Repetitive motion injuries result from motions or movements that are made with the same parts of the body repeated multiple times in the course of day every day. Examples of movements that may cause repetitive stress injuries include grocery clerks scanning items at check-out, lifting or moving objects repeatedly in a warehouse or typing on a keyboard. Many repetitive motion injuries involve small hand movements, such as manipulating a computer mouse or writing. Over time, the repeated movements cause stress to parts of the body involved.
Each year, nearly two-thirds of all occupational injuries reported are caused by repeated trauma or movement, mainly to upper body parts such as the shoulder, the wrist, the elbow, the knee and the back.
Some repetitive stress injury (RSI) statistics gathered from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) are listed as follows:
- The incident rate in the year 2012 for repetitive motion injuries was 3.0 incidents per 10,000 workers;
- Musculoskeletal disease (MSD) had an incident rate of 37.8/10,000 workers, however repetitive motion is often a factor in MSD;
- Overexertion accounted for 12.5 incidents per 10,000 workers. However, repetitive motion is often a factor in overexertion cases as well;
- On average, a person requires 23 days to fully recover from a repetitive motion injury. This is 14 days more than the average number of days to recover for all other injuries. Recovery from most injuries takes only 9 days;
- Employers must pay out an estimated $80 million for repetitive motion injuries every year;
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is the most commonly reported repetitive stress injury. It affects more than 8 million Americans;
- Almost half of all carpal tunnel syndrome cases cause workers to miss a month or more of work time; and
- Doctors perform an estimated 260,000 carpal tunnel syndrome release surgeries every year.
- Almost half of these cases, 47%, are considered to be work-related.
Some of the jobs involving repetitive motion, which puts them at higher risk for causing a repetitive motion injury, are as follows:
- Computer users;
- Meat, poultry and fish processing and packing workers;
- Workers who use saws or jackhammers;
- Postal workers;
- Dental technicians;
- Cake decorators; and
- Carpet installers.
Most repetitive motion injuries involve one of the body’s joints and usually the bursa, muscle, tendon or bone of the affected joint.
Repetitive motion conditions are sometimes considered illnesses and not injuries due to the length of time it can take to recover from them. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one such condition. As a result, statistics have reflected lower numbers for injuries caused by trauma. On the other hand, the total incidents of illnesses has increased due to the fact that repetitive stress injuries have been included in the category, and especially, carpal tunnel syndrome. Between four to 10 million people in the United States in 2017 had carpal tunnel syndrome.
Of course, it is also true that fewer Americans work on shop factory floors, where accidents are more likely. Increasing numbers of people work in cubicles in front of a computer monitor. Or, more people now work in a service business where performing a repetitive motion is a feature of the job. As a result, more people file workers’ compensation claims for repetitive stress injuries than for traumatic workplace accidents.
There is a high rate of failure for the corrective procedures done to treat repetitive motion injuries. Surgeries to treat CTS and other nerve compression injuries, such as CTS release operations, have a failure rate of over 50%. This means that 50% of the time, when operations to repair CTS are done, the operations fail to correct the problem. This is one of the main reasons why repetitive stress injuries cost employers and insurers so much every year.
Can I Recover Damages for a Repetitive Motion Injury?
Repetitive motion injuries can be the basis for a claim for workers’ compensation. This is true whether the injury is a shoulder injury caused by repeatedly reaching overhead or a back injury from lifting heavy loads or bending over. Whatever the injury may be, a worker may be eligible for compensation if the condition arose or became worse because of their job.
Repetitive motion injuries are one of the most common types of injuries that lead to workers’ compensation claims. They can occur whenever a person has to repeat an action or motion repeatedly over time and are common on assembly lines, where an employee has to do the same thing repeatedly, as well as in desk jobs that require employees to type on a keyboard for the entire day every day. Some experts consider them to be a kind of occupational disease.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a prime example of a repetitive motion injury. It can be extremely painful, caused by the compression of the median nerve in the wrist. This nerve passes through a passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel can swell, pressing on the nerve and causing numbness, pain and tingling. Without treatment, the hand muscles can deteriorate. Eventually, the person may become unable to hold or grasp objects or work with their hands.
Each state except Texas has a workers’ compensation insurance system which is designed to pay for lost wages and medical bills for employees who are injured in the course and scope of their employment. Workers’ compensation also pays for ongoing medical treatment after an employee returns to work. Almost any injury that occurs on the job is covered by the workers’ compensation system. This can be true even if an accident that resulted in an employee’s injury was caused by the employee.
One of the most challenging aspects of getting coverage for a repetitive motion injury through a state workers’ compensation system is proving that the injury happened while the worker was on the job. Unless the injury was caused by an accident, there is not a single incident that clearly shows that an injury happened at work. A repetitive motion injury claim may require a more detailed analysis to prove that it was caused by the employee’s work.
In order to succeed with a claim under workers’ compensation, an employee has to show a connection between their disability or injury and their work activity. Testimony from a doctor to the effect that the condition was caused by a person’s work would be needed. The employer, or the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance provider, would probably present competing testimony from their own medical expert to testify that the repetitive motion injury was not caused by on-the-job activities.
The judge who hears the claim would make the decision as to which one is correct. That is why it is so important to seek an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to represent you in a claim.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Repetitive Motion Injury Claim?
Repetitive motion conditions can sometimes be very serious and can leave a person unable to work for a lengthy period of time. You may wish to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer if you need advice and legal representation regarding a workers’ compensation claim for a repetitive motion injury.
Your attorney can explain your rights to you and can explain to you how to submit a legal claim in your state. You may be entitled to an award of damages to compensate you for your lost wages and medical treatment.