Learn about the rules and timelines for filing a claim so you don’t miss your chance at compensation
Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are a significant concern in the workplace, affecting workers in various industries and occupations across the U.S. and Georgia. These injuries occur as a result of repetitive movements, forceful exertions and prolonged or awkward postures.
In this article, we’ll discuss the symptoms and causes of common RSIs at work and explain how to prove your injury is work-related so you can file a successful claim and recover maximum compensation.
What are repetitive stress injuries?
Repetitive stress injuries (also called repetitive motion injuries) are caused by excess strain and damage to the muscles, nerves and tendons that result from performing the same motions over and over on a regular basis.
These injuries are common in a wide range of jobs, including those that involve computers, tools, sports, instruments or any type of physically demanding task requiring repeated lifting, reaching or bending. While these injuries can affect different parts of the body, the fingers, thumbs, wrists, arms, shoulders, elbows and knees are the most susceptible.
Statistics on repetitive motion injuries
In recent years, musculoskeletal injuries, often resulting from repetitive motions, have ranked as the top work-related injuries in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of the 266,530 workers who suffered musculoskeletal injuries in 2019, more than 47,000 were injured badly enough that they needed to be treated in emergency room settings.
Repetitive motion injuries also account for some of the longest absences from work. On average, employees miss 18 days from their jobs after suffering these injuries. By comparison, the median number of days missed for falls from lower levels and transportation accidents is 11 and 10, respectively.
Common repetitive motion injuries caused by work
Certain kinds of RSI are commonly caused by work, including:
Many of the symptoms related to these injuries don’t appear immediately after starting a new job that requires repetitive tasks; instead, they develop over a long period of time, often months or even years.
Common symptoms of repetitive stress injuries
The symptoms of a repetitive stress injury will vary based on the body part involved and the degree of injury. However, symptoms that typically accompany repetitive motion injuries include the following:
- Sensitivity to heat or cold
- Reduced strength and range of motion
Some workers don’t experience visible injuries, but they can still have trouble performing motions that are normally taken for granted on a daily basis.
Which workers are most at risk of developing repetitive motion injuries?
Any worker who performs repetitive tasks or engages in prolonged, repetitive motions is susceptible to a repetitive stress injury, including the following:
- Office workers spend long hours working at a computer, typing or performing data entry tasks.
- Assembly line workers in manufacturing or production lines perform repetitive motions such as assembling or packaging.
- Construction workers and roofers are involved in tasks that require repetitive movements, such as hammering, drilling or using vibrating tools.
- Health care workers, like nurses, caregivers and physical therapists, frequently perform repetitive tasks like lifting patients or repetitive charting.
- Grocery store workers and cashiers engage in repetitive scanning, lifting and repetitive motions involved in stocking shelves.
- Factory workers are required to perform repetitive tasks like packing, sorting and operating machinery.
- Truck drivers and other delivery drivers spend significant time repeatedly loading and unloading packages or performing repetitive movements during deliveries.
- Meatpackers and poultry plant workers are required to cut, debone and package meat, causing strain on muscles, tendons and joints over time.
- Lumberjacks, tree trimmers and landscapers have physically demanding jobs involving repetitive motions such as cutting, pruning, lifting heavy objects and operating machinery.
- Musicians frequently play instruments or engage in repetitive hand and arm movements during practice or performances.
- Hairdressers and barbers repeatedly perform tasks like cutting, styling and blow-drying hair.
Are repetitive motion injuries covered by workers’ compensation in Georgia?
Georgia has a workers’ compensation system in place to protect workers who suffer on-the-job injuries or illnesses. Most Georgia employers with 3 or more employees are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their workers.
For an injury or illness to qualify for benefits, a worker doesn’t need to prove that their employer was negligent. They only need to be able to prove that their injury or illness developed in the “course and scope” of their job. While this may sound pretty straightforward, RSIs can be more difficult to prove because they can also commonly be caused by activities and tasks unrelated to work.
