In the course of work, in almost any industry, there’s a chance you could be hurt on the job. These injuries could arise from a number of different situations, and manifest in a variety of different forms. For example, you could sustain a chemical burn after a coworker accidentally bumps into you, or you could suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome after years of repetitive strain in your hands.

In any case, at some point, you may sustain an injury like this. It can be difficult to determine what to do next; you may be considering legal options like hiring a personal injury attorney, but you know workers’ compensation might also be on the table. While not every situation is the same, there is a process you can (and should) follow to help you make the right decisions.

Immediate Steps to Take

Take these steps immediately after sustaining or noticing the injury:

  • Get first aid. Regardless of the legal and logistical ramifications of your injury, your health and safety have to come first. Focus on getting to safety and getting first aid as soon as possible. For minor injuries, that might mean raiding the first aid kit or simply getting off your feet for a moment. For more complex injuries, that could mean a hospital visit. You can worry about money and paperwork after you’ve gotten the immediate treatment you need.
  • Report the incident to your employer. It’s important to alert your supervisor to the injury as soon as possible. This will prompt them to formally document the injury, and possibly make immediate improvements to the workplace to prevent the injury from recurring. For example, if you were injured by a piece of malfunctioning machinery, they may be able to shut it off for the day and get it repaired.
  • Get a record of the details. Assuming you have the physical treatment you need, try to get your own record of what happened. Your supervisor may be responsible for filling out the paperwork, but if there’s a conflict of information, you’ll need to have evidence supporting your own version of the story. See if you can get a copy of any video evidence that exists of the scene, take photos of the environment after the incident is over, and talk to any witnesses to solidify their perspectives of what happened. This will be vitally important if you end up seeking legal action.
  • Make the scene safer. If you’re still in the workplace, work with your supervisor to make the scene safer. You don’t want someone else to suffer the same injury you did, or become injured due to the state of the workplace as you left it.
  • Get medical attention (and follow instructions). If you haven’t gone to the hospital or visited a doctor yet, do so now. Make sure to keep records of all the visits you’re making and what you’re paying for treatment, and follow all doctors’ instructions diligently. This is important to make sure your injuries heal as quickly as possible, and to ensure you’re compensated correctly.
  • Consider workers’ compensation. Most areas require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Usually, you’ll be entitled to receive compensation under this insurance for any and all costs related to an injury you sustained at work, regardless of who is at fault in the injury. However, if you pursue workers’ compensation, you may not be able to take legal action against the company.

The Possibility for Legal Compensation

In many cases, you’ll be entitled to legal compensation for the costs related to the injury as well as secondary costs, including compensation for your pain and suffering. If your injury was sustained because of unsafe workplace conditions, because of the direct actions of a supervisor or coworker, or due to the neglect of another person, you may wish to pursue legal action.

If you do, you’ll want to speak with an attorney first, discussing the nature of your injury and the possibilities for your case. They should be able to determine whether it’s worth pursuing a legal case, or whether it’s better to seek workers’ compensation. And because most lawyers offer an initial consultation for free, it’s almost always worth making the inquiry.

Injuries in the workplace are frighteningly common. In fact, a worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds in the United States. If you’re ever unfortunate enough to experience one, it’s important that you know how to act—and act quickly to resolve the situation. You may need to make some hard choices, like whether to seek workers’ compensation or work with a personal injury attorney, but those decisions get much easier when you have a better understanding of the situation.