January 22, 2024
personal injury

Workplace accidents can happen in any industry. When injured, employees often face substantial medical expenses, extended periods of lost income, the potential for reduced earning capacity, and enduring pain and suffering.

In 2022, private-sector employers in Alabama documented 33,500 instances of workplace injuries and illnesses. This equates to 2.3 cases per 100 full-time employees.

If you’ve suffered an injury in a workplace incident in Alabama, you are entitled to seek workers’ compensation benefits during your recovery. However, applying for benefits can be a confusing and frustrating experience. Our Alabama workers’ compensation lawyers can guide you through each stage, ensuring you receive the benefits you are entitled to as soon as possible. 

What Counts as a Workplace Injury in Alabama?

Under Alabama’s workers’ compensation law, employers who consistently employ five or more workers must provide workers’ compensation coverage. This type of insurance supports employees who experience injuries or illnesses due to their work.

It covers medical expenses, offers partial compensation for lost wages during recovery, and provides disability benefits in case the employee becomes disabled as a result of a work-related illness or injury.

Examples of what’s covered:

  • If an employee encounters a hazardous chemical at work and requires urgent hospitalization, workers’ compensation can assist in covering the costs of the medical services.
  • When an employee trips over uneven flooring in a warehouse and sustains a fractured ankle, necessitating a visit to the emergency room, workers’ compensation covers emergency treatment and subsequent medical appointments.
  • If an employee develops carpal tunnel syndrome due to prolonged exposure to poor ergonomics, workers’ compensation can cover the medical expenses for treating this condition. This includes initial treatment and ongoing care expenses like physical therapy.

When Can You Sue Your Employer for a Work Injury?

In most cases, when you’re injured at work, your primary recourse is through workers’ compensation. However, there are exceptions where you might be able to sue your employer:

  • Intentional acts: You might have grounds to sue if your employer intentionally caused your injury. This goes beyond negligence and requires proof that your employer deliberately sought to harm you.
  • Gross negligence: A lawsuit might be possible if an employer’s actions were grossly negligent, leading to severe harm. This is more than just failing to create a safe work environment; it implies a conscious disregard for employee safety.
  • Lack of workers’ compensation insurance: If your employer is legally required to have workers’ compensation insurance but does not, you may be able to sue for injuries sustained on the job.
  • Unsafe work conditions: In rare cases, a lawsuit might be viable if an employer knowingly exposes employees to hazardous conditions without adequate protection, like PPE.

The Five Most Common Injuries—And How to Avoid Them

Understanding the most common workplace injuries is critical to creating a safer work environment. Here’s a look at the top five injuries encountered on the job in Alabama and practical tips for preventing them.

1. Slips and Falls

Falls are the number one cause of hospital room visits in the United States, accounting for 8 million emergency room visits annually. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that falls constituted 5% of work-related deaths among women, and 11% among men. Slips and falls are the top reason for workers’ compensation claims and are the primary occupational injury among employees aged 55 and older.

These incidents may occur because of wet floors, uneven surfaces, poor lighting, clutter, inadequate training, inappropriate footwear, lack of safety equipment, distractions, and fatigue.

To reduce slip and fall accidents, employers should maintain clean, clutter-free floors, promptly address spills, and ensure good lighting. Use anti-slip mats and proper signage for wet areas. Employers should encourage wearing non-slip footwear and provide safety training to employees. They should also regularly inspect and repair flooring and install handrails where necessary.

2. Strains and Sprains

Strains and sprains, also known as overexertion injuries, commonly result from lifting heavy objects, repetitive movements, maintaining awkward positions, insufficient rest periods, and the absence of ergonomic tools or training in correct body mechanics.

A BLS study revealed that in 2019, 275,590 workers experienced overexertion injuries, constituting 31% of all non-fatal workplace injuries nationally.

To prevent strains and sprains, use ergonomic workspaces with adjustable furniture, get training in safe lifting techniques, and regularly switch tasks to avoid repetitive strain. Use mechanical aids for heavy lifting, wear supportive footwear, and ask your employer to arrange the workspace to minimize excessive reaching, bending, or twisting.

3. Electrical Accidents

The Electrical Safety Foundation reports that from 2011 to 2021, there were 1,653 fatalities due to electrical incidents, with 69% occurring in non-electrical professions. Electrical accidents can lead to severe injuries, including significant burns and heart issues. In 2020, there were 2,220 non-fatal injuries resulting in lost work days that were caused by electrical accidents.

To avoid electrical accidents at work, use electrical equipment according to manufacturer instructions, preventing circuit overloads and improper use of extension cords. Regularly check and maintain equipment for issues like frayed cords and loose wires, and replace or repair faulty items immediately.

Always wear personal protective equipment, such as insulated gloves and safety glasses, and follow lockout/tagout procedures to deactivate machinery safely during maintenance or repairs.

4. Equipment-related Injuries

Equipment-related injuries in the workplace can occur due to using malfunctioning machinery, tools, or other equipment. It can also occur due to misusing equipment or using equipment without proper training. Contact with objects and equipment is a leading cause of harm in the workplace, with 196,140 injuries in 2020. Most of these injuries occur in the hands and feet.

Regularly inspect and maintain workplace equipment to help guarantee safety. Employers must train employees on safely operating and handling their specific equipment.

Enforce suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) for the risks related to different tools and machinery. For instance, in a woodworking shop, know how to operate each saw and use safety features like emergency shutoffs and guards.

5. Harmful Substance Exposure

Employees may face exposure to various hazardous materials in their work environments, including chemicals such as lead, ammonia, benzene, and pesticides, as well as radiation and breathable particulate matter.

Employers need to acknowledge these hazards and supply suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks or respirators. Implementing proper procedures for handling, storing, and transporting these materials is also crucial.

Often, workers lack proper training on self-protection, or the provided PPE is outdated and ineffective. This neglect can lead to increased risks of health issues for the workforce, with 424,360 nonfatal injuries occurring in 2020 in the United States from exposure to harmful substances.

Contact an Alabama Workers’ Comp Attorney

If you’ve suffered a workplace injury in Alabama, The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers is your advocate. Our experience in workers’ compensation and personal injury law ensures you get the comprehensive legal support you need. Whether it’s pursuing a workers’ compensation claim or exploring legal action for employer negligence, we are dedicated to securing the best outcome for you.

Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Contact our law firm today for a free consultation and take the first step toward safeguarding your future.

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