An orthopedic injury is damage to any part of the musculoskeletal system, including muscles, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and surrounding soft tissue. Orthopedic injuries are a common complaint among South Carolina workers. Orthopedic injuries can be caused by repetitive movements, sudden stress such as twisting or jerking or the impact of a fall or being struck by objects.
When a job-related accident or the cumulative effects of your working conditions cause an orthopedic injury that leaves you unable to work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Because orthopedic injuries can also be caused by the wear and tear of age or an active lifestyle, it is not unusual for employers to have to fight for workers’ comp claims for their orthopedic injuries.
Our workers’ compensation attorneys at Joye Law Firm can evaluate your claim and help you appeal a denied workplace injury claim. We know what information is necessary to demonstrate that your injury occurred in the workplace. We can help you line up a second medical evaluation to supplement your medical record, if needed. We will fight for you to receive the full workers’ compensation benefits provided by South Carolina law.
What Are Common Orthopedic Injuries in the Workplace?
Orthopedic injuries in the workplace often are the result of repetitive motions, such as lifting, reaching, pulling, pushing, bending sideways or twisting. They also are caused by sudden trauma, such as falling, slipping without falling, being struck by an object or being caught between equipment or machinery.
Among the most common orthopedic injuries suffered in the workplace are:
Workers most often suffer broken wrists when they reach out to break a fall. The bones in the wrist can also be broken in an accident that causes blunt-force impact or a crushing injury involving equipment and machinery. Surgery may be necessary to stabilize the small bones of the wrist.
The sudden force of violently catching and wrenching one’s arm in an accident can cause the head of the upper arm bone to be pulled out of the shoulder socket. After a doctor puts the bone back into place, the worker may need a splint to immobilize the shoulder joint temporarily. A serious shoulder dislocation can cause damage to major nerves and other soft tissue. Any shoulder dislocation makes future dislocations more likely, particularly if the worker resumes activity too soon.
Stress fractures are small cracks in a bone, often caused by overuse and repetitive activity. They commonly occur in the feet and ankles of workers who stand to perform their jobs. Stress fractures require rest that takes the weight off of the broken bones. Surgery is sometimes necessary to ensure complete healing. It may be recommended for laborers whose work puts pressure on the stress fracture site.
Ankle and foot sprains
Sprains occur when a joint is abruptly twisted or turned, and ligaments are strained or torn. Sprains, which are common injuries, cause swelling and bruising and may make the joint incapable of supporting weight. Most sprains heal with rest, ice and compression, but a torn ligament requires surgery. A sprain is damage to ligaments, which connect bones together. Strains are injury to muscle or tendons, which attach muscles to bones.
Tennis elbow is a painful inflammation of the tendon around the elbow. It is caused by overuse or repetitive motion of muscles in the arm, forearm and hands. Usually rest and pain medication relieve symptoms of tennis elbow. If pain and tenderness persist, surgery could be necessary to repair damage.
The anterior cruciate ligament connects your thigh bone to your shin bone. It is the primary ligament for stabilizing the knee. Abruptly twisting the knee can tear the ACL, which makes standing painful if not impossible. Severe tears require ACL reconstruction surgery, in which the torn ligament is removed and replaced.
The plantar fascia is the ligament attached to the toes and heel of the feet. Too much stress on the plantar fascia causes swelling and typically a stabbing pain in the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. Spending most of your work hours walking or standing on hard surfaces can damage the plantar fascia. Decreased activity and better shoes usually relieve the condition, but ignoring it can lead to chronic heel pain.
Rotator cuff tear
Overuse of the shoulder can damage the rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. This will cause pain and weakness when moving the affected arm or lifting. Workers whose jobs require repeatedly performing overhead motions, such as painters or mechanics, are at higher risk of rotator cuff tears. Usually resting the arm allows the soft tissue to heal and therapeutic exercise strengthens the muscles. Significant tears may require surgery, including the potential need to implant an artificial joint.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Repetitive movement of the hands and arms can cause the ligaments and tendons of the hand to become inflamed. The swelling puts pressure on the median nerve in the wrist and causes pain, numbness and/or tingling in the hand and wrist. The carpal tunnel is the narrow passageway of bones and ligaments around the nerve. Working with vibrating tools, doing data entry or working on an assembly line can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Pain medication, wearing a brace and physical therapy usually relieve the pain.
Cartilage on the knee, called the meniscus, allows the leg to move easily. An awkward movement when the foot is planted can cause the meniscus to tear. Rest and physical therapy are the first options for treatment. A torn meniscus sometimes requires surgical repair.
Obtaining Workers’ Compensation for Orthopedic Injuries
If you have been hurt in an accident at work or you have begun to experience pain that could be signs of a cumulative orthopedic injury, you should seek medical attention right away. A physician can run tests, diagnose your condition and help you determine the cause.
If you are diagnosed with an orthopedic injury related to your job, you should notify your employer right away. Under South Carolina law, you have 90 days to notify your employer of an occupational illness or injury or you could lose your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation insurance pays for all necessary medical treatment of the injury after it has caused you to miss seven days of work. It also pays for physical therapy and assistive devices, as well as a portion of your lost pay.
To be eligible for benefits, your injury must have occurred within the scope of your job. South Carolina defines “course and scope” as a worker’s activity done in furtherance of the interests of their employer.
Your employer and/or their workers’ comp insurance carrier may balk at paying for medical care for your orthopedic injury. Because orthopedic injuries can also be caused by the natural wear and tear of aging, the insurance company may argue that your injury is not an occupational injury and therefore does not qualify for workers’ comp coverage. In South Carolina, your employer can require you to see a doctor chosen by the employer for a workers’ comp claim. The acceptance or denial of your claim may rest on the doctor’s decision.
If you get workers’ comp for an orthopedic injury, the insurer may try to force you back to work too soon, which could exacerbate your injury. The physician assigned to your workers’ comp case could declare you recovered and ready to return to work despite your pain.
Our workers’ compensation attorneys at Joye Law Firm can help make sure you obtain all of the benefits you are due. We can review the circumstances of your orthopedic injury and make sure that your workers’ compensation application documents your eligibility for benefits. If necessary, we can refer you for a second-opinion examination with an orthopedist. We’ll use our knowledge of South Carolina workers’ comp system to help identify the connection between your injury and workplace activity.
If your claim has already been denied, we can appeal the decision for you. If your case warrants a third-party claim against someone other than your employer who caused your injury, our personal injury lawyers can vigorously pursue that compensation for you, too.
Joye Law Firm had a firm record of five lawyers recognized in the 2021 edition of The Best Lawyers in America in the area Workers’ Compensation – Claimants. Attorney Ken Harrell, the managing partner of Joye Law Firm, was recognized by The Best Lawyers in America as the 2021 “Lawyer of the Year” in the category of Workers’ Compensation – Claimants for Charleston. John Roxon, of our Myrtle Beach office, and Sydney Lynn, of our Columbia office, were among those listed.
Contact a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Joye Law Firm can help you deal with the complex process of pursuing workers compensation benefits after an orthopedic injury on the job.