Unlocking The Mysteries of Repetitive Stress and Occupational Diseases (Livestream)

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Unlocking The Mysteries of Repetitive Stress and Occupational Diseases!

Hey, everybody, this is Rex Zachofsky, your workers compensation attorney. We're here today to talk about a topic I get a lot of questions about. A lot of people come in and talk to me about this. Occupational disease, repetitive stress type claims. And these are the types of things where if you don't handle them properly, you run the risk of losing your case or having significant problems with your case.

So you want to make sure you do things right. You don't want to jeopardize your benefits. Let's get you what you deserve. So we're going to get into it and talk about repetitive stress and occupational disease types of cases. And of course, as usual, folks, if you have any questions at all, I'll feel free to chime in. I'm happy to help you out.

What is a repetitive stress injury, also known as an occupational disease? And what are some common examples?

Repetitive stress. It's pretty self-explanatory. Common examples include things like carpal tunnel, which is probably the biggest and most predominant repetitive stress type claim. Carpal tunnel, you sit on a computer all day and you're typing away and typing away and your wrists are killing you and unfortunately develop carpal tunnel.

There's also things like cubicle tunnel, which is a very similar affliction of the elbows and Tarsal Tunnel, which we see from time to time, which is repetitive stress in the feet. But repetitive stress and occupational, we always call them O.D. cases, can also include things, injuries to the neck, back and extremities, repetitive stress type injuries and disabilities.

Occupational diseases are usually specific to a particular job or occupation, and those can include things like asbestosis or silicosis or exposure to those types of harmful materials. Also things like hearing loss and exposure and any related disabilities. Sometimes we see exposure to chemicals resulting in in skin injuries and disorders. So those are just examples of occupational disease and repetitive stress types of disabilities and injuries.

Does worker's compensation cover repetitive stress and occupational disabilities?

Well, the question the answer, the question is yes. Worker's compensation covers those injuries and those disabilities the exact same way they cover accidental injuries. Just like a person who's involved in a car accident or falls down the stairs and has an accident or an injury, if you have an occupational, repetitive stress type carpal tunnel, back injury, knee injury, you are covered in the exact same way you are.

The application process is the same and the time limits are the same. You apply by filing a claim form. It's a C3 Form. There is a time limit.

There's a two year statute of limitations and a 30 day limitation on providing notice. And those are the two biggest elements that need to be satisfied. And that's where most cases that are lost, most repetitive stress type claims are lost because of that. You have two years from the date you first knew or should have known that your disability is work related, and 30 days from that date to give notice to your employer.

It's the exact same as an accident case, but there's some ambiguity as to when the time clock starts. When you have an accident, the clock starts the day you get hurt. Wen you have a repetitive stress type claim or occupational type, it's a little less clear the day you first knew or should have known, and a lot of times it's the day that you first saw a doctor.

Do repetitive stress injuries and occupational diseases get the same benefits as a workers compensation accident?

Again, yes. You're entitled to all the same benefits. You're entitled to get your lost time. You're causally related lost time. Lost time that is the direct result of the injury and the disability. You're entitled to medical benefits and medical treatment in the exact same manner as prescribed by the workers compensation law. And you're entitled to permanent disability benefits if you do suffer from a permanent injury as a result of a repetitive stress or occupational claim.

So all of the benefits that a person is entitled to in an accident case, they're also entitled to in repetitive stress or occupational claim. There are some slight nuances and differences that apply.

One example is determining permanency when you have hearing loss. A repetitive stress hearing loss claim, you have to be removed from the stressful environment for a certain period of time before you can be assessed for permanent disability. There's certain little nuances like that that do pop up with these cases, but for the most part you're entitled to all the same benefits.

Is it hard to prove stress or diseases work related?

It is sometimes a little bit more difficult. But the most important thing with any case, whether it's accidental or repetitive stress, is medical evidence. Medical evidence is the driving force behind just about any workers compensation claim. And it's the most important form of evidence that you're going to use to prosecute your claim and to get yourself benefits.

So what does that mean when you first start having a problem?

Go see a doctor. If you think that your back pain is due to all the heavy lifting you do as a UPS driver, if you think your knee pain is due to all the walking you do as a construction site flagman, if you think your wrist pain is due to all the work you do as a receptionist working at the law office of Rex Zachofsky go see your doctor.

Make sure you tell your doctor what you do at work, why you think it's related, and let the doctor make the decision. And make sure he documents it in the medical records, because that is the most important thing! That also generally is the date that the clock starts to run. So once you know or should have known that your injuries are work related, you now have to file your claim within two years and you have to give notice to your employer within 30 days.

Make sure you tell your doctor what you do at work, why you think it's related, and let the doctor make the decision. And make sure he documents it in the medical records, because that is the most important thing! That also generally is the date that the clock starts to run. So once you know or should have known that your injuries are work related, you now have to file your claim within two years and you have to give notice to your employer within 30 days.

