If you have suffered any neck or back injury at your place of work, even if you were not taking part in any activity that could have caused the injury, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Among the benefits that you can recover are death benefits for your loved ones, lifetime medical award, payments for permanent disability, and lost income. Your employer will possibly challenge your workers’ compensation claim by alleging that you didn’t notify them, the injuries were caused by your negligence, among other defenses. If you are in Long Beach, you can contact The Workers Compensation Attorney Group to help you prove that your injuries were work-related and you deserve proper compensation.

Back and Neck Injuries

California has rules and procedures for workers’ compensation claims. The most common injuries at work are from one-time accidents. Back and neck injuries are among the possible life-threatening and most serious injuries because of how sensitive the central nervous system and the spinal cord are. They can result in a permanent disability. A back and neck injury may occur depending on the type of work you do and can happen out of nowhere.

There are several types of neck injuries depending on a number of factors, but the most frequent ones are:

  1. Neck strain or whiplash - It usually occurs when your neck muscles are stretched or torn. You may experience whiplash if you force your neck and head backward suddenly, then forward. It is commonly sustained during car accidents. Depending on the magnitude of your whiplash injury, you may experience numbness, difficulty sleeping, pain, and tingling. The symptoms may end in a few days or they may go on for several months. You might need to wear a cervical collar as you recover from your whiplash injury at your place of work.

  2. Neck sprain - This happens when the ligaments in your neck are stretched resulting in pain and stiffness.

  3. Neck fracture - A sudden fall or trauma can cause parts of your cervical spine to break. The breaking of the cervical spine is known as a neck fracture and it is severe. In case you suffer a neck fracture, you might need to wear a brace to make your neck stable.

  4. Neck stinger - This is a sudden injury to the root of the nerve and it’s usually caused by trauma. The injury is temporary but it can cause tingling, weakness, numbness and difficulty in performing your usual job duties.

  5. Herniated or displaced discs - It is also referred to as slipped or ruptured discs. This happens when you move your neck suddenly, putting pressure on a disc, resulting in weakness, pain or potential numbness. You might need surgery to treat a herniated cervical disc.

  6. Cervical dislocation - A work-related injury may dislocate part of your cervical spine, which leads to damage and instability of nearby garments. You might need surgery in case you suffer a physical dislocation because of paralysis.

  7. Pinched nerves or muscles - This usually happens when ruptured discs or a bone pinches a nerve resulting in weakness or extreme pain.

Back injuries are very common. The pain can be chronic, meaning it will occur for more than six weeks or it can be acute; it happens very fast then reduces within three to six weeks. Acute back pain is temporary but it can be excruciating, whereas chronic pain can go on for months, years or even a lifetime. Depending on how severe the injury is, you might need the following treatment(s):

  • Cold or hot compresses

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs

  • Chiropractic care

  • Physical therapy

  • Ultrasound therapy

  • Whirlpool therapy

  • Acupuncture

  • Surgery

Other injuries or back strains resolve over time if the injured worker gets enough rest, although they may recur if the worker places too much pressure on the back. This can put you out of work for a long time, add up your finances that could result in additional amounts of stress. In case you get injured at work, you need to avoid delays and get in touch with a workers’ compensation attorney immediately.

Common Causes of a Back and Neck Injury

The consequence of a back and neck injury is weakening and putting you out of work permanently. The most common ways that cause back and neck injuries to employees at their workplace are:

  1. Slipping and falling - Debris, broken stairs, poor lighting, wet floors, and other issues might cause a slip and fall accident. When you fall and strike the floor, you might hurt your neck.

  2. Lifting heavy stuff or overexertion - If your job requires you to lift, carry, push or pull heavy objects, you risk hurting your neck at work.

  3. Bending.

  4. Falling objects - Forklift drivers, order pickers or any other employees might sustain an injury caused by falling objects at work.

  5. Twisting.

  6. Pushing and pulling.

  7. Vehicle accidents - Most employees have to drive as part of their jobs. A car crash might cause pinched nerves, whiplash or fractured vertebrae to the worker.

  8. Getting hit by a moving object in the back or neck.

  9. Prolonged sitting on a non-ergonomic chair. Ergonomic chairs help keep proper posture and balance of your body when you’re sitting. You may suffer back pains, and consequently, back injuries if you use a non-ergonomic chair for a long time.

Settlements for workers’ compensation for back injuries might involve the neck, lower or upper back. Pain might spread into the neck, arms or legs. Sometimes you might get multiple injuries from workplace accidents. Each case is unique.

