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Workers' Compensation: Carpal Tunnel

Repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel are becoming increasingly common as more and more workers are stuck at their desks performing their job over a keyboard and mouse, although several other types of jobs can lead to the same injury. While the work is likely to be the cause of this injury, you most likely can’t sue your employer over carpal tunnel syndrome. The majority of workers are barred from pursuing a lawsuit for workplace injuries due to workers compensation laws.

However, if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome caused by your work, it is crucial that you understand your state’s workers’ compensation insurance system since this may be your only way to receive the financial compensation you need for your work-related injury.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that is caused by compression of the median nerve and the tendons that flex your fingers as they travel through the “carpal tunnel” within your wrist. This tunnel is especially small which makes even the tiniest amount of swelling enough to compress the nerve and tendons. This compression may cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the hand and wrist.

Though carpal tunnel syndrome can be the result of several different factors, including age, gender, trauma, weight, arthritis, pregnancy, and diabetes, it can also be caused by the overuse or repetitive movements of the hand and wrist.

Common workplace examples of repetitive tasks include:

  • Typing

  • Using a cash register

  • Assembly line work

In a few rare cases, carpal tunnel syndrome might be caused by performing a task for a relatively short amount of time.

Treating carpal tunnel syndrome can sometimes require surgery. This surgical procedure is also known as carpal tunnel release, where the surgeon cuts through the ligament in order to make more room for the median nerve and tendons.

Nonsurgical remedies include splinting, rest, diuretics, and steroid injections.

Does Workers’ Compensation Actually Cover Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If you are suffering from a work-related injury, you will most likely be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The types of injuries that are covered by workers’ compensation include physical injuries as long as they are work-related. However, there are a few common arguments that you may have to face when it comes to carpal tunnel and other repetitive stress injuries.

Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome A Workplace Injury?

The most frequently debated issues with respect to carpal tunnel syndrome is whether or not it was caused at work or whether it was caused by a non-work related factor instead. This means that employee will have to prove that the injury was work-related.

For example, the worker may have a second job that also requires repetitive movements or they may be a pretty avid tennis player in their spare time. In both this examples, it could be argued that the carpal tunnel syndrome developed because of those factors rather than at work. If the employee in question had a health condition such as arthritis or diabetes, the insurance company may argue that the injury did not occur at work, but was a result of your pre-existing condition.

So Was It An Accident Or Occupational Disease?

There is quite a division among states as to whether carpal tunnel syndrome can be considered an accident or an occupational disease. This is crucial because it affects what you have to prove in order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

In Florida, this is seen more as an occupational disease rather than an accident. So in order to prove that this is work related, you need to show that as an employee you have suffered greater exposure to the disease than did the general public. This means that you need to prove with clear and convincing evidence that this injury occurred due to and in the course of your employment.