Filing a South Carolina Workers' Compensation Claim For A Repetitive Trauma Injury

           When most people think of a work injury or accident, they usually picture a specific accident that results in an obvious physical injury such as a fall, blunt force trauma or lifting injury. However, there are additional types of injuries that might entitle an employee to workers’ compensation benefits such as repetitive trauma injuries.

            A repetitive trauma injury is defined under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act as an injury that is gradual in onset and caused by the cumulative effects of repetitive traumatic events. In other words, it’s an injury or stress that is not caused by a single specific accident, but one that occurs gradually over a period of time due to repetitive motion, stress, strain or pressure on a particular body part as a result of your specific job duties.

Common Types Of Repetitive Trauma Injuries           

            Repetitive trauma injuries are a growing concern in today’s workforce mostly due to the increased use of computers and machinery. It is estimated that repetitive trauma injuries account for about 60% of all work-related injures and that one in eight American workers have suffered a repetitive trauma injury to some degree during the course of their employment. Without treatment a repetitive trauma injury can become permanent and irreversible. Some of the most common repetitive trauma injuries are discusses below.

            Carpel tunnel syndrome: Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is the most common type of repetitive trauma injury. It is essentially pressure on the median nerve of the wrist that causes tingling, numbness or pain through the entire hand, wrist or arm.  It is often caused by typing on a computer or using a mouse, but it can also be caused by repetitive use of tools and machinery. You most often see carpel tunnel syndrome with people associated with office jobs such as administrative, secretarial or other types of desk jobs. If caught and treated early, it can be alleviated with simple rest but when left untreated it can require surgery that may result in permanent impairment to the wrist.

            Back Injuries: Many workers suffer various types of back injuries due to repetitive motions of bending, lifting, or squatting as a result of their job duties. Certainly, if you suffer an injury from one specific lift or squat that would not constitute a repetitive trauma injury, but there are certain soft tissue or even musculoskeletal injuries that can develop over time from repetitive trauma or stress.  People in labor industries such as construction workers, painters, assembly line workers, pipefitters and others are all subject to these types of injuries.

            Shoulder/Knee Injuries: Like back injuries, there are also various types of shoulder and knee injuries that can result from repetitive use and trauma from your job. Some common injuries are impingement types of issues with the shoulder or chondromalacia issues with the knees. While most ligament tears are caused by a specific traumatic event, there are times when tears can occur over the course of a long period of time from repetitive use and motion. Again, these are often seen in manual labor types of employment where workers are constantly lifting and squatting from their job duties.

Things to Keep In Mind For Repetitive Trauma Injuries

            The standard laws on notice and the statute of limitations for repetitive trauma injuries are the same for other specific acute injuries. Thus, in order to pursue a claim for a repetitive trauma injury, the employee must give notice of the injury or condition to her employer within ninety days of the date that the employee discovered the injury or should have discovered the injury by exercising reasonable diligence.

            Likewise, an injured employee may be forever barred from pursuing a workers’ compensation claim for a repetitive trauma injury unless a claim is filed with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission within two years after the employee knew or should have known about her injury by exercising reasonable diligence. For these reasons, it is always best practice to notify your employer if you have any suspicion at all of a potential injury or accident.

Why You Will Likely Need An Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney        

            Insurance companies often deny alleged repetitive trauma injuries because they are not as obvious as a specific acute injury and they are often difficult to prove. Specifically, a repetitive trauma injury will not be found compensable unless the Workers’ Compensation Commission finds by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a causal connection that has been established by specific medical evidence between the repetitive activities that occurred during the employee’s job and the injury itself. This means that medical evidence from a physician that is stated to a reasonable degree of medical certainty - whether testimony, documents or records - must be offered to prove that the injury was caused by the job duties. This will most likely require the knowledge and assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to document and present the required evidence.

            If you have suffered a repetitive trauma injury and need to speak with a workers’ compensation attorney in Charleston, SC, please feel free to reach out to our firm at (843) 991-6528 to discuss your injury and options. The Law Office of Jared C. Williams, LLC, has experience helping injured workers get the medical treatment and benefits they deserve as a result of a repetitive trauma injury.