RSI’s or “Repetitive Stress Injuries” like carpal tunnel are becoming increasingly common as more and more workers are restricted to their desks to perform their job over a keyboard. While the work is most likely the cause of the injury, you can’t sue your employer over carpal tunnel syndrome. Most workers are barred from pursuing a lawsuit for workplace injuries by workers compensation laws.
If you’re someone who suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome that you believe is caused by your work, it’s important to understand your state’s workers’ compensation insurance system. Workers’ comp may be your only means of receiving compensation for your work-related injury.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that is caused by the compression of the median nerve and the tendons that flex your fingers as they travel through the “carpal tunnel” in your wrist. This tunnel is very narrow, so even a small amount of swelling can compress the nerve. This compression can cause pain, weakness, and even numbness in the hand and wrist.
Although carpal tunnel syndrome can be the result of a variety of factors, including age, weight, trauma, arthritis, disease, pregnancy, etc., it can also be caused by overuse or repetitive movements of the hand and wrist. Common workplace-based examples of repetitive tasks include:
- Using a cash register
- Pushing, slicing, or pressing objects without a sufficient break or rest period
Treating carpal tunnel syndrome could require surgery. This surgical procedure is known as carpal tunnel release. A surgeon will cut through the ligament to make more space for the median nerve and tendons. Non-surgical remedies include rest, splinting, diuretics, and steroid injections.
Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
If you suffer a work-related injury, you’ll most likely be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are a few arguments you could encounter when it comes to carpal tunnel and other repetitive stress injuries.
Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome a Workplace Injury?
One of the most frequently debated issues when it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome is whether it was caused by a workplace injury or by a non-work-related factor. The employee will have the burden of proving the injury was work-related. For example, a worker may hold a second job that requires repetitive movements, or outside of work they may be an avid tennis player. In both of those instances, it could be argued that carpal tunnel syndrome developed because of those factors.
Characterizing Carpal Tunnel: Burden Of Proof
How carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized can affect your burden of proof. For example, if compensable as an occupational disease, you may have to prove by convincing evidence that the injury arose during and out of the course of employment.
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