A Guide to South Carolina Workers’ Comp for Amazon Workers
Learn the right way to file an Amazon workers’ comp claim in South Carolina to get maximum benefits
As of 2022, Amazon had 1,137 distribution centers throughout the United States, generating $513 billion in revenue.
In South Carolina, Amazon currently employs about 6,000 workers at its one-million-square-foot fulfillment centers in Lexington and Spartanburg counties. These state-of-the-art fulfillment centers are integral to Amazon’s promise of swift deliveries, but the fast-paced environment and sheer scale of operations mean that workers are constantly at risk of injuries.
Fortunately, South Carolina law ensures that workers injured on the job, including those in Amazon warehouses, are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, providing a crucial safety net for those facing medical bills and time off work.
Did you know?
According to The New York Times, approximately $14 out of every $100 worth of products purchased by U.S. consumers is done online. Of that $14, about $5 is spent on Amazon.
Amazon injury statistics
According to a 2022 report by the Strategic Organizing Center, workers at Amazon warehouses experience 70% more injuries than non-Amazon warehouse workers, and their serious injury rate is more than double that of other warehouse workers.
Why do Amazon workers experience injuries at higher rates than other warehouse workers?
There are several factors that may be contributing to the higher injury rate among Amazon workers, including:
- High workload and pace. Amazon is known for its emphasis on efficiency and productivity, which can result in a demanding work environment with high workloads and fast-paced operations. The pressure to meet targets and quotas can lead to workers rushing or taking shortcuts, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.
- Intensive physical demands. The nature of Amazon’s operations involves repetitive and physically demanding tasks, such as lifting and moving heavy items, packing, sorting and operating machinery. These tasks can put strain on the musculoskeletal system, increasing the likelihood of strains, sprains, and other overexertion injuries.
- Inadequate breaks and rest periods. Some workers have reported limited break times or insufficient opportunities for rest and recovery during their shifts. Inadequate breaks can contribute to fatigue and reduced concentration, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.
- Lack of sufficient training. Improper training on safety protocols, ergonomics and equipment operation can leave workers ill-prepared to handle the physical demands of their roles. Without proper training, workers may be unaware of injury prevention techniques or fail to recognize potential hazards.
- Lack of voice and representation. Some workers have expressed concerns about limited autonomy, inadequate communication channels, and a perceived lack of responsiveness from management to their safety concerns. This can impede the effective reporting of hazards or the implementation of necessary safety measures.
- Inadequate staffing levels. Amazon warehouses are known for their large-scale operations and high volume of orders, which may result in inadequate staffing levels. Understaffing can lead to increased workloads, rushing and fatigue, further increasing the risk of injuries.
Recently, Amazon claims to have taken steps to improve worker safety, including implementing safety programs, increasing training efforts, and investing in technology and equipment to enhance workplace safety. However, ongoing scrutiny and efforts to address safety concerns in the company’s warehouses continue.
In the news:
Amazon worker in Lexington dies from violence
In December 2022, Lexington County deputies arrested 20-year-old Jonathan Harden Alique Walker in connection with a shooting outside the Amazon facility in West Columbia.
Walker, an employee at the plant, allegedly shot a co-worker multiple times after an argument and then fled. The injured man was later discovered in a car not far from the scene when a driver called 911.
Both Walker and the victim, who underwent surgery, have known associations at work. Walker was apprehended at his residence and detained at the Lexington County Detention Center, charged with attempted murder and possessing a weapon during a violent crime.
Two workers die at Alabama Amazon facility
Two workers from Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, facility died on consecutive days in November 2021, according to their colleagues. One worker allegedly suffered a stroke after his plea to leave early due to ill health was rejected. Colleagues state that he did not have enough unpaid time off and feared job loss if he took an extended leave. Another worker, who reportedly died on-site, was not discovered for about 20 minutes.
Employees claim that Amazon management instructed them to continue working despite these tragic events. While Amazon refutes these accounts, the case shines a spotlight on concerns around workers’ rights and conditions. Notably, in April, a unionization attempt at the Bessemer warehouse was defeated. However, the National Labor Relations Board later found that Amazon had illegally influenced this vote, ordering a re-vote.
Common Amazon worker injuries and their causes
Below are some of the most common injuries experienced by Amazon warehouse workers, along with their associated causes:
- Musculoskeletal injuries. These often result from repetitive motions, such as scanning items for hours, bending to pick up boxes, or standing for long periods.
