Amazon has quickly become one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world. They have operations throughout the United States (including Iowa) and overseas as well. Here in Iowa, Amazon opened a warehouse in Bondurant where around 1,000 people work in the warehouse. They also have distribution centers in Ankeny, Grimes, and Iowa City. Amazon has also hired hundreds of delivery drivers and subcontractor companies such as J & K Contracting to deliver their packages.
Both working in a warehouse and delivering packages for Amazon are physically demanding and can be dangerous. Here are a few things that you should know should you be injured while working for Amazon or a subcontracting company.
Under Iowa law, you are required to provide your employer with notice of your work injury within 90 days of when you knew or should have known that you were injured. It is always the best policy to report the work injury as soon as you know you have been injured. For example, if you are working in the warehouse and start to develop back pain over the course of a day it is best to tell your supervisor specifically which work activities are causing your back to hurt (such as bending over to pick up boxes or carrying large boxes, etc.), request medical care and ask to fill out a written report of injury.
Unfortunately, often employers will just ignore injured workers in hopes that they will just go away. If they will not allow you to “report” your injury, then you should write a letter or send an email to your employer specifically stating how you were injured at work and that you are requesting medical care. If you were hurt at work, then you need to describe the specific link between your work and your injuries. Just telling your employer my back hurts may not be enough notice such that you may end up losing your case for failing to provide notice. Also, if they still do not offer you medical care and you are forced to treat on your own, make sure that you tell your medical providers about how you were injured at work and that they are ignoring you. If you fail to tell your medical providers that this is a work injury or even worse as we have seen several times make-up story and tell them it happened outside of work, then your case may be severely damaged.
2. Medical care
Should your employer decide to accept your claim and provide medical care then you are required to see the doctors that they want you to. Failing to attend an appointment that they set-up can cause multiple problems including:
a. You are not being treated for your injuries.
b. You will not receive a weekly workers’ compensation check unless the company doctor takes you off work. If your own doctor provides you with a work excuse, then the workers’ compensation insurance company is unlikely to pay you benefits. However, you may have sick leave, A & S, or short-term disability benefits available to you.
c. If you are being currently paid weekly work comp. benefits and refuse to go see their doctor then your benefits may be forfeited until such time as you go see the doctor that they want you to. We know that often they will send you for what they call an “independent medical examination” which most of the time means they are sending you to their doctor to say your condition is not work-related, but under the changes made to the laws in 2017 led by then, Governor Branstad and the Republican party failing to attend such an appointment results in forfeiture, not delay, of your weekly work comp. checks.
3. Permanent benefits
No one wants to end up with a permanent injury caused by work, but they are very common. Whether you end up with a back, neck, arm, shoulder, hand, or some other work injury will greatly affect how much compensation that you will receive.
These injuries include back, neck, spine, brain, nervous system disorders like CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome), hip, certain “shoulder” injuries, mental health problems caused by a physical injury, etc. Compensation for these injuries is based upon several factors including your impairment rating, age, education, grades in school, work history, earnings after your work injury, prior earnings, etc. Your loss of earning capacity is then multiplied times 500 weeks of benefits to determine how much compensation you should receive. These benefits are paid at your work comp. rate which is 80% of your spendable earnings. We discuss how your rate is calculated in much more detail in our rate article. Please note that if your injuries are severe enough such that you are not able to work in any capacity then you may be entitled to receive permanent total disability which is a weekly check for the rest of your life.
Under Iowa law, if you have a scheduled member injury like an injury to your hand, arm, leg, eye, or some “shoulder” injuries then you are limited to your percentage of impairment times the number of weeks for that body part. For example, if you end up with a 10% impairment rating to your arm for an elbow injury then you would likely receive 25 weeks of weekly benefits (250 weeks is the value of an arm X 10% = 25 weeks). Keep in mind that you may be owed significantly additional compensation if you qualify for the Iowa Second Injury Fund, your scheduled member injury extends to your neck, you have CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome), etc.
Iowa is one of the few remaining states that have a second injury fund. The second injury fund is designed to compensate injured workers in Iowa who have sustained two scheduled member injuries. Keep in mind that the 1st injury does not have to be work-related and in fact could be something you were born with, an injury you sustained in high school, etc. For example, if you had a knee injury in high school that required surgery such as a meniscectomy for a torn meniscus or ACL damage and repair, then you likely have what we call a 1st qualifying injury. If your work injury at issue is limited to a schedule member injury such as your eye, hand, arm, other foot, or leg then you may be entitled to significantly more benefits based upon your loss of earning capacity multiplied by 500 weeks.
If you or a loved one have been injured in Iowa whether working for Amazon or another employer, we are here to help. If you need immediate assistance, just Call us at 641-792-3595. We will explain how the system works and answer your questions all at no cost to you. Further, we will keep your information confidential, and your employer will not know that you called us. Our Iowa Workers' Compensation Attorneys are committed to helping you, Iowa injured worker and we will treat you like we want to be treated, which is like family.
Not ready to call an attorney just yet, then at no cost request our book “Iowa Workers’ Compensation- An Insider’s Guide to Work Injuries” which includes 7 Deadly Mistakes to Avoid if You are Hurt at Work. To order your copy click here or by Call Now 1-800-707-2552 (ext. 711) (24 Hour Recorded Message). Since 1997, we have sent more than 10,000 of our books to Iowans hurt at work. We have done this because we have seen too many hard working Iowans fail to learn about their rights, be taken advantage of by their employer and the insurance company and lost thousands of dollars because of making a costly mistake. Finally, you can learn about our work comp. laws here in Iowa and about how you can avoid costly mistakes all in the comfort of your own home.