Nobody leaves for work in the morning expecting to be the victim of a workplace injury, but millions of people across America are hurt at work every year; the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations found that almost 4 million private industry workers had suffered an injury in the workplace in 2008 alone. Earlier this year I experienced the trauma of a workplace injury after losing two of my fingers while working on the production line at an automotive plant. The experience was incredibly stressful for me and my family, so I wanted to offer some advice to people going through this same hardship.
1) Join a union
This is pre-emptive advice really, but to ensure you get as much support as possible in the event of an injury at work, you should be part of a union. The AFL-CIO has a list of unions across all industries available on their website, so take a look and see which union is best for you. Not only do unionized workers tend to get higher wages, they also work in safer conditions.
In my case, I rang my union when I was recovering in my local hospital, and they were incredibly helpful. There’s all kinds of red tape to navigate when you’ve had a workplace injury, so having someone knowledgeable who can guide you through all the procedures and protocols is essential.
2) Record everything
Nowadays it seems like people record every aspect of their lives to share with others, but with a workplace injury keeping accurate records is essential. Though your employer’s insurance company has to cover the cost of any medical treatment rising from a workplace injury, if you don’t have full records, many times they’ll try to weasel out of paying the full cost. This is where documenting your injury becomes essential; by having time and date stamped records, as well as photos where necessary, you can back yourself up against any cheap tricks from insurers.
3) Get professional legal help
When it comes to ensuring you get everything you’re entitled to from a workplace injury claim, specialized legal counsel is vital. I took my case to the guys at Jason E. Taylor PC (http://www.thelitigator.com/), who are experts on workplace injuries in the Carolinas (I live and work in Raleigh, NC) and they were great. My lawyer was knowledgeable and friendly, advising me of some of the tricks the insurance company were trying to get out of paying my full entitlement. Having a local legal expert, particularly one that is friendly and understanding, took a lot of the stress and worry out of my claim process, and helped me get everything I was due from my employer.
I highly recommend using a legal firm like Jason E. Taylor PC; these local firms know the ins and outs of state rules on workplace safety and can often outfox the insurance company’s lawyers by knowing more about state-specific legislation and case history. They also made me feel at ease and like a valued client and person, which isn’t always the case with the big nationwide firms.