- Sprains and strains. Heavy lifting without proper ergonomics or handling bulky items without assistance can lead to muscle sprains or strains.
- Broken bones, brain injuries and spinal cord injuries. These can result from slip-and-fall accidents due to wet or cluttered floors, uneven surfaces or obstructed pathways in the warehouse. These injuries may also result from falling objects or being struck by moving equipment like forklifts.
- Cuts and bruises. Workers may encounter sharp objects or edges while unpacking or handling goods, which can lead to serious cuts and lacerations.
- Hearing loss or damage. Constant exposure to loud machinery or equipment without proper ear protection can contribute to auditory issues.
- Respiratory issues. Inadequate ventilation or exposure to dust and other airborne particles can lead to respiratory problems like asthma.
- Robot-related injuries. In warehouses that utilize robots for certain tasks, malfunctions or mishaps in human-robot interactions can lead to various injuries, including crush injuries that can lead to internal bleeding and amputations.
- Burns. If there’s any malfunction with electronic equipment or machinery, it can lead to electrical or friction burns.
Workers’ comp eligibility in South Carolina
Most South Carolina employers with 4 or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Due to the number of people Amazon facilities employ, the company is responsible for providing workers’ comp benefits to workers who are injured or develop an occupational disease or illness at work (like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis or hearing loss).
To qualify for these benefits, workers only need to be able to prove that their injuries, illnesses or diseases are directly related to their job duties or environments.
No-fault Amazon workers’ compensation explained
Worker’s compensation is a no-fault insurance program. This means that a worker injured on the job doesn’t need to prove that their injury occurred due to any fault of Amazon. In most cases, an injured worker is eligible for benefits even if the accident that led to the injury was their fault.
Potential difficulties with proving work-related injuries
Employees must prove that their injury or illness is job-related, which can be difficult depending on the circumstances. For example, if an employee works in an area unassisted by others, it deprives them of any witness corroboration should an accident occur.
Many Amazon facilities also employ on-site nurses, who may attempt to minimize or discredit the injury in an effort to dismiss any potential workers’ compensation claims.
Additionally, workers suffering from occupational diseases that occur over time often have their claims denied on the grounds that these diseases could have been caused by something other than work.
Keep in mind that just because Amazon denies your workers’ comp claim doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to benefits. An experienced work injury attorney can evaluate your claim and help you file the necessary appeal.
Amazon workers’ compensation benefits in South Carolina
Employees who were injured working at Amazon are entitled to 3 types of workers’ compensation benefits:
- Immediate and ongoing medical-related expenses. This includes transportation costs, health care provider visits, laboratory and diagnostic testing, imaging studies, medications, treatments, therapies and prescriptions.
- Lost wages compensation. In general, employees are entitled to two-thirds of their weekly wage for the duration of time determined by the type and severity of their injury or illness.
- Death benefits. Death benefits aim to provide financial support and assistance to dependents who have lost a loved one due to a work-related accident or illness. In addition to lost income benefits, workers’ compensation covers reasonable burial expenses up to a specified amount.
How to file an Amazon workers’ compensation claim
Unless you require emergency medical attention, you should first report your injury to your manager or supervisor. This should be done immediately, but it must be done within 90 days of the accident to qualify for benefits. You will then need to seek medical care through a provider chosen by Amazon.
By South Carolina law, Amazon must file a workers’ compensation claim on your behalf after you notify them of your injury.
If your claim is ultimately denied, you have the right to appeal, but you should contact an experienced work injury attorney to help you with the process and ensure your rights are protected.
Can I sue Amazon for an injury at work?
In general, the trade-off for the no-fault workers’ compensation system is that you can’t sue your employer if you accept workers’ comp benefits. However, there may be situations where workers choose to pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit instead of a workers’ comp claim.
For example, if your injury was caused by intentional misconduct or negligence on the part of Amazon, you may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the company. Additionally, if you’re an independent contractor or another classification that is not covered by workers’ compensation, you may have the option to sue Amazon for your injury.
To successfully sue Amazon for an injury at work, you would need to establish that Amazon was negligent and that their negligence resulted in your injury, such as by failing to maintain a safe work environment, provide proper training, or address known hazards.
Contact an experienced Columbia work injury attorney
If you’ve suffered a serious injury at Amazon and your claim was denied, contact the experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Smith, Born, Leventis, Taylor & Vega. We have extensive experience fighting against big corporations and businesses throughout South Carolina to get injured workers the compensation they rightfully deserve.
Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and answer your questions.
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