Legally Speaking: Accident/Injury Documentation and Record-Keeping

By on June 12, 2018

From The Contractor’s Compass:  by Stephen Moore, Galloway Johnson Tompkins Burr & Smith

Accidents happen. No matter how thoroughly your workplace is invested in a culture of safety, sooner or later, if you are doing enough business, accidents will happen. How those accidents impact your business, your employees and your customers, however, is something you can manage in a number of ways. From my perspective as a defense litigator, how that accident is managed on Day 1 can reverberate throughout the life of any claim or lawsuit that results. In fact, how the accident is managed on Day 1 can often matter far more than anything your lawyer does for you, because lawyers are only as good as the tools they have to work with. So, think of your accident investigation as a mission to collect as many tools as possible, so that your attorney can do the best job possible for you. Following are some items you might think of as a defense attorney’s wish list.

Before any accident happens, designate a work-place accident investigator. On any job site, have one (or more depending on the size of the job) person designated as your accident investigator—the person in charge of the investigation in the unfortunate event of an accident. That person can be trained in your accident investigation procedures, have the proper forms and other equipment close at hand and, most importantly, be accountable for completing the investigation. If no one is in charge, you can be assured of an ineffective and incomplete investigation. And, while it is of course important to do a good job, it is also important to remember that perception is sometimes as important as reality. If your accident investigation looks disorganized, incomplete and careless, your company will look that way to a jury, to a workers’ compensation judge or to the plaintiff’s attorney. An organized and efficient approach to accident investigation will create the opposite impression, which in some cases can stop a lawsuit before it ever becomes one.

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