Should I Sue for a Slip and Fall Work Accident?

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A man slips and falls on a staircase and injures himself.

Probably not, unless you have a third-party claim (we’ll discuss these later in the article). However, you should make a claim through the worker’s compensation system, which covers most workplace injuries.

Worker’s compensation is intended to provide a no-fault way for workers to get medical care and some of their lost wages covered after a work-related accident. For this reason, you can’t sue your employer over an accident that is covered by worker’s compensation (with few exceptions).

How Long Do I Have to Sue for Work-Related Injuries?

You have two years to file a worker’s compensation claim in North Carolina, but you should file one as soon as possible. Otherwise, your employer’s insurance adjuster might argue that you’re faking or exaggerating your injuries, or you would have made a claim sooner.

There are, of course, legitimate reasons why people sometimes wait to file worker’s compensation claims, such as being incapacitated by their injuries. If the insurance company has denied your worker’s comp claim for this or any other reason, please contact a slip and fall attorney right away for assistance.

What About Third-Party Lawsuits?

While you can’t sue your employer for work-related injuries covered by worker’s compensation, you can sue a third party if their negligence caused your slip and fall injury. Here are some examples of situations where you might have a third-party claim:

  • You work in a store that has its floors professionally waxed every few months. Not long after the floor cleaners leave, you’re stocking the shelves when your foot slides out from under you.

The next thing you know, you’re flat on your back and in a lot of pain. Your coworkers help you up and realize you slipped on a patch of waxy residue the floor cleaners left behind. In this case, you may have a claim against the floor cleaning company.

  • You go outside to greet some clients and trip over a hose crossing the walkway. It was left there by the gardener, who works for a landscaping company that does contract work for your employer.

The landscaping business might be liable for your injuries.

  • Your company does some remodeling and has the carpets replaced. Unfortunately, one of the carpets isn’t glued down properly, causing you to trip and fall.

The company that installed the carpets could be at fault.

If you believe a third party may have caused your workplace injury, you have three years to file a personal injury claim. However, we recommend calling a slip-and-fall lawyer right away, because they will need to gather evidence for your claim.

In many cases, evidence is lost if you wait too long to begin the process.

Can You Make a Third-Party Claim While Also Collecting Worker’s Compensation?

Yes. If you recover a settlement from the third party, you will have to pay back some of the worker’s compensation benefits.

Is this worth the effort? It depends on the damages you have. First, let’s talk about what worker’s compensation does and doesn’t cover.

If you receive worker’s compensation, you’re entitled to:

  • Medical care for your injuries. All necessary treatment should be covered in full by your worker’s compensation insurance. But in some cases, the insurance adjuster may argue that certain treatments are not necessary. If you’re having a hard time getting your treatment covered, please speak with a slip-and-fall lawyer.
  • Some of your lost wages. If your injury leaves you out of work for, say, two months, you should receive two-thirds of your average weekly salary for this time period. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be very difficult to make ends meet on this reduced income.
  • Disability benefits. If you are permanently unable to return to work or to do the same type or amount of work, you may qualify for disability benefits under worker’s compensation. In most cases these benefits only last 500 weeks, but in a few situations they may be approved for life.

Additionally, if your injury causes you any permanent disability you can seek benefits, even if you’re still able to do the same work. This is based on a disability rating given by a doctor and your average weekly pay.

In either case, we recommend talking to an attorney before accepting a disability settlement offer from worker’s compensation.

Let’s return to the question of whether a third-party claim is worthwhile. It’s up to you to decide for yourself, but you should consult an attorney before you make a decision. They can help you determine if you have a strong case and understand how much your potential damages might be.

For instance, if you had minor injuries and recovered quickly, and you did not miss much work, you might not see a large benefit from a lawsuit. On the other hand, if you were out of work for several months, you probably have significant damages in missed wages alone, as you basically lost one-third of your paycheck each week.

You could also have substantial pain and suffering damages, which are not covered by worker’s compensation at all. An experienced North Carolina slip and fall attorney can help you estimate what your total damages are worth so you can make an informed decision about what to do.

How to Get Help with North Carolina Slip and Fall Settlements

Both third-party claims and worker’s compensation claims can be complicated. While worker’s compensation is a no-fault system, there are still certain reasons that your claim can be denied.

Unfortunately, many people feel that their claims were denied unfairly, and if this is the case, a qualified worker’s compensation lawyer can help you fight the insurance company.

For a third-party claim, you will need to prove that the third party was negligent, and your attorney will immediately go to work finding evidence to support your case. Remember that they have to prove the other party was completely at fault and you did not contribute to the accident at all.

In both situations, you will benefit from seeking legal advice as soon as possible. Please contact Tatum & Atkinson at 800-LAW-0804 for a free consultation.

We can explain your options and answer any questions you have, and if we take your case, there is no fee until we win or settle it.