Two Challenges You May Face Filing A Workers' Comp Claim For Carpal Tunnel
Approximately 5 percent of the working population struggle with carpal tunnel syndrome. This repetitive stress injury can make it difficult to work and often requires surgery to treat. If you developed carpal tunnel on the job, however, it can be challenging getting approved for workers' comp benefits. Here are two issues you may run into.
Determining When the Clock Starts
Every state limits the amount of time you have to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. In Georgia, for example, you have one year from the date the incident occurred to ask for compensation for your injury. The trouble with a carpal tunnel claim, though, is that the condition onsets gradually. This can make it difficult to determine when the clock starts for the statute of limitations.
Some states time the deadline based on when symptoms of the disease become "readily apparent". Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of room for interpretation since carpal tunnel shares many symptoms with other hand, wrist, and arm diseases such as arthritis. It would be really difficult to pinpoint when a person knew or should have know he or she was suffering from carpal tunnel.
Other states look at when the employee was diagnosed with the disease, which is more reasonable and clear cut. Be aware that a doctor's diagnosis can also be fraught with controversy, however.
For instance, a Mississippi woman appealed a denial of benefits, claiming the statute of limitations clock started when a specialist performed a nerve conduction test confirming she had carpal tunnel. However, the court ruled the clock started when her primary care physician first diagnosed her three years prior to her seeing the specialist. Eventually, another court decided the clock started when a doctor ruled the injury was work related, which occurred about two years after her primary physician first diagnosed her.
The best thing to do in this situation is to file your claim as soon as there is an official record of the problem (e.g. doctor's diagnosis).
Another issue that may arise in your workers' compensation claim is how the insurance company classifies the injury. Some states see carpal tunnel as an occupational disease, while others may classify it as a workplace accident. This matters is because the burden of evidence differs between these two classifications.
If carpal tunnel is considered a workplace disease, you have to provide a clear connection to your job, which can be challenging if you participate in other activities that could cause the condition. Workplace accidents, however, typically only require you to prove your job is the most likely source of your condition based on a preponderance of the evidence, which is generally a lower evidentiary threshold.
In either case, the more evidence you have, the stronger your case will be. Collecting medical reports from as many healthcare providers as you can and hiring a medical expert to testify how your job may have contributed to your injury can be immensely helpful in your case.
Contact an attorney, like one from Rizzi Law Group, for more information about litigating this type of workers' comp claim.