What Is a Cumulative Trauma Injury? What Are the Challenges Involved in Getting Workers’ Comp?

by | Last updated on Sep 8, 2023 | Published on Jan 16, 2023 | Workers Compensation

A cumulative trauma injury is an injury that may be work-related and occur over a long period of time. This type of injury is also called a repetitive trauma injury. Just as other types of work-related injuries, cumulative trauma injuries also involve medical record review for attorneys handling such claims. Typically, these injuries are caused by thousands of small repetitive movements that by themselves are harmless, but can lead to disability over a certain period of time because they cause strain on the employee’s muscles, bones, and other organs. These injuries can be extremely painful and lead to mobility issues. Workers’ compensation benefits are available for cumulative trauma injuries, provided you can link them to the particular type of work the employee is engaged in.

Cumulative Trauma Injury Types and Risk Factors

Cumulative trauma disorder or CT disorder can be the result of improper work positioning, repetition or force. These can be identified from a review of the medical records provided by experienced medical records services. Apart from trauma to your body, CT injuries can include mental trauma also.

  • Back and neck disc herniation
  • Wrist carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Heart disease from stress
  • Elbow cubital tunnel syndrome
  • Breathing issues caused by continued exposure to chemicals or dust
  • Degenerative joint (knee)
  • Trigger finger/thumbs
  • Repetitive motion disorder
  • Upper limb syndrome
  • Repetitive strain injury
  • Muscle strain
  • Tennis elbow
  • Tendinitis

The following employee types are most vulnerable to cumulative trauma injuries:

  • Secretaries
  • Grocery store clerks
  • Hospitality workers
  • Teachers
  • Nurses
  • Healthcare workers
  • Physical therapists
  • Assembly line workers
  • Public safety officers

Other than repetitive physical exertion, environmental toxins at the workplace can also contribute to CT disorders. These toxins can be:

  • Vapor
  • Gas
  • Liquid
  • Dust
  • Fiber mist
  • Fume

An employee who experiences persistent symptoms of a possible cumulative trauma injury needs to immediately report this to his/her employer and seek prompt medical attention. A detailed medical record review, review of the symptoms and a thorough physical examination of the affected extremity are utilized for a proper diagnosis. Diagnostic measures may include X-rays to determine bone involvement and MRI or magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound to visualize the surrounding soft tissues. With a full awareness of the job responsibilities of the worker, the treating doctor can establish a case that proves how the nature of the employee’s work led to the injury.

Challenges Involved in Getting Workers’ Compensation

CT injuries are more challenged than other types of injuries mainly because the link between the injury and the job may not be very clear.

  • Take the case of a worker hit by a forklift at the workplace. In this case, there is no doubt that the injury is work related. However, if a worker develops shoulder pain and numbness because of constant lifting, it may be difficult to establish a connection between the job and the injury. In this case, the employer can argue that the injury was caused by other things the worker may have been doing away from the workplace.
  • The claims adjuster assigned to investigate the workers’ compensation claim may not be satisfied with the ongoing investigation and may request a formal job analysis to identify whether there has been unreasonable exposure/activity at the workplace that contributed to the worker’s injury. The injured worker may have to undergo another medical evaluation requested by medical providers assigned to his/her case, and answer questions related to the various job-related activities that may have led to the CT injury.
  • Another challenge is determining the timeline of the worker’s exposure (date of injury) to work-related activities that caused or aggravated the CT injury. Typically, the worker has one year from the date of injury to bring a claim. In CT injury claims, the law states that the date of injury is when the employee first suffered disability and either knew/should have known that the disability was caused by his or her employment. The issue of when the claim should have been filed is complicated because there are exceptions that apply to these rules.
  • No witnesses for the workplace injury. If this is the case, the worker will have to notify his/her co-workers, supervisors and managers immediately.
  • Inconsistency between the accident report and the medical records. This could lead to a claim denial from the insurer. So, the injured worker should be particularly cautious to reaffirm to his/her doctor that his/her version of the story has not changed.
  • If the worker is laid off before filing a claim, it is very likely that the claim will be denied.
  • If the employee refuses to provide a recorded statement or refuse to sign a medical statement, (possibly because he/she is stressed and don’t feel like co-operating), it could act against him/her. Though workers are not bound by law to provide such statements, the insurance adjuster may insist on such statements if the payments are to begin.
  • Using the available evidence effectively. The worker on his or her own may not be able to prove the cause of their workplace injury. This is where the assistance of a legal team will prove valuable.
  • Problems in communication. If there is a problem in communication among the injured worker and their case manager, doctor, family members, insurer and so on, it can cause delays in obtaining medical treatment and the due compensation.

Cumulative trauma injury or disorder is a lesser-known workplace injury that is hard to detect. It is challenging to narrow down the exact causes until the trauma becomes severe and the pain is consistent.

However, workers represented by attorneys may have a better chance of winning their claims. Medical record review for attorneys representing such injured workers helps identify the exact nature of injury and how debilitating it is. Once it is established that the job duties are the cause of the injury, the worker will get the due workers’ compensation coverage.

Discover our medical record review solutions and partner with us for your next case.

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