Can I get Workers' Compensation for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

People frequently ask us, "Can I get workers' compensation for carpal tunnel syndrome?"

The most common work injury scenario goes something like, “I was lifting a box and my back went out.” That type of injury is a readily identifiable, distinct event. For carpal tunnel syndrome, the story changes. Maybe you've just been typing all day, every day, for thirty years.

Many injuries can’t be traced to a specific event. It is well known medically that performing the same, repetitive tasks for weeks, months, or even years can cause excessive wear on body parts. The most common example is carpal tunnel syndrome, which is a painful condition involving the wrist. We have seen this work injury in a wide variety of settings including such diverse occupations as sorting clothes in a laundry or operating a coil winding machine in a shop.

One of the most confusing questions involving repetitive motion injuries is what date your injury occurred.

While workman’s comp insurance companies will often assign an injury date based upon when the injury was reported, this is not proper in the case of a repetitive motion injury. Under Pennsylvania law, each day of work is considered a new injury; the date of injury is the last day of work. This date is sort of a legal fiction, seeing as repetitive motion injuries occur over time—not on a specific date.

This can be extremely important in the typical case where the employee thinks “I can just work through this” and never reports and injury. Then, one day, the pain becomes so severe that they are unable to work and perhaps surgery is even necessary. Since, by law in Pennsylvania, a worker has 120 days from the date of injury to make a report, establishing the date of injury as the last day of work can be very important in assuring that the reporting requirement has been adhered to.

What if I notice the pain at home instead of at work?

One interesting aspect of repetitive motion injuries or overuse injuries is that the actual disabling event need not occur at work to be compensable under workers’ compensation. While carpal tunnel syndrome may be the best known example of repetitive motion injuries, there are many others. We have seen a number of cases over the years where a worker who engages in heavy lifting over a long period of time suffers a herniated disc at home. Of course the workers’ compensation insurance company will deny a claim such as this on the basis that it did not occur at work. However, with the proper development of medical evidence and an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, it may be possible to obtain workers’ compensation benefits (including benefits for lost wages) for injuries which seemingly occurred at home, but were caused by repetitive work activities.

Will I need a lawyer to get workers' compensation for my carpal tunnel?

This short article can’t possibly cover every situation. If you're suffering from a repetitive motion injury like carpal tunnel, and you believe it's from your work, you need a lawyer. That is why we are always happy to discuss the circumstances of your work injury with no cost or obligation.

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