Some injuries are more visible than others. Some develop over time and cannot be observed directly. One of these is carpal tunnel syndrome, an injury that affects the nerves. It is very painful and can significantly limit a person’s mobility. Carpal tunnel is also one of the most common types of work injuries.
When a person suffers from carpal tunnel sustained on the job, they are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in both Missouri and Illinois. However, because the injury is not easily visible, filing a claim can present certain challenges. A JSK workers’ compensation lawyer in Illinois and Missouri can help you claim the benefits you need if you have developed this syndrome. Contact us for more information.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a part of the body that forms an opening in the wrist. Carpal bones are located at the bottom of the wrist, and the transverse carpal ligament runs across the top of the wrist. The passageway the bones and ligament forms is known as the carpal tunnel. The median nerve has to pass through the carpal tunnel to allow the thumb and three middle fingers to sense and function. When the median nerve becomes compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel, it can cause feelings of numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and arm.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel is a very common workplace injury caused by repetitive motion. However, underlying health issues and the anatomy of the wrist can also result in carpal tunnel. On the job, many employees are required to make repetitive motions, such as typing on a computer, or using cash registers and scanning devices. These are just some instances in which people can suffer from carpal tunnel while on the job.
Although any worker can suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome after performing repetitive motions, there are some industries in which the injury is more commonly seen than others. These include:
- Office workers
- Factory workers
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
The first symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome is usually a tingling feeling or numbness in the fingers and hand. Usually, the condition will affect the thumb and all the fingers except the little finger. The tingling or numbness may start out as relatively minor, or it can feel as severe as an electric shock.
Over time, the painful feeling may travel from the wrist further up the arm. People may experience this while they are holding something, such as a newspaper or a steering wheel, or while they are sleeping. At first, shaking the hands may be enough to stop the symptoms, but it will usually become constant over time.
If carpal tunnel is left untreated, a person will experience weakness in their arm and hand. This weakness can be so severe it causes a person to drop objects, as the thumb’s muscles used to pinch become weaker.
The Cost of Treating Carpal Tunnel
In many cases, carpal tunnel treatment involves nothing more than a wrist brace and resting the hand, arm, and wrist. In other cases, though, treatment can be more extensive. This is particularly true when the injury is untreated for some time.
Sometimes, the only way to treat carpal tunnel is through surgery. There are many types of surgery that can treat carpal tunnel, but all of them will result in long and painful recovery times. You likely cannot return to work right away. Not only will you lose income, but carpal tunnel surgery is also often very expensive. In fact, it can cost more than $5,000. You should not have to pay for this expense out of your own pocket after suffering a workplace injury, which is why so many people claim workers’ compensation for the injury every year.
Carpal Tunnel & Workers’ Comp: Can You Claim?
Carpal tunnel is recognized under both Illinois and Missouri law as a workplace injury that qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits. However, in both states, you must show you suffered the injury from the workplace to claim workers’ compensation benefits. For example, if you did not experience any problems with your hand, arm, or wrist before taking an office job, but started to develop pain after one year, you may have a valid workers’ compensation claim.
Unfortunately, claiming workers’ compensation for carpal tunnel is not easy. While all workers’ comp claims have the potential for challenges to arise, this is especially true in cases that involve carpal tunnel syndrome. It is essential to work with a workers’ compensation lawyer in Illinois and Missouri at JSK that can help you overcome the problems that may arise.
Challenges Associated with Workers’ Compensation Carpal Tunnel Claims
Even though workers are entitled to file a claim for benefits after sustaining a carpal tunnel injury on the job, there are many challenges associated with these types of claims. Unlike in other workers’ comp claims, a carpal tunnel injury might not be a result of a traumatic experience. If you are unable to point to any one incident that caused the injury, it is more difficult to prove, but an experienced lawyer with JSK can handle the case and get you the compensation you deserve.
The insurance company that provides workers’ compensation insurance to your employer may try to dispute the claim. They may argue that you had a pre-existing condition and so are not eligible for benefits. To do this, they may review your employment history. If you worked in construction before, an occupation in which carpal tunnel is common, the insurance company may argue that you did not sustain the injury during your current job but rather, your previous employment.
It is important to note that even if you do have a pre-existing condition, you may still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In this case, you will have to show your current employment aggravated the condition.
The very nature of the injury causes another challenge that can arise when filing a workers’ compensation claim for carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel usually develops slowly over time and so, people do not always notice the symptoms right away. A small tingling in the fingers may not seem like a serious workplace injury and so a worker may put off seeing a doctor or reporting the injury for a period of time.
This is a problem that can negatively impact a workers’ compensation claim. In Illinois, workers have only 45 days to report a workplace injury to their employer, while employees in Missouri only have 30 days to make a report. When employees do not report their injuries within these timeframes, it can provide a basis for denying the claim. Insurance companies may use that against workers to protect their bottom line. By working with JSK we can give you the best chance at a claim.
What to Do After Suffering Work-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
It is important you take certain steps to protect your claim. These steps are as follows:
- Seek medical treatment: See a doctor as soon as you begin to notice symptoms. Provide them with as much information as possible, including what you do for work and how long you have been working in your current position. A doctor can then make a complete assessment and tell you whether or not the injury is work-related. If it is, the doctor can include that in your medical report, which will help document the injury and how it happened.
- Keep a log: Carpal tunnel syndrome is an injury that can take a long time to develop and your memories may fade over time. Keeping a log can help ensure you remember important details, such as when you first started noticing symptoms and how the injury is affecting your ability to work. Keeping a log can make it easier to demonstrate whether your employment duties caused your condition.
- Call a workers’ compensation lawyer: It is always a good idea to work with a workers’ compensation lawyer at JSK when filing a claim for benefits. It is vital, though, when you are filing a claim based on a carpal tunnel injury due to complexities of the case.
Our Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Illinois and Missouri Can Help with Your Claim
If you have suffered carpal tunnel at work, you can file a claim for benefits, but you should not do it on your own. At the Law Office of Jerome Salmi Kopis, LLC, our workers’ compensation lawyer in Missouri and Illinois can build a strong case to make sure you receive the benefits you need. Call us now at (618) 726-2222 or contact us online to schedule a free review of your case.