Workers’ Compensation for Injured Healthcare Employees
Protecting the rights of nurses, home health aides and medical personnel in Tennessee and Georgia
When we are sick or injured, we rely on nurses, doctors, EMTs, and other members of the healthcare field to help us get well again. But what happens when our healers are the ones who need to be helped? Healthcare workers can be seriously injured in the course of their job duties; we owe it to them to help them get well, too.
Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law offers comprehensive and practical assistance to injured healthcare workers in Tennessee and North Georgia. Our Chattanooga workers’ compensation lawyers have represented the injured since 1945. We can guide you through the process of applying for benefits, represent you at hearings and in appeals if you are denied those benefits, and counsel you if you choose to pursue a third-party personal injury claim. Let our family help you, when you need it the most.
Local hospitals and healthcare facilities
Healthcare is one of Tennessee’s leading industries. Chattanooga alone has six hospitals:
- Erlanger Baroness Hospital
- Erlanger East Hospital
- Kindred Hospital
- Parkridge East Hospital
- Parkridge Medical Center
- Memorial Hospital Chattanooga
Tennova has two campuses in Cleveland, and Hamilton Medical Center is right over the state line, in Dalton, GA. Southern Tennessee Regional Health System Sewanee is nearby, too, as is Memorial Hixson Hospital.
We also have the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital, the CHI Memorial emergency room. NHC Healthcare, plus senior facilities like Manorhouse and St. Barnabas. No matter where you turn, you can find someone with medical training to help cure what ails you.
Related Content: Workers’ Compensation and the Nursing Profession
Injury risks for healthcare workers in Tennessee
Hospitals are supposed to be facilities of healing, but they pose their own threats to their workers. In a 2013 factbook created by the Occupational safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the rate of recordable illnesses and injuries in hospitals was 6.8 for 100 full-time employees. This makes hospitals even more dangerous than the manufacturing and construction industries, which are often cited as the most dangerous industries there are.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21,900 EMS workers sought treatment for injuries in emergency rooms in 2016. In that same year, a post on the CDC blog by the President of the Nurses Association stated nursing is among the riskiest professions for injuries.
Nurses face painful musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from manually lifting and moving patients, they suffer from approximately half of all needle stick injuries, nearly 1 in 4 have been physically assaulted, and half have been bullied at work. In a recent American Nurses Association Health Risk Appraisal (HRA), 82 percent of participants said they experienced significant risk for workplace stress, double the national average.
When you work with the general public – especially a public that is injured, ill, or unable to care for themselves in some way – there is always a risk of the unknown. Healthcare professionals are at risk of developing:
- Strains, sprains and slipped discs from lifting patients, and from constantly having to bend over
- Overexertion, from working long hours – often as a result of understaffing
- Bloodborne illnesses, related to needle pricks
- Airborne infections and illnesses, especially if a patient has not yet been correctly diagnosed
- Bruises and lacerations caused by violent or delusion patients
- Injuries caused by slips, trips and falls (including concussions and broken bones)
- Injuries caused by vehicle crashes (including brain and spinal cord injuries)
- Bruising and lacerations caused by contact with an object (such as bumping into furniture)
The OSHA study found that over half of the medical injuries to medical workers were due to sprains and strains. Other injuries included fractures, cuts, puncture wounds, bruises, and multiple trauma. The most common illnesses were skin disorders and respiratory illnesses.
Healthcare providers provide a wonderful service to patients and the community – putting the patient first, often at the expense of their own safety. They deserve to get the full workers’ compensation benefits allowed under Tennessee law.
For home health aides, some of the risks can be even more pronounced; unlike at a hospital, where there are other professionals there to assist, home healthcare workers are often left on their own to care for patients. If they fall, hit their heads, or hurt themselves in any way, they cannot rely on their patients to help them; after all, their patients’ infirmaries are the reason those aides are there in the first place.
Workers’ compensation or personal injury lawsuit?
If you are employed by a hospital, nursing home, or other healthcare facility, then you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if you are hurt while doing your job. This applies even if you are not hurt at your worksite; therefore, if you are hurt in a car accident while you are on your way to visit a patient, or are injured while doing a rotation at a different hospital, or slip while attending a mandatory conference off of campus grounds, you can file for benefits. This is because workers’ compensation is a no-fault program.
However, not all healthcare professionals are considered employees. Many are classified as contractors, which means that they are ineligible for workers’ comp. In this case, the only option would be to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party. In a car crash, it might be a claim against the other driver’s insurance. In a slip-and-fall case, the claim might be against the property owner. For a home health aide, it might be the homeowner’s insurance policy if that is where the person was hurt.
You can file a personal injury lawsuit even if you are eligible for workers’ compensation, too. For example, if you hurt your back trying to get a hospital bed to lift, and it turns out that the bed had a manufacturing defect, you may wish to file a third-party claim. If you do win or settle this claim, you could be forced to pay back 2/3 of any workers’ compensation you were given – but you may end up with a greater compensation award overall. We can discuss this option with you during your consultation.
The Chattanooga law firm you can trust if you were injured while working
Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law stands by healthcare industry workers. Nurses, doctors, EMTs and home health aides care for us when we are unwell; it is our pleasure and our duty to care for them when they are injured or ill. If you sustained an injury or developed an illness during the course of your work duties, our Chattanooga workers’ compensation lawyers want to help. For a free consultation, please call 423-756-7923 or fill out our contact form. We serve clients in North Georgia, Cleveland, TN, Chattanooga and all surrounding counties.