How to file a workers’ compensation claim after a grocery store injury
There are nearly 3 million people employed in the supermarket and grocery store industry in the U.S. The companies holding the largest market share in the U.S. include the Kroger Company, Albertsons Companies Inc., and Publix Super Markets Inc.
Here in the Carolinas, other popular grocery stores include Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Bi-Lo, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, ALDI and Lowes Foods.
If you’ve been injured while working in one of these stores, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
What are common grocery store worker injuries?
There are more hazards for grocery store workers than one might think.
The functions of grocery store workers include loading dock operations, stocking, storage, food packaging and preparation, to name a few. These are some of the common injuries workers may suffer:
- Sprains and strains are suffered commonly by managers, cashiers, baggers and stock handlers
- Back injuries are common among stock handlers and loading dock workers
- Cuts, abrasions, burns, even severed fingers, as well as sprains, are common among kitchen and deli workers
- Stockers and others who work in aisles often suffer slip and fall injuries on wet floors
- Delivery drivers risk injury from motor vehicle accidents
- Stockers and others working in the aisles, storage room or kitchen can suffer injury or illness from toxic chemicals or bacteria from raw foods
- All grocery employees are at risk of injury from violent customers or coworkers
The pandemic is yet another danger grocery workers face.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union reports that almost 500 retail and meatpacking workers have died from Covid-19, and more than 35,000 have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic. Grocery store workers are essential employees who get exposed daily to the very virus that caused many people to start working from home. Unfortunately, grocery workers don’t have that option.
Are grocery store employees covered by workers’ compensation?
North Carolina and South Carolina both require most employers to carry workers’ compensation coverage. North Carolina requires it from employers with 3 or more employees, while South Carolina requires it from employers with 4 or more employees.
Grocery store workers are subject to many hazards at work. Fortunately, most are eligible for benefits under law.
In both states, workers’ compensation is a program of no-fault insurance. If you are injured on the job, you don’t have to prove that your employer was at fault. Rather, the injury or illness is covered so long as it happened in the course and scope of your job. Usually, your employer will purchase workers’ compensation insurance coverage. However, your employer can self-insure if they satisfy certain stringent requirements.
The workers’ compensation laws vary by state and are complex. You must follow strict rules for filing your claim. For example, you must file an accident report within a short time after an accident (30 days in North Carolina; 90 days in South Carolina). The contents of this report as well as other required filings are important for preserving your rights and bolstering your chances of financial recovery.
Employers often try to minimize their liability and cost when handling workers’ compensation claims. Some can be unscrupulous and dishonest about it. Therefore, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer immediately after your injury.
What if your employer fails to provide coverage?
The penalties for not having required workers’ compensation coverage can be quite extensive.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission can fine non-complying employers $1 per employee per day, but not less than $50 per day and not more than $100 per day. So if an employer doesn’t have workers’ comp in North Carolina for a year, they face a fine between $18,250 and $36,500 per year, even if there are no workplace injuries.
If your employer “willfully fails” to have coverage, they can be charged with a Class H felony. If your employer simply “neglects” to provide the coverage, they can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Furthermore, if you are an injured employee of a non-insured employer, you are not preempted from suing your employer in a civil action. You could be awarded damages greater than what you would have received under workers’ compensation.
Workers’ compensation benefits for injured grocery store workers
The workers’ compensation benefits to which you are entitled generally include the following:
- Cost of medical and rehabilitation treatments, including travel expenses
- Restoration of lost income—up to two-thirds of your average weekly wage
- Partial disability and total disability benefits
- Compensation for disfigurement
- Death benefits to your dependents
For purposes of medical treatments, you must use a physician chosen by the workers’ compensation administrator.
Your first step after an injury is to file an accident report with your employer. You must then file your claim within 2 years after the injury. It’s recommended that you file your report as soon as possible.
Moreover, before you file your report only you should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim in North Carolina or South Carolina often requires the guidance and skills of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. These cases can be complicated and drawn-out, and most folks don’t have a full understanding of all the laws involved and the full rights to which they are entitled.