Most of us spend about ⅓ of our lives at work. It’s no surprise that a large percentage of injuries occur at work as well.
Workplace injuries can also thrust you into the frustrating WCB process. While some Albertans get all the way through the WCB process without a hitch, some have to fight tooth and nail to get coverage for their losses.
Here’s what you need to know.
Types of Workplace Injuries
Workplace injuries run the gamut, including:
- Trips, slips, and falls
- Car and truck accidents
- Crushed, cut, or burned by machinery
- Fire and explosions
- Heavy lifting injuries
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Falling object injuries
- Inhaling toxic fumes
- Hearing damage
Even the safest workplaces can leave workers exposed to a range of hazards.
Can You Sue an Employer for a Workplace Injury?
No. There is a sort of legal bargain that’s been made. In return for not assigning fault to employers or employees, and in return for waiving the right to sue, employees get Workers Compensation benefits from the Workers Compensation Board (WCB). Most employers pay WCB insurance, though some are exempt. Employees whose employers are exempt may purchase WCB insurance of their own.
This insurance is supposed to cover your medical expenses and cover your lost wages while you are recovering from a workplace injury. Sometimes this all works without a hitch: employees go through the WCB process smoothly, get their money, and go back to their old job.
At other times, WCB balks like any insurance company, and you end up having to work with a lawyer anyway, this time to challenge WCB’s decisions and to get paid. This can result in getting your WCB benefits in a lump sum settlement much as you would in a personal injury case. Unlike a personal injury case you won’t be able to sue for non-pecuniary damages.
If your employer is not covered by WCB benefits when they were supposed to be, you can then launch a personal injury suit against them. In addition, WCB does not protect third parties who might have injured you while you were on the job. Often, you can sue those parties, as well. WCB may also launch a suit against a third-party who caused your injury and do so on your behalf.
Another exception comes from the 2019 case Hall v. Stewart. Stewart was a supervisor at the DWS Construction Company. His employee, Fekete Homes, was injured by a staircase whose installation he supervised and built. He was held personally liable for the damage resulting from his own conduct while he was acting as a director for the corporation. Thus, directors of employers who can be shown to be negligent may be sued personally as if they were a third party.
Check Also: Long Term Disability Lawyer
How Do WCB Benefits Work?
There are three types of WCB benefits.
The first is your lost wage benefit. This benefit provides you with 90% of your regular take-home pay. These can be lowered by tax benefits such as childcare expenses, child support payments, and spousal support payments, as well as by payouts you’re getting from other insurance policies.
The second is healthcare costs. These benefits cover all the healthcare you may need to recover from your injuries. This includes hospital expenses, long term personal care, home and car modifications, specialist care, medications, dental treatments, medical equipment including prosthetics. It can also cover some surprising expenses: the replacement cost of clothing damaged in an injury, transportation and living allowances if you must travel a great distance to receive treatment, and a personal care allowance. The personal care allowance can cover expenses like housekeeping and yardwork.
WCB will also help you coordinate this care, but you will have to go to the providers they require you to visit.
Some benefits must be approved by WCB before you use them.
WCB also offers permanent impairment awards to those who have permanent physical or mental injuries. They may receive a lump sum payment in addition to wage loss benefits.
You will be required to remain in contact with your employer and with the WCB throughout the course of your claim, to follow physician instructions, and to cooperate with your employer in creating a plan to help you return to work.
Can Your Employer Fire You for Claiming WCB Benefits?
The employer may not fire you in retaliation for claiming WCB benefits, nor fire you while you are receiving disability payments. If you are disciplined for reporting an injury or are pressured to avoid reporting the injury you can call 1-866-922-9221 to get help directly from WCB.
At times a physician may clear you for “light duty.” The employer is not required to pay you the same rate of pay if you are placed on light duty. If you are offered light duty and refuse to go to work or to participate in vocational rehabilitation then the WCB may suspend your payments. Your employer does have a duty to make reasonable accommodations.
Recently, Alberta removed the obligation for an employer to rehire an injured worker. They may offer you work and you have to take it if you can if you don’t want to lose your benefits, but they do not have to, and that is an important distinction worth knowing about.
Once you have returned to work you may be fired for misconduct or for an unsatisfactory performance, just as you could have been prior to making your WCB claim. If you are terminated while you are receiving workers compensation benefits the benefits don’t stop.
How a Workplace Injury Lawyer Can Help
If your claim has been unfairly denied or stopped then you will need help getting the funds you need to pay your bills after your accident. An injury lawyer can help you hold the proper parties accountable and get the money you’re entitled to under the law.
In the case that a personal injury lawsuit is appropriate, our firm can also help you pursue one.
Injured on the job in Red Deer? Call us. We have over 20 years of experience and are known as some of Alberta’s toughest litigators and savviest negotiators. Call (403) 269-7777 to schedule a case evaluation today.