Have you suffered an injury at work, but you cannot pinpoint the exact time the injury took place? Perhaps you needed a knee, hip, or shoulder replacement but never suffered a traumatic injury. Maybe you have noticed your job seems to make your back pain worse. It is worth asking your doctor whether she believes your job duties contributed to your need for medical treatment.

Traumatic Injuries vs. Overuse Injuries

The Wisconsin workers compensation system recognizes two types of injuries. The first type is known as a traumatic injury. For example, when an employee falls and breaks a bone. Traumatic injuries occur at a specific time and place. Wisconsin workers comp also recognizes a second type of injury, known as an overuse, repetitive motion, or occupational exposure injury. Unlike traumatic injuries, overuse injuries occur over time, without a specific date of injury.

Examples of Overuse Injuries and Their Causes

There are many types of overuse injuries. One common overuse injury includes workers who spend long hours on their feet who work on concrete. After years working under these conditions, the worker eventually needs treatment for his knee. Another typical overuse injury occurs when a work environment causes a person to work in an awkward position or posture. For example, if a work station is not high enough, frequent bending can lead to a back injury. Yet another type of overuse injury can occur when a worker must regularly perform reaching activities. Repetitive reaching can often lead to a worn out shoulder and subsequent medical treatment.

Could Your Chronic Pain Be Considered an Overuse Injury?

An excellent part of Wisconsin’s workers compensation system is that it recognizes some injuries develop over time and do not have a specific date of injury. Wisconsin’s workers compensation system treats these overuse injuries the same as traumatic injuries.

Here are three important things to understand about overuse injuries:

1. An overuse injury at work does not need to be the only cause of your medical treatment.

Even if your work injury is just one of many things contributing to your medical condition, it may still be compensable under Wisconsin’s workers compensation law. This means if your doctor agrees your working conditions were a “material” cause of your injury, you may be owed workers compensation benefits. In other words, even if other causes, such as a car accident, contributed to your injury, if your work conditions contributed for your need for treatment, you should speak to a workers compensation attorney.

2. An injury may develop over a few hours.

Overuse injuries do not need to take years to develop. In fact, Wisconsin courts have recognized certain difficult working environments can cause an overuse injury in as little as a few days or even hours. For example, a worker may perform a task she does not normally do, like helping to move a shipment of boxes into a building after a delivery. If the worker notices nagging back pain for months after this event, she may have an eligible workers compensation claim.

3. Your employer takes you “as is.”

A “pre-existing condition” is not a valid defense to a workers compensation claim in Wisconsin. For example, if you have a history of back problems, but your work environment made your back condition noticeably worse, then you may be entitled to workers compensation benefits. If your claim was denied as a “pre-existing condition” you should speak with an attorney to discuss your rights.

If your job duties or workplace environment have caused you to seek medical treatment, you may be entitled to workers compensation benefits. Please call one of our workers compensation attorneys at (608) 257-0040 for a free consultation.

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Bill Parsons