Multiple Employers and Repetitive Trauma Injuries

The term “work injury” conjures a construction fall or a truck crash – something severe and sudden. However, some of the most common types of work-related injuries for which people seek workers’ compensation in Rock Hill are those related to repetitive motion. dentist04.jpg

Repetitive motion disorders are those muscular conditions that result from repeated motions performed in the course of normal work activities. Among the more common conditions: tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, bursitis, tenosynovitis, ganglion cyst and trigger finger. Essentially, these conditions are caused by too many uninterrupted repetitions of an activity or motion or some awkward or unnatural position, such as twisting or overexertion.

While these work-related conditions are certainly worthy of benefits, they tend to be more challenging for the fact that they occur over time. If a worker has been employed by multiple companies over the course of that time, it’s important to have an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer help conduct a thorough analysis of which employer may be responsible for covering benefits.

An example of this sort of challenge was evidenced recently in the case of Potter v. McCulla, weighed by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

According to the court records, the worker, a dental hygienist, had worked for 30 years in that capacity before she was diagnosed with a repetitive trauma injury. Her career began in 1981. In 2008, the worker began experiencing pain in her neck, which became increasingly more intense at the end of the work day. She thought it was likely caused by the manner in which she positioned herself over patients as she worked. She routinely saw eight to 12 patients daily, and spent the majority of the time with her head tilted, arms raised.

She sought medical treatment for her neck pain, was prescribed oral steroids and physical therapy, but was not assigned any work restrictions. Her employer’s insurer agreed to accept the neck injury claim, and paid her medical expenses. She received treatment a dozen times subsequently, but didn’t miss any work.

Then in 2009, she said the pain became excruciating. It was the first time she missed work due to the pain. By this time, the dentist for whom she previously worked sold the practice to another dentist. The worker’s hours and duties had remained the same, although her boss was now different.

She later left that position and found a job at another clinic. She continued to feel pain, but worked part-time. A doctor indicated her pain was degenerative, but aggravated by repetitive work duties. The doctor further conceded it would be impossible to pinpoint exactly which job might have caused the injury, as they were all virtually the same.

The commission held the employer with whom the worker was employed the first time she missed work due to her injury should be responsible for covering compensation payments.

The employer appealed, arguing that while the employee had shown she had a compensable disability, she hadn’t proven that her condition was linked to this employer, and not to some other employer over the course of her career.

In its review, the state supreme court noted this was not an element the worker was required to prove. What she needed to show was that her injury arose within the scope or sphere of her employment, which she did.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Potter v. McCulla, Aug. 1, 2014, Nebraska Suprem Court

More Blog Entries
Poole v. University of North Carolina – Vocational Rehabilitation Often Mandated, Aug. 11, 2014, Rock Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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