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Shop Stewards and Workplace Accidents

March 30, 2011
By David Klein, Partner, The Klein Law Group

When a worker is hurt on the job, as shop steward you have an essential role to pay. You can help protect that worker’s legal right to the best medical care and monetary compensation. Whether an accident is seemingly minor or profoundly disabling, the first minutes after an accident are vital.

Here is what every shop steward should know to protect the rights of your workers

MEDICAL ATTENTION:
The worker should see a doctor as soon as possible. Many are reluctant to seek treatment for smaller injuries, believing that a doctor’s visit means they must stop working. In fact, even if you never lose time from work you may still have a perfectly valid Workers Compensation and Personal Injury lawsuit. At the emergency room or doctor’s office, the injured worker should make sure to say he had an accident at work, and describe all his injuries even the minor ones. It is very important that the doctor make a record of the work related accident and all body parts injured.

STATEMENTS:
Injured, in shock and fearful of losing a good job workers are easily intimidated. Too often, employers try to bully the accident victim into making false statements that will damage his case, sometimes even threatening the worker not to consult a lawyer. As a shop steward, you can provide a level head, a calming influence, and sage advice. By protecting the legal rights of your brothers and sisters, you leave them with the greatest number of options for the future.

Oral Statements
Make only very simple and general statements. For example: “I fell from the scaffold” is a good simple and general statement. If the employer wants more detail, the worker should point out that he is still in shock and pain and needs a few days before he talks in greater detail. He should then consult a lawyer right away.

Written Statements
Written statements should be handled with care insurance companies often use them to fight claims. The description of the accident should be as general as possible when a lawyer is not yet involved, while the description of the injuries should be as detailed as possible.

Witness Statements
Contractors who care more about their bottom line than they do about the men and women who risk their bodies for a living wage often take one of two tactics when they hear of an accident: either they deny the accident happened at all, or they insist that the accident was not as serious as it really was. Good, clear witness statements can be a great help in corroborating the true circumstances of an accident especially if taken before the boss or foreman has a chance to intimidate or bribe the witness. 

SHOP STEWARD RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS:
Before signing and filing accident statements, make sure to consult with your Local if you are unsure of its rules regarding the completion and filing of reports. Just as communication and coordination with all essential personnel is key to finishing a job on time and at the highest quality, they are also vital to maximizing an accident victim’s legal rights.

The Klein Law Group Please visit us at www.thekleinlawgroup.com. If you have questions about workers compensation, personal injury, wage-and-hour, or social security disability law, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-800-579-8881    

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