On the job back and neck injuries are serious.
Contact our Atlanta workers’ comp attorneys as soon as possible for a free consultation.
- Finding the doctor for your neck or back injury
- Why back and neck workers’ compensation claims are denied
- What happens if I hurt my back at work?
- What causes back injuries at work?
- How much money can you get for a back injury at work?
- Can you be fired for having a bad back?
- What is a permanent back injury?
- Should I go to work if I have back pain?
- Can I sue if I hurt my back or neck at work?
- How much is my neck injury worth?
- Statistics on back and neck injuries in the workplace
- Most common work-related back or neck injuries
- What to do: 4 steps after a back or neck injury at work
- Who’s liable for your injury on-the job?
So you’ve been injured at work and your back or neck hurts badly, yet the doctor says there’s nothing wrong and you can’t get your workers’ compensation benefits. Diagnosis and treatment of back and neck injuries vary greatly depending on the doctor.
The key in getting any treatment for these problems is finding a knowledgeable doctor.
Similarly, the key in ensuring you receive full and fair compensation for your work-related injury is by talking to a knowledgeable attorney. Back and neck injury cases are often catastrophic, which make them more complex and drawn-out.
With more than 75 years of combined legal experience, the back and neck injury lawyers at Gerber & Holder know which doctors can get you the treatment you need. Those physicians are unbiased and not paid by your company. They don’t have a conflict of interest, so they’re better able to find the real cause of your back or neck injury. You may have a bulging disk, herniated or ruptured disk, sciatica, a low back strain or lumbar strain or aggravation of a previously unknown degenerative disk disease. We can help you get to the right doctor and move your workers’ compensation claim forward.
Our record for workers’ compensation spinal cord, back and neck injury claims includes significant financial recovery for cases related to:
- Industrial factory accidents
- Lifting injuries
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Improper medical treatment
- Ordered to return to work too soon
We’ll fight for your workers’ compensation rights.
Contact us today for your free consultation.
Finding the doctor for your neck or back injury
The most important element in properly dealing with both back and neck injuries is getting appropriate medical treatment. When a worker is injured on the job, they are entitled to medical treatment to be paid for by the insurance carrier. There should be no out-of-pocket expense ever paid by the injured worker if they follow the proper procedures.
One of these procedures is that they have to treat with an authorized medical provider. An employer is required to keep a list of at least 6 doctors posted at all times. The reason it’s important to discuss the panel of physicians in the context of back and neck injuries is that the right type of doctor should perform an evaluation of your injury.
Often, employers attempt to force an injured worker to begin medical treatment at an industrial clinic. Here at Gerber & Holder Law, our experiences with industrial clinics have not been very good. We believe they are more focused on returning the injured worker back to their job, rather than treating their patient’s injury and giving a proper diagnosis.
If the injured worker continues to complain of pain during subsequent visits, the industrial clinic may push them to a specialist.
However, you should beware. This specialist is also typically more concerned with pleasing the insurance company than treating the injured worker. Common phrases we see from these doctors are, “pre-existing condition” or “degenerative disk disease.” This is often placed in reports, even if the injured worker has never had a back or neck injury before.
It’s vital to contact an attorney if you have a back or neck injury so they can work on ensuring you receive appropriate medical care that takes into account the physical well-being of the injured worker.
Back and neck injuries can be difficult to demonstrate because there is often a lack of a physical deformity. For example, a broken arm or leg is obvious to the naked eye. You can actually see the injury. A back or neck injury, which can be just as (if not more) painful, is difficult to discern without an MRI.
Employers and even some doctors may doubt the severity of the injury because they cannot see it. This is another reason why it’s important to treat with the proper doctor. An attorney can assist you in ensuring that this is the case and it is important to contact us early in the process.
Why back and neck workers’ compensation claims are denied
A few years ago, Ben Gerber, co-founder of Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, came across an email from an insurance company that listed a number of reasons to deny a workers’ compensation claim. One of the reasons was that a back or neck injury was not immediately reported.
However, this excuse to deny benefits is problematic, and here’s why:
Often, a back injury gets worse over time. There is an initial rush of adrenaline after the accident and the pain doesn’t really begin until later on, or even the next day. Furthermore, the pain is not always localized in the back or neck. Herniating a disc can result in nerve pain that runs down either the legs or the arms.
