Q Am I entitled to workers’ comp benefits if I suffer a hernia?
A hernia is a common medical problem, but surprisingly complicated if it is caused by something you did at your job and you must file a workers’ compensation claim. New Jersey has its own special rules for filing a claim for benefits when you suffer a hernia. Here, we discuss what you need to know so that your claim for benefits is successful.
What Is a Hernia?
A hernia happens when an organ, such as the intestines, or fatty tissue is pushed through a tear or weak spot in surrounding muscle tissue in some part of a person’s body. The bulge that is created can be painful when a person coughs, bends down, or lifts anything. There are many types of hernias, but the most common ones include the following:
- Inguinal hernia. A groin hernia is by far the most common type of hernia, and men are more likely to suffer with it than women. It can occur on either side of the pubic bone and is more obvious when a person is upright.
- Umbilical hernia. A hernia where the belly button protrudes is often a condition suffered by children at birth. However, if this area is weaker, an adult can experience an umbilical hernia when there is a strain on these weakened abdominal walls.
- Hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach pushes into the diaphragm, and it may occur at the small opening in the diaphragm into the esophagus.
What Are Symptoms of a Hernia?
There are a number of warning signs of a hernia, including the following:
- Bulge or lump in the affected area
- Pain or discomfort where the hernia has developed, especially when coughing, lifting, or bending
- Weakness or pressure in the abdomen
- Burning, gurgling, or aching feelings at the location of the hernia
In some cases where a person cannot push the hernia in, the contents of the hernia can become incarcerated in the abdominal wall. This can result in strangulation where the blood flow is cut off to the tissue trapped in the abdominal wall. This condition can be life-threating if it is not quickly treated. Symptoms of this condition include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sudden and increasing pain
- Bulging hernia that is red, purple, or dark in color
- Inability to move the bowels or pass gas
Treatment for a hernia often involves surgery that can be either an open hernia repair or a laparoscopy, which is a much less invasive procedure to push the hernia back into the abdomen and reinforce the weakened area with mesh.
What Are the Causes of Hernias?
Hernias occur for many different reasons, and some can be work-related. Both adults and children can develop a hernia. Common causes include:
- Any activity that increases pressure on the abdomen wall
- A pre-existing weak spot in the abdominal wall or a combination of this with an activity increasing pressure on the abdomen wall
- Straining during a bowel movement
- Chronic coughing
- Heavy lifting
New Jersey’s Rules for Entitlement to Workers’ Compensation Benefits for a Hernia
In New Jersey, one of the most important rules that you must understand when filing a claim for benefits for a hernia is the time limit to report your hernia to your employer. You must report your hernia to your employer within 48 hours of the occurrence of your hernia. Saturday, Sunday, and holidays are not included in the 48-hour reporting period. If you fail to do so, you would not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. To protect yourself, you should give the notice in writing and keep a copy of it for your records.
Assuming you comply with the notice requirement, you could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if you can prove that your hernia was caused during the course of your employment. This is true whether your hernia was a sudden occurrence or developed over time due to duties you performed, such as heavy lifting or other exertional activities that put pressure on your abdominal wall.
Did you suffer a hernia at work? The insurance company for your employer may argue that you are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits because it was a pre-existing condition or the result of an injury not related to your job. You need an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you fight for the benefits you deserve. To schedule a free consultation to learn how I can assist you, start an online chat today.