Workers’ Compensation Challenges – Ernest C.

It is not surprising that employees who work in retail, particularly when they work in so-called “big box” stores, are subject to injury from merchandise falling from shelves. Depending on how the store moves its merchandise within the store, forklift accidents can also happen. How about a case involving merchandise falling from where it was stacked on a pallet which is transported by a forklift? That was the circumstance of an accident which resulted in Ernest C. getting injured at work.

Ernest was an “order filler” working for a major retail chain in its distribution center in Charlottesville. He would receive a list of items ordered by a customer and would then walk around the employer’s warehouse pulling out the merchandise necessary to fill the customer’s order. On the day of the accident, Ernest was stacking equipment on pallets to be moved elsewhere when some soda bottles fell off one of the pallets. A co-worker from maintenance came over to clean up the soda which had fallen. At that time she informed Ernest that one of the pallets was unstable. She then left to report the incident of the soda bottles falling. After the co-employee left, an entire case of sodas fell from the pallet, but this time the falling merchandise struck Ernest in the head, causing head and neck injuries. He also suffered vision-related problems which his eye doctor attributed to the accident.

Ernest’s accident was accepted as a compensable injury by his employer, and the Commission entered an award in his favor. However, when the employer hired an attorney to represent its interests in this case, Ernest felt that the smart thing to do would be to hire a lawyer on his own to make sure his interests were protected as well. He chose HammondTownsend as his representative. The parties were not successful in resolving the case on their own, and they then agreed to attend a mediation session with a Deputy Commissioner from the VWCC acting as the neutral third-party.

At the mediation, the parties agreed to settle this case for $157,500. Additionally, the employer also agreed to accept responsibility for all reasonably related medical expenses from the date of the accident through to date on which the Commission gave its formal approval of the settlement.

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