Santa Rosa workers compensation lawyers regularly advise employees who have similar work-related injuries
With few exceptions (such as certain psychological injuries or injuries caused during a fight that the injured worker started), nearly all job-related injuries in California are covered by the workers’ compensation system. Different kinds of work can produce different kinds of injuries. Office workers may develop repetitive stress injuries, construction workers need to worry about broken bones, and manufacturing workers may suffer from puncture wounds or crush injuries. Here are five types of workplace injuries that Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyers most frequently observe.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissues are muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and other tissues that hold the skeletal structure together and allow it to move. Muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries generally involve a tearing or stretching of the soft tissue. Sprains and strains are examples of soft tissue injuries.
Many different kinds of workplace accidents can damage soft tissues. Falling, lifting, twisting, bending, climbing, or sustaining a blow to the body are among the actions that can stretch or tear soft tissues. In manufacturing jobs, soft tissue injuries make up about 30% of all workers’ compensation claims. Soft tissue injuries are also common in delivery and moving jobs, and in other kinds of employment that require employees to use their muscles.
Muscle strains are most common in the neck, shoulder, lower back, and hamstrings. A torn muscle can result from many work activities, including lifting too much weight or lifting in an awkward position, repetitive motion, or slipping and falling.
Ligaments connect the bones at joints, including knees, ankles, and wrists. Workers are trained to lift with their legs, not their backs, but lifting more weight than the knee can support may cause ligaments to tear, resulting in painful knee injuries. Falling on an outstretched hand can damage ligaments in the wrist. Tripping or stepping in a hole at a job site can injure ligaments in the knees or ankles.
Work-related car wrecks that result in injury nearly always cause damage to soft tissues. Rear-end collisions cause whiplash injuries, including tearing or stretching of neck muscles.
Soft tissue injuries can often be painful when they occur, but they can also flare up periodically. A muscle or ligament that is torn or stretched may be prone to a new injury. Nerve damage and torn tissues may cause permanent disabilities. Doctors often advise injured workers to stay home and rest until the injury stabilizes, and may impose work limitations for a period of time to avoid reinjuring the damaged tissue.
The term “back injury” is very broad. It includes the soft tissue injuries described above when the injury is to muscles in the back and shoulders. The lower back is particularly vulnerable to injuries caused by work-related accidents.
Back injuries also include damage to the spine and its connective tissues. Disks that separate the vertebrae in the spinal column can become herniated while lifting heavy objects or as the result of a fall or a blow to the back. A herniated disk is a disk that has ruptured. Herniated disks are treated with rest, medication, and physical therapy. In some cases, back surgery is necessary, although usually as a last resort.
Back injuries often result in permanent disability. A broken spinal column can cause paralysis, but less serious injuries can cause lasting pain and limit an injured worker’s ability to lift objects, climb stairs, or bend at the waist. The extent of those impairments is a factor that Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyers use to determine the value of permanent disability benefits when resolving an injured worker’s claim.
Cuts and Punctures
Cuts, lacerations, and punctures are sometimes grouped together as “wound injuries.” They are often caused by tools or industrial machinery. In manufacturing jobs, about 12% of all workers’ compensation claims are based on work-related wounds. Agricultural jobs also account for a high percentage of workers’ comp claims for cuts and punctures.
Serious cuts might cause the amputation of a finger or limb. Crush injuries, caused by stamping machines and other equipment, are less common than cuts and punctures, but they may also result in amputations.
Cuts and punctures are sometimes treated with stitches and a prompt return to work, but a deep puncture wound carries the risk of infection, which might lead to hospitalization. When an infection develops in a wound that was caused by work, treatment for the infection and any resulting loss of work is covered by workers’ comp.
Falls from a height are among the most common accidents on construction sites. Falls often cause fractures. Even slipping and falling on a wet or uneven surface can cause a hip fracture or other broken bones.
Bones can also break as a result of other impacts with the body. An injured worker hit by a moving forklift, who is in a car crash while making a delivery for work, or who is standing under an object that falls from a height may suffer fractured bones.
The human body has 208 bones, any of which can break in a work-related accident. The most common work-related factures are to the arm, the upper leg, and the lower leg. Skull fractures can be particularly serious if they lead to traumatic brain injuries.
Fractures of weight-bearing bones are usually disabling for up to twelve weeks. Even after the bone mends and a return to work is authorized, injured workers are often given lifting restrictions based on a bone’s inability to support a heavy load. Those restrictions often continue for as long as a year. Sometimes complications result in a prolonged absence from work as well as surgery. In some cases, broken bones can cause permanent disability.
Occupational Skin Diseases
Exposure to workplace chemicals and toxic substances can cause respiratory illnesses and other diseases. Occupational skin diseases, typically in the form of allergic and irritant (contact) dermatitis, are among the most common occupational diseases.
Skin diseases are often caused by a toxic reaction to chemicals used in the workplace, including solvents and pesticides. An allergic reaction to latex and other products used in the workplace also contributes to the prevalence of occupational skin diseases.
Studies show that occupational skin diseases are greatly underreported. Too many employees live with itching or discomfort rather than seeking the treatment that the workers compensation system should provide. The fact that a skin disease is caused by an allergy does not foreclose the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits if the allergy is triggered by work.
Generally, any injury or disease that is caused by work is covered by the workers compensation system. To get advice in Santa Rosa about receiving workers compensation benefits for a work-related injury, call Kneisler & Schondel at (707) 542-5132. You can also ask us a question by submitting our online contact form.