Ow. My face.
May 5, 2007 9:33 PM   Subscribe

Let me preface this question by saying that I work in retail. More specifically, I work in a slightly smaller than K-Mart national chain big-box store specializing in low quality clothing and home crap. Anywayz: I fell at work. Actually what happens was that the entire back wall of the checkout lane I was using fell as I was leaning against it and took me with it. Yes. Best day ever. What do I do?

This was just a clustersnog from beginning to end. The wall fell, I fell, and as I fell, I sorted of twisted around in an attempt to stop myself and landed hard on my butt and my side. Now I have a kind of throbby, mild lower back pain and stiffness.

After I got up, a manager was called. She arrived, took in the situation, and started laughing. Which was cool. Everyone else was too. I wasn't, though. She asked me if I was bleeding, I said "No," and she said, "Then you're fine," and something like, "That's what you get for leaning, huh?"

Later on, when the pain wasn't really going away, I called her again and asked her if I could fill out an accident report. She gave me a clearly incorrect form. Like a workers' comp form. When I pointed this out to her, she said that it was the only one she could find and thus the one I was going to fill out. At no point did she ask me what happened, if I was alright, or if I needed any first aid. No one did actually. I didn't really at the time, but damn.

So now I'm home. The pain still hasn't gone away and is, in fact, a good bit more intense. After my fall and run-in with the manager, I was told that not only was the wall I had been leaning on loose (I'd never been told) but also that the whole "wall and cashier falling in a flurry of limbs and screams" thing had happened twice before (I'd never been told). I've tried googling "injured at work" but all I've gotten is bunch of targeted advertising from personal injury lawyers. I know I'd like to fill out the proper accident report form, and I know I'd like to file some kind of official complaint against that manager, and I know that I'd like to have someone fix those fucking walls, but I have no idea how to go about doing those things. Tips? Advice? Personal experiences?
posted by chichimimizu to Human Relations (19 answers total)
There should be some legalese-type signs posted regarding accidents as work. What to do, who to contact, etc... Most of the time they are in the break room, clock-in area, etc...

After I got up, a manager was called. She arrived, took in the situation...

Is she the manager for the entire store, the front end, or a department? If she's not THE manager, then I'd have a chat with that person ASAP.

If you work for a national chain you might want to contact the corporate office for assistance...since you have been given the run-around. Alternately, you might be able to contact a store in the area to see if they have forms.

If that doesn't work, a lawyer might be your only way out.

posted by bach at 9:47 PM on May 5, 2007

First, call your boss, and say, "I am going to the hospital for injuries related to the fall I had." Ask her to provide any necessary paperwork, though I believe with most hospitals, you just need to provide them with your employer's address.

Then go to the hospital and get your pain checked out. Make sure that they know that your employer is footing the bill.

Then, if your boss still refuses to give you the proper forms, call her boss. Call your corporate office and ask *them* what to do in this situation. Chances are, your boss will have the problem fixed very shortly thereafter.
posted by billybunny at 9:50 PM on May 5, 2007

• Mass.gov Workplace Health and Safety - Worker's Compensation information

• Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health:

If You Get Hurt on the Job
If you get hurt on the job, your employer should pay all of your medical bills, including travel to and from the doctor. If you miss work for more than seven working days, they should also pay for most of your lost wages—60%of wages that you lost while you were out in Massachusetts. These payments are called workers’ compensation benefits.

You should not have to use your own health insurance! You should not have to use your own sick time or vacation time (if you have it), except for the first seven days. You should also report your injury or sickness to the agency in your state which handles workers’ compensation claims. Do this in addition to filing a claim with your employer’s insurance company. This will help protect your rights later if you have trouble with your employer. Ask your local COSH group if they have a fact sheet about your rights under your state’s workers’ compensation law.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:50 PM on May 5, 2007

Oh, and get legal representation so that you know your rights.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:51 PM on May 5, 2007

Now I have a kind of throbby, mild lower back pain and stiffness.

I'm going to address the injury rather than the issues of liability and employers.

