No worker expects to suffer a serious injury on the job. Unfortunately, the workplace is a common setting for accidents, injuries and even deaths in Nebraska. In 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 20,200 workplace injuries and illnesses in Nebraska. If you sustain a workplace injury, take the following steps to ensure the protection of your physical health and legal rights.
Get Medical Care
Your number one priority after a workplace injury is to get prompt medical care. Do not delay in going to a hospital or visiting a doctor to treat your occupational injury or illness. Waiting too long can adversely affect your health status and your ability to recover compensation for a work injury.
In Nebraska, the workers’ compensation program allows you to visit your own primary care physician if you have a record of being treated by that doctor. If you do not have a primary care doctor already established, your employer may choose a physician on your behalf. Either way, schedule an appointment without delay.
Keep in mind that you may have an injury with hidden symptoms that may not appear for hours or even days later. If an object fell and hit your head at work, for example, you should go to a doctor for a possible concussion, even if you are asymptomatic. Concussions and other brain injuries can have delayed symptoms.
Report the Accident to Your Employer
Nebraska’s workers’ comp system covers almost all employees in the state. This insurance system offers financial coverage for an eligible worker’s medical bills, partial (about two-thirds) lost wages, disability and death benefits without requiring the worker to show proof of someone else’s negligence.
To qualify for workers’ comp coverage, Nebraska Revised Statute 48-133 requires a worker to give a notice of the injury to the employer “as soon as practicable after the happening thereof.” While state law does not give a specific deadline, it is implied that you should notify your employer of a workplace injury as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could lose the option of filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Document the Workplace Accident
Do your best to document your work accident and related injury or illness. Detailed documentation is important for piecing together a timeline of events, understanding the cause of the accident, and supporting an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
Below are ten ways to document your work accident:
- Ask for a copy of your employer’s work accident report.
- Take photographs at the scene of the accident before you leave.
- Check for surveillance or security cameras in the area.
- Keep the clothes and shoes you were wearing at the time of the accident.
- Speak to coworkers, managers and others who saw the accident take place.
- Write down a detailed description of what happened while the event is still clear in your mind.
- Make note of all communications between you, your employer and their insurance company.
- Obtain copies of your medical documents, including x-rays and treatment recommendations.
- Make copies of relevant employment documents, such as premises maintenance logs.
- Keep a running tally of your expenses, including hospital bills, transportation and lost wages.
Even if your work injury does not initially seem serious, document everything. Your injury could have complications later that affect you more intensely, such as an infection. Proper documentation from the beginning can make it easier to establish your case and qualify for fair compensation.
File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Find out if your employer has workers’ compensation insurance and, if so, whether you are a covered employee. If you believe you should be covered but your employer tells you otherwise, contact an attorney, as you may be a victim of misclassification. If you are eligible, begin the process of filing a workers’ comp claim.
Your supervisor should fill out and submit the First Report of Occupational Injury or Illness Form within their insurance company’s deadline. Follow up with your employer to find out if and when the claims forms were submitted.
You should hear from the insurance company within about two weeks regarding your claim. If you receive a settlement offer, consult with an attorney before accepting. While a workers’ compensation claim can be a simple way to recover financial compensation for a work injury, it may not be the only – or best – option for you.
Do Not Rush to Accept a Workers’ Comp Settlement
In certain circumstances, a personal injury claim may be better suited for an injured worker’s financial recovery than a workers’ compensation settlement in Nebraska. If someone else was negligent, or fell short of the duty of care, and this caused or contributed to the work injury, a personal injury case against the at-fault party could result in greater financial compensation.
For example, the workers’ compensation program reimburses workers for approximately two-thirds of their lost wages, but a personal injury case could provide 100-percent lost wage reimbursement. A personal injury case also comes with the possibility of recovering damages for the victim’s pain and suffering.
Once a workers’ comp settlement is accepted, the victim gives up the right to sue his or her employer for negligence. This is why it is important to wait to accept a settlement until you have consulted with an attorney about the cause of your work injury.
If a third party is responsible, such as a contractor or product manufacturer, you may be able to recover through both a workers’ comp claim and a personal injury lawsuit. An attorney can review your legal options in detail with you after reviewing your specific case.
Know When to Hire an Attorney
You may need to hire a personal injury attorney in Omaha after suffering a workplace injury. If your injuries are serious, catastrophic or permanently disabling, a lawyer may be invaluable for negotiating a fair settlement from a workers’ compensation insurance company. Without an attorney, an insurance company may take advantage of you and offer significantly less than you deserve for future estimated losses. An attorney can also be beneficial for challenging or complicated cases, such as if your employer is refuting liability for your work injury or if you were terminated from your place of employment after filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you need assistance with a workplace injury case in Nebraska, contact Knowles Law Firm to schedule a free case review with an experienced attorney.