Pain or numbness resulting from a neck or back injury can run all the way into fingers or toes, depending on the injury. Sometimes, this pain doesn’t begin immediately but occurs gradually over time. We’ve had many clients through the years describe the onset of this pain a few days after the incident. In fact, they often hope that the injury is minor and it will go away, only to find that the pain has increased over time. What feels initially like a pulled muscle may, in fact, turn out to be a herniated disc.
Another issue that must be kept in mind when it comes to back and neck injuries is attempting to return to work. Returning to work too quickly after an injury or performing tasks that are above and beyond restrictions that the doctor prescribed can result in a worsening of the pain and the injury.
It is imperative you work within the restrictions the doctor has placed on you. If your employer asks you to do more then you are capable or that your doctor has allowed, contact an attorney immediately for help.
Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys recently assisted an individual who was injured lifting a product on the job at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday. They hoped the pain was just a minor strain and would go away. Unfortunately, the injury was much more serious and the injured worker was in pain all weekend. When they reported to work on Monday, they immediately told their supervisor of the injury the previous Friday. As you might expect, the employer and the insurance company denied the case, alleging that the injured worker was actually hurt over the weekend. We were hired and helped get the injured worker both medical treatment and indemnity benefits while they were out of work.
What happens if I hurt my back at work?
If you hurt your back while performing duties for your employer, you may have a workers’ compensation claim. This means that you will receive medical treatment paid for by workers’ compensation insurance for your injury. You should not have to spend any money out of your own pocket. There are no co-pays for appointments or doctor visits.
You have the right to treat with an orthopedic specialist for your back injury. However, it is important to contact an attorney because there is a process for choosing a doctor. You probably will not be able to treat with your own personal physician for the injury, so it is imperative to treat with someone who will be impartial and fair.
Here are 3 steps to follow after a workplace injury:
- Notify your employer. The first thing you need to do if you injure your back at work is to tell a supervisor. This applies to any and all injuries. Notify your boss even if you think it is minor at first, because it may actually be a very serious injury that gets worse over time.
- See a doctor. Secondly, when you do visit a doctor, make sure to explain that you were hurt at work, and be upfront and honest with the physician. Contact an attorney if you have any questions about going to the doctor.
- Be cautious about returning to work. The final item to mention is to be careful when you do return to work after injuring your back. Pushing your body too hard after an initial back injury can further damage your back. Just because your employer is asking you to perform tasks outside your restrictions doesn’t mean you have to do it. Report this to a supervisor, or contact an attorney if you are being put in a position that is dangerous.
What causes back injuries at work?
Back injuries can be caused by many different work-related activities. They commonly result from a slip and fall where there is physical contact between the injured individual and an item. Serious falls can be from a ladder, a picker or even while just walking down the hall and slipping on water at your place of business.
Back injuries can also result from bending and standing for long periods of time. For example, bending or stooping down to inspect an item can cause a back injury. Being forced to remain on your feet for prolonged periods of time can also cause back pain and injuries. Sometimes these repetitive motion injuries are just as (if not more) severe than traumatic back injuries.
Another common cause of back injuries is lifting at work. Lifting injuries can happen when you pick up something as light as 1 pound or as heavy as 100 pounds. The size or weight of the object doesn’t matter. What matters is that your back was hurt while lifting in the scope and course of your employment.
Motor vehicle accidents that take place on the job can also result in serious back injuries. It is important to note that the only course of action in certain types of motor vehicle accidents may be through workers’ compensation. A prime example of this is when a co-worker is the at-fault driver.
How much money can you get for a back injury at work?
We often receive this question in all types of cases, not just back and neck injuries.
While we stand by the fact that it is impossible to assign a blanket value to all back and neck injuries, there are certain types of benefits an injured worker can expect to receive.
Specifically in Georgia, through workers’ compensation you are entitled to 2 different benefits if you are injured on the job:
- Indemnity benefits. The first type of benefit is indemnity (i.e. “wage loss”, “lost time,” or “wage replacement”) compensation. This is based on the income that you earned in the 13 weeks prior to your on-the-job injury with that company. If you weren’t employed for 13 weeks, there are other ways to determine your average weekly wage. Once your average weekly wage is calculated, the income received by the injured worker is two-thirds of that amount. There are no taxes taken out of indemnity benefits. This is one of the reasons why injured workers only receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage as opposed to all of it.
