Making the Best of a Bad Situation: How to handle on-the-job accidents

Regardless of your occupation, you are more likely to be injured at work than away from work. Work-related injuries account for the vast majority injuries. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, in 2002, there were 5.3 cases of occupational injuries per 100 workers, with 4.7 million injuries and illnesses among private sector firms. Despite the prevalence of work-related injuries, many employers and workers have misconceptions about how to handle on-the-job accidents. The most important aspect is communication. This means reporting the accident, whether you are the worker reporting the accident to your employer, or the employer reporting the accident to your workers’ compensation insurer. Many of the problems associated with workers’ compensation claims arise because the injured worker fails to timely report the accident. In many cases, symptoms of serious injuries do not appear until the next day. If you are involved in a work-related accident, report it immediately to your employer, even if you do not think that you are hurt or you feel your symptoms are minor and will go away after a good night’s rest. Insist that your supervisor complete a written report to document the accident. What may seem like a little back sprain may develop into a serious injury that your doctor will not be able to diagnose until months later.

As an employer, you should create a work atmosphere that encourages your employees to report accidents immediately. Many company whose employees are involved in heavier labor and thus are more likely to be injured on the job, have safety policies that emphasize the importance of early reporting. However, such a policy is also important for those work environments where on-the-job injuries are less likely, such offices that only employ clerical workers.

Here are other basic rules about workers’ compensation. Under Louisiana law, the injured worker is entitled to obtain treatment from the physician of his choice. The worker may seek treatment from one physician in each area of medical specialty related to his injury. The employer is obligated to provide all medical treatment related to the injury.

If the injury prevents the worker from performing his duties, he is entitled weekly disability benefits once his injury prevents him from returning to work for seven days. The weekly disability amount is two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage. For full time hourly employees, the average weekly wage is the hourly wage rate time the average of the actual hours for four full weeks of employment before the accident, or forty hours, whichever is greater. However, the law provides for a maximum weekly benefit that increases each year based on the earnings of all employees working in Louisiana.

If the worker is released to return to work, but has medical restrictions that prevent him from earning ninety percent of his pre-accident average weekly wage, he is entitled to two-thirds of the difference between what he was earning before the accident and what he able to earn after. One of the biggest misconceptions is that employee’s weekly benefits will be automatically terminated if he is released to return to work. If, for instance, he returns to work at light duty based on his medical restrictions and is only able to work forty hours without any overtime, the employee may be entitled to disability benefits in addition to his wages to make up the difference.

Any disputes arising out of workers’ compensation claims are resolved in a special court within the Office of Workers’ Compensation by judges with special training in workers’ compensation claims. This is a special administrative court that only decides workers’ compensation disputes between employees and employers, or other matters related to workers’ compensation claims. However, unlike other administrative courts, the decisions of OWC judges are appealed directly to the courts of appeal.

Good communications, early documentation, and a clear understanding of the basic tenets of workers’ compensation will lead to less anxiety for those involved in any work accident. An on-the-job injury can be a life-changing event for the injured worker, and pose serious productivity problems for the employer. Employers are better served by treating their employees fairly and creating an environment where work-accidents are reported early and dealt with properly.

www.coxcoxfilo.com

Personal Injury Lawyers

723 Broad Street Lake Charles, Louisiana 70601 Telephone: 337-436-6611 Toll Free: 800-256-2827

Kevin L. Camel kevin.camel@coxcoxfilo.com Education: University of Southwestern Louisiana, B.S., cum laude, 1987 Loyola University School of Law, J.D., 1992

Practice Areas : Personal Injury; Admiralty and Maritime Law; Workers’ Compensation

Membership: Southwest Louisiana Bar Association, Louisiana State Bar Association, Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association, Judge Albert Tate Jr. Inn of Court

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