Due to the sensitive nature of the spinal cord, suffering a back or neck injury could be very serious and potentially fatal to anyone involved. Suffering an injury of this nature means a great deal of physical pain and stress owing to the sensitivity of the central nervous system. The said injuries could occur to anyone, with certain injuries more prevalent than others in regards to your occupation. In accordance with California law, you could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if your injury was sustained while you were on the job. The Workers Compensation Attorney Group is an prominent legal firm providing its services in and around Orange County, California. Over the years we have worked with numerous employees ensuring that they receive the rightfully deserved compensation after suffering injuries at work.
Common Causes of Back and Neck Workplace Injuries in California
The most common form of work injuries in the state of California is basically from a one-time accident. What this means is that the accident only has to occur once, and in turn injuring you. The second most frequent injuries in a California work environment are from repetitive motion, known otherwise as repetitive stress injuries. These types of injuries result from continuously repeating the same routine task, day in day out. A good example is where an employee suffers from De Quervain syndrome, where the tendons of their thumb swell up due to long periods of intense typing or use of the computer mouse. The other type of work injury is job-related stress. Job-related means that the employee suffers mentally or even physically due to their stressful work conditions.
Such injuries could be brought about by;
- slipping and falling,
- car accidents,
- lifting of heavy objects,
- falling from a high place,
- pulling or pushing,
- getting hit by an object in motion,
- twisting or;
- continued sitting in uncomfortable chairs.
Common Work-Related Neck Injuries
Neck injuries come with severe physical pain to the injured party. The spinal cord is encased and protected from any physical harm by the neck, also called the cervical spine. Injuring your spinal cord could leave you crippled or in a worst-case scenario, dead. It is essential to understand that a neck injury at your place of work could either result from blunt trauma to your neck, or the continued use of furniture that is not ergonomic.
To understand the different types and levels of severity of neck injuries, it is vital that you know all the parts that make up the cervical spine. They include; seven (7) bones or vertebrae, discs – they are soft tissue located in between the vertebrae and absorb shock from impact, six (6) main tendons, more groups of muscle and; an intricate system of blood vessels linking the brain and the vertebral canal, which encloses the spinal cord.
The neck is the most flexible part of the entire spine, thus making it the part that is susceptible to a more significant number of injuries. Some of the most common work-related neck injuries comprise:
- Strain: A strained neck stems from stretched or torn tendons and muscles. By continuously repeating the same movements for an extended period, sitting with bad posture while working, or even whiplash motions could be the reason for this injury.
- Sprain: This is generally the tearing or stresses in the soft muscles. Such injuries are often as a result of direct trauma to the neck, sudden movement, or prolonged awkward body posture.
- Dislocation: When you sustain the irregular detachment of two or more bones in your neck, it results in a cervical dislocation. These injuries are typically caused by blunt trauma, but could as well result from progressive unnatural movements. Dislocation injuries are classified either as stable, or unstable, with the former being minor and the latter being significant damage.
- Fracture: In a regular occurrence, a broken neck is the sort of injury that is inflicted by high-energy trauma. Also known as compression fractures, these injuries are brought about by continued pressure on the vertebrae over an extended period. They are more common in older workers and can be treated but not cured. Although rare, it is not uncommon to come across a neck compression fracture that is exclusively caused by trauma.
- Contusion: Just as the name suggests, these injuries are bruises and more often than not stem from a whiplash motion or forceful impact. This kind of damage to your neck could lead to internal bleeding.
- Bulging or herniated disc: Extended pressure on your vertebrae could lead to a bulging or even herniated disc. Such pressure could also result from sudden movements such as whiplash motion or a blow, particularly if you have a preexisting deteriorating condition at the time of your injury.
Common Symptoms Associated with Workplace Neck Injuries
Neck injuries in the workplace mostly occur over an extended period, where the damage accumulates gradually. You could experience pain in your neck at the end of your shift on the job which was not there when you clocked in. It is crucial that you take note of such changes in your body to curb or even reverse the damages. The most common symptoms of neck injuries at your workplace include:
Signs of a neck strain
Signs of a neck strain include acute and persistent pains in your neck and back of the head. The pain could also extend to the shoulders, upper back as well as upper arms. You may also experience severe headaches mostly in your forehead, and it gets worse if you move or suffer a stiff neck.
Symptoms of a neck sprain
Pain that culminates a day or two after you are injured. The pain is usually experienced at the back of the neck and intensifies with movement. You may as well experience sore throat, fatigue, difficulty in sleeping, tingling in your arms, irritability and reduced neck movement.
