Under most circumstances, if your employees are covered by workers' comp, they are not allowed to sue for workplace injuries. However, there are exceptions to that rule. For example, in many states, employers can be sued if they can be shown negligent in addressing hazards in the workplace that have lead to injuries, and litigation can become an issue if an employee's workers' comp claim is contested. Of course, if you do not provide workers' comp coverage to your employees, there is no prohibition against their filing suit regarding workplace injuries.
Here we'll go over the top 3 workplace injuries that result in lawsuits, issues that can lead to legal action, and workplace injury prevention tips that can help your company avoid these problems altogether.
1) Overexertion Injuries
Overexertion injuries are the leading cause of serious, non-fatal workplace injuries, according to the 2016 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. These injuries are typically related to repetitive motions, such as pushing, pulling, lifting, reaching, holding, carrying, throwing, and/or awkward work postures more generally. This type of injury affects the muscles, connective tissues, and nerves, and common examples include sprains, strains, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Reducing the risk of overexertion injuries – and potential lawsuits – in your workplace is best done by taking measures to ensure safe, efficient, and effective workplace equipment and practices. A professional ergonomics evaluation, which will provide you with an assessment of risk factors for overexertion injuries present in your workplace, is a great place to start. You’ll also receive expert advice on how to mitigate those risks. Ergonomics and safety training for employees can reduce your risk as well, but probably less than you may think.
2) Same-Level Falls
Same-level falls are another leading cause of workplace injuries, most commonly lower back strains and sprains of the hand, wrist, or ankle. They typically occur due to slipping on wet to otherwise hazardous surfaces, or tripping over uneven surfaces or obstacles in the workplace.
Eliminating as many slip, trip, and fall hazards as possible with regular workplace inspection and maintenance is important for workplace injury prevention. For hazards that cannot be removed, a good Physical Abilities Testing program can help ensure that your workers have the balance and agility to avoid being at risk for slip, trip, and fall incidents.
3) Falls to a Lower Level
These incidents consistently rank in the top 10 most common causes of disabling workplace injuries that may include broken bones, internal injuries, concussion, or death. They may result in lawsuits when proper workplace injury prevention methods and equipment have not been provided, if safety training has not been provided or updated, or if faulty scaffolding, ladders, or other equipment cause or contribute to an incident, among other factors.
Of course, providing all necessary safety equipment and comprehensive safety training is essential to reducing risk of fall injuries, as is good maintenance of your work sites and equipment. Physical Abilities Testing can also be a valuable safeguard for employees for whom fall hazards are part of their typical work day.
While these 3 categories of workplace injuries rank as the most frequent, and therefore the most likely to be at the root of injury-related lawsuits, it is important to know that most any workplace injury can, given the right circumstances, lead to legal problems. Being proactive about workplace safety is the most effective means of reducing your risk of injury related lawsuits – just one of the many benefits of making it a priority to provide a safe, healthy work environment for the people you depend on to get the job done.