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Back Injury at Work: Everything You Need to Know

Author:  
Dr. Deuk
An expert in all things spine, Dr. Deukmedjain is a board certified neurosurgeon who has performed thousands of minimally invasive surgeries and procedures including the revolutionary Deuk Laser Disc Repair and the Deuk Spinal Fusion. 

Back pain affects a large number of people. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, back injuries account for about 20% of all occupational accidents–impacting more than 1 million employees. Workers in a range of sectors including healthcare, construction, and manufacturing may experience severe strain on the back due to the nature of their job. Even a normal office job can aggravate back pain. 

This article will discuss everything you need to know about work-related injuries, from the common causes of work-related back injury to your employer's role, and how to lay claim for your workplace back injury.

Most Common Work-related Back Injuries 

The most common work-related injuries are:

1. Slips, trips, and falls: 

These are among the most prevalent forms of occupational accidents, accounting for the majority of worker's compensation claims. This includes employees who:

  • Have slipped on a damp floor
  • Tripped due to exposed holes, inadequate illumination, or clutter
  • Slipped and fell from ladders, rooftops, or skyscraper construction zones
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2. Overexertion: 

Overexertion injuries can develop when you push yourself so much physically you can induce inflammation which can lead to pain. Overexertion, if not handled, can result in long-term chronic discomfort and a loss of productivity. This type of workplace injury can be caused by: 

  • Improper lifting
  • Lifting large items by hand
  • Work that is repetitive and does not allow for breaks
  • Microtasks on a production line

3. Herniated disc: 

A herniated disc is one of the most common work-related back injuries. It can cause severe back pain, full-body weakness, and numbness in the arms and legs and even advance into more complicated syndromes such as sciatica, pinched nerves, radiculopathy, or myelopathy

Pain originating in a damaged disc is called “discogenic” pain. In the spinal column, there are 23 intervertebral discs. They include six cervical, five lumbar, and twelve thoracic. These discs are soft tissue joints composed of a hydraulic gelatinous core called the nucleus pulposus, encased within a firm outer collagen wall termed the annulus fibrosus. The discs protect the spinal nerves and vertebrae from sudden impact. They also absorb shock from movements of the spine like twisting, bending, and jumping. 

Unfortunately, it’s possible for the disc's outer wall–the annulus fibrosus–to develop traumatic tears (annular tear), allowing the jelly-like nucleus pulposus to push backward out of the tear into the spinal canal or neural foramen. Check out this animation that illustrates how a herniated disc occurs: 

This numbness and weakness are caused by the disc pressing against the spinal cord. Herniated discs can occur in any line of work.

What Should You Do When You Injure Yourself at Work?

An essential thing for employees to understand is that if they are hurt on the job, they must promptly report the accident to a supervisor and in writing if possible. Some states demand written notice to the employer, while others allow verbal messages. Employees should report any work-related back injuries in writing to supervisory officials to be safe. 

Certain jurisdictions have a limited filing date (known as the statute of limitations), so you should file as soon as possible to avoid losing any legal rights to claim workers' compensation payments from your employer.

Similarly, you should notify your union officials about the accident if you are a union member. It is advisable to use an accident report form given by your company or union. It is also critical to get to know your coworkers. 

Your coworkers are your greatest witnesses to both the occurrence and the cause of the workplace back injury. They can confirm the event of the accident if your story is contested.

What is the Workers' Compensation Benefit?

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Workers' compensation ensures that employees are taken care of in the case of a workplace accident. It is a type of insurance that provides pay replacement and medical benefits to injured workers on the job. 

Workers' comp benefits are normally provided on a no-fault basis, as long as the team member is not influenced by drugs or alcohol. Employees are normally obliged to submit to a drug test following an on-the-job accident.

By taking workers' compensation payments, the team member waives their ability to sue their employer for damages.

What Do Workers' Compensation Benefits Cover?

Workers' compensation generally covers all employees. It protects employees who become ill or injured on the job. Workers' compensation includes everything from ambulance rides to medication and physical therapy. It also contains provisions for:

  • Medical coverage 
  • Pay benefits
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Death benefits resulting from a workplace injury 
  • Disability benefits
  • Missed wages during recovery
  • Medical expenditures
  • Litigation

However, workers' compensation insurance does not cover injuries caused by intoxication or drugs, self-inflicted wounds, injuries claimed after layoff, company policy violations, and occupational safety health administration fines.

What are the Steps for Filing a Workers' Comp Claim for a Back Injury? 

There is limited time to report the injury and file a claim following a workplace back injury. Failure to notify the injury may result in the denial of workers' compensation payments. The following are steps for filing a workers' compensation claim for a back injury: 

1. Notify your employer of an injury: 

This is the first step in filing a workers' compensation claim for a back injury. An injured team member must disclose to the workplace as soon as possible. Typically, an injured team member must submit written notification, and most states have reporting deadlines for damages. 

In Florida, for example, your employer must be contacted within 30 days. However, other states give employees up to a year to report an accident.

2. Filling relevant compensation claim form: 

As an employer, once you have been notified of a team member's injury, it is essential to present your injured worker with information on their rights and workers' compensation benefits. The injured team member should also be provided with a workers' compensation claim form. 

This form will record the kind of their injury and where, when, and how it occurred. 

