What are my options if I’ve been hurt on the job, especially while driving a company vehicle? What are the Do’s & Dont’s?

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If you are driving “on the job” and you get into an accident, there are additional considerations.  Not only must you be aware of the concerns above and follow the law, but you should also consider these:

Generally speaking, if an employee suffers an injury while working, one of the most important things the employee can do is to report it, just like being involved in a motor vehicle accident outside of work.  Depending on who owns and/or insures such vehicle and/or driving activity, it can be vital to both employee and employer having proper and adequate coverage.

Reporting an accident timely and properly will prevent many potential problems. Like with any car accident, failing to report any injury during the course of a job can lead to several problems. If there is no immediate report of an injury when it happens, the party that would be financially responsible for treatment and/or compensation can deny the injury was a result of the accident, deny such accident occurred, or in the case of an employer, may claim such injury happened outside of work.

There are many times when an injured employee feels like he or she does not need immediate medical attention.  The person, not wanting to seem weak or a problem to the boss, decides to take a while, wait and see, and not mention the incident. Many employers also impose strict internal deadlines for reporting accidents, for instance, within 24 hours of an incident. When an accident is not reported, an employer can deny medical treatment and benefits for missed time from work.  Failing to report the incident on time, can even in some instances, where there are strict reporting requirements, subject the employee to a formal reprimand and/or suspension without pay, especially if the  employer denies the injury happened (at work).

EXAMPLE:  If an employee is involved in a car accident driving a company vehicle and suffers a spinal/back injury,  or injures his back lifting a heavy box or twist her knee climbing off a piece of machinery, the employee may not require immediate medical treatment. It might also seem like a good idea not to mention this to the supervisor unless it reaches the point that the employee needs to see a doctor. Then, the employee wakes up the next morning with severe pain or stiffness at the spot of the injury, or if the back starts to act up weeks later.

As a result of not reporting such injury, the employee can be denied medical treatment/coverage because the injury was not reported when it first happened. The workers’ compensation insurance carrier will question why the employer and/or the employee did not report the accident on time.  The employer’s insurance company can deny the employee medical treatment and out-of-work benefits otherwise deserved. In New York, there are a number of Workers’ Compensation benefits that workers are entitled to, such as cash benefits, medical benefits, supplemental benefits, social security benefits, or even death benefits.  Furthermore, a private health insurance carrier could deny coverage for treatment of work-related injuries.

What should you do? Make sure a documented report of any accident is made:  if at the workplace, report it to the employer;  if driving out in the public, and there is damage or serious injury, report it to a police officer and get the police report; if there does not appear to be enough damage to wait for a police response, compile your own data/records. If possible, report the accident in writing or in the presence of a reliable witness. Even if you think you are not seriously hurt, seek medical attention as soon as possible as circumstances permit, within a reasonable timeframe (recommended to be within 24 hours of the accident)  to make sure there is no problem, or to document such injuries.  

By reporting the accident, you protect yourself against another driver, or an employer who might claim that you were injured away from the workplace.  If you are a union member, you should also report a workplace accident to your union representative in addition to your employer. Using an accident report form provided by your employer or union is best. It is also important to know your co-workers. In the event of an injury, your co-workers are your best witnesses as to the happening of an accident as well as the cause. They may also be in a position to verify the happening of the accident if your account of what happened to you is challenged.

Even if you are reporting any accident late, still follow the above recommendations.