What Is a Workplace Accident and What to Do if You Have One

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Leah Thomas866

Definition of a workplace accident

A workplace accident (sometimes called an “occupational accident”) is one that entitles the worker to a work injury benefit. A workplace accident can be one that occurs on the way to work from one’s home, or on the way to one’s home from work — as well as an accident that occurs at work, whether that be on the floor or in the break-room or on workplace grounds of any kind. Workplace accidents can also include an assault that occurs during work hours on work property, which includes sexual assault.

An accident is not considered a workplace accident, however, if the employee took an unusual route on the way to work that is not related to workplace obligations — unless that unusual route was related to dropping a child at daycare services or to morning praying in a house of worship. An accident on the way to or from work is also not considered a workplace accident if the employee was driving in a negligent manner or disobeying traffic laws. 

Common Workplace Accidents and Statistics

In 2017, there were approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace accidents causing injuries or illnesses reported by private industry employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of reported workplace accidents had decreased by 45,800 in comparison to accidents in the year 2016.

In the manufacturing industry, the most common type of injuries were sprains, strains and tears — contributing 34,110 injuries to the total number. For warehousing and storage, common injuries in 2017 included overexertion and bodily reaction related to everyday work, contact with equipment, as well as on-the-job falls, slips or trips. In both the administrative services and social assistance fields, and falls, slips and trips were the leading cause of workplace injuries. 

Examples of Workplace Accidents

The most common workplace injuries in all fields include overexertion (pulling, lifting, pushing, holding, carrying, throwing, etc.), slipping/tripping and falling, reaction injuries (slipping or tripping without falling), falling object injuries and vehicle injuries. 

Here are a few examples of the aforementioned workplace injuries:

1. While on her way to work, a woman is T-boned in an intersection and suffers a concussion as a result. Because she was en route to her employer, it is considered a workplace accident.

2. A woman is asked to move boxes in the storage closet, during which, a box falls on her foot and she suffers a broken toe. 

3. After slipping and falling on spilled water in the breakroom, a woman suffers head and back injuries.

What You Can Do

Follow these steps in order to expedite the sometimes strenuous process of receiving benefits involving your workplace accident.

1. The obvious first step is to seek medical help. Do not worry about filing any paperwork until you have sought the necessary medicare care — think of your health first. If necessary, go immediately to the emergency room. But if you are not seriously injured, ask your employer if you are required to see a specific doctor or if you can choose your own to visit. 

2. Report your injury. As soon as you possibly can (without sacrificing your health) report the injury to your employer — most states and employers only give you 30 days to report the injury and 2 years to file a claim. (We’ll detail exactly how to do this later.)

3. File a claim. If you did not receive all of your benefits, i.e. if your employer did not report your accident or is denying that the accident ever happened, you can obtain an attorney who can file a claim for you — all employers are required to provide worker compensation insurance. 

4. Check what your compensation covers. Different states’ compensation laws require companies to cover different things. For example, South Carolina’s workers’ compensation insurance covers surgery, hospitalization, medical supplies, prosthetic devices and any necessary prescriptions. 

5. Check your company’s policy for missing work post-accident. Some companies will offer you paid leave up to a certain amount of out-of-office time. 

Workplace Accident Report

Again, workers compensation procedures vary from state to state in the U.S. Do your research on your specific state’s processes. But we’ve offered general guidelines in helping you to get your accident report properly filed. 

1. Immediately report the accident to your supervisor.

2. Your employer should provide you with a claim form to file for workers’ compensation insurance. If they do not, you can contact your state’s workers’ compensation board to obtain a form.

3. Fill out the form, which will generally ask you for personal information and information regarding the workplace accident. You will most likely have to provide the nature of the injury, the date, time and other important specifics, how it occurred, where on your body you were injured, any other people involved and the medical care you have received.

4. Return the form to your employer (but make a copy for yourself first!).

5. Your employer will then fill out their part of the claim form and then file it with a workers’ compensation claims administrator and state workers’ compensation office. You should be contacted by a claims administrator to let you know if your claim has been accepted or not and to inform you of the benefits you may receive. 

6. Make sure to keep track of your claim through this process. Keep records of all steps taken and keep copies of all documents filed. Keep notes on your injury and how it has affected you in the workplace. Keep a copy of all medical reports. And keep track of hours missed at work due to your injury, as well as pay stubs if your compensation has been affected as well. If you’ve had to pay for travel expenses related to your injury, keep records of that as well. 

Potential Next Steps

If your injury gets to the point of requesting a medical leave, there are a few facts you should know. A medical leave is different from sick leave in that it’s a longer absence from work due to a serious health condition or a family medical emergency.

By law, your employer is required to provide you with 12 weeks of medical leave during a 12-month period. Accepted reasons for medical leave include adoption, childbirth, illness of a close relative (like a child or a parent) and for one’s own serious illness or injury. However, an employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours over a 12-month period in order to qualify for medical leave. And an employee must give 30 days notice for the proposed medical leave.