Did you know that there are 1,315,561 lawyers in the United States alone? That’s a lot, but how do you know which one to call when you need health and safety lawyers after a work accident?
As you can probably imagine, health and safety lawyers cover a wide range of legal specializations. Which one is right for you will depend on who you are, your situation, and your case. In this article, we’re going to mostly focus on health and safety lawyers and legal protections for people who were injured while working for an employer. We’ll also briefly touch on how to navigate a wrongful death case in the event that a loved one is killed because of negligence.
To learn everything you need to know about health and safety lawyers and legal protections for patients, keep reading.
What are your legal rights after being injured at work?
In every state, employers and companies are required to give their employees a work environment that’s reasonably safe and healthy. When employers fail to fulfill this duty, which they sometimes do, employees like you can be injured as a result. In other instances, however, employees can get injured while on the job, even when every reasonable precaution was taken to make the workplace safe and prevent injury. These injuries can include anything from broken bones, to occupational illnesses, to aggravations of pre-existing conditions, even to psychological injuries.
Often the type of work you do will determine what kind of risk you’re at just by going to work. Obviously, being a construction worker comes with a lot more occupational hazards than working in most offices. But it doesn’t matter where you work — accidents and injuries happen, and when they do, you’ll want a workers compensation lawyer to represent you so you come out of the situation ahead instead of farther behind, at least financially.
Even if health and safety lawyers aren’t involved, business laws require that workers be compensated by their employers for most injuries. But first you must know to protect your rights as an employee.
How can you protect your legal rights?
The first thing you must do when you’re injured at work is to report your injury to your employer. You should do this as soon as you possibly can, because most states require that you report an injury within a certain amount of time. This time is typically either on the same day as the accident, or within a few days of it. Of course, reporting your injury immediately isn’t always possible, as some conditions won’t become noticeable until later on. But as soon as you become aware that you injured yourself while at work, you must notify your employer to protect your legal rights.
After letting your employer know about your injury, the next step to protecting your rights is to file a claim with the industrial court or workers’ compensation court in your state. By doing so, you will put your employer, the court, and your employer’s insurance provider on official notice of your injury.
The longer you keep the knowledge of your injury to yourself, the more you’ll be at a disadvantage when you try to defend your case. Medical services, like bone graft companies, become much more attainable when you have your employer or the state funding your treatments. To get the most financial compensation possible, get your case started right by letting your employer and the court know first thing when you realize you’ve been injured.
What are your rights, exactly?
Once you’ve filed your workers’ compensation claim, certain legal protections will apply for you automatically. But just what are your rights when you’re an employee who’s been injured on the job?
As a matter of fact, it depends on where you live. Workers’ compensation laws vary widely from one state to another. As a result, the rights for injured employees vary widely as well, and so do the legal procedures that apply to health and safety lawyers.
However, to help you gain a better understanding of the rights you have and the medical care benefits you can expect, the following legal rights are common across most states:
- You have the right to file a claim for your illness or injury, in either the state industrial court or the workers’ compensation court.
- You have the right to visit a doctor and receive needed medical treatment.
- You have the right to return to your place of employment, once you’re released by your physician to return to work.
- If your injury or illness prevents you from going back to work, whether permanently or temporarily, you have the right to some form of disability compensation.
- If you disagree with any decision made by your employer, your employer’s insurance provider, or the court itself, you typically have the right to appeal that decision.
- Throughout the entire process, you have the right to be represented by your choice of personal injury lawyers.
By now you understand how important it is to take action to protect your rights. But besides knowing when to act, it’s also critical to know when to refuse certain offers or requests.
As an example, if your employer asks you to use your own health insurance to pay for a check up and treatments, you have the right to refuse his request. After all, you were injured on company property, presumably without knowingly doing anything unsafe or against your workplace’s policies (more on that later). So you shouldn’t have to fall back on your own insurance to pay your way through medical treatments.
If your supervisor attempts to bribe you out of filing a workers’ compensation claim with some sort of incentive, this is illegal. You have the right to say no to that, too.
Whatever happens, you shouldn’t feel bullied or threatened by your employer. No matter which state you live in, the law provides that you may pursue a workers’ compensation claim without having your employer retaliate or harass you because of it. Any employer that resists your efforts to exercise these rights freely could be breaking the law, and the penalties are often quite severe. If you feel singled out or attacked by your employer and feel it is because of your compensation claim, you should seek advice and support from health and safety lawyers.
What are your rights against third parties?
Sometimes the injury you experience might have been caused by the negligence of a third party — someone other than your employer. Depending on your circumstances, the third party could be a person or organization responsible for a faulty design, defective equipment, or even unsafe driving habits.
In most cases, third party claims are not filed within the workers’ compensation system of law. Instead, they take the form of ordinary civil lawsuits, and are filed in federal or state courts.
