Workers compensation isn't just for workplace accidents that lead to injury. A certain class of injury, called the repetitive stress injury, is also a common cause for claims. The reason is simply because many jobs require the type of daily movements that lead to these types of injury. For example, carpal tunnel, a condition that affects the wrists, arms, and hands of many office workers, is a repetitive stress injury and it may be covered by worker's comp. The following guide can help you determine if you have a case and how you should proceed.
What differentiates a repetitive stress injury from a standard injury?
To qualify as a repetitive stress injury, the injury or the condition must be the direct result of performing something over a period of time until the injury occurs. These injuries come on slowly, unlike a standard injury that happens suddenly. For example, if you dislocate your wrist and do not file a claim right away so the filing window runs out, you can't try to claim that you didn't realize you were injured because it was a repetitive stress injury. On the other hand, if you develop chronic lower back pain because your duties require you to be sitting in a bent position for several hours a day, then you will be able to claim it as repetitive stress.
Can the injury be traced back to your daily work duties?
Just because the injury is a repetitive stress injury doesn't necessarily make it your workplace's responsibility. The stress must be directly traceable to your required duties or to the use of the equipment at your workplace. Carpal tunnel claims may not go through if your job doesn't involve typing or other repetitive tasks with the hands, since chances are in this case that you didn't develop wrist pain from your job.
Is it possible to trace the injury to your own negligence?
Although this doesn't necessarily void your claim, it is important to be aware that neglecting to perform the job as specified or use equipment provided to prevent the injury may affect your claim. For example, if you do not use the ergonomic chairs provided by your employer, or take stretching breaks as specified by management, this can work against you when you try to file a claim.
Will you need to see a doctor?
Yes. Often, these injuries are first diagnosed by your personal physician. When this occurs, it is vital that you promptly file a worker's compensation claim through your HR department and begin the process of verification. This usually requires a visit to a worker's compensation doctor recommended by your employer or their insurance company. Keep all appointments and document everything from both the visits with the insurance doctor and your personal physician.
For more help in filing a claim, contact a worker's compensation attorney in your area.