Workers compensation is a state-mandated insurance program, providing compensation to employees who suffer job-related injuries. An employee who is injured while on the job is guaranteed benefits, regardless of who was at fault for the injury. In return, employees are generally forced to forfeit the right to sue their employer in court for damages for their injuries.
Workers compensation benefits generally include:
- Replacement income;
- Medical expenses;
- Long-term or lump sum pension if you are permanently unable to work due to the injury; and/or
- Temporary disability pension while you are unable to work.
In order to satisfy workers’ compensation requirements, you must be an actual employee of your employer; meaning, you are not an independent contractor. Additionally, your injuries must be work related.
Some of the most common examples of injuries that are covered include:
- Repetitive stress injuries;
- Illnesses or diseases which gradually result due to work conditions;
- Traumatic physical injuries;
- Repeated trauma injuries;
- Mental injuries when they are associated with physical injury; and
- Occupational diseases.
Some examples of injuries that are not covered by workers compensation include:
- Self- inflicted injuries;
- Injuries resulting from the commission of a serious crime;
- Injuries resulting from when your conduct violates company policy;
- Injuries received while intoxicated, or while under the influence of illegal drugs; and
- Injuries resulting from when the employee was acting in a reckless manner.
Additionally, there are several classes of workers who are not entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. This includes:
- Business owners;
- Independent contractors;
- Federal employees;
- Domestic employees in private homes;
- Farm workers;
- Maritime workers;
- Railroad employees; and
- Unpaid volunteers.
What Is A Workplace Injury?
A workplace injury occurs during a person’s employment, and is caused by the type of task that they are required to do at their job. However, this term can also apply to injuries which occur during work hours, or while on the employment premises.
While some employers may compensate for injuries that are not associated with the job description, most claims focus on injuries that are directly associated with the job description. Some examples of these include, but are not limited to:
- Repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow, which are further discussed below;
- Respiratory illnesses, such as those resulting from inhaling toxic substances;
- Various industrial diseases, such as popcorn lung;
- Injuries resulting from being in a confined space for extended amounts of time; and/or
- Slip and fall injuries.
Under specific circumstances, worker’s compensation may also cover off-site injuries that are sustained outside of the workplace. An example of this would be injuries resulting from a car accident which occurred during working hours. However, this will largely depend on the nature of the employment contract between the worker and employer, as well as individual state laws. Generally speaking, if the injury occurs while the worker is on the clock or is under the direction of their employer, it could be possible to hold the employer liable for those injuries.
What Is A Job Related Repetitive Stress Injury?
A job-related repetitive stress injury can be caused by performing one single task, over and over in the workplace, without variation or break in the task. Also known as “repetitive stress disorders” or “RSD,” these types of workplace injuries are becoming more common with the increased use of computers in the workplace.
Employees who have developed a repetitive stress-type injury on the job could file for compensation, either through workers compensation programs or disability laws. However, in order to qualify for such compensation, the injury must have occurred while on the job and must be associated with the tasks that have been assigned to the worker.
Additionally, repetitive stress injuries can be covered by workers compensation if the worker was legally employed by the employer. What this means is that the injury needs to be somehow connected with the person’s line of work, as well as the job description that they signed up for.
An example of this would be how a paralegal probably would not qualify for workers compensation if they went jogging during every lunch break, and suffered a repetitive stress injury to their knee. This is because such exercise probably is not a required duty for their job. However, if they injured their arm as a result of repetitive filing of folders, they could be eligible for workers compensation.
Some examples of the most common tasks that cause job-related repetitive stress injuries include, but may not be limited to:
- Computer and Typing Activities: As the workplace becomes increasingly automated, more job positions involve the use of a computer and/or typing device. Because of this, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most frequently claimed job-related repetitive stress injuries;
- Barcode Scanning: Grocers and other retail workers are especially prone to repetitive stress injuries associated with the continual process of scanning merchandise at the register; and/or
- Static Posturing: Static posturing refers to when a worker must assume a fixed posture, such as prolonged standing, while performing their work. An example of this would be an electrician repeatedly fitting their body into a cramped attic space when working on wiring.
Some other repetitive stress injuries involve:
- Reaching overhead, such as stacking boxes onto overhead shelves;
- Overuse of the hands and fingers, commonly experienced by massage therapists; and
- Assembly-line work, especially if there is no variation in the assigned task.
How Can I Avoid Workplace Sprain And Strain?
Sprains and strains, such as the previously mentioned carpal tunnel syndrome and back problems, are the most common work-related injuries. Some examples of their causes include, but are not limited to:
- Performing new tasks using old methods;
- Improper, inadequate, and/or nonexistent training;
- Repetitive, forceful, awkward, and/or prolonged movements;
- Heavy or frequent lifting, pushing, and/or pulling; and
- Carrying heavy objects.
Accident prevention should be a workplace priority. As such, employers should implement accident prevention programs which are intended to decrease the number of strains and sprains in the workplace. Additionally, employers should study how your job fits your needs, an understanding which is also known as ergonomics.
Some examples of the most common methods for improving employee health and safety include:
- Continuously analyzing the worksite for possible ergonomic hazards;
- Developing methods intended to control ergonomic hazards by altering equipment, the environment, and work patterns;
- Educating employees regarding proper lifting, pushing, and pulling techniques; and
- Engaging in effective and appropriate training.
Can My Employer Be Held Liable For My Sprain Or Strain?
By bringing your concerns to the attention of your co-workers, union, or employer, you could receive improved work conditions. If the situation remains unchanged, you should consider speaking with an attorney who is familiar with employment regulations and laws. This is because even minor sprains and strains can develop into serious injuries. Additionally, you should consult a medical professional in order to discuss the extent of your problem, as well as the recovery process. It is imperative to note that your personal safety and health should not be compromised by your employment.
In many cases, your sprain or strain will be covered by workers compensation. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has established guidelines for workplace ergonomics and provides assistance to businesses which proactively address work-related ergonomics. They also issue citations when these federal regulations are not enforced.
Do I Need An Attorney For Workplace Sprain And Strain?
If you are experiencing a job related repetitive stress injury, or some other type of workplace injury, you should consult with an experienced and local worker’s compensation lawyer.
An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific workers compensation laws. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.