Lower back pain is never something to ignore as an minor injury can become something serious (eg disc herniation) very easily, and the severity of the injury may not show up immediately.

Worst case is long-term, and I mean long-term, disability.

So I would recommend being very proactive and very rigorous in your pursuit of this situation *EVEN IF* your symptoms seem relatively mild right now and/or start to get better.

I say this not as a personal injury litigant or lawyer but as someone who herniated a disc a few months back and lives in a country with universal health care.
posted by unSane at 10:02 PM on May 5, 2007

Seconding much of the above plus a little bit of advice: write down your recollection of everything that happened with respect to your workplace accident - the entire thing, who saw you fall, the aftermath, all the details. Document all the details, including times, names, locations. You might need all this later when your memory of the events won't be so fresh.

Good luck to you!!
posted by brain cloud at 10:10 PM on May 5, 2007

Be aware that most franchise places of this nature--Kmart, Target, Walmart, etc.--will make you take a drug test when you file formal "injured on the job" papers, no matter what sort of accident. If you test positive, they may still have some liability, but you will probably be fired. Just FYI.
posted by almostmanda at 11:00 PM on May 5, 2007

Yes, definitely write down your recollection of events as soon as you get a chance. Literally. Right now if you have time. They should have had the right form so that you could write it down right then. It's best to right it down as soon after the event as possible, so your mind has less time to play with your memory. So you don't want them trying to deny your claims because they say your version of events is mistaken, and using the fact that you wrote down your story too long after to strengthen their argument. Then go back to work, and don't leave until they give you the right form. Like others said above, if the manager you mentioned wasn't THE manager, contact THE manager. If they're not helpful, contact your manager's manager, or possibly HR or employee relations is that is the way the chain goes at your company goes. Then keep working your way up the chain until you get both the proper accident report form, and a form to complain about your manager.

Also, when you go to get the forms, if anyone is there who witnessed the original event, make sure they fill out their forms then and there too. If your manager won't let them off the floor because it's too busy, make it clear that you are not leaving until you get a chance to have them write down what they witnessed. And also remind your manager that all this time you are spending waiting for these people, you are getting paid (IANAL, but I'm pretty sure you should be paid for the time you have to spend to fill out all the paperwork you should have been able to fill out while you were on shift). If you need to contact anyone while they are not at work to have them write down what they witnessed, do not discuss what happened with them. That gives the company another opportunity to try to screw you over by claiming you influenced eachother's version of events, and you're both mistaken.

As I mentioned, keep a log of all the time you spend on all of this so you can get paid for it. They should have had the right form while you were still at work, so you would have been paid for it. There's no reason you shouldn't get paid for all the extra time you have to spend finally procuring and filling out that form.

If you do end up needing to see a doctor before you're able to fill out all the appropriate forms, keep all the paperwork from it. I would probably try to contact your company's HR department before going to the doctor, so you can ask them what you'll need to do later (write down what they say and get the name of who you talk to). Tell the administrative assistant and doctor your situation so they can make sure and give you all receipts and other paperwork they think you might need. You may need to pay them up front, or give them your insurance info, depending on how well they know you. If you do have to give them your insurance info, ask them if they can file it away for a week and wait on processing it so you can get your company to pay, and not have to cancel the claims with your insurance provider. And hopefully, you can wait until you do get the paperwork filled out with your company before your condition forces you to see the doctor. You'll have to be the judge of when it's time to just shoot first and ask questions later, but just in case, make sure you SAVE EVERYTHING.

Finally, did I mention IANAL or a doctor, or a HR rep, or an insurance rep?
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:05 PM on May 5, 2007

On second thought, it's probably not the best idea to have anyone write down what happened outside of work. Instruct your manager to have everyone that was there fill out the appropriate form as soon as they work next. That way if proper procedure is not followed in filling it out, it's on your manager, not you. Be firm if you need to. Set aside a form for each person with their name on it (literally, not figuratively). And make sure to mention in the form that you fill out that you told your manager to make sure everyone else fills one out ASAP. Don't discuss the accident with anyone who was there too much before they have a chance to fill out their copy of the report form.