Symptoms of a neck dislocation
A severe injury to the neck will bring about a sharp pain that is likely to spread to your shoulders and arms which in turn become numb. You may also experience a stinging sensation in your neck when touched, and in some cases, the deformity is evident to the eye.
Symptoms of a neck fracture
Severe pain is experienced, with inflammation and straining to move your neck. Additional symptoms include; difficulty swallowing, impaired vision, numbness in your limbs and in rare cases, unconsciousness.
Symptoms of a neck contusion
The symptoms for these injuries will depend on the degree of the bruise itself. If the bruise happens to be a minor one, you will experience some discomfort for a while before complete healing. If on the other hand, you suffer a severe contusion, it could affect your spinal cord where you would experience a tingling sensation in your limbs. Other symptoms include; numbness below your injury location, loss of bowel and bladder functions, breathing problems, impaired balance, memory loss, hearing problems and nausea.
Symptoms for bulging or herniated discs
You will experience weakness, numbness and a tingling sensation in the shoulders, neck, hands, arms, and fingers. The pain you experience could range from sharp to pretty dull and can be easily aggravated by motion or your posture. This pain could extend from the neck area down to your arms, hands, and fingers.
If you suspect your neck injury to be a result of your professional duties, it is advisable that you inform your boss and see a doctor immediately.
Common Work-Related Back Injuries
Injuring your back means that that damage has been inflicted anywhere between your neck and your pelvis. Just as is the case with neck injuries, strains and sprains are the most common injuries to the back. As minor and harmless as these injuries may sound, they tend to be severely painful and are capable of crippling you. Some of the most common work-related back injuries that are entitled to compensation comprise:
- Strains: The injuries sustained when you tear or stretch soft tissue, a tendon or a muscle is known as a strain. Strains are usually categorized into three (3) degrees. A first-degree strain involves slight tearing of the tendon with mild pain experienced.
- Sprains: Suffering a sprain usually means that you have damaged the ligaments that connect the bones in your back. Just like strains, sprains are also classified into three (3) degrees. The first involves minor tears, swelling, and pain. Second-degree injuries include more considerable damage to your ligaments and bring about irregular pain and inflammation. A third-degree sprain involves a ruptured muscle tissue with intensified inflammation and severe pain.
- Fracture in the lower spine: Also known as lumbar spinal fractures. These injuries are a result of prolonged stress or direct trauma to the area. If the initial pain is minimal, these injuries will usually go unnoticed. These injuries are capable of causing immediate paralysis.
- Spinal dislocations: These injuries usually occur to the discs or ligaments that link the vertebrae get torn or stretched. Misaligned bones can also happen, leading to severe pain.
- Herniated and bulging discs: Direct trauma to your back can put too much pressure on your spinal discs, damaging them. The discs can lose shape, which results in bulging discs or they can also rupture, resulting in herniated discs.
Common Symptoms Associated with Back Injuries
It is vital that you are aware of the different symptoms that come with various back injuries. You might experience the pain in one specific spot, or it might be spread all over your back. Regardless of the type of pain you experience, it is advisable that you see a doctor straight away and let them know that your back injury is work-related. The following symptoms are linked to back injuries and may cause long-term or short-term back problems;
- Pain that increases or eases according to your sitting posture,
- Pain that intensifies with motion,
- Inflammation, discoloration, and bruising,
- General weakness,
- Muscle spasms and cramps,
- Partial or full paralysis.
Diagnosing Back Injuries
To treat your back injury accordingly, you first need to determine the exact cause of the pain. Roughly 20% of the compensation claims filed in California comprise of neck and back injuries. If you suspect a particular incident as the origin, it helps to limit the field of the many possible problems. It also helps to discuss your work duties and habits with your doctor to detect continuing issues that could be the cause of your back pain. Some of the methods that used in the identification of back problems include; X-rays, bone scans, electromyography, MRI’s and CT scans as well as blood tests.
If you suffer a back or neck injury, getting enough rest and proper treatment will have you feeling better in no time. These injuries, however, are most likely to recur if you go back to your same old job that inflicted the damage. Most back and neck injuries, unfortunately, can bring about either permanent or temporary disability, thus making it hard to estimate the time it will take for one to make a full recovery.
Though uncommon, it is not surprising to come across cases where a single spinal cord injury will affect multiple parts of your body. Because one injury affects many parts, it could make it impossible if not difficult for you to get back to work since several parts of your body will be in pain.
My Employer Denied My Neck and Back Injury Claim, What Action Should I Take?
