Question

A doctor told me that my repetitive strain injury, like carpal tunnel, is work-related. Can I get workers’ compensation in New York?

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Answer

Yes, you can!

A repetitive strain injury or repeated trauma is compensable under workers’ compensation law and is covered under the category of occupational disease.

Most people think of workers’ compensation in terms of accidental injuries. Accidents can include things like lifting, tripping, falling or cutting your finger. It can involve auto collisions or injuries occurring at a construction site:

  • An accident is a distinct, unexpected event causing a specific physical or mental injury. It is thought of as being definite in terms of time and space.
  • An occupational illness or injury is a more subtle concept that usually occurs over a period of time rather than at a particular moment. 
  • An occupational disease is an illness or injury caused by the very nature of the work you do and tasks you are required to perform as a distinct feature of your job.

Workers’ compensation benefits are the same for both accidental injuries and occupational diseases.

Workers in every industry are vulnerable to suffering repetitive stress injuries (RSI). These are injuries caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression, or sustained or awkward positions. RSIs typically involve musculoskeletal pain affecting ligaments, tendons, spinal disks, nerves and muscles.

Occupational diseases in general are often under-recognized and therefore never get filed as workers’ compensation claims. Most people do not link their illness or injury to their job, so it is important to be vigilant and aware of the potential for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Some other examples of occupational diseases are loss of hearing due to noise exposure and cancer and lung conditions due to exposure to dust, fumes, chemicals and other toxic irritants such as asbestos.

Because occupational disease claims are invariably complex, having the right attorney really does matter. Look for an experienced, reputable firm whose practice is concentrated primarily on workers’ compensation claims.

Answered 04/04/2017

Disclaimer: This answer was provided by an attorney selected to Super Lawyers, and is intended to be an educated opinion only. This answer should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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