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  • Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

    Workplace Accidents

    Workplace accidents happen, no matter how much emphasis an employer puts on safety. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds in the United States.

    Some of the most dangerous professions are those that are also the most essential to commerce and consumers’ quality of life, such as:

    • Aircraft pilots and flight engineers.
    • Roofers.
    • Construction workers.
    • Heavy machinery operators.
    • Hazardous materials handlers.
    • Manufacturing workers.
    • Iron and steelworkers.
    • First responders.
    • Refuse and recyclable materials collectors.
    • Truck drivers.
    • Farmers.
    • Logging workers.
    • Marine workers/fishers.
    • Groundskeepers.

    The preceding is not an exhaustive list. A workplace injury can happen in any type of work environment.

    It is important to note that workplace accidents do not have to happen in the actual workplace. For example, a worker who is in a car accident while traveling to a business meeting is considered to have been working in the scope of their employment. However, the commute to and from work is not considered a duty within the scope of employment, nor are most lunch and personal breaks.

    What Are Common Causes of Workplace Accidents?

    The most common workplace accidents are listed below, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

    Slip and Fall Accidents

    Among the top causes of workplace injury is employees who slip and fall. These accidents have any number of causes, such as:

    • Slick floors.
    • Cords.
    • Equipment not clearly marked or secured.
    • Defective ladders, lift equipment, scaffolding, or platforms.
    • Inappropriate safety equipment on roofs.
    • Torn carpeting.

    Falls can be on the same level or between two or more levels. They also include workers who fall through an opening, such as construction workers.

    Slip and falls are common among service workers and restaurant, retail, and hospitality workers who are on their feet over various surfaces in their daily jobs. There may be slippery, worn or torn surfaces, or they may trip over an object in their way.

    Overexertion

    Workers can easily hurt themselves when lifting or lowering heavy materials or repeatedly performing a task that requires the use of the same muscles. Working too many hours in a row can also cause overexertion.

    Overexertion causes many challenges. For example, workers with sore muscles and little energy may not adequately or safely perform their duties. Also, an overly fatigued worker may make mistakes that injure themselves and others.

    Equipment Injuries

    Many workplaces have moving equipment. This equipment can be dangerous if operated by an inexperienced person or is used near untrained staff. The employer may also lack safeguards, such as signage, floor markings, horns, and other warning signals to alert employees of moving equipment. Defective equipment can also lead to workplace accidents if an operator cannot steer or brake to avoid a collision.

    Defective Tools and Machinery

    Workplaces often have hundreds of different power tools, equipment, and machinery used daily or frequently. Any of these can be defective and not operate safely while being used for their intended purpose. The result can be severe accidents.

    Sometimes, an employer is negligent in inspecting and maintaining workplace tools and equipment. Broken or worn equipment can cause serious injury to an unsuspecting worker.

    Hazardous Contactcommon workplace accidents

    Contact with a piece of machinery or materials can lead to a worker being crushed or caught between two items. The cause is often a lack of trained workers or inadequate safety warnings and protocols by the employer.

    Motor Vehicle Accidents

    Workers who drive for a living, including commercial truck and bus drivers, run the risk of operating a defective vehicle. If a braking or steering system gives out, many lives could be at risk. A driver can also be subject to driving on roads that have not been appropriately maintained. If they are in an accident with injuries, they can file a legal claim against the government entity responsible for safe roadways.

    Finally, some employers of commercial truckers may require them to work against unrealistic deadlines or on shifts that are longer than federal guidelines mandate.

    Falling Objects

    Construction, manufacturing, and warehousing are typical workplaces where materials are often lifted and lowered. Inadequate safety protocols, defective equipment, and lack of training can lead to severe injuries when a heavy falling object hits a worker.

    Electrical Shock

    Electrocution can happen in any workplace that depends on electric power to operate machines, tools, and other devices. Improper grounding, frayed cords, and many other flaws can cause direct shock or an arc shock injury. Electrical equipment and power sources need to be inspected and maintained regularly.

    Exposure to Toxins

    A worker does not have to have a visible injury to be hurt. Many times, exposure to harmful chemicals, carcinogens, and other toxins can cause a person to fall ill with cancer, lung disease, neurological problems, systemic poisoning, and other ailments. These medical problems may take years to develop, but if they do, a person should always consider whether their work activities are to blame.

    What Are Typical Workplace Injuries?

    Workplace injuries range from minor to severe. A worker must be seen by a medical professional anytime there is a workplace accident. Even if the worker feels there is no injury or the injury is minor, they should still be seen immediately by a doctor and then later whenever new symptoms arise. Sometimes, injuries to the brain or internal organs take a few hours or even days to present symptoms.

    Workplace injuries will almost always keep an employee away from work for some time. Employees should always follow their doctor’s orders for immediate and long-term treatments. If they do not, they could lose insurance benefits, such as Workers’ Compensation.

