For many people, the idea of a work-related injury involves hurting your back while lifting a heavy object, falling on a wet floor in a factory or breaking an arm when an object falls from a rack of heavy items in a warehouse. All of these mishaps certainly qualify as work-related injuries and are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Occupational Safety and Health, 33% of all workers’ injury and illness cases in 2018 were caused by repetitive strain injuries, also known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Why the sudden shift away from the more violent episodes of being hurt on the job mentioned above? Fewer and fewer Americans work on shop factory floors, and more and more work in cubicles in front of a computer monitor or in a service business where performing a repetitive motion is increasingly part of the job. As a result, more people are filing for workers’ compensation benefits as a result of a repetitive stress injury.
Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are often called overuse injuries or cumulative trauma, although the latter category also includes other injuries that may develop over time from repeated exposure to things like loud noises resulting in hearing loss.
In the beginning, you may not have any real symptoms, or you may only notice pain or tingling when doing one particular motion or taking a particular posture. Unless treated relatively early, RSIs can be injuries that affect a person for a great deal of time. Over time, the following symptoms will develop in the areas of your body where an RSI has developed:
- tingling and numbness in distal extremities
- tenderness and pain on the site of the injury
- loss of strength and an inability to grip objects or form a fist
- a reduced range of motion
RSIs develop over time. You must notify your employer as soon as you believe you have a repetitive stress injury. One important reason for doing this is that if you are forced to take time off work to recover, workers’ compensation will normally cover you from the moment you believe you have the condition, and reporting it to your employer helps establish that date. Generally, this is the last date you performed your job that caused injury before you had any work restrictions.
You must report your injury to your employer within 120 days of realizing that you have a repetitive stress injury. You then have three years from the date that you started to experience some disability caused by the RSI — such as requiring medical care or missing work — to file a workers’ compensation claim. While you cannot file a workers’ compensation claim for a repetitive motion injury suffered at a previous job, you can file one if you had an RSI in the past and recovered, but the situation has become bad again due to a work-related activity at your new job.
To receive repetitive motion injury coverage, you need proof of your injury. In most workers’ compensation cases involving RSI, the burden of proof is on the employee to show that a repetitive activity associated with their job led to them developing an RSI. In New York, repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome are considered workplace injuries. As a result, if your claim is denied by your employer, and you ask for a hearing from the Workers’ Compensation Commission, your burden of proof is lower. You need to prove your injuries are “more likely than not” to have occurred on the job.
In New York, you are required to receive treatment for the first 90 days from a physician on your employer’s list of designated physicians. If your employer does not tell you that you need to do this, then they are responsible for paying for the medical care that you receive from your own doctor for the first 90 days. After 90 days, you can use any doctor you wish.
Medical Bills: Any medical bills acquired in the course of treatment for your RSI will be paid until you are healed or a doctor has determined that you have recovered enough to return to work, often with some form of restrictions. This is another good reason to work with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney – as we noted above, employers will do anything they can to either prevent you from claiming workers’ compensation for an RSI or limit the amount of time that they are forced to provide for your medical bills.
Temporary Disability Benefits: If an RSI prevents you from performing your normal duties on the job and you are forced to miss time at work, you may be entitled to receive temporary disability benefits to cover any wages you may have lost. It is important to note that these payments are not available immediately in most cases, but only after you miss several days of work as a result of your injury.
In New York, benefits for lost wages are calculated based on what is known as the average weekly wage. Normally you will receive 66 percent of the amount that you earned before you suffered your injury. There are maximums to the benefits, so a highly paid worker will often receive less than 66 percent. Some other exceptions also apply. It is important to speak to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help you determine the benefits to which you are eligible for lost wages.
Permanent Disability Benefits: If your injury is so severe that it is impossible for you to recover completely, you may be eligible to receive permanent disability benefits. Another possibility is that your employer can make changes to your job so that you will no longer have to repeat the activities that led to the RSI. If that is not possible, workers’ compensation will provide benefits for vocational training so that you may learn skills for a new job.
At HURT-511, our personal injury lawyers help injured workers recover the benefits to which they are entitled by law. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, call us toll-free at 800-4878-511 or complete our online form. Our firm handles accident and injury claims throughout all five boroughs of New York.
HURT-511 operates in all boroughs of New York including all Bronx neighborhoods, namely: Bedford Park, Belmont, Fordham, Highbridge, Hunts Point, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge, Morris Park, Morrisania, Mott Haven, Parkchester, Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, Throgs Neck, University Heights and Woodlawn.