There have been multiple cases where either an employer or their insurance providers delay or deny that an employee did not sustain injuries or they got injured, but they were not working at the time. If the employer accepts the responsibility to compensate you for a job-related injury, you might receive significantly less payment sighting your injury to be less severe than it is. In cases where the claim you filed is disputed, you need to present material evidence in either a settlement conference or in court if your case makes it to trial.
If you ever find yourself in such a situation, it is advisable that you seek the services of a good workers’ compensation attorney. They can assist your case with the collection of additional evidence to help in your job-related injury, obtaining statements from witnesses or your fellow employees who were aware of your condition. If a one-time accident did not cause your job-related illness or injury, it will be harder for you to prove that your injury resulted from work. A repetitive stress injury claim will require a specialist’s opinion to validate it as resulting from your occupation.
Different Kinds of Compensation for a California Neck and Back Injury
If an employee sustains a neck or back injury in the state of California, they might be eligible for several kinds of reimbursement options. The most common way is through filing a workers’ compensation claim, with others including; through a legal contest or private insurance. They might consist of;
- Medical care costs,
- Compensation for lost wages in the instance that you cannot work,
- Loss of companionship,
- Reimbursement for hiring in-house health assistants and;
- Pain and misery.
If the doctor determines your job-related injury as treatable and deems you fit enough to resume work, you are entitled to receive short-term disability payments. The amount you receive is usually two-thirds of your salary and typically dispersed weekly.
If your work-related injury persists for an extended period, you might be considered as a disability beneficiary permanently. You could also be eligible to receive your payments in a lump sum for losing your productivity potential which is usually an estimate of what you were likely to earn over your career before the injury.
What You Need to Know Regarding Settling Your Neck and Back Injury Claims
Any injury to the spinal cord can be traumatizing, especially if someone else is to blame. Because of the severe implications to your life, neck and back injuries at the workplace are valued highly by the workers’ compensation, as they can be quite expensive to treat.
Insurance providers know this to be accurate and would rather have an employee get medical treatment as soon as possible before further damage occurs. Early diagnosis and treatment will mean a quick and low-cost case for the insurer.
Some insurance companies will go to the extremes of allocating one of their representatives to appear during a doctor’s assessment of the injured employee. If the insurance provider is not satisfied by the doctor’s findings, they can opt to have the injured employee examined independently by a doctor chosen and paid by the said insurer.
It is not unheard of, where an insurance provider approaches an injured employee telling them that the company will cater for all the payments related to the injury and there is no need for the injured party to hire a workers’ compensation advocate.
Whereas the state of California does not prohibit this behavior, it is advisable that you get yourself a competent attorney that takes into consideration your perceptions of the case and interests. In such a delicate case, you will require the services of an attorney experienced in work-related neck and back injuries. A professional with your interests in mind will get you better results as opposed to those of the insurance provider.
Frequently Asked Questions on Work-Related Back and Neck Injuries
- How do I avoid work-related injuries?
The state of California mandates that each employer holds an illness and injury prevention plan of action. This program should encompass the training of the employees, workplace checkups, and the procedures for rectifying hazardous work conditions promptly. You should ensure that your employer provides all this to ensure a safe work environment for you.
- How do I know if I classify as an employee or an independent contractor?
Unfortunately, the California statute has not set a legal definition for this. When deciding whether you are an employee or independent contractor, California courts and labor law administration agencies will consider a couple of factors. As discussed earlier on, some employers in California will intentionally classify you wrongly to avoid paying workers’ compensation among other employee benefits. You can tell if you are an employee if your employer;
- Needs you to clock in and out of work at specific times,
- Provides you with the necessary tools and materials for the job,
- Holds the right to terminate your employment and;
- Deducts a given amount from your pay for social security and unemployment.
- Is it necessary that my employer posts a notice at my place of work?
Your employer is required by the labor laws to post notices in an open area for all the workers working there. The poster details what the workers’ compensation covers and where you should seek medical treatment in case you are injured at work. If your employer violates this, they might be charged with a misdemeanor which could also give rise to a civil penalty amounting to seventy thousand dollars ($70,000).
Find a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Specializing in Neck and Back Injury Near Me
Suffering an injury on the job could have a severe negative impact on your life. The injury may get worse if the damage is to the neck or back, given the extreme pain and complex legal processes associated with these injuries. If you are the victim of a neck or back injury regardless of who is to blame, consider getting in touch with The Workers Compensation Attorney Group in Orange County, CA at 562-485-9694. Here, you can set up a free one on one consultation with one of our skilled attorneys and learn more concerning the compensation for your neck or back injury. If your injuries do not allow you to commute, we can work with you over the phone or possibly schedule a visit. Call our Orange County work injury attorney today!