Repetitive Motion Injury and Workers’ Compensation Claims
The majority of employees who suffer a job injury or develop an occupational illness are entitled to workers’ compensation in South Carolina. But some mistakenly believe that workers’ comp benefits are only available to those who are injured in an emergency situation, such as a slip and fall accident. Workers’ compensation is also possible for repetitive motion injuries.
Repetitive motion injuries (also called repetitive trauma or repetitive stress injuries) are the result of damage to parts of the body that perform the same movements over and over again. These types of injuries can make it difficult or even impossible for workers to do their jobs without proper medical treatment.
Because repetitive motion injuries are less visible, employees sometimes struggle to get the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve. If you have a repetitive stress workplace injury, don’t give up on benefits without a fight. A South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney at Stewart Law Offices can help.
Call us today or fill out a contact form for a free consultation.
What is a Repetitive Motion Injury?
Joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are found throughout the entire body. When these parts are used repeatedly in a specific way, the stress can cause damage over time. This is known as a repetitive motion injury.
Repetitive stress injuries occur in all types of work environments. Whether you work on a construction site or in an office, the nature of your job duties could put you at risk of a repetitive motion injury.
Symptoms do not appear automatically. In fact, they develop so gradually that employees may not even connect them with their jobs until the pain becomes unbearable and they can no longer work.
Examples of Repetitive Motion Injuries
The most common forms of repetitive motion injuries include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: This is the most well-known repetitive motion injury. Carpal tunnel syndrome causes tingling, pain, and numbness in the wrist. It’s caused by regularly flexing or stressing the fingers and wrists over an extended period of time. The syndrome is most commonly associated with office workers that spend long hours typing.
- Tendonitis: Tendons have covers, or sheaths, that are composed of thin tissue that allows the tendons to slide within them. When these sheaths become inflamed, the tendons can no longer move in the way they are intended. Jobs that require hammering or the use of other power tools can cause tendonitis in the shoulder and arms.
- Neuritis: Inflammation of the nerves is called neuritis. Aside from pain, neuritis can cause impaired sensation, such as numbness or hypersensitivity.
- Myositis: Muscle tissue can also become irritated, resulting in myositis. Myositis can cause involuntary cramping and spasms of muscles that are used day after day at work.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome: Also called TOS, this injury refers to a number of symptoms caused by the compression of the brachial plexus nerve. The brachial plexus nerve is a network of nerves in the arm. Workers who perform repetitive motions in the upper body can develop TOS. Unfortunately, surgery does not always work to repair TOS due to irreversible nerve damage, according to a study reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
- Fibromyalgia: One of the most difficult workplace illnesses to diagnose, fibromyalgia causes pain all over the body without an apparent a physical or psychological cause. There is no single test to confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which means that many valid workers’ compensation claims are disputed or denied. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer strives to overcome these challenges to secure benefits for deserving employees.
- Herniated discs: Also known as a protruded disc or slipped disc, this repetitive motion injury is one of the most common injuries to the spine. Herniated discs are extremely painful, often require bed rest, and can take months to recover from.
What Can Cause a Repetitive Motion Injury?
Certain activities place a person at greater risk for sustaining a repetitive motion injury, including:
- Maintaining the same posture for a long period of time, such as sitting at a desk for several hours every day
- Maintaining an abnormal posture for long periods of time, such as holding an object over the head regularly or bending up and down to move items
- Regularly lifting heavy objects
Pre-existing conditions and prior injuries can also make a person more susceptible to sustaining a repetitive motion injury. For example, a person that has torn their rotator cuff playing golf may later sustain a repetitive motion injury in the shoulder because of the previous trauma. The good news is that you may still be able to get workers’ compensation for an aggravated injury.
Along with pre-existing conditions and previous injuries, certain occupations also put a person at higher risk for a repetitive motion injury. Those occupations include dental hygienists, construction workers that use power tools, cooks, cleaners, and bus drivers.
How to Prove an Injury Occurred at Work
Employees that are injured at work have the right to file a claim for workers’ compensation. But unfortunately, simply stating that your injury occurred at work is not enough. You must prove it. An attorney can help gather the evidence you need to support your claim, such as:
- Medical records with statements from doctors that your repetitive motion injury is work-related
- Images of your injuries, such as X-rays, MRIs, and PET scans
- Photos of your workplace, such as the desk, chair, and keyboard you use regularly
- Eyewitness reports from coworkers and others that can testify to the type of work you perform on a daily basis
- Time clock records showing how often you were required to perform the task that caused your repetitive motion injury
- Maintenance reports pertaining to any equipment that could explain your injury, such as a chair that did not properly support you or lack of ergonomic support devices, such as wrist guards
- A copy of the formal report you submitted to your employer
It’s important to seek a workers’ compensation attorney’s help when applying for repetitive motion injury benefits. Repetitive stress claims have only been accepted by the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission for about 18 years — not a long time considering the commission was first established 85 years ago.
