Labor 411: Ask The Expert | Kimberly Wong (March 2016)

I was operating a power press machine at work when the die unexpectedly came down on my hand causing me serious injury. I am now unable to work. What are my options?

You should immediately notify your employer of your injury so that your employer can report it to its workers' compensation insurance company and take appropriate action. Workers' compensation is intended to provide you with medical care related to your injury and disability benefits while you are unable to work. Because you have suffered a serious injury, you should strongly consider hiring an attorney specializing in workers' compensation law to represent you on your workers' compensation claim. A workers' compensation attorney can assist you in getting timely medical treatment and payment of medical bills as well as receive the maximum amount of compensation allowed by law.

Workers who are seriously injured often find that the medical and disability benefits provided by workers' compensation are insufficient to cover their financial losses resulting from the injury. Moreover, workers' compensation will not compensate you for your pain and suffering, which is another reason why you should not overlook any potential personal injury claims you may be able to file in addition to your workers' compensation claim. Usually people injured at work are precluded from bringing a personal injury claim against their employer because state law provides that workers' compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy against their employer. There are, however, some exceptions. One exception is when the employer knowingly removed or failed to install a manufacturer-required guard on a power press machine. You should also know that if there was some defect with the machine that caused your injury, you may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer of the machine.

For additional advice as to what you should do in your specific situation, you should consult with attorneys who specialize in workers' compensation and personal injury claims as soon as possible because there are strict time limits under which you must act to protect your rights.