How to get workers’ comp benefits if you suffer an injury while working at Amazon
Amazon is a huge multinational company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, engaged in e-commerce, digital streaming, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing businesses. Its workers number more than 1.1 million in the United States, with the bulk of its workforce concentrated in its e-commerce activities.
Amazon employs 6,000 workers in South Carolina alone, with 2 large fulfillment centers in Lexington and Spartanburg Counties. A large workforce is employed in delivery and other logistics, but most are employed by independent Delivery Service Partners (DSP.)
While Amazon recently opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Los Angeles, the overwhelming majority of shopping at Amazon is done online. Because of this, they have an extensive network of warehousing, distribution and delivery operations—where the majority of worker injuries occur.
How common are Amazon worker injuries?
According to a recent study, the injury rate of Amazon warehouse workers is 2 times higher than all other warehouse workers—with more than 34,000 serious injuries reported in 2021 alone.
Some of the potential reasons for Amazon’s high rate of injury include:
- Employer pressure to work fast contrary to safety protocols (especially during the holiday rush), including the use of extensive productivity and monitoring systems
- Failure to establish and maintain proper safety standards, protocols and equipment
- High turnover leading to large numbers of new employees who may lack safety training
Common injuries sustained by these workers include:
- Crush injuries due to poorly secured loads or overturned forklifts
- Falls off ladders or raised loading platforms
- Slip, trip and fall injuries from wet surfaces or cluttered aisleways
- Repetitive motion injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- Overexertion injuries from lifting and carrying heavy boxes and objects
- Body and head injuries from vehicle accidents during deliveries
South Carolina workers’ compensation system and benefits
Amazon employees who are injured on the job may be entitled to compensation under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation system.
The South Carolina workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system. This means that an injured worker does not have to prove that Amazon was at fault for their injury to receive benefits.
Your workers’ compensation benefits can include:
- Medical expenses, including medication costs, doctor’s visits, surgeries, rehabilitation, hospital stays, artificial members, and any necessary medical equipment (such as crutches)
- Replacement of lost income equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage
- Payments to compensate for partial disability or total disability
- Disfigurement compensation
- Death benefits for your dependents
How do I file a workers’ comp claim after an injury at Amazon?
The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission administers the program, and you must follow strict rules for filing a claim.
According to South Carolina Statutes §42 1 130, you are an eligible employee of Amazon if you are employed under any arrangement or contract, written or implied. That includes minors and illegally employed aliens.
Your strict compliance with Amazon rules and procedures is imperative for a successful claim. For that reason, you should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible after an injury to ensure you remain eligible for benefits.
If you’re injured at Amazon, you should immediately inform your supervisor. However, do not give a recorded or written statement until you consult an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
You are required to file a written accident report within 90 days after the accident. The content of your report will be part of the record for the duration of the process, so your lawyer should guide you in preparation of the report.
Your workers’ compensation claim must be filed within 2 years after your injury. However, it should be filed as soon as possible with your lawyer’s help.
Can I choose my own doctor if I get injured at Amazon?
Amazon will require you to see a doctor selected by Amazon or its insurance company. If you do not follow the physician’s instructions, your claim could be compromised.
Amazon might encourage you to return to work in some modified capacity before your recovery is complete. Your Amazon-selected doctor will recommend or approve duties that you can perform during your recovery.
Amazon is required to contact your lawyer with their proposal. You should not refuse or accept such modified employment without your attorney’s advice.
Eventually, you will be released by Amazon’s doctor, who will specify duties you can perform, taking into account the physical and mental limitations from your injuries.
Please be aware that any refusal to accept suitable employment approved by Amazon’s physician might terminate your workers’ compensation payments.
What if my Amazon workers’ comp claim is denied?
If Amazon or its insurance company denies your claim, you can appeal to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. Your first stop will be a hearing before a single commissioner. Further appeals can be made to a panel of 3 commissioners.
You have the right to appeal the Commission’s rulings through the court system, but it’s more likely that your case will be settled before then.
Can I file a claim against a 3rd party?
Workers’ compensation benefits do not include some compensatory and punitive damages that are available in other personal injury cases. That is the trade-off for a no-fault system.
However, any 3rd party who is not your employer might be wholly or partially negligently responsible for your injury. For example, a manufacturer of defective machinery or equipment might be responsible for your injury.
South Carolina Workers’ Comp law does not preclude you from legal action against those 3rd-party defendants. However, you cannot recover from multiple parties for the same injury. Any award you receive from a 3rd party will be offset against your workers’ compensation award.
Additionally, South Carolina has a wrongful death statute that allows a deceased worker’s personal representative to sue for damages on behalf of the deceased’s surviving family.
You should consult your workers’ compensation lawyer for advice about potential actions under legal theories or statutes other than South Carolina workers’ compensation law.
When to contact a South Carolina workers’ comp attorney
For an effective claim, you must have the advice and guidance of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. You should consult them very early in the claims process to ensure your right to compensation is protected.
If you’re injured on the job at Amazon in South Carolina, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Chappell, Chappell and Newman Our law firm has more than 30 years of experience negotiating with employers and insurance companies to get injured South Carolina workers the maximum benefits to which they’re entitled.
Contact us today for a free consultation of your case.