What to do if a meatpacker in Arizona is hurt on the job
More than 30 percent of Arizona farms and ranches raise cattle with an approximate economic value of $521 million. Arizona produces 455.7 million pounds of red meat and more than 4.2 billion pounds of milk per year. In addition, there are more than 168,000 people in Arizona employed in the meat industry.
According to Arizona’s Dept. of Agriculture, the animal industry, led by cattle ranching, dairy and dairy production, is the largest agricultural sector in the state. (source)
With an industry this large, it’s not hard to believe that many injuries occur every year. If you have been injured in a meatpacking accident, there may be options for you to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Common causes of meatpacking industry accidents
Although any type of accident can occur in the meatpacking industry, these are some of the most common causes:
- Diseases. There is also the risk of damaged safety equipment which can lead to someone being exposed to infectious diseases that can be spread from animal to human.
- Toxic exposure. Chemicals used in the process of animal production can be spilled or leaked.
Common meatpacking injuries
Repetitive motion injuries, including carpal tunnel, are common in the meatpacking industry. This is because many employees make the same movements all day, every day, putting strain on their wrists, elbows, shoulders and necks.
Cuts and lacerations are also common as the knives and blades used in the industry can be extremely sharp. Head and back injuries from falls may occur. Burns and illnesses from toxic chemicals as well as skin disorders are also prevalent in the industry.
Crush injuries that can result in death can also occur when machinery malfunctions or is used improperly. This may include using the machine without safety guards per the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.
What to do after a work-related meatpacking injury
If you’ve been injured in a meatpacking industry accident, the first thing you need to do is seek medical attention immediately. By doing so, you document the injury immediately after it occurs which will make it easier for you to file a workers’ compensation claim. File a report with your employer as this may be required for you to seek compensation.
Be sure to follow your doctor’s orders exactly. If you ignore the doctor’s orders and make your injury worse, you may not be eligible for additional compensation and your claim could be denied. Never exaggerate your symptoms, such as pretending you can’t walk without assistance. It’s not unusual for employers to use surveillance on an employee they suspect of lying about their injuries.
In Arizona, you must forthwith (meaning as soon as practical) report your injury to a supervisor. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to file a workers’ compensation claim.
In most cases, your doctor fills out a Worker’s and Physician’s Report of Injury or your employer may have you fill out a Worker’s Report of Injury. This report is then filed with the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA). The company must also file an Employer’s Report of Injury.
Once the form is filed, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier is notified, and they have 21 days to approve or deny your claim. The ICA will send a letter notifying you who the insurance carrier is and offering general claim information. If the insurance company approves the claim, they are responsible for payment.
If the claim is denied, you must file a Request for Hearing within 90 days from the date the claim is denied.
What benefits are injured workers entitled to receive?
If your claim is approved, you will be entitled to compensation for all necessary and reasonable medical treatments related to your injury or illness. Your doctor will bill the workers’ compensation company directly so there will be no out-of-pocket costs.
If you are unable to work for more than 1 week, you are eligible for compensation for lost wages. This will require a certification from your doctor that you are unable to work.
Compensation for lost wages will total two-thirds of your monthly income based on what you earned the month before your injury. The maximum you can receive is $4,521.92 per month and this compensation only lasts while you are under the doctor’s treatment.
Once the doctor returns you to work, you will receive a letter from the insurance company known as a Notice of Claim Status.
In Arizona, if you are unable to return to work at all because your condition will not improve, your doctor may determine that you have a permanent disability. At this time, they will give you a percentage of disability which will be used, along with your age, education, work history and earning capacity to determine your rate of compensation.
When to hire an Arizona workers’ compensation attorney
As soon as you are injured at work, you should hire an attorney. Hiring an attorney doesn’t mean you plan to sue your employer as Arizona law prevents you from suing for a workplace injury in most cases. There are exceptions, such as if your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation coverage or if there was intentional misconduct on the part of your employer or a coworker.
In Arizona, you have the right to reject workers’ compensation coverage, but this must be done before an injury. If you rejected coverage and are injured, you have the right to sue. However, you will also not be eligible for lost wages or medical coverage immediately after your injury. Before rejecting workers’ compensation coverage, you should discuss your options with an attorney.