b'Garys Cornerthat you may have signed with the owner of otherNo matter how minor an accident may seem, contractors.we still need to remember that there are really no small accidents or incidents. At the time the accident occurs, you will have no clear idea as to how it may Nomatterhowevolve. For example, after spending decades doing minor an accidentworkers compensation defense work for large and may seem, we stillsmall employers, I have seen many minor accidents and/or injuries become magnified MANY times over need to remember that thereby an aggressive claimants workers compensation are really no small accidentslawyer. Several years ago, I represented a large, self-insured company that employed truck drivers as or incidents.part of its workforce. I received a call from my client So, now you are reading this and thinkingdo Ithat he wished me to defend a suspicious workers have to pull together an entire accident investigationcompensation claim that had been filed by one of team every time someone cuts his finger, gets a bandthese drivers. My client, who was very experienced aid, or bruises his/her elbow? The answer to that isin accident investigation and safety-related claims, NO! However, I do recommend that you establishgathered the claim history through his investigation. a hierarchy for staffing and conducting accidentThe claimant alleged that as he stepped out of his investigations. Obtaining some basic informationtruck cab onto a gravel parking area, he stepped and employing a few basic procedures should beonto a small stone that bruised the big toe on his left followed in all accident investigations.foot. My client had performed his usual (excellent) investigation, which revealed that the claimant had First, you should always interview the injuredbeen wearing standard work shoes with a thick sole employee.Iftherewasnoinjury(justpropertywhen he stepped on the stone.damage), interview the employee who either wasWhile the claim was pending on the claimants an eyewitness to the accident, or whose actionsbruised toe, he also filed additional motions to add may have caused, or contributed, to the accident.additional conditions to the claim. These began with The procedure that I describe above is the minimumthe allegation that the incident had also resulted in that should be done for every accident. This maya sprained ankle, which had morphed into plantar take up some of the supervisors valuable time;fasciitis, which resulted in an altered gait, which however, these interviews should always be done bythen, allegedly, had aggravated a pre-existing low the responsible supervisor, even in the case of a veryback condition, and that had turned into a herniated minor accident. Also remember that by being a safetydisc. So, the minor bruised toe had, after about conscious employer, accidents are not normally antwo months, expanded to a herniated disc, with an everyday, or frequent, occurrence. Therefore, we areextended period of disability. Thanks to my clients not talking about taking a lot of the supervisors timeinitial investigation, we successfully defended the to do an initial investigation.bruised toe, which resulted in a denial of all of the This also means that every supervisor shouldadditional requested conditions.be trained in the basics of accident investigation,In one other case, the employee of a different including witness interviews. How you choose toclient had an employee hobble into her office one approach accident investigations should not devolvemorning, right after starting time. This employees job into taking shortcuts or into pencil-whipping thewas to use a hand grinder to clean up large cast iron accident investigation forms. One thing you shouldflanges. These flanges were so large and heavy that never do in performing an accident investigation,he had to use a hoist to move them around and to no matter how minor the accident may seem, isplace them onto his worktable. He claimed that one to merely hand out an accident report form to theof these flanges, after he disconnected the hook on employee(s) involved, ask them to complete it, andthe hoist, fell off the table had struck is knee. After he return it back to you. Employees should never fill outwas taken to the emergency room (he was admitted the investigation forms.to the hospital), my client took a look at his work area Continued on page 26www.mrca.orgMidwest Roofer 25'