Slip and fall injuries account for a significant amount of all workplace injuries. Slip and fall injuries can result in injuries ranging from short-term muscle pain to long-term internal body damage, or even death. It is critical for an injured worker to be aware of their rights and responsibilities under workers’ compensation.
Causes of Slip and Falls
Common sense dictates that slip and fall injuries can occur at the workplace for a multitude of reasons. Most commonly, an employee might slip and fall as a result of icy stairs or an untreated parking lot, a wet floor, an uneven surface, loose stairs, or an unexpected object on a walking surface. Whatever the cause, if the injury occurs in the course and scope of employment, an injured worker is entitled to have his or her medical bills (which are related to the fall paid by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer) taken care of, as well as indemnity benefits for time lost from work as a result of the injury.
Whose Fault Is It?
If an employee sustains a slip and fall injury on the job, the employers’ workers’ compensation carrier is typically responsible regardless of fault. Workers’ compensation is designed to protect even the clumsiest of workers. As an example, an employer might post a ‘wet floor’ sign after a surface has been mopped. Even having taken this precaution, if an employee were to slip, fall, and injure himself or herself on the wet surface, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer would still bear responsibility for the payment of medical treatment associated with that injury and monetary benefits relating to time lost from work. In Massachusetts, an employee is only barred from collecting workers’ compensation benefits if the injury is the result of his or her serious and willful misconduct. Mere carelessness, or clumsiness, does not prevent an injured worker’s entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits.
Slip and Fall Not on Work Property
Many jobs take place outside of a traditional work space. For instance, workers often travel to different locations to perform their job duties throughout the day. Salespeople may spend a significant part of their day on the road. Similarly, repair people, technicians, and service workers may perform a considerable amount of their work in residential or commercial locations outside of an employer’s facility. Nonetheless, if a worker slips and falls while in the performance of his or her job duties, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer is responsible, even where the injury occurs on property controlled by someone other than the employer.
The Coming and Going Rule
In Massachusetts, workers who are injured ‘coming and going’ from work are not covered by workers’ compensation. If an employee is walking to work or walking home from work, workers’ compensation insurance would not cover a slip and fall injury. However, if an employee is traveling between locations during work hours, and sustains a slip and fall injury, that injury would be covered by the employers’ workers’ compensation carrier. Additionally, it is more likely that a slip and fall occurring during travel when the employer does not have a fixed place of business will found to be outside the scope of the coming and going rule, and the injured worker will be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Who Owns the Premises?
Slip and fall accidents often give rise to third-party liability claims. It is important for a worker injured as a result of a slip and fall to identify who owns the premises where the injury occurred. If someone other than the employer owns or is responsible for the premises where the slip and fall occurred, the injured worker may have a claim against that entity. While workers’ compensation covers a percentage of lost wages, medical bills, and loss of function, it does not cover pain and suffering, or punitive damages. Therefore, an injured worker often stands to collect significantly more money if there is a third party claim in addition to workers’ compensation coverage.
Did You Slip and Fall at Work?
If you are injured by a slip and fall at work or during your work day, report the injury to your employer immediately. If there are any direct witnesses to your slip and fall, be sure to gather their names and contact information. Identify who owns or controls the premise where your slip and fall occurred, so an attorney can assess if there is a claim for third party liability. Seek treatment immediately, and report to the provider that the injury occurred at work. Finally, call Keches Law Group, P.C. for a free consultation and advice regarding your entitlement to workers compensation benefits.
If you or a loved one has suffered a slip and fall at work, contact Keches Law Group at 617-898-0808 or online for a free, no-obligation consultation today. We will be happy to meet you at one of our conveniently located offices or at your home.