Warehouse injuries and Workers Compensation – Part Two

Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 at 4:46 pm    

In addition to injuries caused by forklifts, overexertion, loading dock injuries, being struck by an object, and being pinned – warehouse workers can suffer slips and falls and other serious accidents. Right now, the country is relying on warehouse workers, medical staff, retail staff, and many others for our survival. Many are deemed “essential” workers and are therefore a heavy burden is placed on them as they serve the needs of the rest of our citizens, who may be confined to their homes. Workers in all these industries have the continuing right to file workers compensation claims if they are injured while doing their job. The right to file for work injury benefits applies to employees in North Carolina and Virginia. (Click here for a video explaining whether you have a right to workers compensation if you become ill from COVID-19 exposure at work as of May 2, 2020 )

Slip, trip, and fall injuries

Warehouse workers can slip (or trip) and fall for many reasons including the following:

  • Uneven surfaces—this is particularly common when loading or unloading trucks, where there may be a significant gap or difference in height between the loading dock and inside of the truck. 
  • Surfaces that are slippery due to water, snow, oil, ice, and other weather conditions and products. Metal surfaces can also be very slippery.
  • Slips because the worker didn’t have the right footwear for the job
  • Loose inventory or tools
  • Wires, cords, and other long thin materials that aren’t properly placed
  • Broken tiles
  • Loose railings
  • Torn carpets and rugs
  • Poor lighting preventing the worker from seeing properly
  • Falls from ladders, scaffolds or other products that lift a worker above the ground
  • Stairs where the non-slip tread has worn off from overuse. 

Workers who slip for any reason or stumble for any reason can suffer a range of injuries including:

Injuries due to truck accidents

Part and parcel of every warehouse is having trucking companies drop off their cargo and pick up shipments to be delivered. Trucking accidents, especially backing up accidents, can occur in the loading docks and the parking areas. Injuries can happen to the drivers and to any workers in the path of a truck. Many drivers work long hours which can cause them to make carless mistakes because they’re tired. 

Warehouse accidents can involve forklifts and trucks. While they often work in tandem – the forklift operator takes the truck loads and begins to move the load into the warehouse – accidents can occur if each operator isn’t looking out for the other driver.

Injuries due to chemicals and hazardous materials

Some warehouses work with toxins and other hazardous materials. Any spill can cause serious injuries which can damage a warehouse worker’s lungs or skin. Lung injuries can cause breathing difficulties. Inhaling dangerous chemicals can also cause cancer and other injuries. If the spill comes into contact with the skin, the warehouse worker can suffer severe burns. Chemical injuries require immediate medical attention. Workers may suffer permanent injuries and disfigurement.

Treatment by in-house clinics – an example

Warehouse worker at big companies like Amazon are often required to treat with in-house clinics such as AmCare. According to one report, “In 2014, a National Association of Worksite Health Center study found that 43 percent of surveyed companies had an onsite or near-site clinic in place.” Amazon began using AmCare clinics in 2009. These clinics are generally staffed by licensed EMTs. Amazon’s website claims that one of AmCare’s purpose is to “participate in the Worker’s Compensation process.”

The EMTs at the company site generally have broad discretion in deciding whether a worker should be sent to see a physician or if they should be treated in-house for 21 days, after which Amazon does require that AmCare refer the employee to an outside physician. AmCare is generally designed for quick relief. Some workers, according to the report, say that – while AmCare has broad discretion in referring workers to doctors, the company doesn’t have physicians on site – which is just part of the difficulty warehouse workers face. They claim Amazon has high production pace requirements which affect worker health.

All that being said, please understand that under Virginia law, unless and until an injured worker has established an ongoing pattern of care with a particular physician, he or she would be entitled to choose from a three-doctor panel of physicians. An employer who simply shuffles an employee off to a “company-designated” physician is not following the law. If you have only seen such a physician or other healthcare provider once after a work injury, and for whatever reason, you are not satisfied, you need to file a claim form and thereafter also claim your right with the Commission to your three-doctor panel immediately. Do not let time go by wherein you continue to treat with the “company doctor,” otherwise, that doctor will be deemed your authorized treating physician. On the other hand, you must not unjustifiably refuse to see a physician being offered you. When asked why you are not seeing the “company doctor” you must tell the adjuster you are exercising your right to a three-doctor panel and you would like to choose your doctor from that panel. 

Treatment by outside physicians

Warehouse workers will seek treatment with many different doctors and therapists depending on the types of injuries they suffer. Some of these health care providers might include:

  • The worker’s family doctor
  • A pain management physician who may prescribe medications or treatments (such as steroid injections) for their pain
  • Neurologists for any type of nerve damage
  • Orthopedists for any bone fractures or displacements
  • Physical therapists
  • Vocational therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Many other healthcare providers

Workers who suffer emotional injuries along with their physical injuries may also need to treat with psychologists and psychiatrists.

Steps warehouse workers should take if they are injured at work

Any North Carolina or Virginia warehouse worker who is injured on the job:

  • Has the right to seek immediate medical attention. Typically, this means seeing a company health care provider, nurse or doctor if there is one on staff. In the most serious cases, cases, particular those who must undergo emergency surgery, it means treating with whatever surgeon operated on you in the hospital. In less severe cases, it should mean choosing a doctor from a three-doctor panel
  • Should inform their supervisor of the accident and their injuries. Employees are required to inform their supervisor of any accident or injuries due to an accident as promptly as possible
  • File a workers’ compensation case. Employees shouldn’t rely on the warehouse company to do right by them – even when they say they’ll pay for your medical bills. The best course of action after any injury is to make an appointment with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. The lawyer will help you file a claim form. He’ll help you see the right doctors for your injuries. A skilled North Carolina or Virginia warehouse lawyer will also help you obtain work loss benefits, help ensure that you’re not forced back to work too soon, explain and demand your right to have all your medical expenses explained, and guide you through each phase of the workers’ compensation process.

Virginia and North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. understands how dangerous warehouse jobs are. He’s helped thousands of injured workers get just work injury companies. He explains that there is no need to prove fault. Employees who are injured while working for their employer should generally be compensated for their lost income (up to the amounts allowed by law) and for all their necessary medical expenses. 

To speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer call Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-694-1671 or fill out my online contact form to schedule an appointment. Cases are handled on a contingency fee basis.