When are job-related repetitive stress injuries compensable in New York?

Victims of repetitive stress injuries must satisfy several criteria pertaining to the origins of the injury to secure workers’ compensation benefits.

Many employees in the Capital District, from construction laborers to office workers, are required to perform certain manual or physical tasks repeatedly in the course of their jobs. Unfortunately, these individuals may face a significant risk of suffering from repetitive stress injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders have grown into one of the most serious threats to safety and health in the workplace.

Repetitive stress injuries can produce numbness, pain, inflexibility and loss of strength, which may make it difficult for victims to continue performing their jobs. Additionally, according to the National Institutes of Health, these injuries can cause short-term or irreversible damage to soft tissue. Given these potential outcomes, it is important for workers in New York to understand when they may be able to qualify for workers' compensation benefits based on these injuries.

Originating from work

A worker may only receive compensation for an injury that happens "out of and in the course of" his or her employment, according to the New York State Workers' Compensation Board. Essentially, the injury must occur while the worker is performing a task that falls within the scope of his or her job. Workers who have suffered repetitive stress injuries must prove that those injuries developed primarily due to their job duties, rather than external factors.

Unique job-related hazards

Under New York law, repetitive stress injuries are treated as a type of occupational disease. By definition, an occupational disease is a condition that arises due to the unique hazards associated with a specific type of work. As an example, assembly line employees may face an unusually high risk of developing work-related carpal tunnel syndrome due to their specific job duties.

A condition or health hazard that most workers or the general population faces in many cases may not be considered an occupational disease. Consequently, a worker who has suffered a repetitive stress injury must prove that the injury was a risk that arose due to the unique demands of his or her job.

Exacerbation of existing conditions

Workers in New York are permitted to seek workers' compensation benefits if their job duties cause a pre-existing condition to escalate into a more serious repetitive stress injury. A person who has already received compensation for a work-related repetitive stress injury may even be eligible to seek compensation again if he or she resumes work and the injury worsens. However, a worker with a pre-existing condition must prove the condition became more severe due to his or her job duties.

Crafting a claim

Given all of these criteria, workers' compensation claims that involve repetitive stress injuries can be complex. Showing that a musculoskeletal disorder stemmed from job duties or became worse as a result of those duties can be challenging. Additionally, workers have a limited amount of time to seek compensation for these injuries. the workers must file their claim within two years of the date of definite diagnosis, the onset of disability or lost time from work. It is up to the administrative law judge to determine which date is most applicable and this determination can make or break a claim. Silverman Law has had decades of experience in representing claimants with ODNCR (occupational disease, notice and causal relationship) claims. Never forget that the carrier must as a matter of law be represented at a compensation hearing. There is no similar protection for a claimant but you can protect yourself by having knowledgeable counsel in your corner. Let Silverman law help level the playing field.

To meet these deadlines and craft a credible claim, workers may want to consider partnering with a workers' compensation attorney. An attorney may be able to offer advice on the relevant laws or precedents and provide other necessary assistance during the claim process.