Chronic Back Pain Inflamed by Occupational Duties: Do I have a Claim?

There are two types of injuries that an individual can claim if they are seeking Worker’s Compensation benefits. The first type of injury is traumatic. A traumatic injury is an injury that results from a single event or incident. Traumatic injuries include, but are not limited to a single lifting incident, slip and fall, etc. The second type of injury is occupational. An occupational injury is an injury that results from repetitive movements or actions within the scope of an individual’s employment. Occupational injuries include, but are not limited to repetitive lifting (shoulders, back, neck), repetitive bending/squatting (knee), etc.

Although both types of injuries are compensable (i.e. the Worker’s Compensation Insurance Company is responsible for covering the costs associated with both types of injuries), most people do not know that they can bring a claim for benefits if their injury occurred as a result of their job duties. Rather, most people think that the only type of claim that can be brought is for a traumatic injury or a single incident. If you filed an occupational claim for Worker’s Compensation benefits and the insurance company is refusing to pay you for lost time, permanent disability, or medical expenses, it is highly recommended that you contact a Worker’s Compensation lawyer immediately.

For example, in the state of Wisconsin, it is actually much easier to prevail on an occupational claim than a traumatic claim. There are two reasons for this: 1) an occupational claim does not have a reporting element (i.e. there is no timeline as to when the claim needs to be reported), and 2) courts have determined that occupational exposure need not be the main or only factor in the employee’s injury; it is enough for compensability if the occupational exposure was a material factor in the development or progress of the disease. In fact, the Wisconsin courts have determined that an employer may be liable even if the work exposure contributes as little as 2.5% to 5% to the cause or progress of the disabling condition. This means that 95% to 97.5% of the reason for the disabling condition can due to other factors besides the work exposure. Therefore, if you believe that your disabling condition resulted from your job duties, it is important that you contact a Worker’s Compensation lawyer.

CASE STUDY: John was a sheet metal worker for ABC Co. for 25 years. His job duties required him to constantly bend and kneel, as well as lift 50 pounds on a frequent basis. After completing these tasks, 8 hours per day for 25 years, John began to develop pain in his low back. John met with his doctor and found out that he needed back surgery. The doctor asked John the cause of his pain and John explained the type of work he performed for the last 25 years. As a result, the doctor agreed that John’s job duties contributed to the need for back surgery. John filed a claim for Worker’s Compensation benefits with the assistance of a highly qualified Worker’s Compensation law firm. In less than 12 months, John was compensated for his injuries and the Worker’s Compensation insurance company covered the cost of his medical expenses. To this day, John is very thankful that he contacted a Glendale WI worker’s Compensation lawyer and filed an occupational claim.

Thanks to our friends and blog authors at Hickey & Turim, S.C., for their insight into workers’ compensation availability for chronic back pain.