As a business owner, you have many responsibilities on your shoulders. You have to run your business, manage people, do payroll, stay abreast of changes in the industry and keep all your efforts in the same direction.
At some point, dealing with an employee who is injured at work is inevitable. Statistics show that in 2013, more than 917,000 workers were injured and unable to work for a while.
An injured employee has the right to apply for workers' compensation to recover medical expenses and lost wages. There is also a chance that you can be chased instead. You must be prepared to handle this situation professionally.
Do not punish your employee if his application is rejected
Although many workers' compensation claims are granted, many are denied even if they are legitimate. It's frustrating for the employee, but also leaves you open to a lawsuit. Depending on the severity of the worker's injury, filing a lawsuit may be their only chance to pay for increasing medical expenses.
If your employee takes legal action against you, your insurance company will do so, although you may be required to appear in court. You can expect your insurance company to do everything in its power to pay as little money as possible. However, be aware that personal injury lawsuits are often handled by teams of former adjusters and former law enforcement officers.
Most employers fear that their pockets will be emptied by an employee. If you are being sued, be prepared to change your work environment, safety rules, and inspection routines.
Your employees deserve your support
If an employee pursues your business, it's not the end of the world. Being sued does not mean that you will automatically be held responsible for the claim. You will have to go through a long and complex process in the legal system in order for your case to be resolved. However, going through this process can cost you a nice penny.
Sometimes employees fail to file a claim and go directly to a prosecution because their employer makes things difficult. The best way to avoid this situation is to support as much as possible the employee who is injured at work. They can still sue you, but if you support them, it will not be out of anger.
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Here's what you should do when an employee gets injured at work:
- Listen to them when they tell you what happened and how it happened. Take notes, and keep in mind that you will need to investigate to see if this type of injury can be avoided in the future.
- Give them the resources they need to file a worker's compensation application. Be proactive and support your employee. Treat them as a human being, not a financial responsibility. You may have to pay out of pocket for their injuries, but they are still human at the end of the day.
- Investigate their claim with an open mind. Do not assume that they are lying or exaggerating. However, do not assume that they provide you with all the facts, either. Talk to other employees who have witnessed the accident as soon as possible to get accounts on what happened.
Here is what you should never do when an employee is injured at work:
- Terminate their employment. You may have a good reason to terminate an injured employee, but if you let them go right after their injury, it will be like retaliation. Although it is illegal, many employers retaliate against employees filing workers' compensation claims.
A study found that 26% of laid-off workers were laid off within one week of reporting their injury to their employer. Sixty-four percent were released within six months of reporting their injury. Some workers even claim that their employers told them that they were dropped because they had filed a workers' compensation application.
- Refuse to give them forms to file a claim for workers' compensation. They can find these forms online or at the library, but if you have them, you should provide them.
- Denying the accident has even happened. Denying an accident is the fastest way to lose a personal injury lawsuit. Sooner or later, evidence will be revealed that will prove the opposite. Even if the accident was your employee's fault, never deny that an injury occurred at work.
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Understand that your employee is just as scared as you
Although you may be scared for different reasons, consider that your injured employee is probably worried about losing his job, losing his income, and accumulating medical debts in addition to treating his injury.
Part of running a business requires accepting the fact that accidents can and will occur. When an accident occurs and someone is injured, you have a duty to handle it professionally and honestly with your injured employee and any legal staff who may be involved.