What Georgia workers need to know when they hurt their knee on the job
There are many different types of accidents that can occur on the job. Similarly, there are many categories of workplace injuries that can occur to individuals as a result of these accidents. One especially common type of injury is a knee injury.
In this article we will explore what happens when you injure your knee at work, including what kind of treatment you should expect from your doctor and employer, and the long-term ramifications of a knee injury. We will also talk about what an injured worker should do in this situation.
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Knee injuries at work are covered by Georgia workers’ compensation law
Knee injuries can vary in both severity and the nature in which they occur. Often, there is a specific event which leads to a knee injury, such as a slip and fall in the workplace or a direct strike to that knee. Knee injuries can also occur at work due to prolonged standing on a hard surface or constant walking.
If your knee is injured in the scope and course of your employment, your injury should be covered by workers’ compensation under Georgia law — regardless of whose fault the injury was.
However, in our experience, knee injuries are some of the most complex and misdiagnosed injuries in the workers’ compensation setting. There are more complications involved in treating knees than almost any other body part. Altered gaits due to a knee injury can cause injuries in other body parts that can be just as, if not more, debilitating than the initial injury.
Believe it or not, workers’ compensation insurance should cover knee injuries, but insurance companies typically fight them.
Why workplace knee injuries are more complicated
Knee injuries are often the most misdiagnosed in the workers’ compensation setting. There are a number of reasons why this is the case.
First, many times knee injuries aren’t treated seriously enough at first. MRIs have proven to be very beneficial in diagnosing tears in the anterior, posterior and medial collateral ligaments. However, these tests are expensive. Insurance companies make money by collecting premiums and not having to pay out on claims. Spending money on expensive tests to look for potential injuries that may turn out to be a minor strain or sprain is something insurers are eager to avoid.
When an individual reports to their employer that they have hurt their knee, the first step is to send that person to a medical provider who can assess the true nature and severity of the injury. Often, employers and insurance companies attempt to send injured workers to an industrial clinic. Recent changes to Georgia’s workers’ compensation rules allow there to be 2 industrial clinics out of 6 providers on a panel of physicians.
Unfortunately, we find that many of these industrial clinics provide less than exemplary care for our clients.
Often, these clinics appear to be more concerned with pleasing the payor (the insurance company) than treating the injured worker. They follow strict protocols and procedures regardless of the nature of the injury or the complaints of pain. There is frequently a lack of individualized care, and instead the feeling that certain boxes have to be checked off.
With regards to a knee injury, this approach can be very harmful.
What to expect after a work-related knee injury
The standard operating procedure for a knee injury appears to be providing an injured worker with an X-ray to determine the problem, then prescribing physical therapy which is performed at the facility. During this time, the injured worker is given light duty work restrictions and allowed to return to work.
If this process is unsuccessful, meaning the injured worker is still in pain after a number of weeks, an MRI is finally ordered. After a few more visits, the injured worker is subsequently sent to an orthopedic specialist.
This entire process can take upwards of 4 to 6 weeks, during which time the injured worker might unknowingly doing severe damage to their knee and prolonging the recovery period. If an MRI was ordered initially, or the injured worker was able to see a specialist immediately, the length of time the injured worker would be injured could have been greatly reduced.
What to do if you hurt your knee at work
Here are 4 steps an injured worker can take to avoid having a serious knee injury go untreated or improperly treated:
- Report the injury immediately. Don’t try and walk it off or tough it out. Notify your employer immediately
- Ask to see the panel of physicians in order to choose a specialist who can help identify the nature of the injury.
- Document your pain. If physical therapy is hurting your knee, report that to the therapist and the doctor, and make sure that the complaints of pain are being documented.
- Contact an attorney if you are concerned that your injury isn’t being treated seriously enough, if your employer hasn’t provided a panel of physicians, or if the care is inadequate
How untreated knee injuries can cause further damage
There are a number of ways that a simple knee injury can turn into a much more serious injury if not treated properly. Often, an individual who injured their knee is reluctant to put too much weight on it. They fear of doing more damage to the knee so they walk on it gingerly.
Sometimes they are in so much pain that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to walk on it. Instead of receiving proper treatment, their complaints are minimized. Therefore, they walk in a manner which causes stress on another body part, such as the opposite hip or knee. This can cause what is called a “superadded injury.”
A superadded injury is an injury that occurs to the injured worker as a direct result of their initial injury. Picture the injury like a flowing river: whatever happens downstream as a result of the initial injury can be compensable. Failure to adequately treat a knee injury can lead to a serious back, hip or other leg injury which may be greater in damage than the original injury.
When to hire an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer
Many jobs in the workforce require bending, stooping or a considerable amount of walking. Knee injuries, even minor ones, can prevent an individual from performing essential job duties. In fact, sometimes knee injuries never heal all the way and injured workers may be left with permanent restrictions.
It’s very important to contact an attorney before you return to work after a knee injury which culminated in the receipt of workers’ compensation indemnity benefits. Injured workers in Georgia have many rights, and those rights may be unintentionally forfeited by an individual with a knee injury if they aren’t aware of them.
If you have any questions about a knee injury, don’t hesitate to contact the Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys at Gerber & Holder.