Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common on-the-job injury in Boston and the surrounding area. Anyone who is diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome due to their job should file workers’ compensation benefits, but the problem is many workers do not. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the main reason is that many people see carpal tunnel syndrome as something you just live with, but this is not the way it should be.
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development for Massachusetts and the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) oversees workers’ compensation in Boston. If there is a dispute, it will be settled using the provisions of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA). Pursuant the WCA (Part I, Title XXI, Chapter 154 Massachusetts General Laws) an injury is defined as including both a physical injury and a disease or illness that is a result of the worker’s employment. This can include carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Boston Workers’ Compensation Cases
Carpal tunnel syndrome as defined by National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a neurological condition that occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed or squeezed where the hand meets the wrist. The median nerve runs from the arm to the hand and provides feeling to the palm side of the hand including the thumb and three fingers. The nerve does not affect the fifth digit (pinky), and also controls the movement of the thumb.
The median nerve is protected in a sheaf known as the carpal tunnel. When this sheaf gets compressed, the patient can be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Boston Workers’ Compensation Cases:
As our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers have discussed in previous posts on this blog, a worker should go to the doctor for an exam if he or she has frequent burning in the palm of his or her hand along with inching, tingling, numbness, or pain in the palm side of the hand. One thing to keep in mind is that that if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, it will not likely get better on its own. In fact, it will likely get worse. Many people think that when they get home from work they can rest their hand and it will feel better. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the CTS illness, it will likely progress to the point where it hurts more as the day goes on. The pain can even radiate up and down the arm and leave the worker unable to sleep.
What you should not do is simply go to CVS or another drug store and buy a brace and start wearing it on your hand. While you may actually need a brace, it is much better to speak with a doctor who can perform an exam and tell what the best course of treatment may be. In some cases you will need a brace and possibly some pain medications and in other cases, you may need surgery. The point is, you need a medical exam and documentation and seeing a doctor will take care of both of these needs. While we are on this subject, the last thing you should do is take over-the-counter pain medication day after day without seeing a doctor. This is not good for your health and may actually allow the carpal tunnel syndrome to become more advanced.
Proving A Workers’ Compensation Claim for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you are at work and stocking shelves when a large box falls on your leg causing a serious personal injury, it will not be all that hard to prove you were injured at work as we have employees who witnessed the accident or were there in the immediate aftermath, and it is likely an ambulance will be called to your place of employment. There is also be a report generated that will document the workplace injury. However, as we have discussed in previous Workers’ Compensation blog posts, if such a report is not generated by your employer, you should make sure that DIA is aware of this fact and it may be up to you to file this form. While it may seem confusing, speaking to your experienced workers’ compensation attorney can be of great assistance in making sure your employer is following all of the workers’ compensation rules.
Aside from the fact that is not often a single accident that results in the worker having a carpal tunnel syndrome, or any other type of repetitive stress injury (RSI) for that matter, the employer, or more likely the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company, will often to claim that it was a preexisting condition, or that the worker developed CTS as a result of another job.
These days, it is sad a reality that a single job does not always pay enough money for the employer to take care of him or herself and other members of the household. This means that many people work two, or even three jobs. This is why the employer will try to claim that it was one of the other jobs that caused the carpal tunnel syndrome.
This can be the most difficult aspect of proving a workers’ compensation case involving carpal tunnel syndrome. There are after all only two things that must be established – that the worker is an employee within the meaning of the WCA definitions section, and the workers was injured on the job or suffered from a work-related illness. The best thing you can do is to make sure you have an experienced Boston workers’ compensation attorney fighting for your right to a full and appropriate workers’ compensation award who has handled many other cases involving carpal tunnel syndrome.
One common misconception about carpal tunnel syndrome is that the most common way to get it is sitting at a computer typing. Sure, that is one of the ways to get carpal tunnel syndrome, but there are many other non-office jobs that will lead to carpal tunnel syndrome a lot quicker. Any job where you are working on a production line using your hands, for example, is very likely to lead to repetitive stress injuries including carpal tunnel syndrome. In the greater Boston area, seafood processing is still a major industry. If you are spending your day working with shellfish or cutting fish, it is likely you can’t feel your hands by the end of a shift as they are so cold and numb. These are the conditions that frequently lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Again, this is not to say you can’t get carpal tunnel syndrome from sitting at a desk and typing, or entering data all day, but you should realize there are many other occupations that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
You should report carpal tunnel syndrome to your employer as quick as possible. As soon as you see a doctor and have a diagnosis, you should make a report to your employer. This is a workplace injury like any other. If you were hit on the head by falling merchandise, you wouldn’t wait to file a report so this should be no different. In fact, there are requirements in the WCA about how long you have to file a claim, so you should not wait any longer than necessary. Again, this is something about which you should speak with an experienced Boston workers’ compensation attorney
If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston work accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
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Report: Three Workers Burned in Natural Gas Explosion, Feb. 18, 2017, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog