Florida Repetitive Motion Injuries Attorney
Injuries that occur due to repetitive stress or cumulative trauma, including carpal tunnel syndrome and lumbar back disorders, make up one of the biggest categories of workers’ compensation claims in Florida. They are also one of the most often disputed by the insurance companies of all types of workers’ compensation injuries. But just because they are so often disputed does not make them any less real. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), repetitive motion musculoskeletal disorders make up over one-third of all worker injuries and illnesses.
The existence of a repetitive motion injury is harder to prove than a broken bone or bleeding wound from a fall, machine malfunction or other obvious accident. These injuries also often require surgeries and extensive rehabilitation that insurers don’t want to pay for. These facts add up to a dangerous combination for any workers’ compensation claimant who is concerned about getting paid. At Kobal Law, our Tampa workers’ compensation attorney has 18 years of experience helping injured workers in Florida get their workers’ comp benefits. We can help you with any type of work injury, including those caused by repetitive motion and cumulative trauma.
Why are repetitive motion injury claims so difficult to prove?
Florida workers’ compensation law requires an employer to pay compensation or furnish benefits after an accidental injury arising out of work performed in the course and scope of employment. The law clearly defines an accident as “only an unexpected or unusual event or result that happens suddenly.” This would seem to exclude repetitive motion injuries from coverage. However, that same law does specifically address cases involving “occupational disease or repetitive exposure.” These types of injuries can be compensable with workers’ compensation benefits, but the employee’s claim must be supported by “clear and convincing evidence.” Clear and convincing evidence is a legal term. It is a higher standard than is required in most civil matters, where a fact need only be proven by a “preponderance of the evidence.” A preponderance of the evidence means that the evidence weighs more in favor of the fact being true than not true. Evidence that is “clear and convincing” that a fact is true is a higher standard that is more difficult to meet.
A worker injured by cumulative trauma must prove by clear and convincing evidence not only that the repeated motion caused the injury or disease but also that the worker was subjected to sufficient exposure to cause the injury or disease. Not all workers’ compensation attorneys are experienced in repetitive motion injuries and are prepared to prove these facts according to a high legal standard.
How do repetitive motion injuries happen?
Our bodies are flexible and capable of an infinite array of movements and activities, but they have their limits. Body parts such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, joints, discs and nerves can all be damaged if pushed beyond their capacity. This can happen from overexertion or repetitive movements performed for longer than our bodies were designed to do them. Repetitive motion disorders are also called repetitive strain injuries or ergonomic injuries, because the stress put on bodily systems or the way work tasks are performed can be the cause of injury. The most common types of repetitive motion injuries include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition is caused by pinching or compression of the median nerve in the wrist, due to inflammation in the surrounding tissue. Carpal tunnel syndrome is painful and if left untreated can lead to loss of feeling and function in the fingers and hand. Workers who use a keyboard, mouse or touchscreen all day are at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, as are workers on assembly lines and machine workers.
- Lumbar back injury. Constant heavy lifting can lead to back injury over time, including a herniated disc. Being forced to stand in the same position or an awkward position for a long period of time can also cause injury. Heavy lifting over time can also cause a hernia which may need a surgical repair. These injuries can be avoided if workers are provided with the proper protective equipment and safe workplace practices.
- Tendinitis. Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon caused by the repeated rubbing of the tendon against bone. Tears to the tendon can also occur that may require surgery to repair. Performing a repetitive task like swinging a hammer puts one at risk at tendonitis. Tendonitis most commonly afflicts the fingers, wrists and arms and legs but can occur in other parts of the body.
- Bursitis. Spaces between bones or tendons and skin are protected by bursae, which are fluid-filled sacs that cushion the areas. Overuse causes the bursa to be inflamed, which leads to stiffness, pain and a loss in mobility or range of motion. If left untreated, bursitis will only worsen.
Unfortunately for the injured worker, many of these injuries and illnesses can also be the product of a pre-existing condition or a cause that is not work-related, such as arthritis or degenerative disc disease. Insurance companies often seize on this fact to dispute that the injury is work-related. Older workers, in particular, have a more difficult time with claims based on repetitive motion injuries. It is important to know that even a pre-existing condition can be aggravated by workplace activity, and if the connection can be proven, any acceleration or aggravation of the disease caused by work is compensable with workers’ compensation benefits.
At Kobal Law, we gather all the facts and medical evidence to prove the connection between work and injury. Our experience with these types of claims means that we are ready to prove your case even if it means taking on the insurance company before a workers’ comp judge or in court.
The Help You Need with Repetitive Motion Injury WC Claims in Tampa
If your workers’ comp claim involves a challenging area such as a repetitive motion injury, be sure and contact an experienced and successful workers’ compensation lawyer for help with your claim. In Tampa, call Kobal Law at 813-873-2440 for a free consultation.