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From Pickers, Packers to Forklift Operators: Warehouse Employees are Faced with a Wide Range of On-the-Job Hazards

Warehouse employees, such as pickers, packers, and forklift operators perform vital supply chain services that ensure goods and products are efficiently delivered to consumers. Due to increased demand in e-commerce and consumption, companies are expanding their production and storing capacity. This in turn creates an increased demand for warehouse workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of warehouse employees doubled from 645,200 in 2010 to 1.3 million in in 2020. By 2030, it is estimated that there will be 2 million warehouse employees. Unfortunately, this boom in warehouse hiring also has resulted in an increase in the total number of work injuries due to warehouse accidents.

Compared to the general workforce, warehouse workers are exposed to an increased risk of injury when performing their daily job duties. In 2019, the average rate of recorded injuries in the warehouse industry was 4.8 for every 100 full-time workers. In 2020, Amazon, the largest e-commerce retailer in the United States, reported 6.5 injuries for every 100 full-time workers, more than double the number of the entire workforce (2.8 injuries for every 100 full-time workers).

Warehouse employees are faced with a wide range of potential hazards that can cause severe injuries or fatalities. The most common hazards faced by warehouse workers are:

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I got hurt at work…
What do I do now?

Four Steps You Should Take After a Work Injury

1. Provide notice to your employer of the work injury accident!!The Illinois Workers' Compensation Act requires an injured worker to notify their employer within 45 days of the accident. However, you should not wait. A delay in reporting the accident, may give your employer (or their insurance carrier) an opportunity to argue that the injury did not occur at work. While the law allows the notice to be given verbally or in writing, we strongly recommend that it is done in writing. Most employers require an injured employee to fill out an accident report after a work injury. If you complete an accident report, you should always request a copy of the report. If your employer does not require you to fill out an accident report, it would still be beneficial to provide written notice to your employer. Reporting your work injury to a co-worker, who is not part of management, is not sufficient notice under the Act. You must provide notice to your supervisor or an individual in upper management (i.e., Human Resources). 2. Obtain medical treatment!!Depending on the severity of the work injury, this may be the first thing you do after an accident. You should not delay treatment for a serious injury to comply with #1 (reporting the injury to your employer). It is very important to obtain medical treatment close in time to the work accident. The longer you wait to get treatment, the harder it will be to prove that your injuries are related to the work accident. You have the right to obtain treatment by a doctor of your choice. In fact, you have the right to two choices of medical providers. Under the Act, you are not required to treat with the company clinic. However, you must comply with any drug or alcohol screening requirements of your employer. The initial history you provide to your doctor regarding the work accident is extremely important. You should provide details to your doctor regarding how the accident occurred and all the symptoms you have been experiencing since the accident. If your employer has a Preferred Provider Program (only applies to injuries occurring after 6/28/11), your failure to treat with a doctor within the network will constitute as one of your two choices. 3. Notify your employer of your work status!!At the time you seek treatment, your doctor should address your work status. You will be (1) taken off work; (2) put on light-duty restrictions; or (3) released back to full duty work. Whatever category you fall into, you must notify your employer and provide them with the documentation of your work status. If you are put on light-duty restrictions and your employer can accommodate those restrictions, it is extremely important that you attempt to do that light-duty work. However, if your employer is not really accommodating your restrictions or if you experience additional pain while working the light duty, you should immediately go back to your doctor to get an updated work status. Your entitlement to temporary total disability (TTD) benefits is based upon your work status. That is why it is so important to know your work status and to provide that information to your employer. You should ask your doctor to address your work status at every appointment. More importantly, you should not leave your doctor's office without an updated work status note after each appointment. 4. File a workers' compensation claim!!To ensure that you receive the benefits you are entitled to under the law, you should file a claim. Simply reporting the injury to your employer and setting up a "claim" with their insurance carrier is not enough. A claim must be filed with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. While it is possible for an individual to file a claim on their own, this should be done by an experienced workers' compensation attorney. Even if you believe that the insurance carrier is doing everything they should, you should still contact an attorney at Woodruff Johnson & Evans to confirm that you are receiving all or your legally entitled benefits.

