Learn about your rights after a contusion injury at work
Occupational injuries are an unfortunate reality in any industry. Whether you work on a construction site or in an office, no one is immune to the occasional work-related injury. Sometimes, these accidents are minor and lead to a few aches and pains that heal in a few days with rest. Other times, the injuries can be more serious, requiring extensive medical treatment and time off work to recover.
This article will discuss how and why contusion injuries typically happen on the job and what steps Georgia workers need to take to get workers’ compensation benefits if they’ve been affected.
What is a contusion?
A contusion is a medical term for a common bruise. It occurs when the small blood vessels, known as capillaries, near the skin’s surface are broken or ruptured due to a blunt trauma or impact. Blood leaks out of these vessels into the surrounding tissues, causing discoloration, swelling and often pain.
The appearance of a contusion may initially be a reddish color, later turning blue or purple, and eventually becoming yellow or green as it heals. While contusions are generally minor injuries, they can be more serious if they occur in sensitive areas such as the head or internal organs.
Is a contusion worse than a bruise?
Many people are surprised to learn that a contusion and a bruise are actually the same thing. Both terms refer to the discoloration and tenderness that occur when small blood vessels under the skin are damaged, usually from a blow or bump.
While the two words can be used interchangeably, the term “contusion” is more commonly used in medical contexts, while “bruise” is the term that most people use in everyday conversations.
What areas of the body can experience a contusion injury?
A contusion can occur in virtually any part of the body. The most common areas where contusions might appear include the following:
- Internal organs
Because contusions can occur in so many areas of the body, they can range from a minor inconvenience that heals on its own to a serious medical issue requiring a doctor’s attention. Contusions that affect internal organs, such as the brain (concussion) or lungs, usually result from severe trauma like a car accident or fall and are typically the most dangerous.
How common are muscle injuries at work?
The muscles are one of the most common areas of the body where contusions occur. Muscle and other soft tissue injuries at work are grouped into a category called “musculoskeletal disorders” (MSDs), which account for thousands of on-the-job injuries each year.
In fact, according to the National Safety Council, 247,620 workers experienced musculoskeletal disorder injuries or illnesses in 2020 alone. The upper extremities suffered more than any other body part, accounting for 31% of these injuries.
Risk factors for a contusion injury
In general, certain medications and medical conditions, like hemophilia or liver disease, can make some people more prone to bruising. Additionally, jobs that require intense physical labor, such as construction, manufacturing or roofing, inherently carry a higher risk of contusions due to the nature of the work.
Other work-related risk factors include the following:
- Using heavy machinery. Operating or working near heavy machinery, like excavators, without proper safety measures can lead to accidental impacts and contusions.
- Driving a vehicle or operating a forklift. A collision, sudden stop, or lack of proper training in handling a vehicle or forklift can lead to accidents that cause contusions to the operator or others in the vicinity.
- Working with tools. Workers who frequently use certain tools like hammers or mallets are at risk of contusion injuries if they accidentally hit their hand or other body part.
- Not having or using proper safety equipment. Without the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), workers are more likely to suffer injuries that might cause contusions.
- Providing inadequate training. Without proper training in handling equipment or performing specific tasks, workers may be more prone to mistakes that lead to accidents and contusions.
- Not maintaining a safe work environment. Slippery floors, clutter and uneven surfaces may lead to falls or collisions, resulting in bruises.
- Not following safety protocols. Non-adherence to established safety guidelines can lead to unnecessary risks and potential contusion injuries.
- Working long hours. Exhaustion or working extended hours can lead to reduced alertness and coordination, increasing the likelihood of accidents that might cause bruises.
Employers and employees must work together to minimize these risks through proper training, adherence to safety protocols, use of appropriate equipment, and maintaining a safe work environment.
Did you know that your employer is required to provide you with all necessary PPE? Learn about your right to personal protective equipment in Georgia.
Common causes of a contusion at work
Most contusions develop as a result of sudden force to the body. At work, the most common causes include:
- Slips-and-falls accidents. An employee slipping on a freshly mopped floor without warning signs can lead to a contusion on the hip, elbow, back or head.
- Vehicle accidents. A collision while driving a company car or truck can result in contusions on various parts of the body, depending on the severity of the crash.
- Collisions with heavy machinery. Accidentally bumping into a forklift while it’s in operation can cause serious contusions.
- Being struck by objects. A worker being hit by a falling hammer or merchandise from an overhead shelf may result in a contusion to the shoulder or head.
- Falls from heights. Falling from a ladder or scaffolding without a proper safety harness can lead to contusions on almost any part of the body, with internal organs, the spine and the head being the most severe.
- Improper handling of tools and equipment. Using a power drill without proper training or even a simple tool like a hammer can lead to a loss of control and a contusion on the hand or wrist.
- Inadequate personal protective equipment. Failure to wear proper PPE, like knee pads, while installing floors might lead to contusions on the knees.
