Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Popeyes, Burger King. Bojangle’s. Most people in North Carolina and Virginia have their favorite places for a quick bite. While the food is a fast treat for customers, for workers in the fast food industry, every day their work includes some risk that an employee will be injured. The good news for employees is that they don’t need to show that the fast food restaurant owner, whether it’s a local restaurant or a national chain, was negligent. Employees who are injured while doing their job should be entitled to compensation for their medical bills and a 2/3rs of their weekly wages until they can return to work. In some cases, if the injuries are severe, they may be entitled to a lump sum settlement.
Common types of fast food injuries
Fast food work is often fast paced. I should know, I’m a McDonalds veteran! Individual restaurants often require that workers do their jobs quickly, in close quarters, often shoulder-to-shoulder with other workers. In addition, unless something has drastically changed since when I worked at McDonalds, the employer is going to squeeze every bit of labor out of you that they can. If things are slow and you are not grilling burgers or cooking fish filets, or toasting or steaming buns, then you will be asked to clean the bathroom, mop the food service area, or pick up trash in the parking lot! Workers are usually focused on taking orders, cooking and preparing the food, and giving it to the customers. Workers aren’t constantly looking at the ground or elsewhere for possible dangers.
There was also extra money if you volunteered to show up at 4AM and help unload the food truck and load cases of food into the deep freezer.
Common fast food accidents include the following:
- Slippery floors and floors with debris. It’s common for beverages, french fries, oil, grease from the grill, and other slippery items to drop to the floor. I can recall often sliding around on the tile floor, particularly during the busiest times when all hands are on deck to get out orders and frequent mopping of the grease may not be an option. There may be loose wires or cables on the ground. Customers often track in wetness on their shoes if it’s raining outside. As fast food workers move around, a slip and fall is likely to happen. Slip and falls can cause severe injuries from back, neck, and shoulder pain – to broken bones and head trauma.
- Hot tools, containers, and equipment. Fast food workers work with stoves, grills, fryers, and other types of cooking equipment that can be extremely hot. The workers also regularly pour hot liquids such as coffee into cups and other containers. Any contact with these hot surfaces or liquids can cause second and third-degree burn injuries that may require surgeries including skin grafts and plastic surgery.
- Cuts and lacerations. Fast food workers regularly work with sharp knives, scissors, spatulas, and other sharp objects that may require immediate medical care.
- Electric Shock. Fast food workers may work with outlets that are uncovered, wires that are exposed, and other electric shock dangers. Electric shock may cause fatalities, electrical burns, and other severe electrical injuries.
- Heavy lifting. Workers who carry in food supplies and other supplies can easily injure their backs while they’re moving boxes and other supply containers, lifting them onto shelves, or taking them down from shelves. Lifting injuries can also cause neck and shoulder pain in addition to back pain. Back, shoulder, and neck pain can be chronic and difficult to treat.
On occasion, workers may get into physical disputes with each other or with customers. They could also be attacked if they work late at night, particularly at a cashier station, or if they are in a neighborhood known for frequent violence.
Anyone who is involved in an accident or incident at their fast food job should seek immediate medical help and should notify their employer that they’ve been injured.
Who is covered if there is an accident at a fast food restaurant?
Generally, all employees of the fast food restaurant should be covered if they suffer injuries while doing their job provided the accident that caused their injuries occurred while the workers were acting in the scope of their employment. Most accidents do occur during the scope of the worker’s job.
Employees don’t have to be full-time employees. Many fast-food workers, in fact, work part-time. Workers’ compensation generally does not provide benefits to workers who are considered independent contractors. Don’t assume you are an independent contractor even if your employer says you are. Independent workers generally have special skills such as plumbing or carpentry, generally work at multiple sites, and usually have their own tools and supplies. An employee is typically one who is under the control of the employer and has no real independent ability to come and go as he or she pleases without getting fired.
Employee workers compensation benefits normally include all your medical bills from the date of the accident for as long as you need medical care to improve your health or keep your health stable related to your specific injuries on the job. In Virginia, this is called a Lifetime Medical Award. In North Carolina, you must maintain a continuity of treatment and if you go more than 2 years without treatment, that may be the end of your medical benefits. When you reach the point where additional medical treatments are not expected to improve your health, you may be evaluated to determine if you have a permanent partial disability.
In addition to medical benefits, workers in North Carolina and Virginia can claim approximately 2/3rds of their average weekly wages while they are out of work recovering, and receive temporary disability payments. If they have a permanent injury that prevents their return to their fast food job, they can continue to receive approximately 2/3rds of their average weekly wages for up to 500 weeks.
Depending on the kinds of benefits you may be entitled to, your case may be in a good position to settle and provide you with a lump sum of money. But just remember, settlements are completely voluntary on the part of the workers comp insurance company. They do not have to settle your case with you if they do not want to. If the insurance company is paying you your weekly checks and covering your medical bills, that is all they are required to do.
Contact us as soon as possible after you suffer an accident at a fast food restaurant in North Carolina or Virginia. We’ll explain when you must give your employer notice, when you must file, and where and how you must file.
A few safety tips for fast food workers
Even though injured fast food employees have the right to file for workers’ compensation, it’s always best if you can avoid being injured in the first place. A few safety precautions employers and employees should consider in the fast food industry include:
- Wear the correct clothing. Shoes should be slip-resistant. Clothes should not be loose and should not hang away from your body. If you were a uniform, make sure it fits right.
- Use protective gear such as gloves when working near anything extremely hot.
- Look at your surroundings and regularly check the floor for any liquids
- Use tools that allow you to keep your hands away from the stove or other heat sources.
- Don’t show up to work intoxicated… on anything.
At Joe Miller Law Ltd., our North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer has been fighting for injured workers for 30 years. We understand that most fast-food jobs don’t always pay large salaries, so when you’re injured and can’t work, obtaining every dollar you deserve is critical. We’ll help you understand which doctors you need to see, when and under what conditions you should return to work, and what the employer can and can’t do when you file a claim. We’ll fight to obtain full compensation for your injuries. To talk with a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer, call attorney Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295 or use my online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Our law firm does have a way for you to provide your details of your accident and injuries if you simply want to do that electronically from the comfort and safety of your home at any time of day or night. To utilize this service, simply click here: New Electronic Case Review.
We’ll get back to you, typically within 24 hours to provide our response as to whether your situation is one where we can provide you with legal representation. If we require more information, we’ll contact you and ask for that information in order to make that determination as to whether we are the best folks to assist you. If we ultimately determine that we cannot represent or assist you, we will not leave you high and dry. We’ll do our best to provide you with other resources to assist you.