Editor’s note: The following is offered as information only and is not to be construed as legal advice.
We live in a litigious world. People sue each other for frivolous reasons and file lawsuits out of spite. Some of those frivolous lawsuits are directed toward businesses, and when unwarranted, can destroy a business’ good name.
Not wanting to be one of those people can put you in a pickle when you get injured at work. On one hand, you don’t want to destroy anyone with a lawsuit, but you also need to take care of your medical bills. If you love your job, you don’t want to get fired or be forced to leave for draining the company’s finances.
How do you know when to pursue an injury claim and when to back off?
Pursue your needs responsibly.
Let responsibility guide your choice to pursue any kind of claim. Put simply, if another person caused your injuries, you have every right to hold them legally and financially responsible. However, you’re equally justified in pursuing a workers’ compensation claim even if your negligence caused your injury because that’s what workers’ comp is for.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance policy your employer carries to provide compensation for injuries regardless of fault. This insurance is mandatory for employers to carry in most U.S. states, and it’s designed to prevent employees from filing costly lawsuits.
Consider workers’ compensation first.
Most injured employees can get their needs met through a workers’ comp claim. Before jumping into a lawsuit against the company you work for, consider filing a workers’ compensation claim first.
Those who suffer serious injuries that will require a complex recovery process probably need to file a lawsuit.
One factor to strongly consider is that workers’ comp doesn’t cover pain and suffering or any other kind of non-tangible damage. According to legal expert Jeffrey S. Glassman, if you want to seek compensation for work injuries like pain and suffering or loss of consortium, you need to consider a lawsuit.
Do what is reasonable.
Even the most minor of injuries can be painful and inconvenient, but it’s important to assess your injury to determine whether it warrants legal pursuit. For example, if you jammed your toe but didn’t break any bones, you might need to take a week off from work. You’re unlikely to have significant medical bills so it would make sense to file a workers’ compensation claim to cover your lost wages. However, filing a lawsuit probably wouldn’t be a reasonable response to a jammed toe.
Don’t sue for pain and suffering unreasonably.
Just because you can sue for pain and suffering doesn’t mean you should. For example, if you believe your boss’ lack of organization and ambiguous directions have caused you to suffer from PTSD and anxiety, you’re going to need some serious evidence to back up that claim.
Pain and suffering (along with other types of compensation derived from emotional injuries) is not designed to give you a free pass to collect as much money as possible. It’s reserved for people who are truly suffering from emotional distress. If you’re truly suffering from emotional distress as a result of your job, it shouldn’t be difficult to prove it.
If you have to grasp at straws to make your case, you shouldn’t pursue a claim for pain and suffering.
If your injury isn’t recent, ask yourself why you want to pursue it now.
If you sustained an injury on the job a while ago, ask yourself why you want to pursue a claim now. Did you suddenly realize you could pay some bills with the judgment money? It’s a serious question to ask yourself. Even if your injury was legitimately caused by your job, tread carefully when filing any kind of claim or lawsuit long after the fact. Waiting months to file a claim is perceived as an indication that your case might not have merit.
For example, in June 2019, a contractor filed an injury lawsuit against a painting and wallpapering business but waited months to do it. The company suspects fraud and will have to shell out about $15,000 just to fight the lawsuit.
If you’ve waited to file a claim, unless your injury legitimately requires medical care you can’t pay for or has caused you lost wages, it’s probably best to let it go.
Be amicable with your boss about the situation.
It’s easy to feel resentful toward your boss after suffering an injury at work, but don’t let yourself fall into that trap. Realize that your boss doesn’t want to see you suffer, even if their negligence contributed to your injury. Sometimes business owners and managers take shortcuts that have bad consequences (like injuries) but they probably didn’t cut corners with the intention of injuring anyone.
Some people don’t realize that cutting corners can result in injury. Don’t let others off the hook for their responsibilities, but keep the peace with your boss, especially if you want to keep your job.
This content is sponsored by Larry Alton.
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