I have been sued, now what?
If you received a Complaint or Summons from the Court as a result of an accident that you have been involved in, or an accident on your premises or property, the first thing you need to do is call your insurance company.
In Ohio, you only have 28 days from the date you receive service of that Complaint or Summons to file an Answer with the Court. Your insurance company needs to have this information so that they can timely provide you with defense counsel and make sure your rights are protected.
If you received notice from you insurance company that an attorney has already been assigned to defend you, call that attorney. She needs to know when you received the Complaint or Summons and what other documentation you may have received.
Finally, once you receive a Complaint or Summons, do not provide statements, written or oral, to anyone but your insurance company or your attorney. Once you have been sued, your communications should only be though your counsel. That is the best way to assure that you are protected.
My employee just notified me of an injury, what do I do?
First and foremost, your company should have a written policy outlining the procedure for reporting an injury. This policy should be provided to all employees when they are hired and a signed copy should be retained by you.
That policy should provide that, if an employee is injured while performing her work duties, that injury must be reported as soon as possible to her supervisor. Once the injury is reported, a package, including an Incident Report, Witness Statements, and Medical Authorizations, should be provided to the employee for completion. This documentation allows you to immediately be able to investigate the claim by interviewing witnesses and requesting any medical records you may need to decide if the injury alleged was as a result of the work accident, or something pre existing.
If the employee cannot return to work for any period, make certain that you obtain documentation from that employee’s doctor verifying that this lost time is because of the work injury.
Also, do not rush to certify a claim simply because the BWC send you a letter with a time limit for you to respond. Take your time. If you have any reservations about the validity of the claim, do not certify it. The BWC will make its own determination if you are a State Fund employer and you can always appeal this decision if you need to. This extra time gives you the time you need to request medical records and, if necessary, have the claimant examined. If you are Self-insured, your decision not to certify the claim simply means it will go to hearing at the Industrial Commission. Again, this give your extra time to do a full investigation.
If you have an attorney, call your attorney. The earlier she is made aware of a claim, the earlier the investigation can begin. Remember, the earlier you can take control of the claim, the better decisions you can make and the better your chances of keep that claim cost down, or even denied entirely depending on what you learn.
Finally, rely on social media. Many claims are debunked when the employee claiming to be injured also posts pictures of his or her social activites, i.e., dancing, hunting, sports, engaged in over the same time that she is claiming to be injured and unable to work.