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Repetitive Stress Injuries Under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act

Aug 7, 2008
A repetitive stress injury (RSI) is often extremely painful and disabling. Also called a repetitive strain or sprain injury, a cumulative trauma disorder or an occupational overuse syndrome, an RSI occurs when a worker overuse his or her muscles, tendons or nerves, generally in the hands, arms and upper back. The most common repetitive strain injury is carpal tunnel syndrome. Fortunately, carpal tunnel syndrome can often be treated with medication, splints or, in many cases, surgery. Other common types of RSIs are reflex sympathetic dystrophy, stenosing tenosynovitis, DeQuervain's syndrome, trigger finger or trigger thumb, epicondylitis, tendonitis, tenosynovitis and thoracic outlet syndrome.

Repetitive stress injuries are most commonly found among computer users, waiters and waitresses, and assembly line workers, all of whom use their hands and arms frequently, generally doing the same motion over and over. Although stretching and physical therapy may reduce the pain of RSIs, the conditions often require surgery, followed by lengthy periods of exercise, physical therapy and rehabilitation.

Repetitive stress injuries are defined under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act as an occupational illness or condition caused or aggravated by long-term or repeated exposure (as opposed to conditions which are caused by a single work related event). By this definition, even the usual back sprains can fall into this category when they arise from small but "repeated traumas" over a period of time. Examples of repetitive trauma disorders, caused or accelerated by work, are: carpal tunnel syndrome (of one or both hands), tendonitis of any part of an arm or shoulder, noise induced hearing loss, bursitis, diseases of the skin, repetitive strains to the back, neck, or any part of the body used by the employee during his or her job. These repetitive trauma disorders arc often caused by constant grasping, moving, typing, (or computer entry), twisting or handing and the repetitive use of tools.

Because these condition are, by definition, progressive, it is not necessary per se for an employee to pinpoint or file an action against a specific employer. The company at which the worker was last employed when he or she became disabled will often be responsible for paying workers' compensation benefits. At times, however, more than one employer may be found responsible to pay for the wage losses and medical expenses that result from RSIs.

Like any injury, however, an injured worker must give prompt and proper notice of the injury or disability to his or her employer, and follow ail other obligations that the law places on an injured worker. If a worker fails to comply with the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act's requirements, he or she may be precluded from receiving benefits under this law.

As a result, injured workers suffering from RSIs should seek prompt medical care and consult with an attorney learn and understand their rights. The law as it applies to RSIs can be complicated, and the various deadlines can be difficult to understand. That is why obtaining advice from an attorney knowledgeable about Pennsylvania workers' compensation claims is so important.

Similarly, if a worker receives benefits for an RSI, he or she may also be entitled to a lump sum settlement of his or her claim. Again, consulting with an attorney can help assure that the worker receives all of the benefits to which he or she is entitled.

This handy Pennsylvania workers' compensation law tip is provided by the Philadelphia workers' compensation law office of Attorney Jack B. Katz, Law Offices of Jack B. Katz, 1213 Vine Street Philadelphia, PA 19107, www.jackbkatz.com, Email jbk@jackbkatz.com.
About the Author
Philadelphia workers compensation attorney Jack B. Katz, who has been representing injured workers for more than two decades. Jack Katz concentrates his practice in workers compensation matters. His office is located at 1213 Vine Street Philadelphia, PA 19107. Email Attorney Jack B. Katz (jbk@jackbkatz.com) or Visit Attorney Jack B. Katz' website.
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