Is My Employer Responsible for Repetitive Stress Injuries?

Person with injured shoulder.

Given the nature of many jobs, injuries from repetitive stress or repetitive motion are among the most common work-related injuries. Some sources say that up to 60% of workplace injuries are due to RSI. OSHA regulations and workers’ compensation law both address repetitive stress and its prevention.

But is your employer to blame?

First, let’s look at the most common RSIs:

  • Nurses and hospital aides
  • Janitors and housekeepers
  • Grocery and stock clerks
  • Delivery workers
  • Bus drivers
  • Plumbers
  • Musicians
  • Firefighters
  • Office workers
  • Professional athletes

These professions all have one thing in common: job duties that require repeated physical motions for hours on end. Even just mild discomfort or dysfunction can become excruciating after weeks or months of repetition. But is it the nature of the job? Or are employers responsible for ensuring their workers are cared for after an injury?

Workers’ Compensation for RSIs

If the repetitive motions required by your job left you injured and unable to work, you’ll be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. The benefit of workers’ comp is being “no fault,” which means you’re not required to prove negligence on your employer’s part. There are drawbacks to this that we’ll get into later, but the main benefit is you need only to prove the injuries were from work to receive benefits.

If you’re filing for workers’ compensation, we recommend working with a workers’ comp lawyer to ensure you get maximum benefits under the law. There are benefits you may not realize you’re entitled to. Attorney J. Jeffrey Watson at Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC is certified as a specialist in the practice of workers’ compensation law by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Workers’ Compensation Law Section as authorized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court—he’d be happy to walk you through your options.

When Workers’ Comp Isn’t Enough

Now, workers’ comp benefits cover medical care and partially cover wages for a certain period. If your RSI is severe and leads to a lifelong disability, then you may be able to file for disability benefits under SSDI (which our firm also has a track record of success in). But what if you’ve suffered a severe degradation in your quality of life? What coverage could make up for lifelong pain or loss of mobility? The civil courts in Pennsylvania might provide a remedy.

However, the standard of proof for a civil lawsuit is higher than a workers’ comp or SSDI claim.

You’ll need to prove that your employer’s actions contributed to your injuries beyond simply the duties required of you at your job. For instance, if you’re a grocery store worker who suffered a debilitating back injury at work, you’d have the best luck recovering under workers’ comp or SSDI. However, if your employer refused to let you wear a belt while lifting heavy items or made you do two-person jobs by yourself, you may have a case for suing your employer for negligence. A case like that would allow you to claim noneconomic damages in addition to economic losses.

OSHA makes employers responsible for mitigating RSIs to a degree. For instance, most employers are required to evaluate their worksites for potential exposure to repetitive motions, then establish controls to ensure workers have limited exposure. This could include designing workstations to minimum ergonomic standards or simply rotating shifts so that workers aren’t doing physically strenuous motions at a high pace for long periods of time.

If you feel that your injuries were the result of your job, regardless of whether negligence was involved, call Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC today. We can discuss your options in a free, confidential consultation.

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