Those of us fortunate enough to live in Virginia know it’s unique: we have easy access to the Chesapeake Bay, Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley in addition to cities including Alexandria, Richmond, Fredericksburg, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg and Charlottesville. If we want to get back in touch with nature, we have lots of great choices: beaches, national parks, apple orchards, lakes, mountains and wineries. We live in a great state!
However, there’s one unique aspect of our state that isn’t as obvious, and that we as Virginia workers’ compensation attorneys think it’s critically important for employees to know: Virginia’s workers’ compensation law generally doesn’t cover repetitive injuries – that is, those injuries that happen gradually, over an extended period of time. For example, if you’re lifting boxes all day, every day at your job and after several months your back or neck starts to ache, it wouldn’t be covered under workers’ compensation. And this type of injury represents a large percentage of work-related injuries.
Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission Injured Workers Guide
According to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission Injured Workers Guide, employees are entitled to receive compensation for either an “injury by accident” or an “occupational disease.” Let’s explore the difference in these two types of work-related injuries.
The law states that to qualify as an injury by accident, an injury must:
- Occur at work or during a work-related function.
- Be caused by a specific work activity.
- Happen suddenly at a specific time. (Injuries that happen gradually over a period of time or from repetitive trauma are not covered. However, certain diseases caused by repetitive trauma are covered.)
The law describing an occupational disease states that in order to be covered, an occupational disease must:
- Be caused by the work.
- Not be a disease of the back, neck, or spinal column.
It’s important to remember that these parameters are specific to Virginia workers’ compensation law and therefore impact Virginia workers and their potential work injury claims.
Report Specific Injuries that Occur During Repetitive Tasks
It is possible for an employee to have a specific injury resulting from a repetitive task. For example, if you’ve been lifting boxes all week, but on one specific, particularly heavy box, you feel a “pop!” in your low back and immediately experience sharp pain, that would likely be a qualifying work injury under Virginia Workers’ Compensation Law. However, it will depend on how you report the work injury to your employer.
This is an important aspect of Virginia workers’ compensation law: If the employee simply reports that he was lifting boxes all week and his back hurts, it wouldn’t qualify. However, if he gives the exact detail that the injury occurred when lifting one particular box and he felt an immediate and sudden sharp pain, it would likely qualify. As an employee, it’s important to understand the difference between a sudden specific injury (when you feel a “pop!” and a sharp onset of pain) and a repetitive motion injury (when you feel achy after a day of work, but there was not a single specific incident that caused the pain).
As Virginia workers’ compensation lawyers, we want to inform Virginia workers that it’s important to report any work injury accurately and in as much detail as possible. This could mean the difference between a qualifying injury that enables you to collect medical and lost wage benefits while you are healing from the injury and a non-qualifying event that wouldn’t be compensated.
What about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness, tingling, weakness and pain in the fingers and hand due to repetitive pressure exerted on the median nerve of the wrist. It can be caused by making the same motions with the hands over and over during a period of time, especially if the hand is positioned below the wrist. Sometimes typing on a computer keyboard can cause this injury. There is an exception in Virginia Workers’ Compensation law that provides coverage for carpal tunnel syndrome despite the fact that it is caused by repetitive motion. However, the burden of proof for proving that carpal tunnel syndrome is related to one’s job is much higher than for other injuries.
If you’ve been hurt on the job anywhere in Virginia, the Richmond workers’ compensation attorneys at Commonwealth Law Group will fight for your rights. Call us today at 804.999.9999 for a free initial consultation. Justice starts here.