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How to Prove a Repetitive Strain Injury in a Workers’ Comp Claim

an injured laborer at work

Repetitive strain injuries are those that occur from repeating the same motion over and over again. This repeated motion eventually leads to muscle, nerve, or tendon pain that can become increasingly worse over time. If you suffer from an injury related to your jobs, such as a fall or machinery accident, you may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation. However, you might also be entitled to workers’ compensation due to a cumulative injury, such as a repetitive strain injury. If you suspect you have suffered a repetitive strain injury, there are several steps you can take to prove your claim. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you figure out how to prove a repetitive strain injury.

Common Causes of a Repetitive Strain Injury

A repetitive strain injury usually develops slowly. Repetitive strain injuries are caused by microscopic tears in the tissue of muscles or tendons. Repetitive motions do not allow these tiny tears to heal and result in pain, swelling, stiffness, numbness, or weakness. Repetitive strain injuries most commonly affect the upper body, such as the hand and wrists, shoulders, neck, and elbows, but can also sometimes affect the knees and lower back.

One of the most common types of workplace repetitive strain injuries is carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome can develop in workers who use computer keyboards for long stretches of time or who perform repetitive tasks on an assembly line. There are many other types of repetitive strain injuries. Some common causes of these injuries include:

  • Remaining in the same position for an extended period of time
  • Assembly line work
  • Repeated grabbing or turning of a tool
  • Moving heavy loads
  • Frequent technology use
  • Repeated swiping of items, such as in a checkout line

These are only some actions that can cause repetitive strain injuries. Failure to provide ergonomic tools in the workplace is a top cause of repetitive stress injuries. Regardless of the cause, victims of repetitive stress injuries in the workplace can file for benefits. If you are experiencing symptoms of repetitive strain injury, such as tingling, numbness, throbbing, cramping, or muscle weakness, you can take a break from the repetitive motion for a day or two to see if they subside. If the symptoms return once you resume the repetitive motion, it is likely you have a repetitive strain injury.

Proving a Repetitive Strain Injury in a Workers’ Comp Claim

Illustration of repetitive strain injury in workers' comp claim

If you have a repetitive strain injury that was caused by the performance of a work-related duty, you may be entitled to workers’ comp to cover the costs of medical treatment and lost wages. To get workers’ compensation for a repetitive strain injury, you will need to show one of the following:

  1. That your injury was directly caused by performing your work duties or
  2. Your duties at work aggravated a preexisting injury

To help prove your repetitive strain injury for the purpose of workers’ compensation, you will need to take several steps including documenting your injury, consulting a doctor, reporting the injury to your employer, and consulting a lawyer.

Once you become aware of the pain that you suspect could be a repetitive strain injury, you should start documenting the work-related tasks you believe have led to the injury. Make sure to note when you began feeling pain and keep a log of the hours you spend performing the particular task in question. It is also a good idea to note observations from coworkers on how the injury is preventing you from doing your job.

As soon as you believe you have a repetitive strain injury, you should consult a doctor. Medical evidence will be important when making your workers’ compensation claim. Let your doctor know when symptoms first appeared, how the symptoms have progressed, and what type of duties you fulfill at work. You will want to obtain a written statement from your doctor as evidence that your repetitive strain injury resulted from work-related duties.

Workers’ Compensation Investigations and What They Look For

In some cases, an employer and their insurance company may try to deny your workers’ comp claim. When a claim is filed, they may argue that you did not actually suffer an injury, that the injury was not work-related, or that the injury is a preexisting condition. In addition, they might argue that the use of drugs or alcohol or other misconduct by the employee caused the injury.

The employer and insurance company may hire a workers’ comp investigator. A workers’ comp investigator will look for evidence that the employee is not actually injured. This might include photo or video evidence showing the employee engages in physical activities such as exercise or recreation activities. In addition, investigators may look at an employee’s social media accounts for evidence that the worker is not as injured as he or she claims to be.

What Is the Deadline for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim for a Repetitive Strain injury?

Illinois workers typically have 45 days from the date of a work-related injury to report the injury to their employer. Once you report the injury to your employer, you have up to 3 years to file a worker’s compensation claim. A soon as a doctor has diagnosed your repetitive strain injury, you should report it to your employer. Although you have up to 3 years to officially file a workers’ compensation claim, starting the process much sooner will allow you to benefit from compensation for medical costs as well as payment for lost wages more quickly. You may also wish to consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer, particularly if your claim is denied. If your claim is denied, you will likely have to go through the process of appeal, settlement conference, and worker’s comp hearings. An Illinois workers’ compensation attorney can help you prepare for this process and help ensure that you receive fair compensation.

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