With the rising costs of living in California, many people find themselves spending much of their time during the week working. Consequently, the chances of getting injured in the workplace are usually high. Getting injured on the job is something that everyone needs to think about, whether you are working in a factory or an office. The good thing is that there is workers’ compensation, which ensures that employees are compensated after suffering injuries on-the-job. Have you or your loved one suffered an orthopedic work injury and you are seeking compensation? Contact the Workers Compensation Attorney Group if you are in Long Beach, California, for a smoother process of seeking compensation.
Workers’ Compensation Law in California
California has a no-fault workers’ compensation system for all injuries that have been sustained while a person is working, including diseases acquired, specific injuries as well as disabling conditions. The law requires employers to pay for the workers’ compensation insurance, which is meant to cover all their employees. Claiming for compensation is supposed to be a very swift process, but sometimes there could be disputes, making it necessary for one to be represented by an attorney.
Under California workers’ compensation law, an employee is entitled to several benefits, which include:
These will cover all hospital and medical benefits that are needed to relieve or cure the injured from the effects of that injury. Under these benefits, the employees will be reimbursed all the money they spent to travel to and from the hospital. Depending on your employer and the type of injuries you have sustained, your employer may require you to be attended to by a doctor of their choice or a doctor of your choice.
You get to enjoy this benefit if your injury is less serious, requiring you to take a few days off work or under medical observation. There will be a need for medical proof that you are unable to work for you to get these benefits. Temporary disability benefits are limited for a period of two years, even if the injured is still unable to work after that time.
These are benefits an employee should get in case the workplace injuries sustained are more serious, leaving him/her with some permanent impairment. If the permanent disability is 100%, you will get all your temporary disability benefits for life. If the disability is 70%, you get a life pension, which is given as an amount of money per week for the rest of your life. Note that there are permanent disabilities that allow a person to get back to their job.
Vocational training or rehabilitation
With this benefit, you get supplemental job displacements to be used only for training or school. The amount of money you get for the training depends on the level of your disability. The money can be used for a job search, but cannot be settled for cash. The benefit is issued out if your employer has not offered you back your job two months after you have been declared fit to work after an injury.
A return to work fund
Just like the training or rehabilitation fund, the return to work fund can be used to support an injured person for the period they are unable to go back to work. The help of an attorney is vital in ensuring that you are not missing out on any of these benefits.
These are issued out to an employee’s dependents in case of death resulting from a work-related injury.
Orthopedic Work Injury
Orthopedic injuries are the kind of injuries that involve the bones and muscles. These injuries can occur in any workplace and could also happen as a consequence of a traumatic accident such as a fall or a car accident. Orthopedic injuries also result from continuous pressure on a particular part of a body. These injuries are quite common in California and could require an employee to take a break from work and sometimes to quit their job as a result of permanent disabilities or chronic pain.
California law understands how challenging the period after such injuries can be, not just for the injured employee but for their families, which is why there is provision for orthopedic workers compensation benefits.
Work-related orthopedic injuries are prevalent, and sometimes they could be debilitating. There are so many causes of these injuries, which may include insufficient safety devices in workplaces, high-risk occupations, insufficient or lack of training and also repetitive stress. Orthopedic injuries can also touch on any part of a human body, though they mostly affect the soft tissues around the neck, elbow, shoulder, fingers, and wrists. Some of the injuries could be more serious, causing musculoskeletal injuries of higher degrees, and could, therefore, result in joint dislocations, stress fractures, and cartilage damages.
Orthopedic injuries are also a well-known cause of damaged nerves, inflammation, damaged sensation, and loss of muscle control.
Diagnosis for orthopedic injuries can be done using CT Scans, X-rays or though MRI scans, after which an orthopedic specialist will figure out the best treatment plan. Sometimes the orthopedic surgeon will recommend only pain medications and rest, but in other cases, there might be a need for surgery and/or therapy. The injured may also be required to undergo extensive rehabilitation, which may include both physiotherapy and occupational therapy, to promote a much quicker recovery and ensure that they heal completely.
