Slip and Fall Injuries For Health Care Employees at Hospitals and Clinics: Key Things to Know

David McCormick

For a slip and fall injury at a hospital and/or clinic to be a compensable work injury, something must have caused you to slip and fall. The most common causes of slip and fall injuries are wet or slippery floors, or an object on the floor.

1. Report and Document Your Injury.

The first thing you need to do is report the incident to your employer. This puts your employer on notice of your injury. Also, given the security at most hospitals and clinics, your slip and fall was probably captured by a security camera. Contacting an experienced worker’s compensation attorney early on in your claim is important, and will help ensure that any security camera video documenting your injury is preserved.

When reporting your injury, be as specific as possible regarding not only the cause of your slip and fall but also the areas of your body that were injured. No matter how insignificant you think an ache or pain is, report it. Depending on your course of treatment, you may be telling numerous medical providers what happened and how you were injured, so be consistent with the date you were injured, what caused you to slip and fall, and what areas of your body hurt. If possible, get the names of any witnesses present and be sure to take pictures of the area where you fell with your cell phone.

2. Use Your Own Doctor, Not the Company’s Doctor.

See your primary care physician as soon as possible for all further treatment. All of your medical care after your slip and fall injury should be directed by your doctor, not someone picked by your employer.

At some point in time, after you have reported your slip and fall injury you will be contacted by an adjuster from your employer’s worker’s compensation insurance carrier. They will be asking you questions as part of their investigation of your claim, and they will ask you for a recorded statement. The only party that benefits from a recorded statement is the worker’s compensation carrier. In Wisconsin an injured worker does not have to give a recorded statement, and your worker’s compensation claim cannot be denied (or benefits reduced) because of your refusal to provide a recorded statement.

As part of its investigation of your injury, the worker’s compensation adjuster will also send you medical record authorizations to sign. Never, ever, sign a blank medical authorization. The worker’s compensation adjuster is only entitled to receive medical records for the body part or parts you injured, nothing more. If you had prior injuries and/or treatment to that same body part, then the worker’s compensation adjuster can ask for those records as well.

3. Consider a “Third-Party” Claim.

As mentioned earlier, depending on the specifics of your slip and fall injury, you may have both a worker’s compensation claim as well as a third-party claim. There are big differences between these two types of claims. Your traditional worker‘s compensation claim is an administrative claim heard before an administrative law judge, not a jury. You cannot sue your employer for your injury; you can only resolve your claim through the worker’s compensation system.

Wisconsin worker’s compensation is a formula based system, which means that your weekly benefits are currently capped at $936/week. You cannot claim any actual wage loss above the $936/week, you cannot claim pain and suffering, and benefits are paid out pursuant to a formula wherein your entire body (from your head to your toes) is categorized into weeks of disability. For example, if you lost an arm in a work-related injury in 2016, your benefits would be as follows: Loss of an arm at the shoulder is 500 weeks multiplied by the 2016 permanent partial disability rate of $342/weeks totals $171,000.

Third-party worker’s compensation claims are the exception, and involve injuries caused by factors outside of your employment. In slip and fall injuries, third-party claims can arise out of situations where the cleaning and maintenance of the floors is conducted by someone other than your employer. For example, if the hospital and/or clinic contracts with a business to handle all the cleaning and maintenance of the floors. In these situations, a third-party claim could be made by suing the company directly for your injuries in civil court. In these civil cases, your case is heard by a circuit court judge or a jury. Also, in a civil lawsuit you can claim actual wage loss, pain and suffering, future wage loss and future medical bills. Keep in mind that in all third-party cases the worker’s compensation carrier has a right to get paid back for all the medical bills/benefits they paid you, based on a statutory formula.

In all third-party cases it is extremely important to talk with an attorney as soon as possible because the statute of limitation is three (3) years from the date you were injured. Talking with an attorney soon after your injury will assist your case in the long run as crucial evidence could disappear over time. When that evidence is gone you can never get it back, and in slip and fall cases, pictures and/or witness statements can make or break your case. To assist you in getting full compensation for your claim, retaining an experienced attorney, early on, is a must.

4. Worker’s Compensation is not a Worker Friendly System.

There are numerous pitfalls faced by injured workers unfamiliar with their rights, so early consultation with an attorney can be crucial to your claim. You do not want to give the worker’s compensation adjuster a reason to deny your claim, so remember – there is no such thing as a stupid question! For a handy reference tool outlining important information you need to know about Wisconsin worker’s compensation matters, please consult The Previant Law Firm’s Injured Workers’ Bill of rights. We offer free consultations for any and all worker’s compensation question(s) you may have, contact us at (414) 240-1185.