Your Rights to Workers’ Compensation When You Suffer an Injury Over Time
When workers are hurt at work and need to file a workers’ compensation claim, there are two main types of injuries they will have suffered. The first is the one most workers may think of—a specific injury. For example, a worker may fall off a ladder and suffer broken bones or carry something that is too heavy that causes an immediate back injury. However, the second type of injury—cumulative injury—is just as common. In New Jersey, cumulative injuries are recognized to the same extent as specific injuries under workers’ compensation laws, and workers are entitled to the same benefits as if they suffered a specific injury.
What Is a Cumulative Injury?
Cumulative injuries are injuries that occur over time. They can be the result of repeated movements, exposures, or events at a workplace. These are a newer type of workers’ compensation claim that is increasingly being filed by workers. These injuries generally will fall into one of these categories:
- Cumulative trauma injuries. These are often injuries caused by repetitive movements over time. For example, a worker could be required to use his hands and wrists continuously while working at a computer or a cash register and develop carpel tunnel syndrome. Heavy lifting day after day can cause a worker to suffer back pain and other back injuries that are made worse by the continual lifting.
- Cumulative exposure injuries. These injuries are caused by exposure to toxic substances, such as hazardous chemicals or asbestos, or conditions like loud noises over time. These can lead to occupational illnesses, such as cancer—often life-threatening—or loss of hearing. Sometimes the diseases will not develop until years after the exposure, making it more challenging to prove that it was caused by the employee’s job.
- Cumulative psychological trauma. Workers can also develop cumulative psychological injuries when they are exposed to stress at work on a repeated basis. They may truly enjoy their jobs, but still experience psychological stress. This can cause workers to suffer serious mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, stomach problems, or ulcers.
Work-Related Activities That Result in Cumulative Injuries
Often people associate repetitive motions and injuries with workers in offices, but the reality is that workers in many professions engage in repetitive motions. Retail workers, truck drivers and other drivers, warehouse workers, factory workers, construction workers, and mechanics are just a few of the employees who suffer these injuries. Examples of movement or other work-related activities that cause cumulative injuries include:
- Heavy lifting, pulling, or pushing of materials
- Forceful hand movements
- Remaining in awkward positions while working
- Engaging in repetitive movements over lengthy periods of time
- Using vibrating tools and equipment
- Using non-ergonomic tools
- Sitting or standing for extended periods of time
- Exposure to loud noises over a period of time
- Being in a stressful work environment
- Working with or around toxic chemicals or other hazardous substances
What Are Cumulative Injuries That You Could Suffer at Your Job?
Cumulative injuries can cause a worker to suffer chronic pain and limitations in movement. In some instances, he may not fully recover from his injuries, resulting in him being unable to perform his former job duties—or becoming permanently disabled. Common cumulative injuries include:
- Carpel tunnel syndrome or other hand or wrist injuries
- Tennis elbow
- Herniated disc or other degenerative disc disease
- Rotator cuff tears and injuries
- Back and neck nerve damage
- Spinal injuries
- Tendon or ligament damage to the knees, elbows, shoulders, back, or neck
- Hearing loss
- Respiratory problems, such as asthma or emphysema
- Cancer and other occupational illnesses
- Blood pressure problems
- Anxiety, depression, and other psychological problems
- Aggravation of prior injuries or medical conditions
An Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney Is a Must When Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim for Cumulative Injuries
Because cumulative injuries occur over an extended period of time, it can be much harder to prove that they were caused by a person’s job. As a result, employers and their insurance companies tend to fight harder to deny or reduce these claims for workers’ compensation benefits. If you suffered one of these injuries and hope to receive what you deserve, you need an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you build your case and negotiate your settlement. To learn how Manfred Ricciardelli can help you, call our office today to schedule a free consultation.