Common Work-Related Orthopedic Injuries
There are many types of work-related orthopedic injuries that are common in California:
Rotator Cuff Tears
This is among the most common causes of disability and pain in most adults in our country today. This type of injury is capable of weakening the affected shoulder, making it hard for the injured to perform their day-to-day tasks, including basic activities like getting dressed. The injury is most common with people who play sports such as tennis or baseball, but could also be experienced by painters and people whose job is to clean windows. The injury happens over an extended period of time, from minor everyday wear and tear and if you continue doing the same thing and moving your arm the same way over and over again, you get serious rotator cut off tears that could make it hard for you to work.
How can a person tell they have a damaged rotator cuff? When you have:
Difficulties raising your arm
Experience pain after moving your arm in a certain way or when you lie on that particular arm
Experience some weakness in the affected shoulder
Unable to lift things in the normal way you have always done
There is some popping or clicking after moving your arm
The condition can be diagnosed through an MRI, X-ray or Ultrasound and treatment could be a mix of both physical therapy, designed to make your shoulders strong again, and medications that might include anti-inflammation drugs to relieve you of the pain and reduce the swelling.
If the injury is severe, an orthopedic surgeon may have to perform surgery on the injury. Additionally, they may have to remove areas of tissues or bones to give your muscles more space to move. Here are three operations that can be performed on a torn rotator cuff:
Arthroscopic: a small cut is made in your shoulder, and then the doctor uses an arthroscope to repair the tear. This is a much easier surgery, and it takes a shorter time to recover
Open surgery: in this type of operation, the doctor uses larger tools that go into the muscles of the affected shoulder to fix the tear
A mini-open surgery: this will use both methods above, starting with the arthroscopic method, followed by the open surgery with larger instruments
After any of the operations above, the patient will wear a sling for between 4 and 6 weeks. The recovery could take a few weeks or longer, depending on the amount of tear on your cuffs and how long the tear took place. It could take a person up to one year to regain full use of their arm again.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This type of orthopedic injury causes pain, tingling, and numbness in the arm or hand. It is the type of injury that happens when one major nerve in the hand, called the median nerve, gets compressed. The compression needs to be treated immediately, and if this does not happen, the injury could cause nerve damage, which may, in the end, require surgery.
If the injury is not detected as soon as it happens and the person repeats the same motion with his/her hands or wrists for an extended period of time, this action may affect tendons in the wrists, causing swelling or accumulation of pressure on the affected nerve.
It is recommended that people should seek immediate medical help as soon as they start feeling weakness, numbness or tingling in their hands.
There are many causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, among the most common ones being repeating motions of the wrist such as typing, mostly those actions you do when your hands are at a lower position than your wrists. The syndrome could also result from conditions such as obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and hypothyroidism. It could also occur during pregnancy.
If you have this type of injury and do not get proper treatment right away, the symptoms could last a very long time, worsen or even come back after a single treatment. It is easier to treat it once and for good if the problem is detected on time.
In a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome, a person could experience reduced grip strength because the muscles in their hands start to shrink. The pain and muscle cramping could also get worse. The median nerve will start to lose its functionality because of the pressure or irritation surrounding it. When this happens, a person could:
Have slowed nerve impulses
Lose feelings in their fingers
Lose strength and coordination, especially in their ability to use the thumb for pinching
The result could be permanent damage to the muscles and loss of function in the affected hand.
These are the most common of all orthopedic injuries that are suffered by most employees. The neck of a human being is quite susceptible to injuries, and in the workplace, a neck-related injury can occur due to a fall or an auto accident. Most common injuries on the neck are those that involve ligaments or soft tissues and muscles of the neck. There could be serious neck injuries too, sustained with a dislocation or fracture. The latter two could result in the damage of the spinal cord, causing paralysis.
Most neck injuries start with slow neck pains, which develop over a prolonged period of time. If you work on the same job day after day, chances of developing neck injuries are quite high. It could start with a mere strain and sprain and then advance to a serious disc problem. The two most common muscles that get strained on the neck are the trapezius and the levator scapulae, mainly because of the way they are positioned. They are both long neck muscles, which help in the bending and rotation of the neck. If they are not working properly, you may struggle to move your neck freely and could experience pain.
Other Work-Related Orthopedic Injuries
Wrist sprains: these are caused by the stretching or tearing of the several muscles in the human wrist. If you accidentally bend your wrist forcefully when you fall onto an outstretched hand, you may get a serious sprain of your wrist.
Shoulder pains: these could occur after a car accident, a fall or as a result of lifting heavy objects. The impact of the injury could result in damaged tendons, which could cause disability or chronic pain.
