Are Repetitive Stress Injuries Such As Carpal Tunnel Eligible For Workers' Comp?

Repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome caused by repetitive use of a keyboard and mouse or any other repetitive motion are becoming more and more common in the workplace.  The issue with respect to repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome is determining whether it was caused in the workplace or a non-work-related activity. The employee has the burden of proving the injury was work-related.

Causes of Repetative Stress Inuries

Typing and using a mouse while on a computer is the most common and well-known form of repetitive stress injury.  However, repetitive stress injuries can develop from a wide variety of other workplace activities, including:

  • Tasks that require frequent carrying or lifting
  • The frequent lifting and carrying done by nurses and other health care workers
  • Repetitive motion like that of a grocery store cashier
  • The use of vibrating equipment like a jackhammer
  • Printers or office support staff that do a high level of printing and copying
  • And many more…

Factors that impact your workers’ comp claim for a repetitive stress injury

Many factors will be analyzed by the workers’ compensation insurer to determine if it was a work-related injury. They will look at the employees’ second job if they have one to see if that job also requires them to make repetitive movements. They will look at activities the employee may do outside of work; gaming, for example, requires many repetitive movements similar to using a keyboard and mouse.  In both of those examples, the insurance company could argue that carpal tunnel syndrome developed because of those activities the employee engaged in outside of work.  Suppose the employee has a pre-existing health condition like arthritis. In that case, they may argue the injury occurred in the past and was not a result of activity at the current employer.

With all that being said, these types of repetitive motion injuries can and often do qualify for workers’ compensation. These injuries generally fall into three categories: repetitive stress injury, overuse injury, or repetitive strain injury and are classified as cumulative trauma disorders. These cumulative trauma disorders category can also include things like hearing loss as well.

Repetitive Stress Injury Symptoms

With an acute injury, it is usually easy to see the symptoms, and the cause is usually more evident. However, with a repetitive stress injury, the symptoms are generally not visible and often occur slowly and can also come and go with what seems like no pattern. Symptoms of repetitive stress injuries can include restricted range of motion, tingling, numbness, and a decrease in strength.

Documentation Of Your Injury And Symptoms Is Essential

In order to file a workers’ comp claim for a repetitive motion injury, documentation is critical. As soon as you start having symptoms document them each time and include details about when the symptoms occur and the specific circumstances at work when they occur. As we have discussed before, documentation is an essential part of a successful workers comp claim. If you have this type of injury, it is also important to see a doctor right away. The quicker your diagnosis and treatment begin, the better your workers’ comp case and recovery from the injury.

The Park Avenue Traum team is experienced with repetitive stress injuries and can help you with diagnosis, recovery, and documentation for your workers’ comp case.

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