Can I Get Workers’ Compensation for Repetitive Stress Injuries?
If your job requires heavy lifting, uncomfortable postures, or repetition of tasks, you may be at risk for a repetitive stress injury (RSI). Also known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), overuse injuries, or cumulative trauma (CT) injuries, these conditions form over weeks, months, or even years of work. Due to their looser chain of causation than workplace injuries resulting from discrete accidents, RSI claims may be disputed by a workers’ compensation insurer. Our team has helped others win settlements to defray the costs of their RSI. We may be able to help you, too.
How Do I Know if It’s a Repetitive Stress Injury?
RSIs are soft tissue injuries, meaning they affect your muscles, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves rather than your bones. They do not develop after a single forceful event, but rather over time. Even if you’re not using high levels of force (e.g., by lifting or pulling a heavy item), your job may require you to use your muscles or joints in ways they were not designed for. An unusual alignment can “stress” your soft tissues just as much as performing hard physical labor. If you have an RSI, you will likely notice that the pain or other symptoms appear or worsen during a certain action that stresses the injured part of the body.
Some Workers Are More at Risk
The kind of work you do impacts your likelihood of developing an RSI; employees without jobs that require high levels of exertion or repeated performance of the same actions are less likely to acquire this type of injury. The most at-risk occupations, according to OSHA, are:
- Registered nurses, nursing assistants, and psychiatric aides
- Freight movers
- Janitors and cleaners
- Truck drivers
However, you don’t have to be in one of these jobs to develop an RSI. Many office workers experience carpal tunnel syndrome or other wrist conditions, often due to factors such as:
- Awkward postures
- Repetitive motions such as using a keyboard
- Use of excessive force while typing
No matter your occupation, if you believe you may be developing an RSI, it’s important to keep records of your actions and symptoms. If you get the injury looked at before making a claim against your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance, be sure to save your doctor’s notes—you may not be able to use them for your initial request, but they can be a useful piece of evidence in a contested case.
When Is It Worth Pursuing a Claim?
In 2007, RSIs consisted of nearly 30% of all workplace injuries that led to an employee missing work to recover. In some cases, the healing process may be relatively swift and inexpensive, resulting in little lost work and low medical bills. In others, an RSI may require surgery and extensive therapy. To file a workers’ compensation claim, you must be able to prove:
- You were injured as a result of work activities
- Your injury led to monetary damages (including missed work, doctor’s bills, etc.)
Though it may not be worth the trouble to hire a lawyer for the costs of one Urgent Care visit and a wrist splint, employees who incur serious expenses may stand to gain much from a workers’ compensation claim.
Can I Actually Win?
Proving an RSI happened as a result of work and not because of other activities or pre-existing conditions may take more evidence than a workers’ compensation claim made after an accident. A lawyer can help you create solid documentation and connect with medical professionals to testify on your behalf. With the help of strong evidence, you are more likely to convince the insurer (or, should they refuse to settle, a jury) your claim is valid.
RSIs Are Common and Costly
If you’re considering pursuing a workers’ compensation suit for an RSI, know that you are not alone. Each year, workers’ compensation insurers pay an average of $20 billion to reimburse employees for medical bills, missed work, and other RSI-related expenses. RSIs aren’t less “real” or important than other injuries just because they’re invisible. If your workplace or occupation is harming you, you deserve compensation.Are you ready to file a claim for your repetitive stress injury? Contact our office online or call (954) 716-8976 for a free consultation and personalized representation.