Workers’ compensation law has a number of deadlines and requirements that must be satisfied to grant benefits to an injured employee. Many of these have to do with the accident in which the injury occurred.
But, what about injuries you receive form work that can’t be attributed to a single incident? Can an injury that develop over time be compensated for?
It’s common for workers to develop injuries over time as they do their job. One such example is hearing loss. Even employees who take safety precautions to protect their hearing may still experience hearing loss due to the nature of their work.
Repetitive strain injuries are also, by definition, caused when a person repeats the same movement over and over. Another example of a slow-building injury is carpal tunnel syndrome, which happens when the carpal tunnel passageway in a person’s wrist compresses the nerves and tendons, causing numbness and tingling.
None of these injuries could be attributed to a single accident at work. However, almost all of them are common injuries that workers develop because of the demands of their job.
The timeline to report it
Typically, your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits partially relies on you notifying your employer of your injury 14 days after the injury occurs. In some cases, you can wait up to 90 days to notify your employer of an at-work injury after it happens if you have a good reason for not speaking up sooner.
In the case of slow-developing injuries, this timeline can be confusing. However, you may be able to bring a successful claim if you notify your employer within 90 days of realizing your injury. For example, although carpal tunnel syndrome develops over time, you should report the injury to your employer the first time you experience pain, numbness or tingling in your wrists, hands or fingers.
Similarly, if you notice ringing in your ears or are unable to hear other people talking to you, make a report to your employer as soon as possible. Then see an approved doctor when you can.
Proving it's work related
In order for workers’ compensation benefits to cover the costs associated with an injury, it's important that you prove the injury came as a result of the duties you perform at work. This can be difficult when it comes to repetitive strain issues because your employer’s insurance carrier will sooner blame the incident on other outside factors.
One way to substantiate your claim is to visit an approved doctor as soon as you notice your injury. A doctor’s professional opinion can support evidence that the injury you received would have been caused by the movements you make or environment you are in at work. Seeking medical attention can also help substantiate your monetary claim for treatment expenses and lost wages attributed to the injury.
Consulting with a legal professional is another way to learn more about whether you can receive workers’ compensation benefits for your injury.