Millions of Americans work tough jobs every day without recognizing the impact it can have on their body and their overall health. Even sitting in front of the computer for hours on end can cause serious injury, but because the effects are cumulative, such an injury is difficult to prove and receive compensation for. These injuries are called cumulative trauma disorders.
In Wisconsin, occupational safety and health experts recognize cumulative trauma disorders, or CTDs, as injuries or disorders that result from excessive wear and tear on certain parts of the body that arise from doing repetitive tasks over an extended period of time. Risk factors are mainly associated with a person’s job function or work environments, whereas employers are responsible for making the workplace a safe and comfortable environment for all employees. If a worker suffers from cumulative trauma because of a poor working environment, the employer is accountable and must act to provide access to health care and rehabilitation.
Compensation Benefits for Cumulative Trauma Disorders
CTDs are quite common, but most workers don’t seek medical intervention until their condition gets far worse and more intolerable. Here are a few examples of CTDs:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome caused by overuse or excessive, repetitive force when typing on a hard keyboard
- Chronic back pain caused by awkward posture because of continuously sitting in an uncomfortable office chair
- Severe lung disorder because of prolonged exposure to construction fumes
Employees who develop CTD due to incidents of overuse at work may seek compensation benefits, including monetary coverage of medical expenses, lost wages, and other expenses for rehabilitation and retraining. For victims of workplace injuries to be eligible for these benefits, they must first notify their employer of their afflictions, even if the symptoms are mild.
Victims must also obtain and keep copies of the Report of Injury, as well as past and current medical records to support the claim. They must also document any written or electronic correspondence with the employer regarding the injury. These documents will be useful should the claim be denied, or if the insurance company fails to pay sufficient coverage for all medical expenses incurred. If the employee no longer works for that company, seeking advice from a worker’s comp attorney is a must. The Department of Workforce Development in Wisconsin provides a detailed explanation of which injuries and circumstances are payable or compensable.
Challenges in Filing a CTD Claim
Among other occupational injury classifications, CTDs are the hardest to prove as compensable. This is because when overuse or cumulative trauma precipitates an occupational injury or disorder, it is either too late to file a claim or the evidence is not strong enough to win a just settlement. Another reason is that not all overuse injuries are the result of one particular incident. In the context of Wisconsin worker’s compensation laws, circumstances have also changed following changes in legislation. One of these changes includes a reduction of the statute of limitations from 12 to 6 years, which can discourage workers from filing a claim.
Repetitive injuries are just as damaging as other work injuries. And what’s worse is that the implications develop gradually, sometimes quite late in life. Cumulative trauma is especially hard to prove. Seeking help from a trusted law practice, such as Workers Comp Wisconsin, is essential to ensure a smooth and fair settlement.
While employers are responsible for the well-being of their workforce, victims must be quick and proactive when it comes to demanding compensation benefits. Delaying the process may only lead to more financial losses and health implications.