Can I Obtain Workers’ Compensation for a Herniated Disc?
Back pain accounts for more than 260 million missed workdays each year, according to the National Health Interview Survey. Back pain is often the result of a herniated disc. Employees may be able to obtain Workers’ Compensation benefits for a herniated disc if it is due to a work-related injury. However, employees must provide medical evidence and follow proper filing procedures to prove that the back injury was work related and serious enough to prevent a return to work.
What is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc refers to an injury of one of the rubbery cushions located between the vertebrae of the spine. This type of injury is also known as a slipped disc, bulging disc, or ruptured disc. Each disc has a soft center that is encased in a tougher exterior. When a disc becomes herniated, the soft center pushes out through a tear in the exterior. This can result in severe pain and discomfort when the center fluid presses against a nerve. A herniated disc can occur anywhere along the spine, from the neck on down; however, this injury is more common in the lower back.
What are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
The symptoms of a herniated disc include the following:
Sharp or burning back pain that radiates down the leg, arm, or shoulder
Symptoms will depend on the location of the herniated disc. If it is in the neck, pain is more likely to radiate to the shoulder and the arm. A herniated disc in the lower back may present itself as a burning sensation down the leg and/or muscle weakness that may cause a person to stumble. In severe cases, a herniated disc may press against the entire spinal canal, causing ongoing weakness. Individuals suffering from a progressive loss of sensation down the back of the legs and/or bladder dysfunction may need to undergo surgery to avoid permanent paralysis.
Although a herniated disc may heal over time with rest and medication, once a disc ruptures, it will always be more prone to injury later.
Which Workers Face the Greatest Risk of Suffering a Herniated Disc Injury?
Back injuries can happen at any time; however, workers who are required to perform tasks involving lifting, bending, or driving face the greatest risk of herniated injury. These include the following occupations:
Janitors and maintenance workers
Over-the-road truck drivers
Grocery store workers who stock shelves
Nurses and home health aides
Workers that must use heavy power tools
Local delivery truck drivers
The incidence of work-related herniated discs and other back injuries has been increasing with the growth of online shopping and food delivery. This is because more employees are working in warehouses with local delivery trucks, spending hours a day bending and lifting heavy boxes. Amazon alone employs more than 120,000 American workers in warehouses that may be as large as 20 football fields. A herniated disc can also be the result of a bad fall. According to the 2019 Liberty Mutual Index, overexertion and falls account for more than half of all costly workplace injuries.
How Do I Prove a Herniated Disc Injury?
As individuals age, their spines begin to degenerate over time, making their discs more prone to tearing. In addition to age, other risk factors for disc herniation include smoking, body weight, and genetics. In all cases, workers must gather sufficient medical evidence and other supporting documentation to prove that their herniated discs are work-related. This information may include the following:
An accident report listing the time, date, and location of the incident at work that caused the herniated disc
Statements from witnesses who saw the accident
Medical records and bills
Proof of missed work
To establish a successful claim, injured workers must first report the incident to their supervisors, and then see a doctor as soon as possible. Because employers may argue that the injury existed before the incident at work, it is important to provide medical records of all doctor’s visits prior to the accident to prove that the herniated disc was not a pre-existing condition.
Should I Contact a Lawyer Before Filing for Workers’ Compensation?
Many employees assume that they do not need a lawyer to file for Workers’ Compensation. However, there are many laws, procedures, and requirements involving in filing a claim successfully. Injured employees should contact a lawyer to fully understand their legal rights and have a better chance at success. A qualified lawyer can ensure that the injured worker will meet all deadlines and complete all necessary paperwork properly. This includes ensuring that all medical evidence, reports, and other documentation will be submitted properly and on time.
In addition to filing a successful claim, injured workers should contact a lawyer to determine whether they may have a valid third-party injury claim. Injured workers may be reluctant to consult a lawyer because they believe that their injury was due to their own clumsiness or inattention. However, an experienced lawyer can determine that the proper equipment or a simple safety feature may have prevented the injury in the first place.
What are Examples of Third-Party Claims?
Workers’ Compensation shields employers from being sued by employees who are hurt on the job. However, there are instances when the accident was caused by a third party other than employers or employees. Examples of third-party claims include the following:
A worker is injured by poorly designed equipment or heavy machinery that lacked adequate machine guarding.
A work-related accident occurred because of a dangerous condition on a property-owner’s premises, injuring the employee.
An employee is injured because of the negligence of a contractor or another worker on a jobsite who is employed by a different company.
When work-related back injuries occur as a result of a fall, it is especially critical that injured employees seek the counsel of an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer who can determine whether they have a valid third-party claim. Galfand Berger LLP has successfully represented hundreds of injured workers in lawsuits involving third-party claims, including a maintenance worker who suffered a serious back injury after falling at work. The worker was required to monitor the water level inside of a pump tank. As the worker attempted to pull himself up to the top of the pump to perform this task, he slipped and fell off the small inspection bracket step, striking his lower back on an I-hook on one of the circulation-pump motors. Although the worker was initially able to stand up on his own, he later sought medical treatment because of stiffness and pain. The worker developed paraparesis because of a spinal bruise.
By Galfand Berger, LLP, Pennsylvania
Law Firm Website: https://www.galfandberger.com
Call (800) 222-8792
Law Firm Website: https://www.galfandberger.com
Call (800) 222-8792
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debra Jensen
Debra Jensen has been selected five times to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers’ list, is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a Lifetime Charter member in Rue Ratings’ Best Attorneys of America, and a Senior Partner and Galfand Berger’s Managing Partner. As a Senior Partner at Galfand Berger, Debra contributes to the firm’s core values and mission.
Copyright Galfand Berger, LLP
Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and.how they may affect a case. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.