Posted on in Workers' Compensation

Benefits of the Vocational Rehabilitation Process

You have followed your doctors' treatment recommendations and spent countless of hours in physical therapy and work conditioning, but nonetheless your recovery has plateaued. You have been informed by your doctor that you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (in other words she has done all that she can do for you). You are given permanent work restrictions that prevent you from returning to your original position and your employer has indicated that they do not have a job for you. So, what happens next?Work injuries that lead to permanent restrictions and a decrease in earning power entitle the injured worker to vocational rehabilitation, at the cost of the employer. The goal of vocational rehabilitation is to return injured employees to gainful employment within their work restrictions. Typically, vocational rehabilitation will begin with an assessment of the injured worker's transferable skills. An individual plan will be developed based on the worker's education, past work history, transferrable skills, worker's interests, and work restrictions. The injured employee is assigned to a vocational rehab counselor, who may provide the following benefits:
  • Labor market survey to determine available jobs in the area
  • Resume review and writing assistance
  • Job interview skills
  • Provide job leads
  • Computer skills (i.e. keyboarding and Microsoft office training)
  • Classes for job retraining
Provided that the injured worker is cooperating with the vocational rehab process, the employer is required to pay weekly maintenance benefits to the employee, equivalent to two-thirds (66.7%) of the average weekly wage. If the injured worker finds a job making less that what she would have been making at her original job, than the employer must pay wage differential benefits, which is equivalent to two-thirds of the difference between the wages from the original job and the wages of new job. If you have sustained a work injury that prevents you from returning to your original employment, it is important that you retain knowledgeable attorneys that will demand thebenefits you are entitled to and help you navigate through the vocational rehabilitation process.

What will my work compensation settlement amount be?

Inevitably, almost every injured worker will eventually ask this question…. What is my workers' compensation case worth? The question about the work compensation settlement amount may come at the initial consultation, or within a few months after hiring an attorney, or the question may come once the injured worker has completed all of their treatment. At whatever point the question is asked, the answer is typically the same…it depends. There are many factors that determine how much an injured worker is entitled to at the end of their case.

Factors that impact the settlement amount

  • The ultimate diagnosis of the injury
  • The length of treatment
  • The length of time you miss work
  • The number of surgeries you undergo
  • The amount of your wages at the time of the injury
  • If you are able to return to your normal job
  • If you are given permanent restrictions
  • Any AMA impairment ratings given by a qualified physician
  • Your age at the time of the injury

Since most of the above factors are unknown immediately after the accident, it is very difficult to provide an answer regarding the value of a potential settlement from the outset. Of course, an experienced workers' compensation attorney can provide an educated guess; however, that work compensation settlement amount can increase or decrease based on any changes during the case.

The insurance company or the attorney they hire can also have an impact on these factors. They will intentionally build up a defense in an attempt to minimize an injured worker's settlement amount. They can schedule an injured worker for a Sect.12 examination which typically minimizes the injury and the amount of any disability. They can also hire a private investigator to obtain surveillance on the injured worker in an attempt to minimize your injury or refute the complaints you are making to your own doctor.

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If you're injured while working you may be entitled to workers compensation benefits. The employer's insurance company must cover the incident as long as the injury occurred during the course of employment. A workers compensation lawyer Champaign IL can make this complicated process seem less overwhelming.

If you decide to quit your job after the incident, you're still eligible to continue receiving workers' compensation benefits. The issue of coverage in a workers compensation case is similar to a car accident case in that your auto insurance carrier will cover the incident if your policy was in effect at the time of the incident. The insured may subsequently cancel the insurance policy and there would still be covered for the incident.

Woodruff Johnson & Evans, workers compensation attorney Champaign IL, will fight to obtain your workers' compensation benefits and ensure that legal representation does not interfere with your employment status. Generally, employers know that these cases are insurance claims and not lawsuits.

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