Accidents in the workplace are extremely common, despite everyone’s best efforts to avoid them. Often times, workers end up injured as the result of an accident, with many suffering time away from the job due to broken bones, pain, and other injury effects. At other times, however, workers may not experience the true effects of an injury right away, as pain can sometimes take several days or even weeks to fully manifest. That can prove troublesome for workers who may need workman’s compensation or other assistance if their injuries cause them some form of disability and lost income. To avoid that, it is important to know how to deal with workplace injury pain that doesn’t manifest right away.
A Widespread Problem
In the state of Texas alone, there were 194,642 occupational injuries and illnesses reported in 2014. That same year, almost 3 million workers across the United States experienced injuries or illnesses related to their jobs – a rate of slightly more than 3 incidents for every 100 full-time employees. While that rate of injury was lower than the previous year, the fact remains that far too many employees are being hurt at work. Worse, thousands of workers die on the job each year as well.
All of that death and injury comes at a cost to workers, companies, and the nation as a whole. In fact, estimates suggest that accidents cost the nation as much as $192 billion each year. That estimate includes everything from lost company productivity to medical expenses and lost income.
The Safety Net
When workers are injured on the job, there are two primary options available to them. The first involves reliance on existing Workers Compensation programs to assist them during their recovery and eventual return to the workplace. The second option involves litigation, and is typically the last resort used when other compensation is denied for one reason or another.
Since the first constitutional workers’ compensation insurance provision went into effect in Wisconsin back in 1911, the movement to provide these protections has spread throughout the entire country. As of 1949, every state has existing laws in place to provide compensation to workers who are hurt on their job sites, regardless of how those injuries occur. That system has worked well for many years, providing employees peace of mind in times of injury, though at the cost of forfeiting the right to sue for employer negligence.
Litigation is sometimes the only option in cases where workers’ compensation is denied. Unfortunately, efforts at obtaining compensation for medical costs and lost wages are usually an uphill battle that is dependent on workers properly documenting their injuries as early and as accurately as possible. The Catch-22 in that situation is obvious: when such documentation is present, workers’ compensation claims are typically approved, making litigation unnecessary.
The real concern in all of this is readily apparent: how can workers properly report and document injuries that are not immediately obvious? The good news is that there are certain things that you can do to ensure that your actions in the wake of an accident don’t bar you from receiving compensation for pain and injuries that may only manifest themselves weeks after your accident occurred.
Types of Late-Appearing Injuries
It is helpful to understand the types of injuries that may not manifest themselves right away:
- Soft Tissue Injuries. A soft tissue injury includes any damage that doesn’t involve the skeletal system. Muscle strains or tears, tendon stress, and damage to ligaments are included in this injury type. These injuries usually produce swelling and some loss of movement, followed by pain. Unfortunately, soft tissue injury symptoms can take days or even weeks to show up.
- Despite the protection your skull and cranial fluid provide for your brain, falls and head injuries can still have a negative impact. If your brain ends up striking the interior of the skill, you can end up with a concussion. Symptoms like blurred vision, dizziness, and sleep disruption don’t always appear right away.
Protecting Your Interests
To maximize your ability to receive the care and compensation to which you are entitled, there are a number of steps that you should take in the aftermath of any workplace accident.
- Report the accident to your superior. State compensation programs are often time-sensitive where reporting is concerned, so the best option is to report any incident immediately -even if you don’t believe that you have been injured. If you are injured, don’t just wait for the pain to subside. In one study of injured workers, 44% of injured workers failed to report their injuries because they thought they would get better.
- Your employer is likely to ask you whether you need medical care. It is wise to say “yes” even though you may be unaware of any actual injury. If there is a particular doctor that your employer needs you to see, it is good to know that as soon as possible.
- Let your employer know about any injuries as soon as they manifest. Your employer is the one who has to file the compensation claim, but that only happens when he or she knows that you’ve been injured. Again, this is best done in the timeliest manner possible.
- If necessary, obtain legal representation. While you might not need a lawyer in the most straightforward workplace injury cases, late-appearing injuries and pain can present unique challenges. Legal counsel can be helpful in navigating the complex compensation claim process.
Successfully preserving your rights in the wake of any workplace injury requires careful attention to procedure. While workers’ compensation laws are there to protect you from being forced to bear the costs of medical treatment and lost wages due to time away from work, those laws cannot help you unless you help yourself. Report the incident, seek medical care, and make sure that your employer properly documents every step in the process. That way, when injury pain does appear, you won’t have to work to prove that it was caused by your accident.
Feel free to call the attorneys at Herrman and Herrman, P.L.L.C., for a free consultation at 361-882-4357.