Yes, you should file a workers’ compensation claim if you’ve developed carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in the course of performing your job duties. CTS is an inflammation of the median nerve, which controls movement and feeling in your fingers and thumb. The median nerve runs down the inside of your arm and through a passage called the carpal tunnel inside your wrist. The tendons and tissues in this passage can be swollen by repetitive manual activities. When the swelling in the carpal tunnel puts pressure on the median nerve, the results are burning, tingling, itching, numbness, inability to differentiate between hot and cold sensations, loss of strength, loss of manual mobility, nerve damage, and deterioration of muscles in the hand.
Causes, Victims, and Treatment of CTS
Some of the repetitive activities and conditions that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome are typing, grasping and releasing objects, awkward hand positions, operating manual controls, vibrations, and mechanical stress. Occupations commonly associated with CTS include:
- Administrative and secretarial employees
- Chefs and bakers
- Custodians and maintenance workers
- Data entry workers
- Healthcare workers
- Manufacturing and assembly line workers
Workers in other jobs that require repetitive manual activities might also develop CTS. Treatments include physical therapy, steroids, anti-inflammatory meds, braces, splints, acupuncture, and surgery.
Workers’ Comp for CTS
Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance that covers the work-related injuries and occupational illnesses of most South Carolina employees. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is often an occupational illness that results from repetitive motion on the job, but just getting a diagnosis of CTS does not automatically entitle you to workers’ comp benefits. In order to have your medical bills paid and two-thirds of your lost wages reimbursed by workers comp, you must prove that your CTS arose naturally as a result of the activities specifically required by your job.
Because CTS can develop outside the workplace, you’ll need documentation of the repetitive-motion activities required by your job, as well as a diagnosis of CTS and a statement from a doctor regarding the likelihood that your condition resulted from carrying out your daily occupational duties. Your employer’s insurance company is more likely to dispute an occupational illness case than it is an injury case in which the evidence is often clear and immediate. The insurer might claim that your CTS was caused or aggravated by non-work-related factors:
- A pre-existing wrist injury
- Fluid retention as a result of menopause or pregnancy
- A thyroid condition
- Pre-existing diabetes or arthritis
- A tumor or cyst in the carpal tunnel area
- Non-work-related repetitive motion (like playing a sport or a musical instrument)
An experienced lawyer can help you gather, organize, and convincingly present evidence of your work-related CTS to your employer’s insurer, the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC), or the appeals court if your case goes that far.
Reporting and Filing
Although you have 90 days to report your occupational disease to your employer and two years to file your workers’ comp claim for benefits, you should not wait to do either. As soon as you receive a diagnosis or become aware in any other way that you’ve developed CTS on the job, you should report your condition, in writing, to your boss. You should then immediately file your claim by using Form 50 from the website of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC). Any delay in reporting or filing enables your employer’s insurer to dispute your claim by alleging you would have acted sooner had your condition been as bad as you said it was.
The insurance company will have a list of certified doctors. You should seek treatment immediately from a physician on that list, not from your own doctor. Follow the recommended doctor’s orders, treatment guidelines, and referrals conscientiously. Take all medications as prescribed and keep receipts and other documentation of anything related to treatment. If you feel you’re not getting proper medical attention or if the insurer disputes your claim, consult a workers' compensation attorney right away.
Have You Been Injured On The Job?
If you've been hurt at your job you can speak with a workers' compensation lawyer. Please contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Florence, Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.