Can I Sue My Employer for a Slip and Fall
Every year, more than 40,000 workers are injured in slip and fall accidents while they’re on the job. The reasons are manifold, with poor safety conditions, poor maintenance of the premises, and problems with PPE all leading the pack. Many jobs are simply dangerous as well, even absent of any negligence on an employer’s parts.
These injuries are just as serious for workers as they are for guests who might come onto an employer’s property. They can result in a loss of ability to work, a lifetime of chronic pain, a loss of independence, and even traumatic brain injuries that can be life-altering.
Yet you may be surprised to know you won’t be suing your employer directly for these accidents, even if the accident was your employer’s fault.
Workers Compensation vs. Personal Injury Cases
Instead of filing a personal injury suit, workers file a workers compensation claim under the Workers Compensation Board (WCB). This is a fund that compensates you for work-related injuries, diseases, and accidents, including slips and falls. There are a few exceptions: professions and companies which are exempt from having to participate in WCB.
In return for this, employers are released from personal injury liability. It is a complete no-fault system. This has both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand you don’t have to prove that your employer caused the accident. On the other, you don’t get as much from a workers compensation case as you’d get from a personal injury case. This is very much viewed as a legal trade-off: faster, guaranteed, but smaller benefits in return for a release from liability.
On the surface these types of cases are very similar. They both cover the damages you’ve received as a result of your injury. For example, WCB covers your medical bills, and 90% of your net income up to the WCB maximum during the time that you are out of work. It will not pay for your work-related deductions like your health insurance deduction or your taxes, but WCB benefits also go untaxed and can help you meet your living expenses.
As with a personal injury case, WCB compensation covers physical therapy, medical equipment, prescriptions, dental care, and any other medical bills that your case might generate.
However, workers compensation coverage does not come with any award for pain and suffering claims, and in some cases can require just as much of a legal battle as a personal injury case does.
Thus, you will still want to contact a lawyer, even if you were injured at work, just to make sure that your employer does what they are supposed to do. It is also very important to document your injury, and to report your injury to your employer within 72 hours of your injury to avoid having your claim denied. You must also file a claim with the WCB directly. You can report injuries online. Your doctor should report the injury as well. Both you and your doctor should file the WCB report within 48 hours of your injury.
Be sure to get medical care after a slip and fall even if you’re not sure whether or not you’re hurt. Some injuries don’t hurt right away as it can take time for the body to finish swelling up. Injuries that seem minor at the point of impact can be excruciating one day later. If you’ve fallen, get care and get help.
Under Canadian law, employers are required to take precautions to keep employees safe. That means they’re supposed to keep their premises in good working order, train employees on how to stay safe, and provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE). They’re also supposed to ensure that the PPE is in good working order, and that their policies and procedures promote a safe working environment.
Employers should avoid policies or instructions which force employees to cut corners at the expense of safety, for example, or to do without PPE because it’s easier or faster for a manager.
When employers fail in their duties you still can’t sue them, but you can report them to The Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. CCOHS can then prosecute and fine them. Employers are prohibited from retaliation against employees who file these reports.
Some employers can even be arrested when employees die on the job if they have failed to comply with the law in managing their employees and jobs.
Suing Third Parties
Sometimes a slip and fall on the job isn’t only the responsibility of the employer. Sometimes there are third parties involved.
For example, if your employer is a HVAC company you’re likely going out to the work site of a third party to fix their air conditioning. If that premises owner fails to repair a stair railing or creates a hazardous condition that has nothing to do with the HVAC system you were there to fix then you may have a personal injury case against that third party.
You may be able to recover any expenses that workers compensation doesn’t cover, as well as a pain and suffering award. If the third party’s behavior was especially egregious then you may be able to seek punitive damages as well.
You cannot “double dip” with these suits. If workers compensation pays a $1000 medical bill you can’t seek that same $1000 from the third party. However the workers compensation company may seek the $1000 from the third party stating they were responsible for it. This is known as subrogation, and ensures that the proper party takes responsibility for injuries.
It rarely turns into an issue for claimants, other than sometimes disappointing them when they think they’re getting a large amount from a personal injury suit only to find a portion of that money going to another insurance company.
If you are an independent contractor then you should be able to sue your client if you slipped and fell on their premises while conducting a job on their behalf. However, you must be able to show that your client was negligent.
This means they failed to address unsafe conditions in a timely fashion, either by posting a warning or by addressing those conditions. You will have to prove this negligence in order to win your personal injury case, and you will have to prove that the negligence was a direct result of your injuries.
These cases can get complex. Sometimes clients have independent contractors sign paperwork that tries to release them from liability if they get hurt while you’re working for them. They might also claim that you assumed the risk for working on their job site.
For example, they might claim that you knew the property was in bad condition before you began work and that you were one of many contractors being hired to address problems on the job.
In some cases your own business insurance policy or health insurance policy may cover your injuries instead.
Make sure you are truly an independent contractor and not simply a misclassified employee. If you are working as an employee then you may be entitled to WCB benefits. This may be more advantageous for you as these benefits can get to you faster than a personal injury settlement can.
Slip and fall law is complicated.
If you think you may need to hold a third party accountable for your accident contact one of our lawyers right away. We can help you determine whether you have an injury suit or a WCB claim, and can advise you on your next steps.
Your call is risk-free: we don’t get paid unless we take your case and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.
Each of our lawyers has decades of experience with personal injury law. We specialize in premises liability cases. We can refer you to a workers compensation lawyer in Alberta if one of those will be more appropriate to your case.
Call (403) 225-777 to get help today.