The workplace can be a dangerous environment for your health and safety. Workplace injuries often result from workplace accidents. South Carolina law defines an injury by accident as an unlooked for and untoward event which is not expected or designed by the person who suffered the injury. Slip and fall accidents are very common in the workplace and frequently result in injuries, giving an injured worker the right to medical benefits and compensation for lost wages & permanent disability .
Cause of Slip and Fall Accidents
Typical causes of slip and fall accidents include damaged stairs, poor lighting, obstacles on a path of ingress/egress, icy or snowy walkways, stairs without handrails, cracks or holes in floors, wet floors, improper carpeting (wear and tear), etc.
The Most Common Injuries
The most common injuries resulting from slip and fall accidents are:
- Cuts and Abrasions – Slipping on a wet floor or falling off the stairs inevitably causes cuts or abrasions. Typical locations of cuts and abrasions are knees, elbows, and other body parts people use to break sudden falls. In severe cases, cuts and abrasions may also include broken bones or concussions.
- Strains and Sprains – The most typical soft tissue injuries are strains and sprains. In almost all cases, slip and fall injuries cause ankle or wrist sprains or ligament and tendon strains.
- Broken Bones – Treating broken bones may require multiple surgeries. Sometimes surrounding tissue can be damaged as well, causing bleeding and swelling. Post-injury treatment can be long and arduous.
- Head Injuries – Never underestimate an injury to the head. Slip and fall accidents can cause severe medical conditions–including subdural bleeding and loss of consciousness–both of which may lead to traumatic brain injury (TBI), a need for immediate surgery, and many months of recovery. Sometimes the first symptoms of TBI can occur a day or two after the injury (when the subdural bleeding becomes excessive), but it might be too late, if you wait to seek evaluation and treatment. If you suffer a head injury, seek medical help immediately.
- Spinal Cord Injuries – Slip and fall accidents involve sudden moves, which often cause life-threatening spinal cord compression and injuries that require immediate medical attention. In the most severe cases, spinal cord injuries can result in quadriplegia (total paralysis) or paraplegia (paralysis of the lower limbs).
- Internal Injuries – In extreme cases, slip and fall accidents result in internal injuries. The most common examples are internal bleeding and other internal organ injuries requiring immediate medical attention.
Step-by-Step Guide on Handling a Slip and Fall Injury On the Job in South Carolina
Did you suffer a workplace slip and fall injury? South Carolina law requires employers who regularly employ four or more [part or full time] employees to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Frequently, smaller employers also have workers’ compensation insurance coverage in place. Are you familiar with your rights and the workers’ compensation process? To help you through post-accident procedure, below is a step-by-step guide on how to deal with a slip and fall injury at work in South Carolina.
1. Report the Accident As Soon As Possible
As soon as possible after a workplace injury, report the accident to someone at your job who has a supervisory role. In fact, South Carolina law requires you to report your work accident within 90 days of its occurrence. Your employer may or may not require you to complete a written accident report; however, the essential thing is for you to report your accident to your supervisor within 90 days, even if your report is verbal, only.
2. Get Medical Help Immediately
After reporting your accident and injuries, seek immediate medical attention. South Carolina law provides that, if your employer and its insurance carrier accept your claim, they have the right to choose your doctors. After reporting the accident to your boss (or someone else in a supervisory role), ask them to send you to the doctor, if you have any concern that you need to see a doctor. In certain situations, estimating the degree of trauma is impossible. Take your injuries seriously. For example, head injuries resulting from slip and fall accidents may seem harmless at first, especially if no bleeding is present. While you may not initially see external symptoms, you may suffer from subdural bleeding, which can cause hematoma pressuring your brain. Left untreated, the condition could cause significant problems, and even death. Even if your injury does not require extensive medical treatment (e.g., an ankle sprain), you still need to see a doctor so the doctor may document your injuries and determine whether you have temporary work restrictions.
3. Document the Accident
The next step involves documenting the accident for your records. Write down what happened and how, where, and what injuries you suffered. Take pictures or make videos of your injuries and also document the conditions causing you to slip and fall. (A fall at work without a reason for the fall is known as an “idiopathic” fall and does not lead to a compensable workers’ compensation claim.) Photos and videos of the accident scene may be evidence in your workers’ compensation claim. Pay attention to details, and photograph cracks, holes, icy surfaces, folds in carpet, or other reasons causing you to slip and fall. Also be sure to take pictures or videos of your injuries, when appropriate. Although your doctors’ records will also be important to your claim, typically, doctors do not take photographic evidence of their patients’ injuries.
4. Identify Witnesses and Gather Their Contact Information
If other employees, customers, or clients witnessed your accident, ask their names and take their phone numbers and email addresses. If your employer covers the premises with surveillance cameras, obtain the video footage of your slip and fall. Because surveillance footage automatically deletes after a specific–typically short– period of time, you must obtain the video footage as soon as possible. On occasion, business owners purposely destroy video evidence, in an attempt to avoid responsibility for your accidental work injuries. Act fast to secure evidence of your accident and injuries.
5. Contact an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Whenever you are involved in a slip & fall or other type of workplace accident, consider consulting an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. You will benefit from the skills of a well-versed workers’ compensation lawyer helping you navigate the complexities of the South Carolina workers’ compensation system. Remember that your employer (and its insurance company) will likely try to put off providing workers’ compensation benefits to you or attempt to avoid paying benefits, altogether. The job of your workers’ comp attorney is to help you receive medical care & benefits, temporary compensation for your lost wages, and permanent compensation for your permanent injuries. Workers’ compensation lawyers typically work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they take ⅓ of the amount of money they obtain for you from back wages and/or the amount of compensation you receive for your permanent injuries at the conclusion of the case. After deducting the attorney’s fee from back wages and/or compensation for permanent disability, workers’ compensation lawyers deduct the money they advanced in your case for costs like medical records, depositions, and filing fees, which allow your case to move forward through the legal system.
6. Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim, the Statute of Limitations, and Resolving Disputes with the employer/insurance carrier
The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission has jurisdiction over claims involving work accidents and injuries, and South Carolina law requires an injured worker to file a workers’ compensation claim within two years of the date of accident. (Failure to file a claim within two years bars an injured worker from pursuing a claim.) During the course of a pending workers’ compensation claim, disputes often arise between the injured worker, on the one hand, and the employer/insurance carrier, on the other hand. Common disputes include compensability of the claim, the amount of the Average Weekly Wage & Compensation Rate, payment of Temporary Total and/or Temporary Partial disability benefits, the injured worker’s entitlement to a second medical opinion, whether the injured worker has reached the point of Maximum Medical Improvement, and the amount of money to which an injured worker is entitled to compensate for permanent disability. The Commission resolves such disputes by conducting a hearing following a hearing request filed by the injured worker (or someone on behalf of the injured worker) or someone on behalf of the employer/carrier. Injured workers may file a Form 50, Request For Hearing, or in a death case, someone may file a Form 52, Request For hearing. A lawyer files a Form 21 hearing request on behalf of the employer/carrier.
Reach Out to Mary Jordan
Mary Jordan is a distinguished South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer with almost twenty-seven years of experience representing injured workers. Ms. Jordan has handled innumerable contested (and accepted) South Carolina workers’ compensation cases and has helped her clients receive fair compensation and medical benefits. In addition to slip and fall accidents at work, Mary is well-versed in bringing financial and emotional satisfaction to her clients who experience all types of injuries at work.
Call (843) 689-9565 today to schedule your free, no-obligation appointment!