You spend more than 8-10 hours at work daily. Is it any wonder that you are more likely to injure yourself at work rather than anywhere else? The US Department of Labor has the statistics and they are quite surprising. According to the latest numbers, more than 2.8 million injuries take place at the workplace. Yes, these injuries are nonfatal, but they are more than likely to result in chronic pain and other conditions. In the long run, workers are likely to miss work, and this decreases productivity and leads to loss of compensation for the worker. As employees, we don’t really think that the workplace can cause injuries. Most employers also do their best to provide ergonomically designed workplaces that are safe. However, despite all efforts, injuries do happen, and they can be quite painful.
Carpal Tunnel: The Most Common Workplace Injury
Almost every job requires computer knowledge and now that means learning to type and using your hands almost constantly on a keyboard. When you are working a sedentary job and using computers, that means repetitive work using your hands and your wrists. Improper use can easily result in injuries. Other factors like computer location, table and chair location, improper typing, and hand position can all contribute to the injury. If you’ve landed up with tingling and numbness in your fingers and wrist, it’s time to visit a doctor. Once you get diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, you can ask for compensation. However, we do recommend getting in touch with a Workers Comp Attorney to learn more. Once you do that, it’s time to learn about carpal tunnel syndrome and how it will affect your work life.
What to Expect from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel is caused by repetitive motion. The injury is caused by placing pressure on the median nerve present in the wrist area. The carpal tunnel itself is a narrow channel in the wrist through which all the nerves and blood enter and exit the hand. The floor and sides of the tunnel are made of small mobile bones which make the wrist so flexible. The roof is made of the transverse carpal ligament. As these form rigid boundaries, the tunnel has very little capacity to be flexible. 90% of the time, the injury is related to poor positioning while typing which puts pressure on the nerve leading to the sensations. However, other factors also contribute to the issue. For example, heredity, hand and wrist positioning, pregnancy, aging and health conditions can also cause the condition. The median nerve runs from the upper arm down to the hand on the underside of the arm and wrist. In most patients, the condition worsens over time. However, early diagnosis and prompt treatment can help to control and relive the symptoms. However, if pressure on the median nerve continues, it can lead to nerve damage and worsening symptoms. The most common people to suffer from the injury include sedentary workers who typing pads, workers in construction and trade, and sports players who use their hands and wrists extensively. The condition is also seen more commonly in women as they have a smaller carpal tunnel as compared to men. Research has also shown that symptoms increase in the presence of associated chronic health conditions like obesity, pregnancy, trauma, rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism.
Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome: The condition is relatively easy to diagnose, and symptoms are specific.
- Pain: Radiating pain is the most common symptom. Most people complain of hand pain or wrist pain that radiates upward to the shoulder. The pain may also be localized to the wrist alone or it may radiate to the fingers. The pain usually feels like a dull aching or stabling sensation combined with burning pain or tingling and numbness in the fingers. Sometimes the pain may also prevent or hamper day-to-day activity.
- Numbness and tingling: This sensation is common in the thumb, index, middle and ring finger. Occasionally the tingling and numbness also radiates down to the palm and wrist.
- Weakness: Grip weakness and clumsiness are common signs of carpal tunnel. The weakness and numbness can also lead to a loss of proprioception causing a poor grip.
Most people will not notice the symptoms in the beginning. At first, the numbness and tingling are not prominent at night as your hands are more relaxed in the evening. However, you will wake up with numb fingers and tingling that is radiating to the shoulder by morning. In severe cases, the muscles in your shoulder are also affected leading to cramping and a poor grip.
In most cases, people get assessed by their primary physician, however, treatment will only be provided by a physician that is approved by the insurance company. Common treatment options include the following:
- Splinting: Wrist splinting with a custom splint is usually the first step. This will reduce pressure on the affected wrist. You may have to wear the splint fulltime or only during the day.
- Medication: Anti-inflammatory medication is also recommended to reduce pain and swelling the carpal tunnel region. Tylenol or Ibuprofen are common medications that are recommended. In case, these do not work, stronger medication like steroids or pain-relieving medication may be recommended.
- Steroid injection: Steroids can reduce inflammation and reduce pain. However, your doctor will be the best person to recommend this procedure if it is required.
- Physical therapy: This is the best option for any kind of stress-related or repetitive injury. A trained PT specialist will guide you through a range of exercises that will stretch the carpal tunnel and relieve pressure on the affected nerve. Apart from in-office sessions, you will also be given at-home exercises that you can use. Some therapists also recommend massage and provide hot or cold therapy with massage.
- Surgery: Surgery is the last option. In case all these treatments do not work, you may be recommended surgery like a carpal tunnel release. It will increase the size of the tunnel and reduce pressure on the nerve. Be warned though, that it will take anywhere from 2-12 months to recover from the surgery and gain full function of your hand.
