Workers compensation, or workers comp, as it is more commonly known, is a legal and financial contingency set in place to protect workers who have become injured while on the job. In most cases, this type of workplace-related injury is pretty straightforward, and there’s not much debate about what happened. For example, if someone working with an arc welder warns the management that a welder is defective but is ordered to use it anyway, and the welder explodes, causing an accident and injury, this is not the fault of the worker. If the worker needs hospital treatment, and maybe even suffers a permanent injury as a result of this incident, he or she should not—and will not—be expected to bear the brunt of the financial burden for hospital treatment and recovery.
In these cases, workers compensation steps in to provide the financial support that a victim of injury at the workplace deserves. But what about cases where the injury is less clear and less industrial? Will workers comp still be there for someone who works at an office?
Proof Is Everything
Whether a job is white collar or blue collar, one thing is absolutely essential; proof of a work-related injury. In order for workers compensation to be legally recognized and dispensed, there must be proof that an injury that is sustained was actually work-related. In the above example, the cause is clear; orders to work with faulty equipment caused an injury, at work.
However, America is, increasingly, a country of technology and service-related industries. It’s not uncommon at all for people to spend hours sitting in a chair, in front of a computer, using a mouse and keyboard and interacting with data to keep a company profitable and healthy.
Even here, there is a danger of injury, though, from a legal standpoint, the proof may be a little more nebulous to determine.
The RMS Problem
Repetitive motion syndrome is easy enough to understand, and it can happen just as easily in intense, athletic/sporting activities as it can for a “desk jockey” that is working on a computer all the time. The same motion, repeated over and over again is focusing force and stress on a specific set of muscles. Given enough time, and an insufficient period of rest/recovery, these repetitive motions can eventually injure nerves and muscles, causing chronic pain and, worst yet, potentially crippling performance permanently.
This is why activities such as using a mouse and keyboard can cause a very specific form of RMS called carpal tunnel syndrome, which is focused mostly about the hands and wrists. Medically, there is nothing mysterious about carpal tunnel syndrome, excessive work with a computer can definitely cause it.
Where it becomes a problem is proving that carpal tunnel syndrome was caused at work, and not some other lifestyle choice, such as practicing too much on a musical instrument, or going home after work to spend the weekend on a computer, blogging, playing online games, or other activities that would require the same muscular activities.
This is why, if you have RMS, you should talk to an experienced workplace injuries lawyer to evaluate your situation and see whether or not you have a case that can go to court or a difficult challenge to decisively prove in court.