Obtaining a fair workers compensation settlement for a back injury requires careful attention to the nature and extent of the injury
About 20% of workers’ compensation settlements involve back injuries. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for doctors to pinpoint the specific cause of symptoms relative to a back injury, or to make an accurate prognosis for recovery. Having a Santa Rosa workers compensation lawyer help with a work-related back injury claim is the best way to maximize a workers’ compensation settlement.
Work-Related Back Injuries
The most common ways employees hurt their backs at work include:
- Slipping and falling
- Falling from a height
- Pushing or pulling
- Being hit in the back by a moving object
- Vehicle accidents
- Prolonged sitting in a chair that is not ergonomic
Back injuries can be the result of fractured vertebrae, herniated or displaced discs, pinched nerves or muscles, and other soft tissues that are stretched or torn. Some back strains resolve over time if the injured worker is able to rest, although they tend to recur if the injured worker again places too much stress on the back. Back injuries can cause permanent disability.
Workers’ compensation settlements for back injuries can involve either the neck, upper or lower back. Sometimes pain radiates into the arms, legs, or neck. Some workplace accidents result in multiple injuries. Every case is different. A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer will investigate all the facts before recommending a settlement for a back injury.
Employer Disputed About Back Injuries
Employers and workers’ compensation claims administrators often dispute back injuries. They may claim that the injury did not occur at work, that the injury is less disabling than the employee claims, or that the injury does not exist. Most of those disputes are resolved by way of a settlement, but a hearing before a judge may be required when the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith.
When back injuries involve a fractured vertebra or a displaced disc, its existence can often be documented with an x-ray. When back injuries involve soft tissues or nerve damage, proving their existence may be more difficult. An MRI, CT scan, or EMG are among the sophisticated tests that doctors may use to substantiate back pain.
Unfortunately, no diagnostic test measures pain. A relatively minor injury that damages a nerve can cause severe pain. Good communication with the treating physician is usually the best way to document pain. Discussions with doctors are not the time for workers to prove their toughness. Explaining pain is often the only way for a doctor to know that the pain exists.
Linking test results to back pain is often a matter of interpretation, and even if objective testing confirms an injury, no test can definitively determine whether the injury occurred at work. A Santa Rosa workers compensation attorney may rely on other kinds of proof when negotiating a settlement in the case of a disputed back injury.
Proving Back Injuries Are Work-Related
When the onset of pain at work is sudden, employees should immediately report the pain to their employer. Immediately reporting the injury to the employer and asking for time off from work to see a doctor is the best way to document that the back injury is work-related.
A workers’ comp lawyer representing Santa Rosa injured workers with back injuries might also gather statements from coworkers who witnessed the accident. A fall is an obvious accident and one that coworkers are likely to remember. Even if nobody witnessed an injury caused by lifting, they may remember the injured worker complaining about pain or taking a break.
Some back problems, like degenerative disc disease, can be caused by repetitive motion over a long period of time. In those cases, it may be necessary to obtain the opinion of a specialist who can determine whether the nature of the employee’s work likely caused or contributed to the injury.
Disability Benefits for Back Injuries
While an injured worker is healing but unable to work, he will be eligible for temporary disability benefits. Those benefits are generally two-thirds of one’s gross wages, subject to a maximum weekly disability benefit.
If the back injury heals completely, the injured worker will return to work and disability benefits will end. If the injury stops healing and the injured worker suffers permanent impairment, she will be entitled to permanent disability benefits as compensation.
In some cases, an injured worker with a permanent back injury will be able to return to his or her former job, with or without restrictions. In other cases, an injured worker may no longer be capable of doing the same kind of work. The settlement will reflect the extent of the disability and its impact on future earnings.
A settlement of a work related back claim takes into account the nature of the injury, evidence of the injury’s cause, and the likely outcome of a contested hearing. An experienced Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer is well-positioned to negotiate settlements of back injuries. To learn more about the compensation you may be entitled to, call Kneisler & Schondel at (707) 542-5132 or ask a question by submitting our online contact form.