Oh yeah, and you should definitely consider getting legal advice. If not now, then if you do encounter any more trouble, especially downright obstruction of you trying to get your compensation (whether it's intentional or not), then is definitely the time to think even more about getting a lawyer.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:16 PM on May 5, 2007

I worked in California Workers' Compensation for awhile. I worked for a good outfit that took pretty good care of hurt people; I understand many are not as good.

Basically, you need to get it documented that you were hurt at work. If you go the hospital now and get looked at, you need to tell them this is a work injury. All your bills should be covered.

If it turns out to be an ongoing problem, your employer is going to be very interested in proving that you hurt yourself on your own time, or that you were susceptible to hurting yourself, or any number of different things. So that's why you need to get all the paperwork done now. I don't think you need to get a lawyer yet unless it becomes an ongoing problem. If it's just a muscle pull and no real damage has been done, you don't need to get that panicky. You DO, however, need to get everything clearly documented; the idea of getting everyone else to fill out forms is a good one. Basically, you're just laying a paper trail so that you can prove you were A) hurt at work, and B) were hurt exactly in the way that you describe.

Just tell the truth and stick to it, no matter what, and things should be fine.

If it looks like they're going to fight you about the care in any way, then get a lawyer.

If I remember correctly, lawyers in Workers' Compensation are generally paid as a percentage of a disability settlement, which means they're gonna have a big interest in getting you declared partially disabled. This whole process really sucks, with tons of appointments and evaluations and rehab and the like. Neither you NOR your employer want to go through this if you don't have to. It costs you time and it costs them money. It's in everyone's best interest to get you treated and healthy as quickly as possible. But not all employers see it that way. That's why you get your paperwork done to cover yourself later.

In California, at least, the law is very much on your side. Low-paying jobs tend to have unskilled labor, and injuries happen there a lot more often than in higher-paid work. So the expectation, more or less, is you'll get some things wrong. Employers have to go to extraordinary lengths to deny you care. Massachusetts is pretty liberal, so I imagine they'll be pretty similar.

Warning: my experience is about 12 years old, so the laws could have changed. If anyone else gives you advice that contradicts mine, and claims any recent expertise, do what they say.
posted by Malor at 12:11 AM on May 6, 2007

What your employer should be filing is a First Report of Injury Form. This looks to be a good FAQ on on-the-job injuries:

Q: How do I find out the name of my employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance company?

A: Ask your employer. By law, all employers must post this information in the workplace. If you are injured and cannot work for five or more days, your employer must report your injury to its insurance company and to the DIA. Your employer is required to give you a copy of this report (Form 101), which contains
the name and address of the insurance company. If you cannot get this information, call the Office of Insurance in Boston at 617-727-4900, ext. 404 or 405.

Q: My employer refuses to file a First Report of Injury. What should I do?

A: Get a lawyer to help you file a claim for benefits (Form 110).Without the First Report of Injury (Form 101), the insurance company will probably fight your claim.

I don't think you're at the point of needing a lawyer or a hospital yet, but it shouldn't be so hard to get the incident documented.
posted by Violet Hour at 12:36 AM on May 6, 2007

In fact, here is a pdf of the First Report of Injury form, if you want to just start filling it out yourself.
posted by Violet Hour at 12:38 AM on May 6, 2007

Call your own doctor for an appointment ASAP. When you get there, tell them you were injured at work. Your doctor's office can start worker's comp paperwork, too.
posted by Carol Anne at 4:46 AM on May 6, 2007

I fell at work (2x in one night) and didn't do one thing right because I was young & stupid.

I could barely move the next day and started bleeding from the swelling. Spent ten hours in the ER (none of it the waiting room) and three hours strapped to a backboard because the first X-Ray showed 'weird looking' L4 and L5 vertebrae (unknown birth defect) and the doctors thought they were broken. Ended up with 'only' a hairline fracture in the coccyx and was told to take six weeks off.

