Joint injuries are among the most common work-related health issues suffered by employees in a wide range of occupations. Whether you’re a manual laborer who lifts and carries construction materials or an office worker who sits at a desk, you rely on your knees, shoulders, and wrists to make most of your necessary movements possible. Repetitive motion, strain, or trauma to these major joints can cause pain and a limited range of motion that seriously affect your ability to work.
If you suffer a knee, shoulder, or wrist injury as a result of performing your job duties, you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Almost every South Carolina company employing four or more people is required by law to carry no-fault workers’ comp coverage that provides benefits to workers who are injured or develop occupational diseases in the course of doing their jobs. You need not prove any negligence on the part of your employer in order to file a claim, and you cannot be fired for doing so. Workers’ comp benefits cover all medical expenses and two-thirds of lost wages, as well as disability benefits and vocational re-training in some cases.
On-the-Job Knee Injuries
Slip-and-fall accidents, heavy lifting, trauma, repetitive motion, overexertion, kneeling, or sudden twisting can result in injury to several parts of the knee, including:
The femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), or patella (kneecap) can be fractured due to a fall or other impact.
The connective tissues that hold muscle and bone together might rupture, tear, or be strained by overexertion or heavy lifting.
The cushion of cartilage between the femur and the tibia could be torn due to trauma or strain. Treatments include rest, ice, a knee brace, and surgery.
The tissues that stabilize the knee and attach the tibia to the femur include the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), and the medial collateral ligament (MCL). Sprains or tears of these ligaments are painful, debilitating, and apt to require surgical repair.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that knee injuries are the third most common on-the-job injuries suffered by workers each year and make up five percent of all work-related mishaps requiring medical attention. Housekeepers, carpet installers, mechanics, carpenters, and others who repeatedly kneel on the job are the most likely to suffer knee injuries.
Shoulder Injuries Suffered at Work
Employees who work in healthcare and construction, among other fields, are prone to shoulder injuries that result from lifting heavy objects, turning patients over in bed, and repeatedly raising their arms over the head. Shoulder injuries commonly sustained by such workers include strains, bursitis, tendonitis, joint dislocation, nerve damage, and tears of the rotator cuff or labrum. Pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, popping, stiffness, and restricted range of motion are common symptoms of shoulder injuries.
Repetitive-Motion Wrist Injuries
The most common wrist injury sustained on the job is tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendons, which are connective tissues between your bones and muscles. Tendonitis of the wrist can develop as a result of repetitive motion over time. When the tendons of the wrist and hand are irritated by the same job activities day after day, you’re likely to experience pain, weakness, tingling, and burning sensations. Specific work-related wrist injuries include:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
CTS is an irritation of the median nerve, which passes through the carpal tunnel in your wrist and controls your fingers and thumb. When the tendons in the carpal tunnel are swollen and irritated, they put pressure on the median nerve, causing burning, itching, numbness, and weakness. If left untreated, CTS will only be further aggravated by repetitive motion and leave the worker incapacitated and in severe pain.
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
This condition can result from repeatedly gripping and twisting a control or lever, causing pain, swelling, difficulty in pinching or squeezing, and “locking” of the thumb in one position.
Athletes, chefs, musicians, surgeons, computer operators, users of vibrating tools, and others who repeatedly engage in complex and delicate movements of the hand are apt to develop wrist injuries on the job.
Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim in South Carolina
As soon as you sustain an accidental shoulder, knee, or wrist injury on the job, you should report it to your boss or to a worksite claims administrator. If you develop a repetitive motion condition over time, report it as soon as it’s diagnosed. Although you have 90 days to report your injury or condition, you should do so immediately. If your employer does not file a claim on your behalf with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC), do so yourself with a Form 50 from the SCWCC website. The law gives you two years to file, but, again, you should not wait. If you wait to report or file, you could damage your claim. The employer’s insurer will cite your delay as proof that you’re not as seriously injured as you say you are.
After reporting your injury, you should immediately see a doctor certified and recommended by your employer’s insurer. Seeing only your own doctor could weaken your claim. Follow the recommended doctor’s orders conscientiously, keep all appointments, take all medication as prescribed, and keep receipts and documentation of your treatments, as well as a daily journal of your recovery. If your employer denies your claim, delays approval of treatment procedures forces you back to work too early, or retaliates against you for filing your claim, consult a workers’ comp attorney right away.
Accidental Injury vs. Occupational Illness
Because many knee, shoulder, and wrist injuries are occupational illnesses that develop over time on the job, it is harder to prove that they are work-related than it is accidental injuries. The employer’s insurance company is likely to dispute your claim by insisting that your condition is not work-related or is the result of a pre-existing injury. In such a case, your attorney can work with your doctors to organize your medical evidence and present it convincingly, perhaps with the help of expert witnesses’ testimony, in order to help you seek fair benefits.
Have You Been Injured On The Job In Florence?
If you've been hurt at your job in or around Florence, South Carolina, you can speak with a workers' compensation lawyer. Please contact us online or call our Florence personal injury office directly at 843.488.7540 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Charleston, Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.