Should I Call My Union or a PI Attorney When Slipping on Ice?


Laura Schaefer

If you’re injured and in pain due to a serious fall during the workday, who might owe you a settlement? And who should you call in order to help you secure this payment: A PI attorney? OSHA? Your union rep? When medical bills pile up and you must miss work, it makes sense to consider where to turn for help. Each circumstance is unique and what you should do often depends on where you were when you were hurt…and exactly what you were doing at the time.

An injured government worker recently asked if she should call a PI attorney or her union representative after a fall. Read on to learn the answer and why we offer the information we do.

Reader question: I am a federal employee. Do I file a claim with my union or with a PI attorney? I slipped and fell on ice melt while going to lunch. I fell on my back causing my pinched nerve to increase my pain. In the past, I had to call OSHA because of toxic fumes giving me migraines and causing me to become nauseous. Please help.

Answer: Since the injury isn’t work-related, call a PI attorney (personal injury lawyer).

There are very specific guidelines about what qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits. The only reason it would make sense for this reader to call OSHA or her union would be if her fall happened at her workplace while she was working. Since she writes in that she was going to lunch, the ice was likely not on federal property at her place of employment.

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How Can a PI Attorney Help This Injured Federal Employee?

A PI attorney can determine if the sidewalk where the reader fell was improperly cleared. PI attorneys can also learn whose responsibility it was to clear it. In some cases, it might be appropriate to sue the property owner. But in others, it might fall under the jurisdiction of the city or of a public utility company.

PI attorneys who work on slip and fall cases have expertise in determining if a fall is due to property owner negligence. To do so, they will visit and photograph the scene of an accident or talk to all witnesses present on the day of their client’s fall. They may hire a private investigator and request any video surveillance footage from the business or property owner associated with the sidewalk where their client fell. They may be able to find evidence that unsafe conditions have been an issue at the address previously. Finally, they may talk with experts, their client’s doctors, or neighbors near where the fall occurred.

These cases generally do not go to trial. Instead, the business’s insurance policy pays the injured person directly after negotiating with a PI attorney. This is because property owners and businesses understand that they must keep their premises safe for people. This includes clearing ice and snow in a timely manner so sidewalks are both safe and passable. If someone fails to tell customers about potential hazards like a slippery walkway, then that business might be liable for covering any injuries that result from a slip and fall accident.

When Is It Appropriate to File a Workers’ Comp Claim?

In order to file and win a workers’ comp claim, you must prove you have a work-related injury or illness. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines outline what is work-related as well as what isn’t:

  1. It’s work-related only if a workplace event or exposure during working hours caused or contributed to an injury or illness. It also counts as work-related when it makes a pre-existing injury or illness much worse.
  2. The injury happened at the establishment or at other locations where one or more employees are either working or are present as a condition of their employment. This means that the work environment includes physical locations as well as equipment or materials you must use to complete your own job tasks.
  3. If your injury or illness results solely from doing personal tasks unrelated to your job or outside your regular working hours, then it does not qualify. However, a PI attorney can help you file a claim for compensation.

Talk to a PI Attorney for Free About Your Case

Is your situation a little bit different than the circumstance we explored above? Then you may feel confused about whether you’ll qualify for workers’ compensation or should work with a PI attorney.

Business owners understand they are responsible for injuries that occur while on their property. That is why it is common to see signs in restaurants and retail locations warning of wet floors. Most business owners have insurance policies that typically cover up to $1 million in damages. Those policies exist only to pay for customers’ injuries such as the one this reader asked about. So if you do get hurt, you should never feel guilty about filing a suit.

You can sign up for a free consultation with a nearby PI attorney that starts with one quick phone call. Fill out the form on this page with a phone number you can answer during work hours Monday through Friday.

Laura Schaefer

Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at and