Thursday, December 31, 2015

Why a Repeitive Injury at Work is not compensable as a Workers' Compensation Claim in Virginia

You are injured at work so you would naturally expect to receive compensation under the workers' compensation laws. In Virginia, if is a repetitive trauma injury, you will not be successful.

In Virginia you can be compensated for an injury at work or for an occupational disease. Unfortunately, the Virginia Supreme Court in a series of decisions in 1996 decided an injury resulting from repetitive trauma was "not compensable" as either an accident or as a disease. Thus, injuries such as tendonitis, back injuries, knee injuries, neck injuries, and knee injuries that occurred over a period of time (even though occurring at work) were not compensable.

In a reaction to the Virginia Supreme Court decisions, the Virginia legislature met in 1997 to decide whether any repetitive injuries should be compensated under Virginia's workers' compensation laws. The legislature decided to amend Virginia Code Section 65.2-401 to provide limited coverage for two types of repetitive trauma problems: hearing loss and carpal tunnel syndrome caused by work. However, the General Assembly said these problems could be compensated under the Workers' Compensation Act but only if the conditions were proven by "clear and convincing evidence"  as having developed from the work place environment. In other workers' compensation cases in Virginia  claimants only need to prove their cases by a mere "preponderance" of the evidence.

In an early study of carpal tunnel cases after the 1997 amendments only 16% of claimants were successful in proving their cases under the "clear and convincing" evidentiary standard.

So, the following activities causing injury would not be compensable under the Virginia Workers' Compensation   Act:

*lifting over a period of time with resulting neck or back injury;

*typing  at a computer with resulting carpal tunnel syndrome (unless can qualify under the clear and
  convincing evidence standard;

*hand or arm  problems resulting from repetitive activity at work;

*stocking shelves over a period of time resulting in any orthopedic injury;

*standing, kneeling, crouching or sitting for a period of time.

In summary, even though a worker in Virginia has suffered an injury at work, the claim may still be denied if the injury is caused by repetitive trauma and not by a specific accident. For example, if a worker lifts 40 boxes in a work day and wakes up the next day with a back aches, the worker does not  have a winning claim in Virginia. On the other hand if the worker lifts box number 40 and feels a sharp pain then the worker may have a winning claim.

For more information contact workers' compensation lawyer Jerry Lutkenhaus (804) 358-4766 or visit Virginia Workers' Compensation Lawyer.