- Physical altercations. Violence at work (from customers or coworkers) can lead to contusions in various parts of the body.
- Repetitive strain and overexertion. Lifting heavy boxes repeatedly without using proper techniques can cause contusions on the lower back, legs, arms and shoulders.
How are contusions diagnosed?
A contusion can be diagnosed by your doctor or an emergency room physician, who will typically start by examining the affected area to assess the size, tenderness and discoloration of the contusion. In severe cases, an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan may also be ordered to rule out fractures or internal damage that might accompany the contusion.
The doctor will likely ask you about the cause of the injury and any related symptoms to understand the full extent of the contusion.
Provide them with as many specifics about the accident as you can, and be sure to mention that the injury occurred at work. This is crucial if you want to file a claim for workers’ comp benefits.
How are contusions treated?
Treatment options will vary depending on the body part involved and the severity of the injury. Bone contusion treatment and treatment for contusions involving the head or internal organs can be more substantial, but typically, contusion treatment can include any of the following:
- Rest. Allowing the affected body part to rest helps the healing process and minimizes further injury.
- Ice. Applying ice or a cold pack to the contusion can reduce swelling and alleviate pain, especially within the first 24 to 48 hours after injury.
- Pain relief. Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used to manage pain as directed by a healthcare provider.
- Elevation. Elevating the affected body part above the level of the heart can further reduce swelling.
- Compression. Wrapping the injured area with an elastic bandage can help minimize swelling.
- Physical therapy. If the contusion affects joint function or causes significant mobility issues, physical therapy might be recommended to restore normal movement.
Most contusions heal on their own with proper self-care, but it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider if symptoms persist or worsen, as there might be a more serious underlying injury.
How long does it take a muscle contusion to heal?
Mild contusions typically resolve in about a week, while moderate contusions can take between 4 to 6 weeks to heal. Severe contusions take longer to heal and may require several months of rest and physical therapy before a worker can resume their normal activities.
To help prevent potential complications, avoid heavy lifting and other activities that stress the injured area during healing.
Potential complications of a contusion
While most contusions are considered minor injuries, they can sometimes lead to complications, including:
- Hematomas. A hematoma occurs when blood pools in the tissue instead of being reabsorbed. This can require the area to be drained if it doesn’t resolve on its own.
- Myositis ossificans. This is a rare condition where bone tissue forms inside a muscle after an injury, often when rehabilitation is too aggressive. It’s most common in the thighs and can cause stiffness and pain in the affected muscle.
- Decreased joint function. If a contusion occurs near a joint and becomes swollen, it might limit the joint’s range of motion temporarily.
- Delayed healing. In some cases, particularly in older individuals or those with certain medical conditions, healing may take longer than usual.
- Compartment syndrome. This is a serious condition that can occur when pressure within muscles builds to dangerous levels. It can decrease blood flow, depriving muscles and nerves of needed nourishment, and if not treated promptly, can lead to permanent damage.
These potential complications underline the importance of proper care and monitoring of a contusion, especially if symptoms persist or worsen. Visit a healthcare provider for follow-up care to ensure your injury is healing properly and to avoid these and other complications.
Are contusions covered under workers’ comp in Georgia?
Yes. Under Georgia law, a contusion is covered under workers’ compensation as long as it occurred at work or while you were performing your work duties. Since workers’ comp is a no-fault system, you’re entitled to benefits even if you caused the accident that led to your injury (as long as it wasn’t intentional).
Most Georgia employers with 3 or more workers (full- or part-time) are required to provide workers’ comp benefits to their employees after a work-related injury or illness, like a contusion.
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What workers’ comp benefits am I entitled to after a contusion injury?
Georgia workers’ compensation pays for all necessary medical expenses, including doctor visits, medications, physical therapy and supplies. If your injury requires you to take time off work to heal, workers’ comp also provides wage loss benefits, which typically cover two-thirds of your average weekly wage.
Additionally, family members of a worker who dies from an injury or illness are entitled to death benefits for funeral expenses and lost income.
How to file a workers’ comp claim after an injury in Georgia
To get workers’ comp benefits in Georgia, you need to take the following steps:
- Report the injury to your employer. In most cases, this must be done within 30 days.
- Seek medical care. This should be done as soon as possible so you can show a link between your injury and your accident at work. Except in an emergency, you’ll be required to see an employer-approved physician for treatment.
- File a claim. After the initial treatment is complete, the next step is for you to submit a claim under workers’ comp by filing Form WC-14.
Contact an experienced Georgia workers’ comp attorney
If you suffered a serious contusion injury or any other type of work-related injury or illness in Atlanta, contact the skilled work injury attorneys at Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys for help with your claim.
Our attorneys have more than 75 years of combined experience in workers’ compensation law, so you can rest assured that your case will be in good hands. Let us handle the negotiations with your employer and their insurance company so you can rest and focus on healing.
Contact our office today for a free consultation.