How to Determine that You Have Suffered a Neck Injury at Work

It’s not always easy to determine that an employee hurt their neck or back at work. However, there are signs that can help determine if a person has these injuries. Most neck injuries lead to cervical radiculopathy. This is pain that spreads across the neck, arms, shoulders, upper back and chest. Symptoms of a neck injury differ between different people but the most common ones include:

  • Headaches

  • Muscular stiffness

  • Migraines

  • Inability to turn your head in a certain direction

  • Pain causing trouble to sleep

  • Pain to other parts of the body

What Happens When the Employer Disputes the Injuries?

Often, workers’ compensation claims administrators and employers dispute back and neck injuries. They may deny that the injury took place at work, that it doesn’t exist or that it is not as disabling as the employee claims. Majority of these disputes are resolved by settlements. However, if the insurance company is not willing to negotiate in good faith, a hearing before a judge may be necessary.

The existence of injuries involving a displaced disc or fractured vertebra can be documented by an x-ray. On the other hand, it is difficult to prove the existence of injuries involving damage to the nerve or soft tissues. A CT scan, MRI or an EMG are some of the highly developed tests that doctors can use to confirm the injuries.

Unfortunately, pain cannot be measured by any diagnostic test. A minor injury that can damage a nerve might cause severe pain. The best way of documenting pain is by having good communication with the physician attending to you. A doctor will only know that the pain exists if you explain how you feel to them. Great interpretation will link test results to back pain. Even though objective testing can confirm an injury, there is no test which can determine that the injury happened at your place of work.

Proving That Back Injuries are Work-related

The employee should alert the employer immediately they start feeling pain. The best way to document that an injury is work-related is by reporting the injury to the employer as soon as it happens then asking for some time off from work to get checked by a doctor. The best thing is to get a workers’ compensation lawyer who will gather statements from co-workers that witnessed the accident. A fall accident is very obvious and one that is likely to be remembered by co-workers. Even though no one might have witnessed an injury caused by lifting heavy objects, they’ll remember the injured worker complaining of pains or taking time off from work.

Repetitive motion over long periods of time may cause some back injuries, for example, degenerative disc disease. In such cases, you need to get an opinion of a specialist to determine whether the employee’s nature of work was the cause of the injury.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Back and Neck Injuries

If you or your loved one gets injured at work and suffers a back and neck injury, you are eligible to receive the following benefits from a workers’ compensation claim:

  1. Lost Income - If your injury causes you to be out of work, then you might receive a temporary total disability payment. You might also receive payment for temporary partial disability if you are making less money because you’re only capable of performing light duties.

  2. A Lifetime Medical Award - If you can prove that you suffered injuries while performing your job duties, your employer’s insurance company must cater for all sensible, authorized, required and related medical care. If the workers’ compensation insurance rejects medical care recommended by your doctor, you might need to file a claim for pre-authorization and payment and prove your case at a workers’ compensation hearing.

  3. Vocational Rehabilitation - A serious neck injury or a cervical fusion will most likely stop you from resuming your previous job duties before the accident. If it so happens, your employer and their insurance company might have to cater to your vocational services to enable you to find employment for light duties after your neck surgery.

  4. Compensable Consequences - If your back injury was suffered as a result of a work-related ankle or knee injury, then you are eligible for compensation for the consequences like they happened at work.

  5. Payments for Permanent Partial Disability - If the neck injury causes the employee not to use one or both arms, the injured employee will receive benefits for Permanent Partial Disabilities.

  6. Death Benefits - A cervical spine injury might lead to paralysis or even death. If the employee passes on due to the severe injuries, then his/her dependents are entitled to death benefits.

An eligible worker that is healing but not able to work is eligible to receive temporary benefits. The benefits are equivalent to two-thirds of the employee’s gross salary which is subject to maximum disability benefit per week. If the injured employee gets completely cured, he/she will resume work and stop receiving the disability benefits. If the injury does not completely heal and the worker becomes permanently impaired, they will receive benefits for permanent disability as compensation. Sometimes the injured worker might be able to resume their former job with a permanent back injury, with or without restrictions. In other cases, the worker might not be able to do the same kind of job.

Definition of Workers’ Compensation Disability Categories

  1. Temporary Partial Disability - This only prevents you from doing some but not all your job duties for a limited amount of time.

  2. Temporary Total Disability - This completely stops you from working for a limited amount of time.

  3. Permanent Partial Disability - This prevents you from ever going back to work for either your current employer or another employer.

  4. Permanent Total Disability - This is a permanent injury that partially impairs your ability to work.

Common Defenses for Workers’ Compensation

Any person who is injured at their workplace is entitled to a workers’ compensation for their injuries. The insurer will do their investigations on the claims before compensating the injured worker. However, some injuries that occur at the workplace are not compensable. Depending on your case, your claim can be dismissed based on the following defenses:

  1. Failing to notify your employer

    State laws on workers’ compensation require that an injured worker should give notice of their injury to their employer within a certain timeline, usually not later than 30 days. The notice should be in writing. Failing to give notice to your employer within the desired timeframe might be used as a defense to dismiss your claim.