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How do you prove a repetitive stress injury was caused by your job?
Proving that a repetitive stress injury (RSI) was caused by your job can be challenging, but there are several key factors that can help support your claim. They include the following:
- Work history and job duty documentation. Providing a detailed account of your work history, including the tasks, duties and repetitive motions involved in your job, helps establish a direct connection between your work activities and the onset of the RSI. This can be supported by job descriptions, work schedules and witness testimonies.
- Medical documentation. Seeking medical attention and obtaining a proper diagnosis from a health care professional is crucial if you’re experiencing symptoms of an RSI. Medical records documenting your injury, including diagnostic tests, examinations and treatment plans, play a vital role in establishing a link between your job and the development of the RSI.
- Expert testimony. Expert witnesses, such as medical professionals specializing in occupational health or ergonomics, can provide professional opinions on the causation of your RSI. Their expertise can support your claim by analyzing workplace conditions, ergonomic factors, and the impact of repetitive motions on your injury.
- Work environment and safety measures. Providing evidence of a work environment that lacks ergonomic support, proper training or safety measures can strengthen your case. This can include records of workplace inspections, incident reports and any documented concerns or complaints regarding work conditions that may have contributed to the development of your RSI.
- Prior reporting and treatment. If you reported symptoms or sought treatment for the RSI while employed, it is crucial to gather any documentation of such incidents. This demonstrates that you recognized the issue and took steps to address it in a timely manner.
Timing is also an important factor. While it isn’t necessary for you to have developed symptoms of an RSI soon after taking on a new job or new responsibilities at work, it does help to show a correlation between the onset of symptoms and your job duties.
Regardless of how long it took for your symptoms to appear, it’s crucial to consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who specializes in RSIs to help you navigate the complexities of proving your claim. They can guide you through the legal process, gather necessary evidence, and build a strong case to demonstrate that your repetitive stress injury was caused by your job.
What workers’ compensation benefits are available to injured workers?
Workers affected by repetitive motion injuries can recover certain benefits after filing for workers’ compensation. They include the following:
- Medical benefits. Workers can recover compensation for all necessary medical expenses, including medications, surgeries, hospital stays, doctor appointments and rehabilitation.
- Lost wage benefits. While out of work due to an injury, workers are able to recover compensation for two-thirds of their average weekly wages.
- Death benefits. If a worker dies from a work-related injury, their dependents are entitled to compensation for funeral expenses and lost income.
What steps do workers need to take to file a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia?
When filing a claim for workers’ compensation in Georgia, injured workers must take the following steps:
- Seek medical attention. Seeking medical attention for your injury is crucial if you plan to file a workers’ comp claim. In addition to treatment, your doctor can also provide medical documentation that will help link your injury to your job.
- Notify your employer. In most cases, you’re required to notify your employer of your injury within 30 days of the accident that caused it or within 30 days of becoming aware of the injury. This distinction is important, as RSIs don’t result from a one-time accident. Either way, you should report your injury to your employer in writing as soon as possible.
- File a WC-14 form. To officially file your claim, you will need to fill out Form WC-14 and send it to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. You can do so online or through the mail.
- Wait to hear if your claim is approved. If your claim is denied, you have the right to file an appeal. It’s highly recommended that you contact an experienced work injury attorney to help you with the process.
Contact an Atlanta work injury attorney for help with your claim
Unfortunately, a work-related repetitive stress injury is not always easy to prove, and legitimate claims are denied every single day. That’s why it’s crucial to consult with an attorney experienced in RSI claims who can help gather evidence and ensure your rights are protected.
If you’ve suffered a repetitive stress injury at work in Georgia, contact the experienced Atlanta worker injury attorneys at Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys today.
Our attorneys have over 75 years of combined experience helping injured workers across Georgia recover maximum compensation after an injury. We’re here for you and ready to fight for the compensation you deserve.