Learn about your rights to Arizona workers’ comp benefits after a crush injury at work
Crush injuries can happen in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, construction and agriculture. While Arizona employers have a responsibility to provide a safe environment and ensure that workers are properly trained to prevent such accidents, crush injuries still occur.
Fortunately, injured Arizona workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for lost wages and medical expenses during their recovery. This article will explain the types of benefits available and how to maximize your claim.
What is a crush injury?
A crush injury is one of the most severe injuries that can impact workers. These injuries include additional categories as well: caught-in and caught-between. They occur when part of a worker’s body or their entire body gets stuck in machinery or heavy equipment. Struck-by injuries can also occur when an object falls from above or comes from the side and hits a worker.
Crush injuries can cause serious trauma to the affected part or parts of a person’s body. This can be permanent when pressure on the body parts is prolonged, affecting the nerves, tissues and muscles.
Crush injuries often occur when employers fail to comply with the laws under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or when workers are not adequately trained to safely use the heavy machinery and equipment necessary to perform their jobs.
Statistics on fatal crush injuries at work
According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fatal crush and struck-by injuries involving heavy machinery and equipment or objects have remained fairly steady between the 4-year period of 2017 and 2021. During that time, there were between 108 to 143 crush injury deaths annually, as well as 468 to 566 struck-by fatalities each year over the same time period.
What are some common injuries that result from crush accidents?
There are many different injuries that can result from crush accidents depending on the body part involved. The following are some of the most common:
- Irreversible damage to muscle tissue
- Internal organ damage
- Kidney failure
- Shock and hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Internal bleeding
- Bruises due to compressed small blood vessels
- Bone fractures
- Spinal cord injuries
- Skin lacerations
- Nerve damage
- Compartment syndrome due to prolonged compression
- Scar tissue
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
What kinds of workers have the highest risk of crush injuries?
The nature of certain jobs puts workers at a much higher risk of crush accidents and other catastrophic injuries. Many of these same workers are also at a greater risk of suffering struck-by accidents. They include the following:
- Warehouse workers
- Manufacturing workers
- Harbor workers
- Construction workers
- Tree trimmers and arborists
- Assembly line workers
- Delivery workers
- Farm and agricultural workers
- Maintenance workers
Any type of worker who regularly works around heavy machinery, industrial equipment and equipment like forklifts, tractor trailers and excavators or machinery that has moving parts without protective guards is at risk for crush injuries.
What are the most common causes of crush accidents and injuries?
Many situations can cause crush accidents and injuries. In addition to a lack of OSHA compliance and safety training, the following are the most common causes of crush accidents and injuries:
- Improper use of machinery or equipment
- Slips, trips and falls
- Falling materials and objects
- Insufficient planning
- Inappropriate attire
- Machinery without safeguards
- Defective equipment
- Worker distraction or fatigue
In the news:
Worker suffers severe crush injuries in a forklift accident
In 2019, a young Montana worker Loren Schauers needed surgery to amputate the bottom half of his body after suffering crush injuries in a work-related forklift accident. Schauers, who was only 19 at the time of the harrowing incident, was using a forklift at work when he and the vehicle fell off a bridge. The forklift landed on the lower part of his body, crushing him. Unfortunately, Schauers had never been trained on how to properly operate a forklift.
Schauers was airlifted to a hospital where he had to undergo a hemicorporectomy, a radical surgery involving the dissection of the body at the waist. He lost the lower half of his body and his right arm and has since learned how to use a bionic arm.
Which workers are eligible for workers’ compensation in Arizona?
In Arizona, most employers with even 1 employee are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This is to protect any regular full- or part-time workers in the event that they suffer on-the-job injuries and need time off to recuperate.
Freelance workers and independent contractors are not eligible for workers’ comp benefits. Regular employees whose injuries are directly related to their job duties, both physical and mental, can file workers’ compensation claims.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, which means that in most cases, a worker can file a claim even if they were responsible for the accident that caused their injuries. As long as an injury or illness is directly related to work-related tasks, workers have the legal right to file a workers’ compensation claim.
What types of workers’ comp benefits can Arizona workers receive?
Workers in Arizona who experience a work-related injury or illness are entitled to the following workers’ comp benefits:
- Medical expenses. This includes all necessary medical treatment, including doctor visits, medications, surgeries, hospitalizations and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages. Workers are typically entitled to two-thirds of their average weekly income while they recover from their injuries for a period of time that varies based on their assigned disability.
- Death benefits. These benefits are available for certain surviving family members and include funeral expenses and lost income.
How to file a workers’ compensation claim in Arizona
If you wish to file a workers’ compensation claim in Arizona after suffering a job-related injury or illness, you must take the following steps:
- See a doctor for an evaluation. This is a crucial step to prove that your injury or illness is job-related and should be done as soon as possible to improve your chances of obtaining compensation.
- Immediately notify your employer of the injury. Your employer is then required to inform their workers’ comp insurer and the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) within 10 days.
- Complete and file your workers’ compensation form. You have 1 year to file a workers’ comp claim after your accident or from the time you discovered your injury or illness with the ICA. In most cases, if you don’t file a claim within this time period, you won’t be eligible for workers’ comp benefits.
- Contact an attorney. If your claim is denied or you need assistance with the claims process, you should contact a workers’ compensation attorney to protect your rights.
How to prevent crush injuries at work
Below are some precautions that workers and employers can take to prevent crush injuries at work:
- Proper training. Employers should provide proper training to workers on the use of machinery and equipment and how to handle materials safely to prevent crush injuries.
- Safety equipment. Workers should be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hard hats, steel-toed boots and gloves, to prevent crush injuries.
- Safe work procedures. Employers should establish safe work procedures, including safe lifting and handling techniques, as well as traffic management plans to avoid accidents involving machinery and equipment.
- Regular maintenance. Machinery and equipment should be regularly maintained to ensure that they are in good working order and to prevent accidents.
- Warning signs. Employers should post warning signs and labels on machinery and equipment that present potential hazards, such as pinch points or moving parts.
- Barriers. Employers should use barriers and safeguards to prevent workers from getting too close to dangerous machinery or equipment.
- Risk assessments. Employers should conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential hazards and take steps to eliminate or control them.
Additionally, workers should also avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry that could get caught in machines and work to minimize distractions while working with any dangerous machinery.
By implementing these measures, workers and employers can reduce the risk of crush injuries and create a safer working environment. It’s crucial that workers and employers take safety seriously and work together to prevent accidents and injuries.
Contact an Arizona workers’ compensation attorney
While not every work injury requires the help of an attorney, workers who sustain life-altering injuries like crush injuries that require extensive time off work or result in permanent disability are advised to consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney before accepting any settlement offer from their employer or workers’ comp insurer.
Insurance companies typically offer workers lump sum lowball settlement offers to get them to settle quickly. Unfortunately, once you accept a settlement, you can’t go back and request more money later if you discover that your injuries are more substantial than you originally realized. This is why it’s always best to get the advice of an attorney who can explain your rights and give you an estimate of how much your claim should be worth before accepting any workers’ compensation settlement offer.
If you have suffered a crush injury at work, our Phoenix job injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski are here to help. We specialize in workers’ comp cases and are proud to have been helping injured Arizona workers recover the compensation they deserve for more than 45 years.