Many workers’ compensation claims involve a specific injury that results from a single event, but not all do. In fact, many workers’ comp cases involve injuries that occur over a long period of time. These are called cumulative trauma injuries, and they present a particular challenge in the workers’ comp system.
WHAT IS CUMULATIVE TRAUMA?
Cumulative trauma refers to a type of injury that takes place over a period of time, as the result of repetitive movement, overuse, exposure, or excessive stress. These injuries can be musculoskeletal, respiratory, or psychiatric. They are the culmination of factors that may be insignificant on their own but the combined effect over time causes disability or need for medical treatment. Cumulative trauma injuries can happen to workers in any industry, including healthcare, public safety, education, transportation, retail, construction, and hospitality. Examples of cumulative trauma injuries include:
- Tendon disorders, such as tendonitis, bursitis, and tennis elbow
- Nerve disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and Raynaud’s syndrome
- Psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety or PTSD
- Respiratory problems
- Hearing problems
Cumulative trauma cases are notoriously tricky to navigate.
CHALLENGES OF CUMULATIVE TRAUMA CLAIMS FOR WORKER’S COMPENSATION
Working with a knowledgeable and experienced workers’ compensation lawyer is one of the best things you can do to ensure that you receive the benefits you need to cover your medical care and other injury-related expenses. Here are some of the challenges involved:
- INVESTIGATION AND FORMAL JOB ANALYSIS
Your cumulative trauma claim may involve an investigation into your job duties to determine the exact cause of the injury and to justify the claim. It’s important to be honest when questioned, but it’s also important to be very careful with what you say and how you say it. Your employer’s insurance adjuster will be looking for reasons to deny your claim. A workers’ compensation attorney can help guide you so that your case remains strong and you receive the benefits you deserve.
- DATE OF INJURY AND STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
In California, the statute of limitations in a workers’ compensation claim is one year from the date of the job-related illness or injury. If a claim is not filed within that time, it may be denied. But in cases of cumulative trauma, people often don’t know their injury is work-related until years after they stop working. For example, you may not know your back injury is the result of your delivery driver job until after you retire. When you approach your former employer about filing for workers’ compensation, they may tell you it’s too late or their insurance adjuster may deny your claim because it’s outside the statute of limitations. This is wrong.
In a cumulative trauma case, the date of injury is different than the time period of cumulative trauma exposure. The exposure happens during the course of employment, but the one year statute of limitations does not begin until the employee becomes aware of the injury and that it was caused by work. Having a workers’ compensation fighting on your behalf will help ensure that you are not denied your rightful benefits either due to the ignorance of or deliberate deception by your employer and their insurance adjuster.
- OTHER COMPLEXITIES
A workers’ compensation case can be complex even when the injury is the result of a single incident. But in cumulative trauma cases, the complexities can increase exponentially. Because the injury is cumulative, various factors have to be taken into account for the period of exposure. For example, if your employer changed insurance companies or you changed jobs but carried out the same job duties, your workers’ comp claim for cumulative trauma may involve multiple employers and insurance companies. Navigating these complexities on your own would be frustrating and overwhelming, and if you miss important details, it could result in the denial of your claim. A workers’ compensation lawyer will stay on top of the details and ensure that you receive the benefits you need to cover your medical care and other expenses related to your injury.
Employers and their insurance companies will look for any reason to deny your claim. At The Law Office of Matthew Russell, we can help.
HAVE YOU HAD A WORK-RELATED CUMULATIVE TRAUMA INJURY IN SAN DIEGO?
If you have a work-related cumulative trauma injury, you’ll want an experienced workers’ comp lawyer on your side. At The Law Office of Matthew Russell, we’ve dedicated our lives to helping injured workers navigate the complexities of the workers’ comp system and get the benefits they deserve. We’re committed to fighting on behalf of our clients to ensure they receive the best outcomes, and we’ll do the same for you.
Call us today at (619) 528-9800 to schedule your free consultation.