The 5 Ways You can Ruin Your Work Injury Case in Texas
When you've been hurt at work, the company is betting that you ruin your case because you don't know your legal rights. Don't let them win that bet. This guide walks you through the top 5 ways you can ruin your work injury case and how to prevent that from happening.
You don't get an incident report filed after the accidentWhether your supervisor said you didn't need one or you were pressured into not getting an incident report filed, not having an incident report is not good for your case.
Even though you know you were injured at work, you have witnesses, and you reported it, because there's no incident report on file, your company's attorneys can use that against you in a work injury lawsuit. They'll argue you're lying and that you weren't hurt on the job. They'll argue you're just trying to scam the company out of money.
Even though it's not true, it makes a jury second-guess your case. It can mean the difference between getting the compensation you deserve and only getting a percentage of what you need to recover from your injuries.
I have seen - over and over again - companies essentially bully employees into not filing incident reports because the company doesn't want their reportable injury number to go up. You have to remember that every incident report they bully employees into not filing lets the company off the hook for their unsafe behavior. Unsafe practices that will put more employees in harm's way.
If the company doesn't want you to file an incident report, that is a red flag they are putting profits over safety. If you can't get an incident report filed, you need to:
- write down everything that happened to you, including the names of people who witnessed it and who they work for, if they don't work for your company.
- get everyone who was there to write a statement - doesn't matter what language it's in - about what happened. They all need to sign and date their statements.
- contact a work injury attorney to discuss your rights and what steps you need to take to protect your future.
You wait to get medical careIf you wait to get medical care after you've been injured on the job, you are potentially damaging your case.
Aside from using the lack of an incident report to argue that you weren't hurt on the job, the second most common argument defense attorneys use is that because you waited to get medical care, you weren't hurt when you say you were.
If you can't get your supervisor or boss to let you go to the doctor immediately after you've been injured, go after your shift. It is really important that you get your injuries documented as soon as possible.
Your medical records are one of the most important tools you have to win your case.
It's important that you go to all of your doctor's appointments and follow all of their instructions. All of them. The defense attorneys will have copies of your medical records and usually hire investigators to follow you. The investigators' job is to catch you doing something your doctors said you shouldn't do. My firm had a client who'd hurt his back offshore. His doctor told him he couldn't carry anything heavier than 20 pounds. He and his wife had an infant and a few dogs. They'd run errands one afternoon and came home to unload everything. They'd picked up dog food and diapers and groceries. His wife took the baby inside, and he wanted to get the car unloaded. He figured since it was only a few feet from the car to the house, it would be OK to carry the 25 pound bags of dog food. Except he didn't know an investigator was filming him. So when his deposition came around, the defense attorneys showed the video of him carrying heavy bags despite his doctor's orders. His case settled for a fraction of what he would have gotten if he'd just followed his doctor's orders.
Bottom line - you have to go to the doctor right after you're hurt and then you have to do everything your doctor says.
You wait to find out if your company has workers' compensation insuranceAfter filing an incident report and getting medical treatment, you need to find out if your company has workers' compensation insurance right away.
In Texas and a few other states, your employer doesn't have to have workers' compensation insurance. Instead, your company can have their own insurance policy. If your company has workers' compensation and you've been hurt, or if you work in the medical field (99% of injuries that occur in the medical field are covered by workers' compensation in Texas under a special law), your only avenue to recover will be to hire an attorney who specializes in workers' compensation cases.
If your company doesn't have workers' compensation, they're considered a "non-subscriber." What that means for you is that you can hire an attorney who specializes in these non-workers' comp claims and pursue a work injury lawsuit against your company.
In some cases, even if your company has workers' compensation coverage, you will still be able to file a lawsuit against them if you were injured by an employee of a different company or on another company's property. This is called a "third party" claim.
We've seen cases where people have been told their company has workers' compensation coverage only to find out too late that the company really didn't and they could have filed a lawsuit against the company.
We've seen cases where people were hurt by a third party but didn't know it because they didn't talk to a lawyer about their case in time.
Waiting for the company to help you get your injury claim filed will get you nowhere. The moment you get hurt is the moment you stop being an asset to your company and you become a threat to them. They have no incentive to help you after you're injured.
Talking to a lawyer about what type of claim you have right after you've been injured can be one of the most important things you do to protect your legal rights.
You let your supervisor or boss "take care of it"As I mentioned previously, the moment you're hurt on the job, you stop being an asset to the company. Your supervisor or boss knows this.
My firm has been contacted by too many people who let their boss or supervisor "take care of things" after they were hurt on the job. Usually what this means is that they swept the injury under the rug, sent you home for a few days to recover, put you on light duty when you came back, and then fired you because you no longer could do the job you'd been hired to do.
That shouldn't happen to anyone. We trust companies to do the right thing, but they rarely do. Their job is to make a profit, and injured employees stand in the way of making a profit. Injured employees mean paying for medical care and lost wages. Injured employees mean having to invest in improving safety practices to prevent other people from getting hurt. Injured employees mean supervisors don't get their bonus for having zero reported injuries.
You need to understand that after you've been injured, your supervisor or boss is no longer on your side. You can't trust them to "take care of everything." You have to stand up for your rights and take care of yourself.
You wait until it's too late to talk to a lawyerTalking to a lawyer right after you've been hurt is really important. You'll find out what type of case you have, what your legal rights are, and what your best course of action is.
Another benefit to talking to a lawyer right after you've been hurt is that an experienced lawyer can get to work immediately to make sure all the evidence is saved - that the company doesn't have a chance to destroy anything, and that the incident is thoroughly investigated by independent experts.
Discussing your case with a work injury lawyer is free and confidential .There's also no obligation to hire an attorney just because they reviewed your case with you. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Don't wait until it's too late.