When you think of workers’ compensation, you most likely imagine an isolated but devastating event. This could be an employee who falls from scaffolding and incurs traumatic brain injury, or someone who loses a limb to a gruesome machinery accident. Or maybe it’s a worker who slips on a wet factory floor and breaks a bone or two.
You probably don’t picture a data entry operator, bookkeeper, or customer service rep who sits behind a computer all day. After all, what kind of injury could befall an office worker in a comfortable, ergonomic chair?
A repetitive strain injury, that’s what kind. Read on to learn what constitutes this type of injury and whether or not it’s covered by workers’ compensation.
What Is a Repetitive Stress or Repetitive Strain Injury?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is probably the best-known kind of repetitive strain injury. Also known as overuse injury, there are many different types of this kind of injury. In essence, any motion or movement that a worker makes over and over again can lead to injury in time.
People who work on assembly lines are particularly prone to these injuries. These jobs generally involve performing the same action repeatedly. Yet there’s been an upswing in technology—and our reliance on it—over the past few decades. That has led to a corresponding increase in repetitive stress injuries among office workers as well.
What Type of Repetitive Strain Injuries Are There?
There are many different types of injuries the body may incur from repetitive stressful actions. Hands, elbows, and shoulders are the most common locations affected by this type of injury, but any area of the body may be affected, such as the knees, hips, or back.
The bulk of these injuries occur to the hand. It makes sense because the hand itself is an incredibly complex system of muscles, tendons, nerves, and over 25 bones. This enables us to perform intricate, delicate actions that machines can’t. But the very complexity of the human hand also makes it prone to repetitive injury.
For example, De Quervain syndrome was first described way back in 1895. However, it has become much more common recently, thanks to our use of smartphones and other electronic devices. This is inflammation of the two tendons involved in controlling movement of the thumb, and it can result in wrist pain.
Are These Injuries Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?
Workers who suffer injuries as a result of repetitive movements can qualify for workers’ compensation. However, the burden of proof is on the affected worker and their attorney.
In one-time incidents, a workplace accident is clearly linked to a particular injury. In repetitive strain injuries, it’s up to the defendant to prove the correlation.
How to Proceed
Your best bet, if you feel that you are developing a repetitive strain injury, is to talk to your employer as soon as possible. They may be able to take steps to prevent the problem from developing further.
Has the injury already progressed to the point that it’s affecting your life and your livelihood? Then you will need to apply for workers’ compensation. To make sure your claim is processed correctly and you get all of the benefits you are entitled to contact an attorney who specializes in this field of law.
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