Many work injuries are caused by an accident or other traumatic events, such as a slip and fall, a vehicle accident, an equipment malfunction, or another incident. However, many work-related injuries are caused by gradual damage to the body over time. These kinds of injuries can arise when workers repeat the same motion over and over, or through the slow build-up of bodily trauma from different work activities.
Repetitive trauma injuries can be as serious and debilitating as injuries from a single traumatic event. Many workers don’t know that they may be eligible to claim workers’ compensation benefits for repetitive trauma injuries. Workers’ compensation benefits can pay for the cost of medical care and provide some income while you are recovering and are unable to work. Unfortunately, insurance administrators often dispute workers’ compensation claims based on repetitive trauma.
Our South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at Joye Law Firm want to help if you’re suffering from a work-related repetitive trauma injury. Our attorneys know how to guide you through the workers’ compensation claims process and help you gather medical evidence to build your strongest case. Our workers’ compensation attorneys have more than 50 years of experience helping injured people across South Carolina.
Don’t wait to talk to a lawyer if you’re suffering from a job-related repetitive trauma injury. Contact the Joye Law Firm today for a free consultation with our workers’ compensation attorneys.
What Are Repetitive Trauma Injury Claims?
Repetitive trauma injuries are sometimes referred to as repetitive motion injuries. They often arise when you repeat the same motion or activity day after day. While doing this activity or movement once may not cause you any pain, the repetitive nature of the activity over months or years can gradually cause inflammation, swelling, and injury.
One typical example of repetitive trauma injuries is carpal tunnel syndrome. It occurs when people who type or use keyboards to enter data sustain gradual damage to the nerves in their wrists. Another common repetitive trauma injury is degenerative joint disease, frequently found in people who work in manufacturing or similar industries and repeat the same motion for many hours a day.
Repetitive trauma injuries can also occur from the cumulative effects of diverse labor-intensive work. Similar to identical repetitive motions, workers can also develop repetitive trauma injuries from different cumulative actions. For example, workers whose jobs involve lifting heavy objects may gradually develop back pain that is caused by performing their job duties over time in a variety of unidentical motions.
Repetitive trauma injuries develop gradually. Since there is not a specific date when the injury occurred, employers and insurance administrators may be more likely to dispute a workers’ compensation claim based on repetitive trauma. They may contend that your condition is due to normal wear and tear and aging as opposed to your work-related activities.
You will need medical evidence and the help of a knowledgeable attorney to prove the connection between your job and your repetitive trauma injury.
Examples of Causes of Repetitive Trauma Injuries
Repetitive trauma injuries occur for many reasons. These injuries often develop so slowly that workers don’t notice them until the damage to their bodies has reached critical levels.
Some of the most common causes of repetitive trauma injuries are:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Repetitive hand or arm motions, especially motions that involve gripping objects
- Working with vibrating tools
- Job activities involving lifting and twisting your body at the same time
- Job activities involving bending and twisting
- Job activities in which you’re frequently reaching for objects or having to lift loads that are awkwardly far away from your body
- Having to work with your arms extended or over your head frequently
- Working too many hours in your average workday or workweek
- Working without sufficient time for rest or breaks
- Having to perform the same task repeatedly without rotating to other jobs or tasks
- Tasks requiring workers to stand with awkward posture or in awkward body positions, such as having to stand in one position for a long time or having to maintain the same posture without moving or resting
- Working with poorly designed tools or at poorly designed workstations
- Jobs requiring a lot of typing
- Jobs with high productions requirements, such as having to perform a certain number of tasks within a given workday beyond what a worker can physically tolerate
While repetitive trauma injuries can affect anyone, they’re more likely to happen to people who work in specific fields, such as:
- Manufacturing or assembly line workers
- Grocery clerks
- Healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, physical therapists)
- Hospitality and restaurant workers
- Public safety workers (police, firefighters, EMTs)
Repetitive trauma injuries can occur to any part of your body. Some of the more common injuries are:
- Neck injuries — Repetitive strain can damage the tendons, muscles, and nerves in your neck. Neck injuries are serious because they can significantly impact mobility and nerve function.
- Back and spinal cord injuries — Having to lift, bend, or repeatedly twist on the job can damage the discs in your spinal cord, making it difficult to move and causing severe pain. Repetitive stress can also wear down the muscles in your back.
- Shoulder injuries — Repeating the same arm motion can lead to shoulder injuries like damage to your rotator cuff, the acromioclavicular joint, the labrum, and your biceps tendon (tendons connect bones to muscle tissues and are crucial to moving your arms and legs).
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome — Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is another repetitive trauma injury that can affect your arms. This is when the nerves that control the arms and sometimes the blood vessels that pump blood to the arms become compressed. It leads to numbness in the fingers and the sensation that your arm or hand is asleep.
- Nerve Entrapment Syndrome — When nerves become compressed, they don’t function properly, causing weakness, pain, and numbness in the affected area. Three nerves that frequently become compressed due to repetitive or cumulative trauma are the wrist’s median nerve, the forearm’s median nerve, and the ulnar nerve at the elbow.
- Tendonitis — Tendonitis is when a tendon becomes inflamed. Tendons connect bones to muscles. When tendons become inflamed, they can cause intense pain and lead to difficulty with movement.
- Tenosynovitis — The sheaths that cover nerves in the body can sometimes become inflamed due to cumulative trauma. If it happens in the hands, it can cause pain and numbness.
- Arthritis — Arthritis is when one of the joints in your body becomes inflamed. It’s frequently caused by repetitive trauma. Some of the joints commonly affected by arthritis include the knees, shoulders, and the basal joint of the thumb.
SC Workers’ Compensation Law on Repetitive Trauma Injuries
South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws allow you to receive benefits for repetitive trauma injuries. However, a few stipulations can make it challenging to seek these benefits.
It’s up to injured workers to prove a direct causal link between a repetitive trauma injury and their work duties. Medical evidence must establish this link, and the commissioner overseeing your case must determine that the link between your job duties and your injury is valid. (All workers’ compensation cases in South Carolina are administered by the state Workers’ Compensation Commission and its commissioners.)
How Do You Prove that Repetitive Trauma Injuries Are Work-Related?
Proving a repetitive trauma injury caused by your job can be a challenge. You will need substantial medical evidence that shows a direct link between the duties you performed at your job and the injuries you suffered. Some types of evidence commonly used in cases like these include:
- Your medical records
- A signed statement from the doctor overseeing your treatment
- Testimony from independent medical experts
- Records from your employer
To give yourself the best chance of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits after a repetitive trauma injury, talk to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer about the appropriate steps you can take. If we determine that you have a valid workers’ compensation case, our attorneys can help you gather the medical evidence to support your claim and present it in a way that makes the most persuasive argument in your favor.
Talk With a South Carolina Workers’ Comp Lawyer Today
Repetitive trauma injuries from work are common in South Carolina. Even so, some employers and their insurers attempt to deny or diminish these claims because they know it is difficult for workers to prove their cases. The South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at Joye Law Firm have helped workers who have suffered repetitive trauma injuries seek the benefits they deserve. Contact us today to discuss your situation, and we’ll provide you with a case evaluation at no cost.