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Does Carpal Tunnel Qualify for Workers' Compensation?

man suffering from carpal tunnelCarpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve in your wrist becomes inflamed, leading to pain and numbness in your hand and fingers. The pain from this injury can be debilitating, making it very difficult to work, particularly if your job involves a lot of repetitive motions with your hands.

If you think the injury is the result of your job, you may be able to recover workers' compensation benefits. However, a claim for carpal tunnel syndrome is more complicated than a claim for an injury caused by one accident. It can be difficult to link your injury to your job and disprove claims that it was caused by something outside of work.

This is why it is critical to have the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Bakersfield who can anticipate and respond to these challenges. The attorneys at Berry, Smith & Bartell can discuss your case and how we can help.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nerve disorder caused by compression of the median nerve and the tendons responsible for flexing your fingers as they travel through the wrist’s carpal tunnel. The median nerve becomes compressed when the carpal tunnel is narrowed, or the flexor tendons swell. (The carpal tunnel is a small area in your wrist with small bones on the sides.) This condition can cause workers to suffer pain, weakness and numbness in the hand and wrist.

Many workers must do repetitive motions with their hands, fingers or wrists, which can cause inflammation that results in carpal tunnel syndrome. Workers can also develop this condition when their hands are in positions of extreme flexion or extension for a prolonged period of time.

Some common work activities that can cause this condition include:

  • Typing
  • Using a cash register
  • Handling objects on conveyor belts
  • Using ratchets and screwdrivers
  • Assembling small parts
  • Using power tools
  • Pulling or grasping fabric
  • Pressing objects
  • Pushing objects
  • Slicing objects
  • Manipulating objects, particularly when there are vibrations
  • Gripping objects

Occupations that are commonly associated with this condition include the following:

  • Computer and data entry workers
  • Professional drivers
  • Chefs
  • Janitors
  • Butchers
  • Painters
  • Mechanics
  • Carpenters
  • Farmers
  • Tailors
  • Garment workers
  • Locksmiths
  • Craftsmen
  • Factory assembly line workers

Problems with Pursuing Benefits

Carpal tunnel syndrome is often considered an occupational disease, so workers are eligible to file a claim for workers’ compensation when this condition stems from completing their work duties. However, there may be several obstacles workers face when trying to prove their claim.

Time Requirements

Generally, a work injury must be reported to the employer within 30 days of the injury or illness occurring for an employee to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in California. When the work injury happens after an accident, it can be easier to trace back the injury to a specific date.

However, carpal tunnel syndrome is a progressive injury that can take months or years before the worker begins having symptoms. This is why California allows you to notify your employer within 30 days of the date you know or should know about your work-related disease or medical condition.

Some workers who develop carpal tunnel may believe this condition does not qualify for benefits or think they missed the deadline for notifying their employer. These mistaken beliefs can cause workers to not even file a claim. You should contact your employer as soon as you think you may have this condition or right after going to the doctor.

Is the Condition Caused by a Workplace Injury?

Workers’ compensation benefits are only available for injuries or illnesses caused by work-related activity. One of the biggest challenges in carpal tunnel syndrome workers’ compensation claims is establishing that the condition was caused by workplace activity instead of a non-work-related factor. As the claimant, you have the burden of proving your injury is work-related.

The insurance company often has a vested interest in trying to deny these claims. Treatment for carpal tunnel may involve expensive surgery and ongoing treatment. You could also miss a lot of days from work while you are recovering.

The insurance company may claim that the injury was caused by something else. For example, many recreational activities may involve repetitive motions, such as painting, sewing, crocheting, making models or playing a musical instrument. Another challenge is that the insurance company may say that the condition is caused by a pre-existing medical issue, such as diabetes, arthritis, pregnancy or a thyroid issue.

This is why it is important for workers to ask the doctor to document their belief on the cause of the injury and rule out other factors besides work if those factors did not cause the injury. The patient can also ask if work was a primary cause of the problem, as opposed to other activities or health factors.

Contact a Knowledgeable Lawyer for Legal Assistance

If you have carpal tunnel and would like guidance with your workers' compensation claim, the attorneys at Berry, Smith & Bartell are here to help. We have helped many workers with a variety of injuries and conditions recover the benefits they need and deserve.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and find out more about how we may be able to help you.

For a free case evaluation with Berry, Smith & Bartell, a Professional Law Corporation call 1-800-848-6288 today!

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