Stop and think about how often you use your hands when you are working. Whether you are a construction worker, administrative assistant, or registered nurse, chances are you use your hands almost constantly throughout a given workday. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 alone, there were over 180,000 reported cases of workplace injuries involving the hands or wrists. That figure accounted for 16.8% of all industrial injuries nationwide. Manual labor, whether skilled or unskilled, is never without risk and can lead to a litany of injuries such as lacerations, amputated fingers, carpal tunnel, and De Quervain syndrome. Interestingly, however, hand injuries typically lead to an average of only 5 missed days from work, while wrist injuries lead to 15 days of disability. Regardless of recovery time, hand and wrist injuries can lead to serious and debilitating conditions — especially when the injury stems from repetitive work activities.
Types of Hand Injuries
The most common types of injuries to the hands and wrists involve cuts and lacerations. Treatment for these injuries involves little to no treatment or recovery time. Repetitive injuries, on the other hand, are far more severe and disabling. Carpal tunnel and De Quervain’s syndrome can often produce career-ending symptoms. Fortunately, the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act provides relief for workers suffering from these types of injuries.
Many people do not realize that repetitive injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, are compensable in Massachusetts. So long as the injury is causally related to the employee’s employment (i.e. typing, repetitive hand drill use, driving), the workers’ compensation carrier will be responsible for lost wages and medical treatment. As one would expect, administrative and secretarial workers are particularly at risk for developing these types of injuries. In Puopolo v. Commonwealth Energy System, 10 Mass. Workers’ Comp. Rep. 358 (1996), a secretary was awarded benefits because her work duties aggravated her pre-existing carpal tunnel syndrome. As one would expect, the employee had to answer the telephone and take messages, as well as perform word processing and bulk copying on a constant, daily basis. In this case, the administrative judge found that the employee’s work duties were sufficient enough to be a major cause of her disability and need for treatment, despite having pre-existing carpal tunnel symptoms. Similarly, in 2003, an administrative judge upheld an award of benefits for a man who developed bilateral carpal tunnel working as an autobody repairman and painter. Capozzi v. Allen Davis, 2003 WL 1605947 (Mass. Dept. Ind. Acc. 2003).
Who Is Responsible?
The important thing to remember with repetitive injuries involving the hands and wrists is that they should not be discounted or attributed to normal “wear and tear.” These conditions can be excruciatingly painful and disabling and, therefore, one should notify an attorney as soon as these symptoms are present. Many times, these work-related injuries will not disable an employee right away. In that scenario, the workers’s compensation insurer will still be responsible to pay for the medical treatment that is reasonable, necessary, and related to the injury. Retaining a lawyer in these situations is imperative in order to arrange for disability payments in the event surgery is required.
Scarring and Disfigurement
The more visually apparent hand injuries — cuts, lacerations, burns, amputations — are far easier to recognize. For example, when a chef or restaurant worker slices a finger while working, chances are that employee will be treated at the nearest hospital and likely return to work the next day. Despite not missing work, this employee would still have a claim under the Act. Section 36(1)(k), which fortunately allows an employee to collect an award of money for scarring and/or disfigurement. If the aforementioned injury produces a visible scar after 6 months, then that employee will be entitled to a sum of tax-free money. Claims like these are very easy to pursue and the employee typically sees a cash award after only a few weeks from filing the claim.
Any Massachusetts employee who has a scar on the hands, feet, neck, or face resulting from a workplace injury can file a claim for a cash award. So long as the injury either took place less than four years ag, or the injury was over four years ago but the statute of limitations was tolled, the employee will receive money. Therefore, it is important to contact an attorney if you currently have a visible scar on these areas from a work-related incident, no matter how old the injury.
Did You Suffer a Hand Injury at Work?
Hand injuries at work and subsequent medical treatment can sometimes be complicated. Most of the time, an employee will be entitled to some form of compensation without even knowing it. As such, contact Keches Law Group, P.C. in the event you may have questions or concerns regarding a workplace injury.
If you injured your hand at work, contact Keches Law Group at 617-898-0808 or online for a free, straight-talk consultation today. You have the option to meet your attorney at one of our offices across Massachusetts or, if needed, we can come to you.