People can fall for all sorts of reasons. A fall can happen simply because of being in a hurry. Or, because of not paying attention. Or, maybe because there was something slippery on the floor. Or, maybe a container was not put in the proper spot. When it comes to falls, Virginia has requirements that have to be met in order for the fall to be covered. Just being on the clock or at your employer’s location is not enough. Read on to learn a few of the ins and outs of how workers’ compensation can be applied to falls in the work place.
Trip and Falls
Trip and fall injuries are especially common on the job and can happen no matter what type of occupation you may have. The types of injuries sustained, during a trip and fall, could be anything from tripping over a box and twisting your ankle to something more serious like slipping on a patch of slick oil and suffering a concussion or broken bones.
No matter how serious the injury, trip and fall accidents may require medical attention and time away from work. If this has happened to you, you may be eligible to file for Workers’ Compensation to help with the cost of medical bills and other expenses related to treating your injury.
Some workers may not believe that their trip and fall injuries are serious, and therefore, fail to report them to their employers or seek medical care. Even if an accident and the resulting injury do not seem serious, it is still a good idea to be checked out by a doctor and to report the incident to your supervisor. Failure to do so may hinder you from seeking Workers’ Compensation benefits in the future.
Common Causes of Trip and Fall Injuries
Many types of soft tissue, bone, and nerve damage from trip and fall injuries could take weeks or even years to present themselves and you will need to have the medical evidence and paperwork to back you up in a Workers’ Compensation claim. Most trip and fall injuries can be prevented and the most common causes can include the following:
- tripping on wires or cords that are not secured;
- falling into potholes or manholes on construction sites;
- slipping on wet floors or chemical spills that have not been cleaned up properly or in a timely manner; and
- falling or tripping due to damaged work equipment or unkempt property.
Trip and fall injuries in the workplace can have very serious consequences. From broken bones to nerve damage, the affects can be long-lasting and debilitating. If you have experienced a trip and fall injury on the job and are having trouble paying for medical bills or making up for last wages, pursuing a Workers’ Compensation claim may help you stay financially afloat. In a time that is probably already confusing and stressful you may not know what to do. Follow these steps:
- see a doctor as soon as possible for treatment of injuries;
- report the incident to your supervisor;
- write down your account of the event that led up to the accident and what occurred afterward;
- write down the names and contact information of anyone who may have witnessed the accident; and
- if possible, take photos and/or video of the accident scene and your resulting injuries.
Making Sure Your Claim Is Approved
How and why: What caused the fall? What were the surroundings that may have contributed?
You have to know the reason you fell (a slippery/wet floor, insufficient lighting, tripping over an object). Simply reporting that you fell at work will not be enough to get you workers’ compensation benefits. You also have to have suffered a fall that was somehow related to your job. Falling because you tripped in your new high heels will likely not be covered. If you fell because there was water on the floor and you slipped and you did not see the water because you were carrying a tall stack of boxes, then your fall should be covered.
Work or every day activities: What were you doing? Is this fall work related or could this have happened anywhere?
Some folks suffer an injury that could have happened anywhere but they just happened to be at work that day. I hear a lot of people say that they were at work and walking into the break room when their knee just “gave out” or they bent over and their back just “locked up,” causing them to fall . They want to know if this can be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. The short answer is probably not. In order for workers’ compensation to cover a fall, it must be related to work. Your knee could have given out at the grocery store, so in order to get workers’ compensation benefits, you need a little more. If you were carrying a box of heavy materials, straining, and your knee gave out causing you to fall, then the injury could be covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
Horseplay and substances: Was this fall related to your job or something else?
If you fall at work because you were involved in an altercation with a co-worker that turned physical, you likely will not be covered by workers’ compensation insurance because it does not cover injuries stemming from personal disagreements. If you fell because you were drunk at work, you will not be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits because you were doing something that was not within the scope of your job. I also hear injured workers say things like “I was just goofing around with a co-worker and lost my balance.” This is another situation that workers’ compensation insurance likely will not cover because the fall was not directly related to your job duties.
Personal errands: Was this something your job required or something you did on your own?
People who travel for work can get caught up in this trap. If you are on your way back to the office after a business meeting but then make a small detour to stop by the grocery store or maybe a friend’s house and get injured in the process, you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Once you veer off the path and embark on an errand that is not related to your job, workers’ compensation will not cover your injuries because this was no longer related to your job duties – even if your friend or the store were in the same general area or on the way.
The difference between your claim being approved or denied may lie in the details. If your situation involves any of the elements discussed above or if you are still unsure if your injuries will be covered or not, you should consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney so they can shed some light on this for you.