Lawmakers Raise Concerns Over Worker Safety at Amazon Warehouses

Console and Associates, P.C.

Recently, U.S. lawmakers put Amazon and its top executives on the hot seat, raising questions about the retail giant’s commitment to the safety of its warehouse workers. Over the past decade, the number of Amazon warehouse injuries has continually been alarmingly high. In fact, in 2022, there were 6.6 serious injuries for every 100 Amazon workers, which is more than double the rate of injury among warehouse workers as a whole.

Amazon workers who suffered serious injury while on the job may have a legal claim against the company. As we’ve discussed in prior posts, state workers’ compensation laws provide limited benefits to workers, regardless of fault. However, injured workers who can establish that their injuries were the result of an employer’s willful or intentional disregard for their safety may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against their employer.

Amazon Warehouse Injury Statistics

Warehouse workers face, on average, a higher risk of injury than other employees. For example, in 2021, there were 3.2 warehouse workers seriously injured on the job for every 100 employees. Compare this to the overall worker-injury rate, which is 2.8 injuries per 100 employees.

However, Amazon workers face what appears to be an even more dangerous workplace. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in 2021, there were 6.6 Amazon warehouse workers who suffered serious injuries on the job. Thus, Amazon’s warehouse workers have an injury rate that’s twice the industry average.

Lawmakers Call on Amazon to Improve Warehouse Worker Safety

Earlier this year, Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), officially launched an investigation into what he characterizes as the “dangerous and illegal” conditions that Amazon warehouse workers are being subjected to. Senator Sanders’ position is that Amazon is in the best position to make the changes necessary to reduce the injury rate among warehouse workers. However, Sanders explains that Amazon and its top executives have “created a corporate culture that treats workers as disposable.”

Sanders’ position receives support from a study suggesting that the turnover rate at Amazon among warehouse and storage employees was 150 percent. To put this in context, the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the average retail employee turnover rate in the U.S. at around 60%.

Sanders also provided Amazon with a list of changes the company could have made to improve worker safety, asking the company to look into each and provide a written report summarizing why the measure hasn’t been adopted.

However, more recently, experts have weighed in, noting that lawmakers may have a difficult time compelling Amazon to make proposed changes. In large part, this is based on Amazon’s continued insistence that the company’s injury rate is decreasing and that it “take[s] the safety and health of our employees very seriously.”

Amazon Warehouse Worker Lawsuits

As a general rule, all companies have a legal duty to provide a safe workplace to all employees. Of course, the law acknowledges that some professions are inherently more dangerous than others. Still, that doesn’t change an employer’s obligation to do what it can to reduce the risk of injury or death.

In most workplace injury cases, the employee’s remedy is to file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers' compensation is a form of insurance that provides income replacement and medical benefits to employees who are hurt during the course of employment. In exchange, workers give up their right to sue their employer for negligence. In this way, the workers’ compensation system serves as a protection for both employees and employers because employees receive guaranteed, limited coverage of medical expenses and lost wages, and in turn, employers receive protection against negligence lawsuits.

Workers’ compensation laws vary by state. However, generally, most states created an exception that permits workers to bypass the workers’ compensation system and file a workplace injury personal injury lawsuit against their employer if the worker can prove that their employer willfully or intentionally disregarded known hazards in the workplace. In other words, if an employer knows that workers are in danger and chooses not to do anything about it, the employer may be liable under a traditional personal injury theory.

The important distinction between personal injury and workers’ compensation cases is the available damages. Typically, personal injury cases allow for a far greater range of damages, most notably, non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

What Damages Are Available for Injured Amazon Warehouse Workers?

In a personal injury case involving an injured Amazon warehouse worker, the worker may be able to obtain financial compensation for their accident-related expenses. While state laws vary, there are typically two types of damages, each including several different classifications of specific damages.

Economic Damages (Special Damages)

Economic damages refer to the money paid to an accident victim to compensate them for the out-of-pocket costs they incurred as a result of their injury. Economic damages may include the following:

Medical Expenses: Costs associated with medical treatment, hospital stays, and any necessary medical care in the future.

Lost Wages: Compensation for the income that an injured worker couldn’t earn due to their injury, as well as for any loss of earning capacity related to long-term physical limitations.

Non-Economic Damages (General Damages):

Non-economic damages are intended to compensate an injured worker for the emotional and psychological impact that accident had on their lives. Non-economic damages available to warehouse workers may include the following:

Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain and emotional distress.

Loss of Consortium: Damages for loss of companionship, affection, or marital relations.

Emotional Distress: Compensation for psychological impact caused by the injury.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Compensation for the loss of enjoyment in activities and hobbies.

Amazon workers interested in learning more about an Amazon warehouse worker lawsuit should understand that they are in for an uphill battle, as Amazon will almost certainly object. Thus, workers should consult with an experienced workplace injury lawyer to ensure their claim is properly handled.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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