3. The employer reports the injury: 

The employer is usually responsible for submitting the claim form and any supporting evidence to the workers' compensation insurance provider, but the workers’ compensation doctor must also submit a medical report. 

4. The insurance provider decision: 

The insurance will either accept or refuse the claim at this stage. If the workers' compensation claim is accepted, the team member and their workers' compensation attorney (if they have one) will either:

  • Accept the payment offer from the insurance provider, which may cover the expenses of medical bills, medication, disability payments, and a percentage of missed income.
  • Negotiate a flat amount or a bigger structured settlement.

If the claim is rejected, the team member has the following options:

  • Request that the insurance company reconsiders.
  • Make a formal appeal, often through the state workers' compensation board.

5. Back to work: 

When a team member recovers from a workplace back injury and can return to work, they must notify their employer and insurance company in writing. Depending on the severity of the damage, the insurance company may be required to provide lifelong disability compensation.

Many businesses prefer to develop a structured return to work program to get people back to work and productive as soon as feasible. 

What Happens If You're Denied Workers' Compensation Back Injury?

Workers' compensation claims can be denied on account of the following reasons: 

  • Missed deadlines
  • Disputes about whether or whether an injury is work-related
  • Your condition does not satisfy state standards
  • You submitted the claim after leaving your employment

After being rejected a workers' compensation claim, examine the letter you received after your workers' compensation claim. It will very certainly include the grounds for the rejection. 

If it was merely a case of misplaced forms or anything similar, you should contact the claims adjuster to see if the problem can be resolved. This approach, however, is unlikely to be effective unless your employer or insurance provider makes a real mistake and confesses it.

It’s also important to consult with a workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can advise you on whether filing an appeal is the best option. An administrative hearing in court is usually part of the appeal procedure.

Can You Sue Your Employer for Getting a Back Injury at Work?

Yes, you can sue your employer for getting a back injury at work, but there are certain requirements. You may be eligible to bring a legal claim if you feel your employer's willful conduct caused your back injury–even if the company has workers' compensation insurance. 

For example, if you were physically assaulted by an employer and injured your back, this would be considered deliberate conduct. You may also be allowed to sue a coworker if they assault you or hurt you on the job on purpose. There is often judgement proof in many cases.

How much can I claim for a back injury at work?

It’s tough to predict how much money you will receive in compensation for back injury settlement. Several variables influence the worker's amount in a workers' compensation settlement, such as the injured body part(s) and the degree of any long-term impairment–physically, emotionally, mentally, and fiscally.  

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the average cost of a worker's compensation back injury claim is between $40,000 and $80,000 per firm. This sum covers medical treatment, medical charges, medical bills, wage loss compensation, vocational rehabilitation services supplied while the case is still pending, and a negotiated settlement.

Because workers' compensation awards are so personalized, it’s difficult to put a monetary value on it. As a result, no two workers' compensation cases are the same.

Tips to Avoid Back Injuries at Work 

You may do things to avoid and prevent back discomfort and injuries at work. As an example:

  • Take note of your posture. When standing, distribute your weight equally. Choose a chair that supports your lower back to encourage excellent sitting posture. Adjust your chair's height so that your feet are flat and your thighs are parallel to the floor. When sitting, take your wallet or smartphone out of your back pocket to avoid placing unnecessary strain on your buttocks or lower back.
  • Lift correctly. Maintain your natural back curvature when lifting and avoid twisting. If an object is too big to lift safely, enlist the assistance of another person.
  • Improve your routine duties. If you work at a computer, check to ensure your display, keyboard, mouse, and chair are all appropriately positioned for maximum relief. 
  • Rest and pay attention to your body. Make time for frequent breaks and then take them. Ensure that you receive enough rest and sleep at home. Being physically and mentally prepared for your job can help you avoid accidents, muscle strain, and emotional stress. 
  • Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask for or seek assistance, whether from a coworker or a piece of equipment. If anything is too heavy to transport or raise, use a cart, lift, or wheelbarrow.

Get Treatment for Your Work-related Back Injury

Work-related back injuries can be detrimental in the long run. Some patients who have serious back injuries may become paralyzed or unable to walk again. Others may require surgery, which will put them out of work for an indefinite amount of time.

At Deuk Spine, we treat work-related back injuries and spine conditions like strains, sciatica, bulging discs, pinched nerves, and herniated discs. The services we provide are unique globally, and our therapies are curative rather than palliative. The physicians are committed to each patient's well-being, to ensure the best possible results.

Deuk Spine Institute has done hundreds of back injury treatments and has a 95% success rate in pain reduction. The Institute features world-class physicians on staff, the latest and most advanced equipment, and an unparalleled patient experience pathway in efficiency and quality of care. 

If you suffered a work-related back injury or if you suspect that your back injury is work-related, contact the experts at Desk Spine Institute today. Call us at 1-877-751-DEUK (3385) to speak to one of our workers' compensation representatives.

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World leader in Laser Spine Surgery
With world-class physicians on staff, the newest and most advanced technology, and a patient experience pathway that is unrivaled in it’s efficiency and and pedagogy of care, Deuk Spine Institute has performed thousands of procedures and achieves a 95% success rate in elimination of pain.

 The services we offer are not offered anywhere else in the world, and the treatments are curative, not palliative.  On top of that, Dr. Deukmedjian is personally invested in the well-being of each and every patient, and has spared no expense to guarantee the best possible outcomes.
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