If you’re injured at work because of another person or entity’s negligence, you might have the right to bring a claim against them as well. For example, if you’re a truck driver and you were hurt in an accident with another driver, an auto accident lawyer can help you get compensation for your injuries if the other driver was at fault.
If you find yourself in a case like this, then the good news is that civil lawsuits for work injuries can often seek additional damages for personal injury that aren’t recoverable in a workers’ compensation claim. In workers’ compensation, your claim is usually only intended to make up for lost wages and medical expenses. Compensation for things like pain and suffering isn’t typically available. But in a third party claim, you can usually seek compensation for pain and suffering, as well as other non-economic damages.
Thanks to your legal protections and the hard work of health and safety lawyers, there are countless ways you can be compensated for an injury at work. But can you file a workers’ compensation claim if you were injured while disobeying company policies? Keep reading to find out.
Can you still be compensated if you were injured while violating company rules?
Employers are often surprised and frustrated when they find out that employees who are injured while violating safety rules can still get workers’ compensation benefits. Of course, if you’re the one seeking compensation, it’s great news for you. However, it comes with a catch: employees are not always eligible to seek workers’ compensation after being injured while disobeying company safety rules. It usually depends on the rules, and what manner in which the rules were broken.
If the compensation judge determines that your injury was a direct result of the prohibited action you took, your claim will probably be denied. Although the laws will vary state by state, the factors typically taken into consideration should be something like the following:
- Whether or not you knew of the prohibition before you acted.
- Whether the prohibited act is customarily observed, or frequently ignored in your workplace.
- Whether or not your employer took reasonable steps to enforce the prohibition.
- The reason you had for disobeying the rule in question.
- Whether performing the prohibited act was unreasonably dangerous or not.
- Whether it was foreseeable by your employer that the prohibited act would occur anyway.
Whether or not your case gets denied will depend on several factors. Again, different states have different laws and regulations, and the deciding factor will ultimately be up to the judge anyway. You might be given a decreased compensation instead of having your claim denied entirely. Or the court might rule entirely in your favor, providing you the all of the compensation you need. Skilled and dedicated work injury attorneys may be able to tip the court in your favor if their argument is strong enough.
Regardless of whether you can still be compensated or not, you should make it a point to always follow your employers’ safety policies. That way if you’re ever injured in the future, you can be reasonably sure that your workers’ compensation claim will be accepted. Health and safety lawyers are an enormous help in legal matters, but they can only do so much if you weren’t complying with important rules in the first place.
What you need to know to navigate a wrongful death claim
Navigating a work injury claim with health and safety lawyers is one thing, but filing a wrongful death for a deceased loved one is an entirely different matter. Understandably, this is mostly because of the double blow caused by facing a legal battle and a loved one’s untimely death at the same time.
A wrongful death case is a civil action brought by surviving family members of someone who passed away prematurely because of the negligent actions of another. The careless actions of the defendant are the underpinnings of the case, and the legal action is taken to somehow compensate the immediate family of the person who passed away. The diseased individual doesn’t benefit from compensation, however, pain and suffering experienced by the deceased loved one is taken into account by the court when deciding on how to compensate the family.
Naturally it’s impossible to assign a monetary value to a human life, but a wrongful death case seeks to compensate surviving family members, as well as anyone economically impacted by the premature death, for financial setbacks and emotional suffering caused by their loss. These cases are specifically referred to as wrongful death actions. There’s one other type of wrongful death case, referred to as survival actions, which pay for damages suffered by the victim. This includes pain and suffering they experienced, as well as medical bills and other damages they may have had before their death, which might now have become the family’s responsibility. Damages for survival actions are paid to the victim’s estate, however, it is then funneled on to the beneficiaries — that is, the surviving family members — so in either case, the surviving family benefits from wrongful death actions.
How is a wrongful death claim filed?
Wrongful death claims are typically filed in a two-step process. Before a claim can be filed, the family must appoint a personal representative in court. That person, representing the victim’s estate, will bring a civil on behalf of the family.
Only certain people related to the victim are eligible to bring claims. These include spouses, partners, children, siblings, and anyone connected to the victim who suffered financially because of the premature death.
The personal representative essentially plays the role of the victim, acting in the best interests of the estate. Once they’ve been authorized, they have the authority to bring the wrongful death case to court. This procedure can be followed for all sorts of cases, including motor vehicle cases, medical malpractice, personal injury, drunk driving accidents, and even murder.
Interestingly, since it is a civil case, the burden of proof is merely “preponderance of the evidence.” In other words, the plaintiff needs to prove that, more likely than not, the defendant’s negligence did cause the death. This is considerably less than the burden of proof required in criminal court, which is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
From protecting your legal rights to working with health and safety lawyers, this could be all you need to know to start defending your case. From trucking accidents to slips and falls, hopefully this information has helped you understand workers’ compensation law.