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California Workers’ Compensation: Lifting Injuries

California Workers’ Compensation: Lifting Injuries

Most workers in California must lift things as part of their jobs. Warehouse workers, construction workers, and agricultural workers routinely lift heavy objects throughout their workdays, but even office workers may have to pick up heavy boxes of copy paper or other weighty items. The same holds true for retail and restaurant workers who must pick up heavy crates or boxes.

Whatever your profession, if you suffered a lifting injury at work, you are likely experiencing intense pain and limited mobility, and you have probably had to miss work to recover. You could rely on the workers’ compensation program to help you get the medical care you need along with disability benefits while you are out of work. However, the complex and challenging process of obtaining workers’ comp benefits requires an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney to ensure you receive all of the benefits you deserve.

What Are Lifting Injuries?

California Workers’ Compensation: Lifting InjuriesLifting injuries refer to damage you sustain from picking up heavy objects or repeatedly lifting items. Lifting injuries most commonly affect the back, usually the lower back, but they can also affect your shoulders, neck, knees, legs, hips, and arms. In almost every case, lifting injuries result from the straining or overexertion of muscles, tendons, ligaments, spinal discs, and other surrounding soft tissue. They can result in chronic, permanent, painful disabilities.

Back Injuries

Back injuries are the most common lifting injuries. They can develop slowly over time, such as through repetitive motion, or they can result from single traumatic events.

An acute back injury can occur immediately because of improper lifting techniques or more strain than the muscles can move and the pain can effectively render the victim immobile.

When back injuries develop through repetitive motion, a worker may ignore the symptoms until the pain becomes too intense. In essence, an acute back injury occurs as the breaking point after years of wear and tear on the spinal discs, ligaments, and vertebrae.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that back injuries lead to, on average, 12 days of missed work per occurrence as workers recover from their injuries, and more than 1 million work-related back injuries occur each year. Also, nearly 40 percent of all work-related musculoskeletal disorders are back injuries. Analysts estimate that back injuries cost more than $100 billion annually.

Common Causes of Back Injuries

Back injuries most often result from a combination of factors that develop over time until a body’s component reaches its breaking point, or the soft tissue damage causes excruciating pain and immobility.

Some common contributing factors that cause back injuries include:

  • Reaching while lifting
  • Not lifting with the legs
  • Overstressing the back muscles and spine
  • Poor posture
  • Poor workplace design
  • Twisting or bending while lifting
  • Remaining bent over too long
  • Lifting with force
  • Trying to lift heavier objects than your body can move
  • Repetitive lifting

You may experience intense pain when returning to a standing or sitting position, or you may find you have limited or no mobility in your back. In addition to the above factors, your own physical condition and any congenital defects may contribute to a back injury.

Other Types of Lifting Injuries

Repetitive or heavy lifting can injure more than your back.

You could also injure:

  • Shoulders. Lifting heavy objects overhead or carrying them for extended periods can strain the shoulders, which can tear rotator cuffs or cause shoulder impingement syndrome.
  • Necks. Repeatedly lifting heavy objects or holding them in awkward positions can cause neck injuries, such as muscle strains or cervical spine injuries.
  • Knees. Lifting heavy objects can also strain the knees, which can result in sprains, strains, and torn cartilage.
  • Arms and elbows. Picking up heavy objects in a curling fashion or lifting items straight up off the ground can also injure your upper arms and your elbows. You could overstretch, sprain, or partially tear the ligaments and tendons that attach your biceps to your arms and shoulders, and repetitive lifting could result in biceps tendonitis.

Another common injury that results from heavy lifting is a hernia. This is when an internal body part—most commonly part of your intestine—pushes through a weakened area of your abdominal muscle wall or your groin. A hernia will usually present as a bulge or large lump and can cause intense pain and limited mobility. Hernias will not repair themselves on their own and need surgery to fix in most cases.

How Does Workers’ Compensation Work in California?

California’s Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) handles all workers’ compensation claims in the state. The program offers medical expense coverage and disability benefits while you cannot work. The workers’ compensation insurance company will cover all of your medical costs related to your lifting injury, including ongoing therapy and rehabilitation as well as surgical expenses, if necessary.

Following a workplace lifting injury, you can receive emergency treatment from any available doctor, but once they stabilize your condition, you will have to see an approved workers’ compensation physician for a medical exam and disability rating. In some cases, you may predesignate your own physician to handle your care, but you must designate the physician in writing and submit the information to your employer before you sustain a workplace injury or illness.

When you see the doctor, they will assign a disability rating that dictates how long you can receive workers’ compensation benefits.

The DWC will use the disability rating to determine the temporary, partial, or permanent disability benefits you may receive.

  • Temporary total disability benefits. Provided when you cannot currently work but will eventually recover and return to work at your former position or capacity. Temporary disability benefits typically pay two-thirds of your average weekly income for up to 104 weeks.
  • Temporary partial disability benefits. Provided when you cannot return to your previous job or position but can perform other work tasks at a lower pay level.
  • Permanent disability benefits: If you suffer an injury that results in a permanent disabling condition, you may receive either permanent total disability or permanent partial disability benefits. Your doctor may determine that you will never recover completely or will always have limits to the work you can do.

Once they determine your condition as permanent and stationary, your physician will complete a P&S report that details your specific medical condition, the medical care you will need in the future, and the limits your disability will have on your ability to work in any fashion. Physicians follow specific rating schedules that assign a percentage of how much your impairment affects your ability to work and how much compensation or the types of benefits you will receive.

Most workers have ratings between 5 and 30 percent, resulting in a permanent partial disability. A 100 percent rating will result in permanent total disability.

Why Do I Need a Workers’ Compensation Attorney for My Lifting Injury?

If you suffered a lifting injury in the course and scope of your employment, you may receive workers’ compensation benefits. California requires companies with one or more employees to carry workers’ compensation insurance. These benefits can cover the cost of medical treatment, lost income, and other expenses related to your injury.

You must report your injury to your employer as soon as possible and seek medical treatment from an authorized medical provider. Working with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can also ensure that you receive the full benefits you deserve for your lifting injury.

You want to hire a workers’ compensation attorney to handle to tedious, challenging, and often confusing claims process. You will need to gather a lot of evidence to support your claim, but an attorney can collect the documentation and information you need and file your claim for you correctly and promptly. Having a lawyer handle your workers’ compensation claim can avoid errors or omissions that could result in a delay or outright denial of your claim.

Additionally, an attorney can file an appeal if you receive a denial of your claim. If you file an appeal or dispute any decisions regarding your claim, you will attend a formal hearing or a mandated settlement session to resolve the matter. You will need a lawyer on your side to assert your rights and fight for you.

An attorney will have your best interests at heart and can advocate for you throughout the process to increase your chances of getting the benefits you deserve. You will also have peace of mind knowing an experienced professional is handling your case so you can focus on getting better without the added stress.

Contact an Experienced California Lifting Injury Attorney Immediately

Greg Bentley & Keith More Personal Injury Lawyers

The experienced California lifting injury attorneys at Bentley & More can help you with all aspects of your workers’ compensation claim. We can gather the documentation and evidence you need and file your claim for you so you don’t have to worry about it. If your employer or the insurance provider denies your claim, we can file an appeal and represent you in the hearing. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.

Our priority is focusing on your needs and helping you get the benefits you need as efficiently as possible. We are prepared to fight for you each step of the way, and we have achieved a remarkable record of success representing our clients with their lifting injuries and other work-related injury and illness claims. Contact us today for your free consultation.