A ladder slips at work, and you fall. You’re lucky that you were not all the way at the top, but it’s far enough. You land hard and awkwardly on the ground below, and you instantly feel it in your back.

You don’t know how bad it is. You just know that it hurts. You know that your coworkers have to help you get up, and you suspect instantly that you’re really going to feel that pain tomorrow.

Now you have a choice to make. Do you try to tough it out or walk it off? Do you just go home for the day, take a few painkillers and hope that it heals on its own? Or do you go to the doctor to get real care, an x-ray and a professional opinion?

Get medical help

There is really no question here. You need to get medical help, and you need to do it right away.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t think you broke your back or that you think a night of rest may do it. You’re not a doctor. Your coworkers don’t know how you feel. Neither does your boss. None of you have the expertise to make this decision.

It is very important to follow through on seeking actual medical treatment at a doctor’s office or at the hospital, depending on the severity. If it’s bad enough, call an ambulance and go to the emergency room. You cannot be too careful, especially with something like a back injury.

Remember, not all injuries are clear in the moment. You have a rush of adrenaline. You have outside factors to consider, like not wanting to show your coworkers how bad the injury feels. You have a lot of things clouding your judgment. Don’t let them. The last thing you need is to avoid treatment and end up with a life-changing injury. Visit the doctor right away.

Medical records and compensation

There’s another key reason to seek medical treatment: You need to start thinking about workers’ compensation. Even if you just miss a few weeks, can you afford that? What if you’re out for months? What if you actually can’t do your old job anymore?

The insurance company that pays your claim needs to know that your injury is legitimate. They need to know the full ramifications and how long it will last. They need to know exactly which costs link back to that fall from the ladder.

The very best way to get documented proof of what happened is to go to the doctor. Those medical records play a huge role in your case.

After you go, then it’s time to make sure you know about all of your legal rights and what steps you can take.