Back injuries are some of the most common injuries in work-related accidents. If you are suffering from back pain or injury, you understand that the pain affects not only your work but your way of life. If your back injury keeps you from participating in your daily activities and hobbies, you might suffer from a psychological condition such as depression in addition to your physical pain.
Because a back injury can be debilitating, you must seek medical help soon after getting involved in an accident. Additionally, since the medical expenses can be high, you need to pursue your employer’s workers’ compensation benefits to cover the costs.
Common Causes of Work-Related Back Injuries
Back injuries affect the musculoskeletal system, including soft tissue, nerves, joints, cartilage, and spinal structures. As your body adjusts to new limitations, you may experience pain and reduced motion in your neck and hips.
One sign of a back injury is sharp and constant pain or mild intermittent pain in the musculoskeletal system. Back injuries can result in brief impairment or life-long problems. The pain levels and symptoms depend on which part of the back got injured.
Just as there are different symptoms of back injuries, there are various causes of work-related back injuries.
- Lifting objects
- Performing repetitive tasks like casing mail, climbing stairs, getting up and down from a chair, or reaching overhead
- Pushing, pulling, or dragging objects
- Carrying loads in an awkward manner
- Sitting in one place, such as at a non-ergonomic workstation, for extended periods
While any worker can suffer from work-related back injuries, those who perform physical labor, such as the construction industry, are most likely to experience back injuries. In addition, long-haul truckers are also likely to suffer from back injuries due to sitting for long hours, leading to deconditioning of the back muscles.
Although work-related back injuries may occur due to a single traumatic event, the symptoms may develop gradually due to a repetitive motion or activity over time. It’s essential to understand the difference between traumatic and cumulative trauma injuries.
Getting Workers’ Compensation for Back Injuries
If you experience back injuries for any reason at work, report the injury to your employer as soon as possible to help start the workers’ compensation process. Each state has a different time limit on when you must file a workers’ compensation claim and how quickly you must notify your employer of the injury. It is usually good to report your injuries immediately to avoid losing your ability to claim compensation.
After reporting, your employer should provide you with the compensation claim paperwork or fill it out on your behalf. Ensure you fill out the paperwork within the time limit to avoid forfeiting your claim.
Possible Challenges When Getting Workers’ Compensation for Back Injuries
Even after reporting your injuries and filing the workers’ compensation paperwork on time, you still risk forfeiting your compensation if you can’t prove that your injury was work-related.
Insurance companies are reluctant to pay workers’ compensation claims in most cases and often dispute whether work injuries occurred. Therefore, you will have to prove that your injury is work-related. Your injury doesn’t necessarily have to happen at your workplace as long as it occurred while you were performing an activity assigned by or benefiting your employer.
Despite this, the insurer may claim that your condition is preexisting due to a previous accident, sports injury, or old age. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you prove which activities caused your back injuries in these situations.
Even if you have preexisting conditions, a workers’ compensation lawyer can help you prove that your workplace injury aggravated your conditions. In these cases, you can still get compensation.
When you visit the doctor, make sure you tell them about any preexisting conditions and that you believe that your work duties aggravated your condition.
An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will include several types of evidence to help establish your claim with the insurance provider.
For example, they might submit:
- Medical reports that state that your injuries are work-related
- Statements from eye-witnesses such as co-workers who saw the accident happen or who saw you engaging in repetitive tasks
- CCTV footage from your workplace showing the conditions that led to your injuries
- Medical prescriptions and treatment plans
Benefits of Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
The amount you receive depends on the severity of your injuries.
Workers’ compensation insurance helps cover expenses such as:
- Medical care
- Temporary and permanent disabilities
- Return-to-work expenses
- Supplemental job displacement benefits
- Death benefits
The severity of your injuries and your doctor’s opinion will determine how long you receive some of these benefits. For example, if your doctor determines that you are permanently disabled, your compensation may continue for years.
How Much Does Workers’ Compensation Pay for Back Injuries?
You can receive compensation as a lump sum settlement or as installment payments. Also known as Compromise and Release, lump-sum compensation comes as one full payment.
The amount you receive depends on various factors such as:
- The severity of your injuries
- The proposed length of treatment
- Amount of pain you suffered
- Your age
- Your occupation
- Whether your injuries are permanent
- Whether you had preexisting conditions
- Possible difficulties from the treatment of your injuries
A Compromise and Release payment should cover all these benefits and possible future medical care at once. In most cases, the insurance company releases a lump sum when you want to settle things immediately and move on. After the release of lump-sum compensation, there is no longer a need to keep in touch with the insurance company.
On the other hand, the court refers to installment payments as Stipulations with Request for Award. Insurance provides this type of compensation over a predetermined period of weeks, months, or years. Under this type of agreement, the insurer pays the benefits immediately and covers the medical expenses as they occur.
