim. Don’t leave out any details. Go through the events immediately preceding the incident, the incident itself, the injury you felt and saw thereafter, and any changes you experienced in your overall physical and emotional health and wellbeing.
Some injuries will not be visible or immediately apparent even after extensive scans. The symptoms may show up days, weeks or months later. Irrespective of when they come up in the future, make sure you share this information with the doctor.
5. Adhere to the Doctor’s Instructions
Depending on the extent of your injury, the path to healing may be a long and difficult one. Your goal should be to regain your health as fully and as quickly as possible. That’s unlikely to happen if you do not follow the doctor’s instructions in full.
Your employer has no right to threaten you with termination, disciplinary action or force you back to work prematurely if doing so will mean going against the doctor’s advice. Be wary of any so-called Independent Medical Examination.
Prioritize your health as that will give you the best shot at resuming your work duties or having the ability to work for a different employer in case you change jobs.
6. Complete a Claim Form
Your employer is required to provide you with a Workers’ Compensation Claim Form. Both you and your employer should fill out their section of the form and the employer must subsequently submit it to their insurer for processing. The insurer will then make a decision of whether the injury merits compensation and proceed accordingly.
Some workers wait for this process to run its course before they engage a workers’ compensation attorney. However, it’s best to bring your attorney on board from the moment the injury occurs so your rights are safeguarded throughout. Don’t sign any documents, field questions, provide interviews or participate in any legally-consequential action without your attorney’s consent.
When you are injured at work, speed, detail and compliance is of the essence. Follow these steps to ensure you protect your life, health, finances and job.