As a business owner, you have plenty of responsibility on your shoulders. You’ve got to run your business, manage people, make payroll, stay on top of industry changes, and keep all your gears going in the same direction.
At some point, dealing with an employee who gets injured on the job is inevitable. Statistics show that in 2013, more than 917,000 workers were injured and unable to work for a period of time.
An injured employee has the right to file a workers’ compensation claim to recover medical expenses as well as lost wages. There’s also a chance that you may be sued instead. You need to be prepared to handle this situation professionally.
Don’t punish your employee if their claim is denied
Although many workers’ compensation claims are granted, many are denied, even when they’re legitimate. This is frustrating for the employee, but also leaves you open to a lawsuit. Depending on the severity of the worker’s injury, bringing a lawsuit might be their only chance to pay for growing medical bills.
If your employee does bring a lawsuit against you, your insurance company will handle it, although you may be required to appear in court. You can expect your insurance company to do everything in their power to pay out the least amount of money. However, be aware that personal injury lawsuits are often handled by teams of former insurance adjusters and former law enforcement officers.
Most employers fear having their pockets emptied from being sued by an employee. If you do get sued, be prepared to make changes to your work environment, safety policies, and inspection routines.
Your employees deserve your support
If an employee sues your business, it’s not the end of the world. Being sued doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to be held liable for the claim. You’ll have to go through a lengthy and involved process in the legal system to have your case resolved. However, going through this process can cost you a pretty penny.
Sometimes employees skip filing a claim and go straight to a lawsuit because their employer is making things difficult. The best way to avoid this situation is to support the employee who got hurt on the job as much as possible. They may still sue you in the end, but if you support them, it won’t be out of anger.
Here’s what you should do when an employee gets hurt on the job:
- Listen to them when they tell you what happened and how it happened. Take notes, and keep in mind that you’ll need to investigate to see if this type of injury can be prevented in the future.
- Provide them with the resources they need to file a workers’ compensation claim. Be proactive and supportive of your employee. Treat them like a human being, not a financial liability. You may end up having to pay out of pocket for their injuries, but they’re still human at the end of the day.
- Investigate their claim with an open mind. Don’t assume they’re lying or exaggerating. However, don’t assume they’re providing you with all the facts, either. Talk to other employees who witnessed the accident as soon as possible to obtain accounts of what happened.
Here’s what you should never do when an employee gets hurt on the job:
- Terminate their employment. You may have a good reason to terminate an injured employee, but if you let them go right after their injury, it’s going to look like retaliation. Although it’s illegal, many employers do retaliate against employees who file workers’ compensation claims.
One study found that 26% of laid off workers were let go within one week of reporting their injury to their employer. Sixty-four percent were let go within 6 months of reporting their injury. Some workers even claim their employers directly told them they were being let go because they filed a workers’ compensation claim.
- Refuse to give them forms to file a workers’ compensation claim. They can find these forms online or at the library, but if you have them available, you should provide them.
- Deny the accident even happened. Denying an accident occurred is the fastest way to lose a personal injury lawsuit. Sooner or later, evidence will be revealed that will prove otherwise. Even if the accident was your employee’s fault, never deny that an injury took place at work.
Understand that your employee is just as scared as you are
While you may be scared for different reasons, consider that your injured employee is probably worried about losing their job, losing their income, and racking up medical bill debt in addition to dealing with their injury.
Part of running a business requires accepting the fact that accidents can and will happen. When an accident happens and someone gets hurt, you have a duty to handle it professionally and honestly with your injured employee, and any legal personnel who may get involved.