I’ve been seriously hurt on the job. What’s the first thing I should do?

You should immediately seek medical attention. You will also need to notify your employer of your injury so that your employer can take appropriate action, including reporting the injury it to its workers' compensation insurance company and OSHA. Employees injured on the job are generally entitled to workers' compensation benefits from their employer. Because you have suffered a serious injury, you should strongly consider hiring an attorney who specializes 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.

Do I have a workers' compensation claim or a personal injury claim? What's the difference?

If you are injured on the job, you may have both a workers' compensation claim and a personal injury claim. Workers' compensation is a no-fault system in which your employer provides medical care and disability benefits for injuries that occur during the course and scope of your employment. However, many injured workers find that the workers' compensation benefits are completely inadequate to cover their financial losses resulting from the injury. Under some circumstances, there may be someone other than the employer (i.e. a third party) who has legal responsibility for your injuries. You can bring a personal injury lawsuit against a third party while maintaining your workers' compensation claim. For example, if a defective machine injured you at work, you may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the machine. As another example, if you were working on a construction site and another contractor dropped a beam on your foot, you could sue that contractor for negligence.

Unlike workers' compensation claims, personal injury lawsuits require evidence of the third party's fault, but the potential monetary recovery may be much greater than workers' compensation benefits. Available damages from a personal injury lawsuit include past and future loss of earnings or earning capacity, medical expenses, and loss of household services. You may also recover damages for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment, and other non-economic damages, which are not available in workers' compensation. Non-economic damages can provide a substantial recovery, particularly in cases of a severe injury. Additionally, your spouse can bring a claim for loss of consortium to recover damages for the harm caused to your marital relationship as a result of your injuries.

My cousin does some type of law. How important is it that I hire a personal injury attorney, or can anyone with a law degree help me out?

Would you hire an electrician to fix a leaky pipe? No, you would hire a plumber who is a specialist. The same idea is true when it comes to hiring lawyers to represent you. You want someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in the area of law that concerns your issue. Personal injury cases are often complex and very different than other kinds of cases. It is important that you find a personal injury attorney who regularly represents workers who have suffered serious injuries through litigation and trial.

When interviewing potential attorneys, some questions you should consider asking include:

  1. Do you have trial experience? How often do you go to trial?
  2. How often do you represent injured workers in personal injury cases?
  3. How long have you been handling third party lawsuits?
  4. What kind of experience do you have handling cases like mine? (e.g. construction site injury, defective equipment)
  5. What are your fees? How are litigation costs paid?
  6. Who will handle my case?
  7. Does your law firm have the financial and staffing resources to take on my case?
  8. What should I expect from my case?

While an attorney's relevant experience, skills, and knowledge are important, you also want to be sure that the attorney you hire is someone you feel you can trust and someone who will provide the level of support, communication, and compassion you need.

How long do I have to file a personal injury claim after being hurt on the job?

The deadline to file a personal injury claim, which is known as the "statute of limitations" will depend upon the circumstances of your injury. The statute of limitations may be within six months of the date of injury, but in other cases it could be two years. It is a good idea that you speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as you are able to find out what statute of limitations apply in your situation and evaluate your claim. If you do not file before the statute of limitations, you will likely be barred from bringing your personal injury claim. The earlier you hire an attorney, the sooner an attorney can help you build your claim, which includes investigating and taking steps to have crucial evidence preserved for your case.