    Common workplace injuries include the following:

    • Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, strains, and tears.
    • Soreness and pain.
    • Cuts, bruises, and lacerations.
    • Traumatic brain injuries.
    • Concussions.
    • Severe burns.
    • Electrocution internal and external injuries.
    • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis.
    • Broken and fractured bones.
    • Amputation.
    • Coma.
    • Internal organ damage/internal bleeding.
    • Loss of eyesight or hearing.
    • Aggravation of a pre-existing condition.

    What Should I Do if I am Injured on the Job?

    No one expects to get hurt at work, but if that happens, there are several steps workers should take. Doing the following can help employees heal and protect their rights at the same time.

    Seek Medical Help

    If the accident rises to the level of requiring emergency services, someone should call 911 as soon as possible. If the injury does not appear to be that severe, the employer should allow the employee to leave to seek medical assistance. Most companies are required to have Workers’ Compensation insurance and may have a list of approved doctors whom the employee can see for medical care.

    Report the Injury

    Reporting the incident should happen as soon as possible. The employee should speak with their supervisor on how best to report the injury and follow ensuing procedures, including filing a Workers’ Compensation claim.

    Keep All Recordsafter workplace accident

    The injured worker should keep all records and bills accumulated because of the injury, including doctor visits, tests, and any procedures. If there is a problem with benefit payouts later, the worker will record the expenses incurred.

    The employee should also maintain a file of all correspondence with the employer and insure. They should have a clear record of their approved time off, benefits used or lost, and similar employment activities.

    Collect Evidence

    Someone should take pictures of the accident site and obtain a copy of the employee’s timecard or any other evidence that proves that they were working legally at the time of the accident.

    Follow the Doctor’s Orders

    The injured employee must follow all the doctor’s treatments and other protocols, including tests, rehabilitation therapies, and medications. If they do not do this, an insurer could claim that the employee was not seriously injured or not healing because they did not follow the doctor’s orders.

    Consult With a Lawyer

    While accepting Workers’ Compensation benefits is essentially your promise not to sue the employer, there are still options and rights for the injured worker. Sometimes, the employee can file a legal claim against a negligent third party. Other times, the employee can be successful in proving the workplace hazardous. Consult with a lawyer as soon as possible after your workplace accident.

    What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?

    Because you cannot eliminate the safety or health hazards that cause injuries, you should do everything possible to ensure your employer bears the burden of your economic losses.

    One of the original principles of Workers’ Compensation insurance was to provide injured workers and their families sufficient resources to maintain an adequate standard of living, despite the disability or death of the primary breadwinner. Workers’ Compensation places the burden of a substantial portion of an injured worker’s economic loss on the employer. Note that Workers’ Compensation pays only a portion of a worker’s losses. It does not pay for their total loss of wages.

    In general, Workers’ Compensation insurance will cover the following:

    • Injury due to workplace accident or an accident that occurred while performing an activity within the scope of employment. An employer or insurer may try to say you were working a contract position or that you were not performing work-related duties when your accident occurred. Do not let them get away with this.
    • Aggravation of a pre-existing condition. For example, if you have documented heart disease and work exertion causes you to have another heart attack, you can apply for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Employers and insurers may try to get out of paying by saying your pre-existing condition caused the heart attack, not work. Consult with a lawyer who can defend against the insurer and employer claims.
    • Illness or disease. If exposure to workplace chemicals and toxins led to a diagnosis of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, or another illness, you would need to prove the link between the workplace and your diagnosis. A lawyer can help you do that. Even dust, fumes, and dirt can cause illness or disease. Take the time to have legal and medical advocates find the reason for your illness or disease.
    Galfand Berger IconA lawyer will also be able to help if your Workers’ Compensation claim is denied. They can steer you through the appeals process, which can be lengthy and complex.

    What if My Workplace Accident Was Caused by Defective Equipment?

    An injury can quickly happen when work machinery, tools, or equipment malfunction, or the workplace premises are inherently dangerous. This could mean that a third party was responsible for your injuries. A worker can receive Workers’ Compensation benefits and file a legal claim against a third party at the same time.

    A lawyer can help an injured worker find the real cause of the injury and the negligent third party, which could include:

    • Designer of the malfunctioning machinery, tools, or equipment.
    • Manufacturer of the malfunctioning devices, including personal protective equipment that failed.
    • Distributor of the malfunctioning devices.
    • Vehicle driver that caused an accident.
    • Premises/building owner or manager.
    • Contractor or subcontractor.
    • Electrician.
    • Other parties.

    Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Provide Legal Counsel After Severe Workplace Accidents

    Our Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP have successfully represented many workers who have been injured in workplace accidents. We are happy to answer any questions and review your case. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation. With offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.