Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) Injury

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 What Is Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)?

Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is a type of occupational disease or work-related injury. It generally involves damage to the nerves, circulation, blood vessels, or muscles of the hand or arm. It can lead to discoloration of the hand and fingers or to a more serious physical disabling of the hand, wrist, and arm muscles.

Some common effects and symptoms associated with hand-arm vibration syndrome may include the following:

  • Numbness or tingling sensations in the fingers, hand, or arm;
  • Discoloration of fingers as a symptom of Vibration White Finger or Dead Finger, which are types of HAVS in which a person’s finger or fingers actually turn white;
  • Decreased range of motion in the fingers, hands, or arm joints;
  • Muscle weakness or fatigue;
  • Permanent loss of use of arms or hands.

Symptoms may be located in the fingers and hands. They may radiate up the wrist to the arms, shoulders, and sometimes even the neck. Some experts also include other symptoms along with vibration syndrome, such as headache, restlessness, fatigue, and insomnia. A person might experience trouble sleeping because of pain or discomfort.

What Are Some Causes of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome?

Hand-arm vibration syndrome can be caused by the frequent use of high-powered, industrial hand tools that vibrate at very high frequencies. Prolonged or extended use of hand-held tools and other machinery can lead to the symptoms associated with HAVS.

Some hand-arm vibration claims are filed as workers’ compensation claims, especially in instances where the victim’s line of work requires them to constantly use the kind of high-frequency output tools that cause vibrations. These might be jobs involving construction or repair work.

Of course, a person’s HAVS might be caused by their personal use of such tools. If a person were to use these tools a great deal, they might cause themselves to develop the syndrome. However, personal use of such tools can also result in hand-arm vibration syndrome.

If this were to be the case, a person might have grounds for a lawsuit against the manufacturer and distributor of the tool they use for strict product liability. But otherwise, they would have to rely on any health insurance or personal disability insurance they might have to compensate them for their losses.

Can I File a Compensation Claim for Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome Injuries?

As mentioned, a person’s HAVS may well result from the conditions of their employment, so the person would seek compensation through a workers’ compensation claim. Each state has its own workers’ compensation system to which a person whose HAVS can be traced to their job duties would turn.

The damages that a person can recover in workers’ compensation claims are economic damages. Economic damages would reimburse injured workers for the economic losses they have experienced because of their workplace injury or illness. The losses reimbursed by economic damages in a workers’ compensation case are as follows:

  • Medical Expenses: Damages would cover the cost of all necessary medical treatment that the worker received to restore them to health. This could encompass doctor visits, stays in the hospital, surgeries, medications, physical therapy, and any other medical treatment that was required to restore the worker to good health;
  • Lost Wages: if the worker’s injury and treatment for it leads them to miss work, they should be entitled to reimbursement for lost wages. This would be for past lost wages and wages that the worker can expect to lose in the future. The worker may be unable to resume their previous employment or has to transition to a lower-paying position;
  • Rehabilitation Costs: An injured worker may need vocational rehabilitation, i.e., job retraining or career counseling, to help them return to the workforce in a capacity that is different from the one they were in before their injury or illness.
    • They may need to find future employment in an entirely new type of work. Economic damages should compensate for the cost of these services;
  • Disability Payments: If an injured or ill worker has a permanent or long-term disability because of their injury or illness, they may be able to obtain disability payments. These payments can be temporary or permanent, depending on the worker’s situation.
    • If their disability is permanent, then the payments would continue permanently. If the disability is temporary, then the payments would be temporary.

Punitive damages are a possibility in very few workers’ compensation cases. For example, a worker who suffers a serious respiratory illness because of their employer’s intentional failure to properly ventilate the workplace or give their worker’s safety equipment in a toxic environment may win an award of punitive damages. Generally, if an employer’s conduct is intentional or malicious, winning an award of punitive damages is a possibility.

In some cases, a lawsuit can be filed against an employer, especially in cases where the employer was negligent in their supervision or instruction of the worker. Strict product liability can also be a factor, especially where a tool was defective in design, manufacture, or labeling.

In civil lawsuits for negligence or strict product liability, damages would be the same as the economic damages for a workers’ compensation claim. However, in a civil lawsuit, such as a negligence or product liability case, the victim would also be able to recover non-economic damages to compensate them for their pain and suffering and other non-physical aspects of their injury or illness.

How Much Compensation for HAVS Could I Claim?

The amount that a worker can receive in damages from their state’s workers’ compensation system differs greatly from state to state. Some states, such as Washington and Pennsylvania, have systems that are more generous than others in terms of the benefits that their workers’ compensation systems pay. A worker usually receives a greater amount in Washington or Pennsylvania than they would recover in Alabama or Georgia.

Various factors affect the amount of benefits. Among them would be the severity of their injury or illness and what impact it would have on their future ability to work for a living. Such things as the body part that is injured and the severity of any permanent disability would be important factors. The length of any period of disability would also affect the amount of damages.

According to experts, one thing that also seems to have an effect on the amount of money that a worker recovers is how the claim is handled. A worker who quickly accepts the first offer from their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company generally ends up with less than the worker who requests a hearing for their claim. The moral is to consult an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer and not rush to accept a settlement if one is offered.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have suffered from HAV syndrome because of your employment activities, you want to consult an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. Your health and your ability to earn a living are vitally important, and you want an expert to help protect your rights and get the best damages award you can.

LegalMatch.com can connect you to a workers’ compensation lawyer in your area who can make sure you get every penny of compensation to which the law of your state entitles you. Your attorney will be able to guide you through the process and can represent you during negotiations, hearings, and appeals. Your attorney can provide you with the representation you need to achieve the best possible outcome.


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