Knee injuries: these could be caused by pressure on the knee joint after a prolonged period of time. It could be caused by activities such as the lifting of heavy objects. Examples of knee injuries that are job-related are sprains, tendon and muscle damages, meniscal tears, ligament tears, and broken or dislocated bones.
Back injuries: these are very common especially with people who sit or stand for a prolonged period of time during their working hours. A more serious form of back injury could result in a severe injury in the spinal cord, which could subsequently cause paralysis or even permanent disability.
Some of the injuries will take several weeks to heal, and others will take several months. Others will require all-encompassing rehabilitation for an injured employee to recover fully and go back to their job. In some cases, therapy and treatment are never enough, and the employee may never recover fully from the injuries. Most of the people who have sustained on-the-job orthopedic injuries have been left with lifelong disabilities and chronic pain.
What to Do If You Have Been Injured?
Everyone working in the state of California is eligible to apply for the Workers Compensation Benefits if they have been injured at work. If an employee has been injured and they believe that they have a claim on the compensation, they should first take time to understand the state's law on these benefits and the best procedure to follow to get the compensation they deserve. It will be easier and stress-free if you are working with an attorney who understands more about work-related injuries and compensations and the legal processes involved.
What to do first after you have been injured or you realize that you have been injured is to seek medical help. The most important thing at that instant is to be able to get proof that the injuries you have sustained are job-related. This is the only way you will be able to file for a compensation claim.
In addition to that, you should be able to inform your employer within thirty days that you have been injured on the job. This should be done in writing and should be signed within one month. Otherwise, you might risk losing the right to receive any of the benefits you are entitled to get. After that, your employer will have a day to give you or send you the claim form. You will also be able to find the worker's compensation claim form online. After that, you will have one year to submit the form back to your employer. This should be done in person or via a certified mail.
Once you file for your claims, your employer or the claim administrator is required to authorize for the suitable medical treatment a day after receiving your claim form. You may receive some money for your medical treatment while the insurance company is deciding whether or not to approve your claim. The claim can either be accepted or denied. If the latter does not happen within three months, the law will consider the injury to be covered and will, therefore, expect you to be given full compensation.
If your claim is denied, you have a right to be heard by a judge, and so, you may file for Application for Adjudication for the Claim with all the necessary backing documents. You should also give notice to all the parties involved and file for Declaration of Readiness to Proceed form.
After that, the judge will put your case in the schedule for a compulsory settlement. If the case is not decided there, you will be required to prepare all the documents, providing a detailed account of the dispute, stating what you will present during trial and providing names of any witnesses you want to testify in your favor. Again, this is something you need help with, from an experienced attorney. An attorney will ensure that all the documents are filled in correctly and filed at the right time. He/she can also represent you during the trial.
If the judge rules against your favor, you can file a petition for reconsideration.
Challenges Involved in Obtaining Workers Compensation for Orthopedic Work Injuries
Obtaining on-the-job injuries compensation is always a straightforward matter as long as there is proof that the injuries sustained were actually suffered at the workplace. However, things are a little complicated when you are actually seeking compensation for an on-the-job orthopedic injury. Some of the challenges you could meet along the way include:
Your employer might contest the validity of your claims
Orthopedic injuries are caused by several other factors, not necessarily work-related. There is a chance that your employer may doubt that your injuries were sustained at work. Employers do this because they do not want to be held responsible for something they had failed to prevent. To improve your chances of success, work with an experienced attorney when filing your claim.
Your employer may require you to go back to work before recovering fully
An employee is allowed by law to skip work if they are experiencing pain or are unable to work as usual. However, after treatment, you may be fit enough to go back to work though under a doctor's recommended light duty program. Talk to your doctor so you may be allowed to skip activities that require lifting of heavy objects. Again, your attorney will be able to advise you on the way forward if you feel unwell enough to resume work.
Seek Help Filing for Workers’ Compensation Claim Near Me
Employers are required by law to put enough measures in place to guarantee the safety of all their employees. However, this does not always happen, and so, injuries at work happen. Orthopedic injuries are quite common and are some of the serious job-related injuries in California. The good thing is that there are compensation benefits to aid with the injured employee’s medication needs and to sustain them for the time they will be out of employment. Talk to our Long Beach work injury lawyer at 714-716-5933 and let us make the process less of a burden for you.