Claiming Worker’s Comp For Your Walmart Job Injury: What You Need To Know
Walmart is the largest private employer in the world and the biggest grocery retailer in the US. They are extremely familiar with workers’ compensation claims. Ideally, this should mean that the company has designed adequate protections for its employees in case of work accidents or job-related injuries. Workers’ compensation insurance – which the company does carry – should cover the medical bills and lost pay of an eligible employee who gets injured or sick because of work conditions.
But in reality, many Walmart employees find it difficult to get workers’ compensation for occupational injuries and illnesses. There are a number of challenges in the claiming process, and worse, some workers find that their job has been jeopardized after their attempt to claim.
If you or a loved one has been hurt while working at a Walmart in Virginia, here are things you should know when pursuing worker’s comp.
Why It’s Challenging To Claim Worker’s Comp From Walmart
The workers’ comp claims process in Virginia looks straightforward on paper: you notify your employer of your injury, file a claim with the VA Workers’ Compensation Commission, attend the hearing, and with hope get a fair award. However, this process becomes more difficult to realize with the policies and practices of certain companies. When claiming for Walmart workers’ comp, you must be ready to encounter these hurdles:
Walmart is self-insured and has its own administrator for workers’ comp claims.
A third-party administrator (TPA) is an entity that manages claims on behalf of employers and their insurance companies. For Walmart, the TPA is a company called Claims Management, Inc (CMI). Once you file your Walmart worker’s comp claim, you will be referred to and be dealing directly with CMI. Although it is technically a different company, it is a subsidiary of Walmart itself. This is legal for a self-insured company like Walmart, but in practice, it is considered to be a disadvantage for workers.
Because Walmart is self-insured (it funds its own insurance), and because it owns the claims administrator, the retail giant has maximum control of every claim filed against them. They might dictate which doctor you should see, what kind of treatment you should get and how much, and even when to close your case. CMI, essentially acting as an insurance adjuster, could also investigate your claim in a way that helps Walmart save money on settlements.
There are various ‘discouragements’ that hamper claims.
Outside of claims administration, there are other experiences of Walmart workers that seem to discourage them from pursuing their injury claim. One of the most common is being subjected to a drug test right after filing their case, only to find later that the test results jeopardized their job. In some states where medical marijuana use is legal, certain workers were still fired after their post-injury drug test showed that they were using the substance.
Other employees also report being promised a better job position if they backed down away from their workers’ comp claim. Then there are plenty of others who experienced the exact opposite: getting terminated after seeking workers’ compensation, with Walmart claiming various other reasons for the dismissal (such as not following a company policy and not being able to perform fully after injury).
Firing employees could be a form of retaliation after they bring a workers’ comp case. This is an unlawful practice that is unfortunately still being done by employers, and sadly, it deters many injured workers from even initiating an injury claim. If you have been retaliated against, then let an attorney know. A separate legal action may be possible.
Walmart Worker Injuries: Example Cases And Compensation
With these obstacles in a Walmart workers’ comp case, is it still possible to successfully claim your fair compensation for a job injury? Yes, it is very possible. Numerous employees have in fact received satisfactory settlements or awards after arming themselves with an aggressive and skilled workers’ compensation attorney.
To give you an idea of successful cases and the amounts that workers received, here are some examples from across the US. Note, however, that workers’ comp settlements and awards vary widely from case to case.
- Just this past December (2019), a Louisiana judge ordered Walmart to cover their employee’s spinal fusion surgery and lawyer fees. The employee had serious back injuries after slipping on a wet floor at work. Initially, Walmart asserted that the requested medical treatment was unnecessary and unrelated to the injury, but the judge ruled in the worker’s favor, awarding $4,000 in penalties and $12,000 for total lawyer costs.
- In 2012, Walmart workers in Colorado obtained an $8-million settlement in a class action workers’ comp case. The employees alleged that Walmart, CMI, and healthcare corporation Concentra Health hindered doctors from making independent opinions on their work injury cases. Walmart fought the case for three years before finally settling.
- In 2010, a Kentucky court sided with a worker after Walmart tried to deny him workers’ comp benefits. The employee had been exposed to carbon monoxide at a Walmart distribution center due to a malfunctioning freezer previously renovated by third-party contractors. The injured worker brought a civil case against the contractors and also sought worker’s comp from Walmart. He was successful in the civil case, receiving an award of $900,000. Walmart then claimed that he should no longer receive workers’ comp because he already won a civil award. However, the court disagreed, sticking with the workers’ comp award of $444,080.36.
Again, these are only examples and that the amount you could recover may differ depending on the unique circumstances of your case. There is no true ‘average’ amount of workers’ compensation benefits.
Act Immediately If You’re An Injured Walmart Employee
It is crucial to act as soon as possible if you get injured at your Walmart job. Make sure you take these vital steps:
- Seek medical attention. This is important for both your physical wellbeing and your injury claim. If you keep putting off seeing a doctor, it can be used to downplay your claim later on.
- Notify your employer. As with any workplace injury, report it as soon as it happens to your supervisor. Under VA law, you must then give a written notice of your injury to your employer within 30 days of the incident. Failing this deadline gives Walmart strong grounds to deny your benefits. To minimize the risk of denial, give notice as soon as you can, without a day’s delay. Save a copy of your written notice.
- File with the Commission. You must also file a claim with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. There is a law called the Statute of Limitations which states that you must file your claim within two years of your injury, or else lose your rights to your injury benefits.
- Consult with a lawyer. Even if you are only making a worker’s compensation claim and don’t expect a full-blown lawsuit, you’ll want to protect yourself with a reliable worker’s comp attorney. As discussed above, Walmart is well-equipped and extremely proficient in handling workers’ claims on their own terms. You need to make sure are not taken advantage of or unfairly dealt with in your claim. It’s best you get a lawyer before you make statements to Walmart’s or CMI’s representatives.
Don’t guess about whether your injury or illness is compensable. Talk to an attorney. They will know. The following are common worker injuries at Walmart facilities, but other work injuries not mentioned may still qualify:
- Strains and sprains
- Back injury
- Slip and fall
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Shoulder injury
- Knee injury
Legal help is available to you whether you are any of these Walmart employees:
- Cart attendant
- Sales floor associate
- Inventory receiver
- Warehouse worker
- Delivery driver
- Forklift driver
- Sam’s Club employee.
Call Slominski Law
Attorney Jaleh K. Slominski has extensive hands-on experience in Virginia workers’ comp cases and is known for her staunch representation of real workers like you. She can help you if you work in any of these Walmart locations or nearby:
- Walmart Supercenter, Lynchburg, VA
- Walmart Neighborhood Market, Lynchburg, VA
- Walmart Photo Center, Lynchburg, VA
- Walmart Money Center, Lynchburg, VA
- Walmart Deli, Lynchburg, VA
- Walmart Supercenter, Roanoke, VA
- Walmart Neighborhood Market, Roanoke, VA
- Walmart Pharmacy, Roanoke, VA
- Walmart Bakery, Roanoke, VA
- Walmart Photo Center, Roanoke, VA
- Walmart Auto Care, Roanoke, VA.
Your initial consultation with Slominski Law is absolutely free. Call our Lynchburg office at (434) 205-9864, or our Roanoke office at (540) 858-8603 today.