Possible Factors that Affect Your Workers’ Compensation
Before awarding you compensation, the insurance company uses average settlement injury data to calculate how big of a settlement to offer you.
During their calculation, they consider various factors, which include:
- Possibility of permanent disabilities
- Present back injuries, their severity, and how they affect your daily life
- Any possible additional treatments and their cost
- How the injuries affect your income generating capabilities
- Unresolved issues surrounding your injuries
- Unreimbursed medical bills
- Any unpaid temporary disability benefits
- Your personal life, such as marital status, age, life expectancy, and employment potential
The compensation you receive often depends on how well you present your claim. Once you accept a settlement, you can’t go back and claim more from the insurance company-even after realizing that your injuries are far worse than you anticipated. Therefore, you shouldn’t negotiate on your own. Instead, you should hire an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who can negotiate for you and advise you about how much to expect.
Before signing the compensation benefits forms, take your time to understand your back injuries, their extent, and how they will change your life. Think about your impairments, your working capabilities, and the effects that future medical issues may have on your life.
Various factors affect the amount of compensation you receive, and they include:
- The severity of your back injury: If your back injuries are severe and cause massive pain, then it will likely be costly to treat them. In addition, severe injuries make it impossible to resume regular work duties quickly.
- Permanent disabilities: Even with corrective surgery and rigorous pain management regimens, back injuries can sometimes cause permanent disability.
- Potential future medical expenses: While workers’ compensation pays for past work-related medical expenses, you should also consider the possibility of future medical expenses like doctor visits, therapy, and rehabilitation.
- Pending medical bills: If you have unpaid medical bills, remember to include them in your worker’s compensation claim.
- Your background: When reviewing your claim, the insurer checks personal history and compensation claims to ensure they pay you a proper amount.
- Changes in income: The extent of your injuries can impact your life and work capacity in various ways. For example, you may miss reporting to work for a few weeks or fail to secure another job due to your work-related back injuries. The insurer considers these factors as well as the possibility of changing your position when awarding you compensation.
While all these factors may seem straightforward, sometimes the insurer can make it hard for you to secure total compensation. Working with a worker’s compensation lawyer ensures that you are treated fairly throughout the negotiations.
During negotiations, keep these pointers in mind:
- Discuss your prognosis with your doctor to help you get a better understanding of possible future medical issues.
- After you accept a worker’s compensation settlement, you give up your rights to collect any medical or wage loss benefits in the future.
- Once you receive the settlement, you cannot reopen your case.
- After receiving your settlement, you will be responsible for paying unpaid medical bills and any future expenses.
Calculating Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation due to back injuries covers lost wages and medical bills resulting from the back injuries. However, it doesn’t cover personal injury cases related to your work.
Workers’ compensation benefits are based on average weekly wages in many states. In this case, you can receive a percentage of your average weekly wages as compensation. Before disbursing the average weekly compensation, the insurer needs to determine the type of back injuries you have and their impact on your overall life. The amount you receive depends on whether you have a partial or total disability or temporary injuries. You’ll get more if you suffer from full or partial disability than someone with temporary injuries.
Partial Versus Total Disability
In most cases, victims who suffer total or partial disabilities from work-related back injuries receive two-thirds or 60 percent of their average weekly pay. But, again, it depends on the state you live in, and you should confirm your state rules and benefits when applying for compensation.
How a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer May Help You
When you consider pursuing workers’ compensation for your work-related back injuries, having an experienced lawyer by your side can help your case. Lawyers know the ins and outs of the workers’ compensation process. With this experience, your lawyer fights for a better outcome for your claim.
There are instances where the workers’ compensation insurance company will try to deny you claims or reduce your payout. In that case, your lawyer applies their understanding of federal and state workers’ compensation laws to fight for your rights. In addition, lawyers know how to deal with the insurance company during negotiations.
You can avoid insurance company tricks by hiring a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf. In addition, your lawyer can clarify whether your back injuries qualify for workers’ compensation benefits or not.
Sometimes your claim may have some gray areas, especially in nontraditional cases like working from home. Even after reporting the accident to your employer, the insurance company may still try to prove that the accident was not work-related. Your lawyer can help you prove otherwise and ensure that you get fair treatment throughout the negotiation process.
Navigating workers’ compensation paperwork and rules after a work-related back injury is no easy task. To make matters more challenging, insurance companies have no problem disputing the validity of your claim, carrying out invasive investigations, and discrediting your injuries.
A workers’ compensation lawyer will engage with the insurance company on your behalf to ensure you receive a fair settlement. Contact a lawyer today for help with the next steps in your workers’ compensation back injury claim.