Warehouse Injuries Amidst the Chaos of Demand in a Nation-wide Pandemic
"Apart from the fact that frontline workers are at high risk of exposure to the virus, there is also incredible pressure on them to double their efforts in the workplace despite health hazards," says Slominski. "Already, some store workers and medical staff are wondering if their added physical exertions might give rise to a claim."
Ms. Slominski, who has been practicing for almost 30 years, anticipates increased injury claims from added workloads and longer hours during the pandemic.
She cites, for instance, that employees at medical facilities have started feeling fatigue and muscular strains from the long hours of standing, walking, and transporting patients and medical supplies. Workers at retail stores, stockrooms, and warehouses are also at increased risk of physical injuries as they move merchandise amid frenzied retail demand and adjusted retail hours.
"Frontline workers are in industry sectors that already had high injury numbers even before the pandemic broke out," she says. "In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that healthcare is the number one sector in terms of number of occupational injuries and illnesses. Retail trade is third on that list."
"Since these are already hazardous sectors, we can expect that the added physical strain on their workers could drive up injury incidences."
On top of injury claims, Ms. Slominski believes that workers' comp claims citing COVID-19 may develop in the following weeks and months ahead. She does note, however, that there is still a question over whether such claims will be covered by the Virginia Workers' Compensation Act.
"Generally, compensable illnesses are those that arise out of and in the course of employment," she explains. "We'll have to establish that the COVID-19 contraction really was work-related and not just because it's a public health hazard that everyone now faces."
At least two states, Washington State and Kentucky, have guaranteed coronavirus benefits for their first responders and health workers. There is a presumption that COVID-19 is an occupational hazard in their line of work. COVID-19 claims outside these sectors, however, will be decided on a case-to-case basis.
At least for now, medical and health workers who are considering a COVID-19 claim in Texas will still be subject to regular workers' comp standards – they will still have to prove that their virus contraction is occupational.
This can mean an uphill battle for claimants. For example, if you developed chronic back injury or pain because you were overworked. Another prime issue, you contracted the virus because you work at a crowded hospital, or your grocery store employer didn't provide protective gear. Under our current Texas state rules, you'd have to prove that you really got sick at work, which is challenging to prove because your condition could also have developed outside the workplace.
What recourse is available for workers with coronavirus or pandemic-related injuries?
In these uncertain times, when even legal rules are still playing catch-up, consulting a lawyer is the best first step. Workers should document any relevant detail about their illness or injury, including times of possible exposure and contact with possible carriers such as fellow employees or vendors. If you suddenly feel sick at work, report that to your supervisor. These details should be discussed with a Personal Injury Attorney and negligence could be proven.
COVID-19 is new and it's not in the San Antonio rulebook yet, but a good Personal Injury Attorney can ensure that your claim gets fair treatment and your voice is heard. Call Attorney Israel Garcia at 210-LAW-9999 and get your questions answered.