No accident report was filed and management never even suggested that one should be filled out. I went to a military hospital (I was a dependent) because I didn't realize that my employer was liable for the bills. My managers threatened to fire me for taking three whole weeks off to recover (couldn't afford to take six) and I was certainly not compensated for the time off.

Don't be stupid. See a doctor now. Fill out the accident report now.
posted by jaimystery at 5:51 AM on May 6, 2007

I burned my hand at work once and although it wasn't bad enough for me to go to the hospital, my manager immediately starting filling out paperwork. The idea was to document that this injury had occurred at work and that if it got worse and I ended up needing medical treatment, I had protection and proof that I had sustained this injury at work. They stressed this at that job to us - as soon as you were injured, even if you think it's just a minor thing, you had to tell the manager on duty and starting filling out the proper paperwork.

Go up as high as you can go in terms of management at your particular branch, and if that doesn't work get in touch with the district manager. All information about accidents at work, who our district manager was, etc., was posted in the breakroom; perhaps it is similar at your store.
posted by sutel at 7:05 AM on May 6, 2007

In addition to details about your accident, you might want to write down:

Who told you the wall was a known problem
Who told you that it had fallen on other cashiers before
If you can find it out, the names of the other cashier "victims"
Any details (when it happened, what management's reaction was, who was present) you have about these previous incidents and what happened.

I know you were asking more to find out how to prevent this from happening in the future, and that is important, but please do go to a doctor as soon as you can. Don't lift anything, don't go dancing, don't walk too much, don't stand for 4 hours at work, don't mess with your back until you are sure it's fine.

You're right that management should have taken the issue more seriously, long before this happened. People don't always see the implications of clumsy stacking, so it's not like they _wanted_ anyone to get injured, but it was important for them to be trained to be extra careful.

Of course I'm not a lawyer, nor a doctor. Do take care of yourself, and then good luck helping these folks see that they need to be more careful.
posted by amtho at 8:21 AM on May 6, 2007

If it wasn't clear already from what everyone else has said -- you can see a doctor before you have even filled out any paperwork at your workplace. Unless your state is unusual, they don't need anything from your employer to get the process started.

My work injury was a fall down a concrete stairwell, no witnesses, after work hours. I was working late. On my way out, I decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator, caught my toe on the edge of a step, and went head-first down almost a full flight of stairs. Luckily my head didn't take most of the impact (though I did get a concussion). I got up, very woozy, and walked out the door where my mom was actually waiting in her car to pick me up. I told her to drive me straight to a doctor, and she did.

I just went in, told them it happened at work, and they gave me paperwork to fill out about the accident right then and there. Even though I had no witnesses, there was not a problem. I stayed off work for a couple of weeks on doctor's orders (besides the concussion I had some neck and shoulder problems that made it difficult to do computer work for a while -- and I'd whacked my knee pretty hard, too), and received Worker's Comp benefits for it. I imagine there was some additional paperwork that my employer had to deal with, but I didn't have to worry about it.

So what I'm saying is -- don't wait for your employer to do stuff here, just go and get the process started on the medical side.
posted by litlnemo at 3:33 PM on May 6, 2007

(And now I no longer go quickly down stairs, and I hold on to the handrail.)
posted by litlnemo at 3:36 PM on May 6, 2007

Let me begin by saying that the manager who laughed at you and berated you for leaning on a wall is a major ass. Leaned on or not, walls are not supposed to come crashing down with a little bit of body weight.
Nth-ing the Document Everything and start a file where you'll keep all your notes, schedule of all appointments and medical visits/treatments and receipts. This injury should cost you Zero dollars and should not impact any saved up vacation or sick time. This is totally on your employer.
Ask your manager, or their manager, one more time for the proper forms, then contact your employer's main office for instructions on how and on-the-job injury is to be handled. Follow their instructions to the letter. Do not allow your manager to harrass or berate you into returning to work before you are absolutely ready and able.
Lastly, back injuries, although not visible outwardly, are not to be taken lightly. This is something that could likely be with you for the rest of your life. I'm hoping not, but without the proper care and follow-up treatment, you never know.
Good Luck and stay strong!!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 9:55 AM on May 7, 2007

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