A workplace injury occurs over the course of a person’s employment, and is specifically caused by the type of task that they are required to do at their job. This term can also apply to injuries that occur during work hours, or that happen while on the employment premises.
Some employers may provide compensation for injuries that are not related to the job description. However, the majority of claims are focused on injuries that are directly associated with the job description. Some of the most common examples of these include, but are not limited to:
- Repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome which will be further discussed below;
- Respiratory illnesses, such as those resulting from inhaling toxic substances on the job;
- Various industrial diseases, such as popcorn lung;
- Injuries which manifest from being in a confined space for extended amounts of time; and/or
- Slip and fall injuries.
Under specific circumstances, worker’s compensation could also cover some off-site injuries that are sustained outside the workplace. An example of this would be injuries resulting from a car accident that happened during the employee’s work day. However, this will largely depend on the nature of the employment contract between the worker and employer, as well as specific state laws. In general, if the injury occurs while the worker is on the clock or under the direction of their employer, it is possible to hold the employer liable.
It is important to note that if your employer is not a subscriber to workers compensation, they will be personally liable for legal claims that are filed against them on behalf of injured employees. Because of this, it is important to note whether your employer subscribes to workers compensation, as that will largely determine how you can proceed in recovering from your workplace injuries.
What Is A Job Related Repetitive Stress Injury?
A job-related repetitive stress injury is caused by performing a single task over and over in the workplace, without variation or break in the task. This is also referred to as “repetitive stress disorders,” or “RSD,” and these types of workplace injuries are becoming increasingly common with the increased use of computers and keyboards in the workplace.
Employees who have developed a repetitive stress-type injury on the job may be able to file for compensation through either workers compensation programs, or disability laws. However, in order to qualify for receiving such compensation, the injury must have occurred while on the job and must be directly associated with the tasks that are assigned to the injured worker.
There are as many possibilities for repetitive stress injuries as there are different job positions. However, some examples of the most common tasks that cause job-related repetitive stress injuries include:
- Computer And Typing-Related Activities: As considerably more job positions involve the use of a computer or other typing device, carpal tunnel syndrome is quickly becoming one of the most frequently claimed repetitive stress injuries. Carpal tunnel syndrome is further discussed throughout this article;
- Barcode Scanning: Grocers and other retail workers are especially prone to repetitive stress injuries resulting from the continual process of scanning merchandise at the register; and
- Static Posturing: Static posturing refers to when a worker must remain in a fixed posture while performing their work. An example of this would be a cashier being required to stand while doing their job. Another example of static posturing would be an electrician repeatedly fitting their body into a cramped attic space when working on wiring.
Some other examples of repetitive stress injuries involve:
- Reaching overhead, such as when stacking boxes onto overhead shelves;
- Overuse of the hands and fingers, such as that experienced by massage therapists and artists; and
- Assembly-line work, especially where there is no variation in the assigned task while on the line.
What Are The Symptoms And Causes Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Those who suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (“CTS”) most commonly report numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand, wrist, and forearm, especially at night. A person who has carpal tunnel syndrome may also experience clumsiness when handling objects, which is generally caused by decreased grip strength.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when a person’s hand or wrist is subjected to repetitive stress on a regular basis. Although the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome is not necessarily isolated to specific industries, CTS is most prevalent in employees who perform assembly line work. Additionally, as was previously mentioned, many employees who work with computers and other typing machines are experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome in increasing numbers.
Other common examples of industries or tasks which result in carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Food packing;
- Manufacturing; and
Can I Collect Workers Compensation For Work-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Workers compensation is a state-mandated insurance program which provides compensation to employees who suffer from job-related injuries. An employee who is injured while on the job is guaranteed workers compensation benefits, regardless of who was at fault for the injury. However, in return for workers’ compensation benefits, employees are generally forced to forfeit the right to sue their employer in court for damages related to their injuries.
Repetitive stress injuries can be covered by workers compensation, but only if the injury is work-related and the worker was legally employed by the employer. What this means is that the injury must be connected to the person’s line of work, as well as the job description they signed up for.
An example of this would be how a paralegal would not likely qualify for workers compensation if they went jogging during every lunch break, and suffered a repetitive stress injury to their knee. This would be because such exercise is not a required duty for their job position. However, if they injured their arm from repetitive filing folders, they could be eligible to receive workers compensation.
It is likely that you could collect workers compensation for work-related carpal tunnel syndrome. The United States Department of Labor has recognized CTS as the “chief occupational hazard of the ’90’s – disabling workers in epidemic proportions.” It is important to note that you must:
- Promptly report your injury to your employer, as some states require notice within 2-30 days following the injury;
- If an injury or illness results over time, you must report it as soon as you realize it was caused by your work;
- Receive medical treatment and follow doctor’s orders;
- File your claim with your employer’s insurance carrier by using insurance claim forms that are provided by your employer; and
- Save copies of paperwork throughout the process. This can include medical bills, hospital documents, work logs, and pay stubs. The intention is to collect extensive documentation of your injury, as well as the circumstances which lead to your injury.
How Can I Recover For Losses Caused By A Repetitive Stress Injury?
If you cannot file a workers compensation claim through your employer, you can file a civil lawsuit against your employer if they refuse to assist you with workers compensation or other benefits. Under specific circumstances, you may need to file a complaint with a government agency before you can legally file a private lawsuit.
Do I Need An Attorney In Order To Receive Compensation For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
If you are seeking compensation for carpal tunnel syndrome resulting from job related repetitive stress injury, you should work with an experienced and local worker’s compensation lawyer.
An attorney can help you explore your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws, and can work with you to file a workers compensation claim. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.