- Permanent (PPD) disability. The second type of benefit you can receive in a workers’ compensation case is a permanent disability rating. This rating is determined by a doctor and relates to what percentage of permanent disability is the result of the work-related accident. Each body part has a different value according to the workers’ compensation statute. For back and neck injuries, the value is 300 weeks. In order to calculate a permanent partial disability amount, multiply the rating by the workers’ compensation rate by 300 to determine the value of a permanent partial disability rating for a back or neck.
- Medical treatment. The third type of workers’ compensation benefit available to injured workers in Georgia is medical treatment. When you injure your back or neck at work, you should not have a single out-of-pocket expense for medical treatment relating to your on-the-job injury. This doesn’t mean that you can treat with any doctor you want, though; it is imperative to discuss your doctor options with an attorney.
Can you be fired for having a bad back?
Georgia is an at-will employment state, which means that state law allows an employer to fire you if you have been hurt on the job (or for any reason at all). There are some ramifications in the workers’ compensation setting if that takes place, but it is allowed. For example, if your employer fires you because of your injury, you may be entitled to receive indemnity benefits.
Additionally, it may make it harder for your employer to offer you light duty work if a doctor places you on restrictions. It is important that you contact a lawyer if you think you are going to be fired because of your on-the-job back injury.
What is a permanent back injury?
A permanent back injury is any injury that results in permanent pain and/or a disability. This doesn’t mean that you will never be able to work again; it just means that you will have a permanent disability as a result of the on-the-job injury. You may be limited in what jobs and activities you can perform as a result of the injury.
Furthermore, the greater the injury, the larger the permanent disability rating. An attorney can discuss what monetary remuneration you can receive as a result of a permanent back injury.
Should I go to work if I have back pain?
The first thing you should do if you have suffered a back injury is to report the claim to your supervisor or employer. Many employers are well versed in workers’ compensation protocols and should offer you work within your restrictions. Refusal to at least attempt the light-duty work could have a negative effect on your case.
If your employer refuses to comply with the restrictions and continued work would lead to greater pain and potential additional injuries, then it is important to let your supervisor know and contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can ensure that you receive proper medical care and that the employer is either accommodating your restrictions or paying you indemnity benefits.
Can I sue if I hurt my back or neck at work?
Workers’ compensation is an “exclusive remedy” against your employer if you get hurt on the job. This means that you typically cannot sue your employer for pain and suffering if you get hurt on the job. However, if a third party causes the accident that results in back or neck pain, you may have a claim against them.
An example of this scenario is when an individual is making a delivery for their employer and they are involved in a motor vehicle accident. If the other driver was found to be at fault for the accident, the injured worker may have both a workers’ compensation and a personal injury claim. This option is case-specific, however, and an attorney can help determine whether or not a third-party claim is viable in your case.
How much is my neck injury worth?
In short, it depends. The value of every case is dependent on the severity of the injuries and other factors. It’s important to discuss your case with an experienced attorney if you want to know how much your neck injury workers’ compensation claim is worth.
Statistics on back and neck injuries in the workplace
If you’re suffering from an acute or chronic back/neck injury, you may feel like you’re all alone in your pain. During such a difficult time, it’s important to know that there are hundreds of thousands of people in a similar situation right now all around the country. These shocking statistics about workplace back and neck injuries prove that you’re not alone!
