Many jobs put workers at risk for repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis (including "tennis elbow"), tenosynovitis (inclueding "DeQuarvain's Tenosynovitis" - a painful wrist condition on the thumb side caused by repetitive work activity), radial neuritis, ulnar neuritis, median neuritis, and a host of other conditions.
Even injuries dismissed by workers' compensation doctors or insurance company doctors as mere "degenerative" conditions can often be linked to repeated strains in the work force.
Employers and workers' compensation insurance companies fight these claims tooth and nail. They line up doctors who claim to be experts on carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive strain conditions, never feel there is enough repetition, nor enough strain, in your particular job, for the cause of your injury to be work-related. This will be true even if you have a highly repetitive, high strain job, and even if your symptoms came on strictly at work.
This can leave you, the injured worker, suffering from the very serious effects of a repetitive strain injury, without the ability to effectively do your work, but also with no ability to get the problem properly addressed by medical treatment. This horribly unfair scenario is repeated again and again for workers in jobs that put them at risk for such injuries, whether it office work with a keyboard and mouse, shop work with vibratory power tools or hand tools, factory work, or pulling and packing orders. Many jobs create repetitive strain injuries, and the employers in these fields become very savvy about how to deprive employees of their workers' compensation rights.
When you have this kind of an injury, you need a smart, aggressive lawyer on your side, helping you to make the right moves to get around the employer or insurance carrier's attempts to manipulate your rights.
Don't take their word for it when they tell you to go to your family doctor and claim that the injury is non-work-related. Seeking treatment for a work-related repetitive strain injury without immediately standing up for your workers' compensation rights can very seriously prejudice your rights. At a minimum, you would loose the chance to be paid under the Workers' Compensation Act for time lost due to your injury or for needed surgery or treatment.
Much worse, when the employer recognizes you have a repetitive strain type problem, which they know can be made worse by your work, they will often look for ways to end your employment before they become responsible for your condition. If you treat for that condition as if it is non-work-related, they may soon find fault with your job performance or fire you for a small infraction. Employers who have seen these claims often regard this as the best insurance, since if the employee later tries to pursue a claim after being let go, the employer can argue that wage loss is unrelated to any injury (since you had already lost your wages when fired for, say, being late). Meanwhile, they argue that the fired former employee has no true work-related injury and is simply lashing out after losing their job. More often, the employer simply gets away the tactic and the injured worker is doubly harmed.
Flipping this scenario on its head, a worker who pursues his repetitive strain injury as work-related may actually be protected against being fired. The employer will often be advised by the workers' compensation insurance company that it is better to keep the employee at work in "light duty" than to fire an employee who is claiming limitations due to a work injury, since such a firing in that situation actually strengthens the injured worker's claim for benefits. The very fact of pursuing your work injury claim can protect your job while you secure the medical support you need to prove your claim and get the workers' compensation benefits you deserve.
We also strongly advise injured workers not to suffer in silence once diagnosed with a work injury. This is particularly true with injuries involving repetitive strain. When you are diagnosed with something like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, failing to timely pursue that injury as a work-related claim may block you from making the case later. You may think you are avoiding strife at work by trying to live with the condition, but failing to report such a condition as work-related can have severe consequences. The insurance carrier's workers' compensation adjuster will reject your later claim on "notice" grounds if you fail to report it immediately or if you avoid following through under the Act. While we can sometimes find ways around such obstacles, we warn injured workers that these claims are far stronger when they are pursued without delay.
Also, you run the risk that while you are trying to avoid a confrontation with your employer by not pushing your repetitive strain injury as work-related, you can again fall into the trap where the employer terminates your employment before the claim is brought, helping them and hurting you. This can happen even without the employer being aware of your injury or diagnosis, either because the employer lets you go as they see your productivity and work abilities decline, or simply due to a simple economic downturn.
If you already know you have a problem, and you did not give your employer timely notice of your work-related repetitive strain diagnosis, it may not be too late. While it is far better to immediately report an injury at the time the condition arises, we can often argue that every day you continue working in a repetitive and/or straining job you are making your injury worse. This means that every day of employment, right up to the last day you are able to work with your injury, can be considered a new "date of injury" for workers' compensation purposes where the injury is a cumulative or repetitive strain.
Call us to discuss your condition, how it came about, and the work you do. We will help you to understand all of your options under your specific circumstances.
We hope to hear from you.