Getting Workers Compensation in Florida
Florida has very strict rules on workers compensation insurance for employees. Any company that has four or more workers must take workers compensation insurance. Employers also must post the information regarding workers compensation along with the contact information in case employees want to claim compensation in an employee-frequented area. For employees, this means checking the details and making note of the information. In case an injury is proved through medical records, the employee must report the injury to the right authorities within 30-days. The employer will then assess the claim and file it with the insurance company within 7-days. Failure by the employer to file the complaint within 7-days may result in fines or the claim may be rejected. The employer also must provide a list of authorized doctors who will assess the injury, provide treatment and get reimbursed for the treatment.
How to Proceed Once the Workplace Injury is Confirmed?
Once the workplace injury is confirmed, it’s time to file for compensation. Workers compensation is designed to help an employee deal with workplace related injuries; however, the insurance company works for your employer. To protect your rights, hire a good workers compensation lawyer right away and make sure you make copies of all medical and company correspondence. Other than that, here is how you proceed once the workplace injury is confirmed.
- Report the injury: The law requires that you report the injury within 30-days of being affected. Once the injury is reported, your employer will file a claim within a week with the insurance company and they will assess the claim.
- Medical care: Florida law allows you to visit your own doctor for medical care for work-related injuries. These visits will be covered with workers compensation. Most employees will visit their doctor and the symptoms will be confirmed after the necessary tests are carried out. After the initial test and confirmation of diagnosis, your doctor may schedule additional tests or call you for additional appointments.
- Follow up care: Be truthful at your appointments. Follow up care is necessary to ensure your full recovery and to fulfill your workers compensation claim. Please note that your medical record will become important evidence during your workers compensation review.
- Recover: Irrespective of the medical compensation claim, it is necessary that you recover from the symptoms of carpal tunnel. In case of severe pain, your doctor may provide medical excuses from work or may limit your duties until you recover completely. If you cannot return to work or if you can work only for a limited period, you will receive temporary disability payments. We also recommend you take enough time to recover from your injury. Rest your hand and make full use of the treatment provided. Please note that the insurance company will evaluate your daily life, your work life, your social media feed and even talk to witnesses to assess the impact of the injury on your day to day life. Do not participate in any activity that will raise questions on whether the injury is legitimate or not.
Is There a Chance that my Injury will be Rejected?
Insurance companies live to make a profit. Unfortunately, there are people who fake injuries to gain easy compensation. These fraudulent claims have made companies wary and they are likely to investigate every claim as t thoroughly as possible. As an employee, you must make sure that your rights are protected. To ensure that your claim is note rejected, here is what you can do.
- Do not fake an injury. Make sure you are genuinely affected and require rest and support while you recover.
- File the injury within 30-days of verifying symptoms with your doctor. Missing the deadline will result in an automatic denial.
- Ensure that the injury was not your fault. Your employer may try to deny responsibility for the injury. However, they cannot deny the workers compensation claim unless they believe you have intentionally done so with an intention of fraud. For example, if your injury was caused by you not using company recommended safety equipment, then your workers compensation is automatically reduced by 25%.
- The compensation claim will also be rejected if the injury did not happen in the workplace. For example, if you play the violin and use the keyboard extensively, the injury could be due to both activities rather than one. Your employer may claim that the injury was not related to the workplace and this may cause your claim to be rejected.
What Compensation can I Expect?
Most insurance companies will provide the following forms of compensation.
- Medical bills: All medical bills from the authorized physician will be covered through workers compensation. Payment will also cover visits, physical therapy costs, medication if taken, medical devices used, etc. In case you must travel to the physician’s office, you can also ask for travel expenses to-and-from the appointments.
- Lost salary: As you could not work due to the work-related injury, you will be given lost wages through the compensation claim. This exact amount of the wage will differ, but it is usually 2/3rds of your weekly wage and not more than the states weekly compensation rate. These payments will continue up to 104 weeks. If you can work partially, you will be eligible for partial payments.
- Additional training: We feel this is one of the best options offered under workers compensation. If you need another job, workers compensation will provide the training required for it. If you cannot find a new job, you will be pain temporary disability payments.
- Disability rating: Based on the extent of your injury you will be rated for future jobs with an impairment rating.
Please note that the compensation may include monthly payments as well as a final payment when the claim is closed.
As you can see, carpal tunnel can influence your work performance considerably. If you’ve developed symptoms, take care of your health first. Then let your workers compensation lawyer work on the problem and help you get the right workers compensation for your injury. It may not solve the problem, but it will help you deal with the long-term effects of the injury.
If you have any type of work related injury, contact our legal team at Scott J. Sternberg & Associates by calling (561) 687-5660 for help and information.