Job-Related Repetitive Stress Injuries

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 What Is a Job-Related Repetitive Stress Injury?

A job-related repetitive stress injury is a type of occupational injury that can be caused by a worker performing a single task over and over in the workplace without variation or break in the task. Job-related repetitive stress injuries may also be called repetitive stress disorders (“RSD”) or repetitive strain injuries.

Job-related repetitive stress injuries are becoming more common with the increased use of computers in the workplace. As far as the cause of job-related repetitive stress injuries, any motion or movement, such as typing on a computer at work, may result in a repetitive stress injury if an individual does it too often.

Although the exact symptoms of job-related repetitive stress injuries will vary in regards to the repetitive motion and injury being performed, general symptoms for repetitive stress injury include pain, swelling, tingling, numbness, sensitivity, weakness, and/or stiffness in one or more body parts. One common example of a repetitive stress injury is carpal tunnel syndrome.

Employees who have been injured while on the job as a result of a repetitive stress-type injury may be able to seek compensation for their injuries through workers’ compensation programs or other programs offered by their workplace. However, in order for a person injured in the workplace as a result of a repetitive stress injury to recover for their injuries through workers’ compensation, their injury must have occurred while on the job, and the injury must be related to their job tasks.

Do Repetitive Stress Injuries Fall Under Workers’ Compensation?

As mentioned above, if the repetitive stress injury is work-related and the employee was performing job-related tasks, then their injury may be covered under workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a state-mandated insurance program that provides compensation to employees who have suffered injuries while on the job.

An employee who is covered by workers’ compensation for a repetitive stress injury is guaranteed benefits regardless of who was at fault for their injury. It is important to note that in return for workers’ compensation benefits, employees generally forfeit the right to sue their employer privately in court for damages related to repetitive stress and other workplace injuries.

Examples of common workers’ compensation benefits for workers injured as a result of repetitive stress injuries include:

  • Replacement income while the employee recovers from their stress injuries;
  • Compensation for medical expenses;
  • Payment of rehabilitation expenses;
  • Long-term or lump sum pension if the employee is permanently unable to return to their work;
  • Temporary disability pension while the employee is unable to work.

Once again, in order to qualify for workers’ compensation, the injured person must be both an actual employee of the employer and their injuries must be related to their work. For example, if an employee decided to go to the gym every lunch break and developed muscle strains as a result of their repetitive gym motions, they wouldn’t be eligible for workers’ compensation. This is due to the fact that such exercises were not assigned tasks for their work.

On the other hand, if the same employee was injured as a result of moving heavy boxes in their workplace and sustained an arm injury, they would likely be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in that case. This is because, in the second scenario, the repetitive stress injury was a result of a work task.

What Are Some Causes of Job-Related Repetitive Stress Injuries?

Because of the wide variety of occupations throughout the United States, there are numerous causes of job-related repetitive stress injuries. Examples of common tasks that may result in job-related repetitive stress injuries include, but are not limited to:

  • Computer-Related Activities: More and more job positions involve the use of a computer or typing device being used by employees on a constant basis.
    • As mentioned above, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most frequently claimed repetitive stress injuries, which has been linked to repetitive typing;
  • Heavy Lifting: As mentioned above, numerous job tasks revolve around an employee lifting heavy items, such as warehouse workers bringing up inventory for a business.
    • As such, if the employer fails to provide tools and resources for an employee to prevent injuries related to repetitively lifting heavy items, then they may be liable for the employee’s injury;
  • Barcode Scanning: Grocers and other retail workers are more prone to repetitive stress injuries resulting from the continual process of scanning merchandise at the register;
  • Static Posturing: Static posturing is another cause for repetitive stress injuries that occur when a worker must assume a fixed posture, such as prolonged standing at a station while performing their work.

Examples of other repetitive stress injuries may involve:

  • Repetitive motions at an assembly warehouse, such as constantly reaching overhead and stacking boxes onto overhead shelves;
  • Overuse of the hands and fingers, such as massage therapists;
  • Other assembly-line work, especially where there is no variation in the assigned task, such as vehicle-manufacturing jobs that involve a series of small, unremarkable incidents, that are performed over and over

How Can I Recover from Losses Caused by a Repetitive Stress Injury?

Once again, the main way that you can recover for losses caused by a repetitive stress injury is by filing a workers’ compensation claim through your employer. In order to file for workers’ compensation, an employee injured from repetitive stress must first report their injury to their employer. The employer will then provide the employee with the necessary workers’ compensation forms to fill out.

After an employee receives the workers’ compensation forms, they must then:

  • Seek medical attention for their injuries and follow any doctor’s instructions regarding care for their injuries;
  • Complete and file the worker’s compensation claim with their employer’s insurance company.

It is important to note that some employers may not be subscribers to workers’ compensation. However, as non-subscribers, the employer does not have any protections from private civil lawsuits being filed against them. In other words, an employee is not forced to forfeit their right to sue their employer for injuries that occurred on the job. It is important to also note that you may need to first file a complaint with a government agency, such as your local Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) before you can initiate a private lawsuit against your employer.

How Do I Prove the Repetitive Stress Injury Is Work-Related?

In general, in order for a worker to prove that their repetitive stress injury is work-related, they must:

  • First, seek immediate medical attention from a physician who can diagnose and document their repetitive stress injury;
  • Obtain a physician’s evaluation that tends to establish a link between their work duties and their repetitive stress injury;
  • Provide their workplace’s workers’ compensation insurance provider medical evidence to support their injury claim, including medical records, diagnostic tests, and their physician’s notes; and/or
  • Undergo an independent medical examination from a doctor that is chosen by their workplace’s workers’ compensation insurance provider, who will evaluate them to make a determination as to whether the injury is work-related.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are experiencing issues associated with a job-related repetitive stress injury or if you are seeking workers’ compensation, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will be able to instruct you on how to proceed with your workers’ compensation claim or personal injury case against your employer if they are a non-subscriber.

An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will be best suited to representing you according to your state’s specific employment and workplace safety laws. Finally, an attorney will be able to initiate a civil lawsuit on your behalf and represent you in court as necessary.

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