What type of injuries are covered under workers’ compensation?

There are a wide variety of injuries that are covered by workers’ compensation claims. The three main types are (1) injuries by work accident; (2) occupational diseases; and (3) repetitive work trauma injuries. 

Most claims are brought under an injury by accident theory. When an injury by accident occurs, it generally results from something like a slip, trip, or fall. Some states have special definitions for “injury by accident” claims that can make it more difficult to prevail if an injured worker was doing his usual job in his ordinary manner. Some states look at whether the result of the accident itself was unexpected—like a sudden onset of pain associated with a work activity.

Occupational injury, disease & workers comp

Occupational diseases are different from injuries by accident in that they usually do not stem from a one time, readily identifiable accident. Generally, occupational diseases are caused by prolonged exposure to something in the work environment. For example, someone who works in a setting where there is asbestos could develop mesothelioma or someone working in a textile mill could develop byssinosis. These cases are often more expensive to bring as the injured worker has to prove not only the workplace exposure but also workplace exposure was the cause of his/her problem. Something like lung cancer or heart disease would be more difficult to prove because it may not be so simple to pinpoint the link between the work environment and the illness. Proof of an occupational disease often requires complex medical evidence.

There are some states that provide special treatment to first responders in the occupational disease context. Police officers may fall into this category and run a higher risk of heart attack and other types of cancer. An experienced workers’ comp injury attorney in your state can provide more detailed advice and guidance to help understand your potential compensation.

Repetitive trauma work injuries are a little bit different than both injuries by accident and occupational diseases. These types of injuries generally develop slowly over time as a result of some sort of repetitive motion on the job. A commonly known example of a repetitive trauma injury is carpal tunnel syndrome, which is associated with certain repeated hand and wrist motions. Repetitive trauma injuries can also be expensive to pursue and may require complex medical evidence.

Workers comp conditions for pre-existing injuries

It should also be noted that pre-existing injuries do not completely disqualify workers from receiving compensation under the workers’ compensation act assuming certain other standards are met. For example, if someone has a bad back and heavy lifting aggravated some type of pre-existing issue causing the need for more medical treatment or potentially disability, that worker can still pursue workers’ compensation benefits for their injuries. These cases can be more difficult to prove because of complex medical causation questions during the workers comp process.

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Former Executive Committee Member
Injured Workers’ Advocates

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