So what my recommendation is when you're done talking to the doctor and he determines that your injuries are the result of repetitive stress, ask him to write you a note and give it to your boss. And therefore you've given written notice for work related, repetitive stress, disability. And you're satisfying all the important elements there.

You want to make sure that you file your claim timely. Just because you gave notice to your employer doesn't mean the claim has been filed. They're certainly not going to do it on your behalf. So you should go speak to a lawyer or at the very least on the board's website, pull up the claim form, fill it out, and get it sent in so that your claim has been timely filed.

Notice. One thing I notice about notice is that people are afraid to tell their boss that they're feeling pain. You know, a lot of people are afraid to give notice to their supervisor when they have an actual accident. They don't want to lose their job. And that's magnified in a repetitive stress situation because there isn't an acute... there isn't an accident, there isn't a, you know, a destroyed car in the midst of all this. It's much more subtle.

And people don't want to tell their supervisor that they have a repetitive stress type of injury because they're afraid they're going to lose their job. They're afraid they're going to be looked down upon or I don't even want to say discriminated against. But, you know, some people are just embarrassed by it, and they don't want to tell their supervisor or their boss or the foreman, whoever it is, that they have to report to because they don't want to get in trouble.

And that's a big problem, because if you don't give proper notice, your case is not going to go anywhere. Don't be ashamed. Don't be shy. Tell your boss when you hurt yourself. Tell your boss anytime you hurt yourself, especially if it's repetitive stress, and document it!

Do it in writing. This way it's on paper and there's no confusion as to whether or not you give proper notice. And then go see your doctor or see your doctor and give them a very good explanation of what you do at work and why you feel like there is a relationship there.

What if you have a preexisting condition, can you file a claim?

If a repetitive stress type of situation aggravates a preexisting claim, absolutely you can. Insurance companies love preexisting conditions because they like to use use it against you.

But, you know, it's no different than if you have a car accident and you hurt your back and then your car accident five years later and you hurt your back again. You can aggravate preexisting conditions. You can have multiple workers compensation claims for the same side of injury. You can have an accidental injury to a wrist and then a carpal tunnel years later.

It's just that you need to have good medical documentation like anything else. Help make sure your doctor knows about your prior accident and injuries. Make sure everything's documented and make sure he provides his opinion on whether or not there is a relationship between your work, the repetitive stressed nature of your work, and your injury or the aggravation of your injury.

What happens down the road if you do have multiple injuries or disability to the same body part, is we have to deal with things like apportionment. And apportionment is when we ask the doctors to provide their comment on how much of your overall level of disability is due to your old accident and injury versus your new accident or injury and that's that's what your lawyers are here to do. That's what the judge is here to do. And we take care of that down the road. But it shouldn't stop you from filing the initial claim so that you can get the treatment and the benefits that you need.

Does COVID count as a repetitive stress type of claim?

Very good question. And for the most part, it does. Clearly much like an accident, there is one particular exposure to the COVID virus that a person experiences, which gives them COVID, but usually that falls in the line of a an exposure situation. A nurse in a in a nursing home or a hospital who is exposed multiple times day in and day out, and then they develop COVID. They can't really pinpoint the exact date and time that they were exposed to COVID, thus causing them to contract the disease. Kind of happens over time.

It's handled much in the same way. When did you first know or should have known that your COVID was work related is when you file and when you give notice. So yeah, it's very, very similar. Thank God those types of claims are declining and are coming out from COVID and it's less and less of an issue at this point, and hopefully it's something we never see again.

What tips do you have for those suffering from these injuries?

Like I said before, the two most important things are notice and good medical. Make sure you tell your supervisor or your employer that you are suffering from a work related injury, even if it's not caused by a specific accident, even if it's something that's repetitive in nature. Tell your supervisor.

Make sure it's documented. Ask to fill out an injury report or an accident report if they don't let you listen. We hear all the time that they don't want to fill out an action report. Fill it out yourself. You could write it on a piece of paper, give it time. You can text it to them, you can email it to them. Just don't give yourself carpal tunnel when you email them! You can fill out a claim form and you can submit it to them yourself. You can you can send them a copy before you send a copy to the board. Those are all proper forms of written notice. Tell them when you're having a problem.

Your employees have insurance just for this reason, and if you don't handle it the right way, you're jeopardizing getting the medical care that you need and God forbid, the lost time benefits that you're going to need if you do miss time because of this injury. Carpal tunnel cases may seem like nagging little injuries when they start. But, you know, most people who develop carpal tunnel wind up having surgery at some point and they're out of work for a period of time. Don't run the risk of not getting your benefits while you're out of work. Make sure you get proper notice.

And then number two is make sure you see the doctor, make sure everything's documented properly. Have an open dialog with your doctor. You know, people go in there, they think the doctor's God and they're going to be able to read their mind and give them the medical that they need. They're not. Talk to your doctor. Explain to them why you think your injuries are work related. Let them document your injuries properly and it'll go a long way in prosecuting your claim and getting you the benefits that you need.

☎️ Need my help with your Workers Compensation case? Call to set up a free consultation at 212-406-8989 or contact me here.

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