When most people think of a workers’ compensation claim, they conjure images of a construction worker falling off a ladder, or someone who drives for their job getting into a severe car accident while working. While these are certainly accurate depictions of what workers’ comp can cover, the benefits you can receive through your employer for injuries suffered on the job may be much more extensive than you think.
Workers’ compensation can also cover injuries, conditions, and illnesses that are caused over a long period of time by performing expected work duties. Repetitive stress injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, and even illness due to occupational exposure may all be covered by your workers’ compensation insurance. If you believe you’ve suffered such occupational long-term injuries, securing benefits to address them requires understanding your options and how a workers’ compensation lawyer can help.
Workers’ Comp and Repetitive Stress Injuries
A repetitive stress or strain injury, also called overuse syndrome, is a term used to describe damage and pain to the body caused by repetitive movement and overuse. These kinds of injuries primarily impact muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons, and can be caused by improper technique or prolonged overuse of a specific body part.
With a growing reliance on computers and other technology in the modern workplace, repetitive stress injuries have also become more common. Any repeated behavior can cause long-term and chronic pain and conditions when performed as an expected task of your employment. Something as simple as holding a phone between your head and shoulder can cause neck injury. Repeated bending for and lifting of products and supplies, even if they are lightweight, can cause long-term back issues. And more and more claims of carpal tunnel syndrome are filed every year as people spend more time in front of a computer for their work. Carpal tunnel involves a numbness or tingling in the hands and arms caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist, most often brought on by overuse of a keyboard and mouse.
Some other types of common fixed-position work scenarios that can lead to repetitive stress injuries may include:
- Cashier work
- Assembly line work
- Construction work like painting, sanding, sawing, or jackhammering
- Mechanic work
- Inventory stocking
There are several specific industries that have higher rates of occupational long-term injuries. These include the construction industry, factory work, and agricultural industries, as they involve more repetitive physical movement than the average job. If you work in one of these industries, it’s important to keep an eye on any long-term changes to your physical well-being, be vigilant about addressing them, and make sure you use your workers’ comp benefits as able.
Using Workers’ Comp for Other Conditions
Workers’ comp laws surrounding other conditions, illnesses, or diseases vary state to state (unless you are a federal government employee). In Florida, you can obtain benefits for an occupational disease or illness if it is proven that you contracted it through the “nature of employment,” or by performing job-related tasks on behalf of your employer.
There are countless medical conditions that may qualify you for benefits under Florida law, but they generally fall into one of three additional categories outside repetitive stress injuries:
- Lung and respiratory conditions: These conditions can be serious because they are often chronic and lead to further ongoing medical ailments. They are also expensive to treat. Lung and respiratory disease can result from inhalation or exposure to harmful substances and can lead to asthma, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
- Skin disease: Exposure to harmful substances in the workplace can lead to serious skin conditions such as chemical burns, dermatitis, infection, and eczema. If your workplace causes you to come into contact with something harmful, you may need ongoing treatment for it.
- Hearing loss: According to the CDC, hearing loss ranks as third-most prevalent for chronic physical conditions. Of those people who suffer from it, 24% of them determine work-related noise exposure is the cause, such as loud construction equipment, military weapons, and more.
Any other illness or condition that is suffered and proven to be caused by conditions unique to your particular trade, employment, or occupation may qualify for long-term treatment benefits under workers’ compensation as well.
Proving Your Long-Term Workers’ Comp Claim
Workplace exposure to detrimental conditions can add up over time, meaning they may take a while to manifest. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a monumental impact on a person’s life. So if you want to get the most out of your workers’ comp benefits, you should take your injury or condition as seriously as you want others to take it.
The first step is to make sure you receive medical treatment and continue to receive ongoing care as needed. Keep ample records of your medical tests, procedures, and costs, as well as any pertinent statements or letters from your doctors explaining how they believe the condition or injury was caused. This is essential because the next important step in your workers’ comp case is proving causation.
When an employee develops some type of chronic long-term condition and files a workers’ comp claim, the assumption is that their employer put them at an increased risk for developing or contracting the condition. In order to recover, the employee needs their medical treatment to be covered by the employer who caused it. This can only be achieved by proving causation, or directly linking the injury to the duties of the job. This does not necessarily mean the job is the condition’s only cause; proof can also be achieved by showing how the job significantly contributed to the development or exacerbation of the preexisting condition.
Proving causation involves many careful steps that need to be implemented on a quick timeline. Statutes of limitations require injured employees to file their claim within a certain amount of time after they learn of their injury. This can be an especially confusing determination when a person’s injury or condition has come after years of exposure or repetitive stress.
The Whisler Law Firm can help you bypass the confusion that comes with your workers’ compensation case. Our team has years of experience helping clients file their claims and receive the compensation they deserve for both their long-term conditions and other severe work-related injuries. We believe fiercely in your right to benefits, even when you may feel unsure about filing a workers’ comp claim. You don’t need to be afraid, and we want to prove that to you. Let us fight for your rights so you can focus on your recovery. Call our office at 833-529-5677 or use our easy online form to schedule your free consultation with us.