  2. Self-inflicted injuries

    If the injuries were caused by the worker, then he/she won’t be compensated. These may include injuries caused by a fight which may have been started by the worker or injuries sustained intentionally in order to file a claim fraudulently.

  3. Failing to attend doctor’s appointments

    An independent medical examination should be used to support your claims and to determine how much benefits you are entitled to. Your claims may be denied or the amount may be reduced if you don’t show up for your doctor’s appointments.

  4. Not able to determine the cause of your injury

    The cause of injury to the worker has to be determined to be able to process a claim. The injury cause is determined by conducting a medical examination on the injured worker.

  5. The injury isn’t as bad as the worker claims

    Your benefits might be reduced and you might be required to resume your job sooner if the evidence suggests that the injury suffered doesn’t stop you from doing your regular duties.

  6. Horseplay or willful negligence

    If you are intoxicated while performing your duties or you violate your employer’s safety rules, in case you suffer any injuries, you may not be compensated by the workers’ compensation scheme. In most cases, the injured worker and the employer will have different opinions on who was negligent. If the injuries have been caused by the employee’s carelessness or as a result of goofing off, the employer may claim horseplay.

  7. Statute of limitations

    Every state has its own deadline for filing for a workers’ compensation claim which is different from the deadline for giving notice of the injury. The deadlines vary ranging from one to three years. The statute of limitations is usually flexible in cases of occupational diseases like injuries caused by being exposed to toxins for some time. You’ll be required to file the claim within a specified period of time after the last known exposure. If you fail to file your claim within the statute of limitations, your ability to recover for injuries may be nullified.

  8. No causal link to employment

    To be able to claim an injury that is work-related, there has to be a causal link to employment. If the injury is not work-related, this might be used as a defense to dismiss your claim.

How to Value a Back and Neck Injury for Insurance Settlement

There are many factors in any injury case to be considered when valuing a back and neck injury. Some of the factors include:

  1. Nature, severity, and duration of the injury

    Neck and back injuries range from sprains and minor strains to neck fractures and whiplash. The more severe and long-lasting the injury, the higher the compensation in a personal back and neck injury settlement. In addition, hard injuries, for example, a fractured bone may result in more compensation than soft tissue injuries like pinched nerve or whiplash.

  2. The type of medical treatment you receive

    Most insurance companies will base their settlement value for your injury on its nature and how much it will cost medically to treat the injury. If the injuries require a spinal fusion or surgery, the payment will be larger compared to a strained neck that only requires a brace. Also, injuries that require treatment by a physician as opposed to treatment by chiropractors or physical therapists are seen as more serious by the insurance company.

    It is difficult to accurately estimate the potential recovery of injuries because at a trial, most likely, it will be the jury who will ultimately decide the amount of money the injured worker will receive.

Neck and Back Injury for Older People

Whilst most workers will recuperate from a minor neck or back injury in six months, older people with a back and neck pain history before getting injured at their place of work may never make a full recovery. It is very important to report the current back or neck injury immediately and receive the necessary medical care, especially if you had a pre-existing injury. The workers’ compensation insurance company may deny your claims and claim the injury is due to the normal aging process.

What You Need to Know About Workers’ Compensation

  1. What are the requirements for a workers’ compensation benefit?

    In order to be eligible for the workers’ compensation benefit, you must meet the following requirements:

    • You must be an employee

    • You must meet the timeline for filing for the claim and recording the injury

    • The injury must be work-related

    • Your employer must be covered by the workers’ compensation insurance

  2. What is the process of claiming workers’ compensation benefits?

    • Immediately an injury occurs, you should seek medical attention and notify your employer of the injury in writing

    • Next, you need to gather all information on the events that took place before the injury, during and immediately after the injury

    • Then, have a meeting with your attorney who will look into all the information regarding the incident then they’ll advise you on your best available options

    • In case you fail to come to a settlement with your employer or their insurance company, then you’ll need to go through a trial

  3. What if you have multiple injuries?

    Workers might have multiple injuries leading to pain in their arm. If they end up having a neck and arm injury. This is referred to as double crush syndrome. Such a situation may make treatment difficult because both the arm and neck injury might cause pain in the arms. Your doctor will have to find out which injury is causing more pain before continuing with treatment and know which injury to treat first.

Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Near Me

Neck and Back injuries are among the most common injuries at the workplace and they occur very suddenly. Back injuries, in particular, may cause partial disability, permanent disability or paralysis. It’s crucial to have a knowledgeable attorney to accurately evaluate your claim and ensure you get all the benefits in full. The Workers Compensation Attorney Group in Long Beach will advocate on your behalf and fight for your full compensation. Get in touch with our Long Beach workers compensation attorney at 714-716-5933.