- Back disorders are one of the leading causes of disability for people in their working years and afflict over 600,000 employees each year with an estimated cost of around $50 billion annually. Source
- More than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, and back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. Around 80% of these injuries are associated with manual materials handling tasks. Source
- Six occupations accounted for more than 25% of ergonomic injuries: 1) heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, 2) laborers and freight, 3) stock and material movers, 4) nursing assistants and registered nurses, 5) janitors and cleaners, 6) maintenance and repair workers. Workers in the healthcare industry sustain 4.5 times more overexertion injuries than any other type of worker. Source
- Back injuries are the most common injuries in construction. In 2010, the rate of back injuries was 24.5 per 10,000 FTEs, compared to a rate of 21.4 for all industries combined. Source
- Back injuries are the most common reason for nonattendance in the general workforce, after the common cold. In the US, back disorders account for over 24% of all occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work. Source
- Up to one-third of back injuries could be prevented through a better designed job workspace. Source
- The average cost of a back injury related workers’ comp claim can be $40,000-$80,000 per employee. Source
Top 15 back/neck injury prone occupations
- Nursing assistants
- Janitors and cleaners
- Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers
- Registered nurses
- Stock clerks and order fillers
- Light truck or delivery services drivers
- Maintenance and repair workers
- Production workers
- Retail salespersons
- Maids and housekeeping cleaners
- Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
- First-line supervisors of retail sales workers
- Assemblers and fabricators
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011
Most common work-related back or neck injuries
Back and neck injuries are some of the most common injuries in the workplace in Georgia. They can vary in intensity from mild discomfort to excruciating pain that prevents you from getting out of bed. Such injuries can often be blamed on insufficient training, improper lifting technique, lack of safety awareness, tight deadlines, long days and other workplace factors.
Some of the most prevalent back and neck injuries at work include:
- Bulging discs (herniated discs, ruptured discs or spinal disc herniation)
- Cauda equina syndrome
- Complex regional pain syndrome (reflex sympathetic dystrophy or RSD)
- Degenerative disc disease (DDD)
- Failed back syndrome (post-laminectomy syndrome)
- Muscle strains, sprains and subluxation (pulled back or neck muscle)
- Nerve damage
- Nerve impingement (pinched nerve or cervical radiculopathy)
- Spinal disc fractures (cervical, thoracic and lumbar)
- Spondylosis (spinal arthritis)
Types of injuries covered by Georgia workers’ compensation claims
Here’s a partial list of the financial recoveries we’ve secured for our spinal cord, back and neck injury clients:
What to do: 4 steps after a back or neck injury at work
If you suffered a back or neck injury at work, we want you to know right out of the gate that you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under Georgia law. These benefits will help cover the cost of your medical bills, lost wages and other out-of-pocket expenses such as transportation and therapy. However, insurance companies may try to minimize the benefits they pay you, especially if you make a mistake.
Follow these four critical steps to ensure you receive full and fair compensation for your work-related injury:
- Seek medical attention. Whether you’ve suffered an acute back or neck injury due to a workplace accident or are living with chronic back pain as result of your occupation, the first thing you should do is see a doctor to diagnose the problem and begin treatment immediately. Follow the doctor’s recommendations for rehabilitation and physical therapy as this will show that you’re serious about healing.
- Report the injury to your boss. Tell your employer about the work-related injury as soon as possible. In Georgia, you have 30 days after the discovery of the injury to report it to your employer. Any delay will look suspicious and hurt your case. Be detailed when reporting your work injury and do it in writing.
- Document everything. From the moment you seek medical care for your injury and report it to your employer, you’ll start receiving lots of mail about the accident. Medical bills, credit card bills, pay stubs, letters from insurance companies, etc. — be sure to keep all documents relating to your case in one place. Your attorney will need to see this documentation later to calculate your damages & provide evidence if the case goes to trial. Which leads us to the final step…
- Talk to an attorney. Calculating the long-term costs of a serious back or neck injury is a complex process. We highly recommend you contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your legal rights and ensure you receive full compensation. Insurance companies and even your employer won’t have your back in this situation, regardless of what they say. Hiring an attorney is the only way to guarantee fair representation.
Who’s liable for your injury on-the job?
Under Georgia workers’ compensation law, an employee has the right to be compensated for a back or neck injury if work-related activities were a substantial cause of the injury. In many back and neck injury cases, controversy arises when an employer’s insurance company tries to make the claim that an injury wasn’t work-related or that the injury was a pre-existing condition.
Our attorneys will demonstrate to the insurance adjuster, or a judge, that your job caused your back or neck injury. If your injury was work-related, we can make sure the company pays for your surgery for a slipped disk. We can obtain benefits for you if you’ve suffered a pinched nerve. We’ve helped numerous workers in need of a good Georgia back or neck injury lawyer over the years, including nurses, certified nursing assistants, industrial workers and construction employees. We will fight for your rights in your case.
Contact our law firm today for your free consultation. Our back or neck injury lawyers will advocate for you if you’ve suffered a back injury and can’t return to work until you’ve fully recovered. Don’t delay.