What Employees Should Know About Workers’ Comp in South Carolina
Here are the basics you need to know about South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws:
- Coverage: Workers’ compensation benefits cover your medical expenses and a portion of your lost income. Workers’ comp does not provide compensation for pain and suffering, and you will only receive compensation if your repetitive motion injury was caused by performing duties within the scope of your job. Workers’ compensation will also cover travel costs if you must travel more than 10 miles (round-trip) for medical appointments.
- The no-fault clause: Like most other states, workers’ comp is a no-fault system. This means that even if your carelessness contributed to the injury, you can still file a claim and receive benefits. You cannot, however, sue your employer for the injury.
- The insurance company pays, not your employer: Most employers in South Carolina are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. As such, it is the insurer that provides compensation, not your employer.
- Who is covered: Most employees are covered by workers’ comp in South Carolina, with certain exceptions. These include companies with fewer than four employees, who have a payroll of less than $3,000, agricultural workers, some realtors, railroad employees, corporate offices, and federal employees.
- Reporting the injury: South Carolina has very specific rules to follow when filing a workers’ comp claim. You must inform your employer in writing within 90 days and keep a copy of the notification. Your employer will then provide you with a form to complete. Once you do, your employer will send it to the insurance company. Act quickly — you will forfeit your right to workers’ compensation if you miss the 90-day deadline.
- Retaliation: In South Carolina, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for filing a workers’ compensation claim. When an employer takes retaliatory measures, such as firing you or demoting you after you file your claim, you can take legal action against them.
- Light duty: Your doctor may recommend that you return to light-duty work at your place of employment. For example, if the repetitive motion injury is in your back, the doctor may recommend that you do not perform manual labor but instead perform administrative work at a desk. You can still receive compensation while performing this light-duty work, but if you refuse, you may forfeit your benefits. You can also return to light-duty work without the recommendation of your doctor, but you will receive less in compensation for your wages.
- Duration: You can continue receiving workers’ compensation as long as your doctor says that you are unable to work. After your doctor clears you, you must return to work or you will lose your benefits.
- Appeals: If you have already applied for benefits and were denied, you can appeal the decision to the state Workers’ Compensation Commission. Although a lawyer is not required to represent you at hearings, it’s highly recommended that you consult with one before undertaking the appeals process alone.
It’s important to understand your rights and obligations under South Carolina workers’ compensation law to improve your chances of obtaining maximum compensation.
When to Contact a Repetitive Motion Injury Lawyer
If you’re suffering from a repetitive trauma injury, you may feel hesitant about reporting the injury to your employer. You may not even know whether you qualify for workers’ compensation. These are all good reasons to speak with an accomplished repetitive motion injury lawyer.
Other times you should consult a lawyer include when:
- The insurance company has denied your claim.
- The insurer is disputing your permanent disability status.
- You have a pre-existing condition.
- You are having trouble getting the treatment you need.
- Your ability to work in the future has been affected.
- You are receiving other government benefits, such as Social Security Disability benefits.
- You need to attend a workers’ compensation hearing.
All of these situations add layers of complexity to workers’ compensation claims that can prevent workers from getting treatment they desperately need.
Get Legal Help Now
You don’t have to suffer from your repetitive motion injury in silence. Put Stewart Law Offices to work for you. Our law firm has been providing top-quality legal services to clients in the Carolinas for decades.
When you work with us, you’ll get a legal team that is committed to working towards the best possible results in your case. We know how important it is to get you back to work as soon as possible. But that shouldn’t mean you miss out on benefits that you are entitled to by law.
No matter where you are in the workers’ comp process, our lawyers can help. We can help you apply for benefits and collect the information you need to put the best claim forward. If you’ve already applied for benefits and are facing challenges from the insurer, we can work with them to address disputes in an effort to get you paid as quickly as possible.
In addition, we can help you prepare for appeals before the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission and represent you during all proceedings.
Call Stewart Law Offices today or fill out our online contact form to arrange a free consultation.