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Special Issues for Non-Traumatic Work Injuries

For employers and workers compensation insurance providers, evaluating and investigating traumatic on-the-job injuries is fairly straightforward. However, traumatic physical injuries are not the only occurrences that can be compensable under California’s workers compensation laws. Occupational diseases, repetitive stress injuries and psychological afflictions can be just as real; however, these types of claims may come under scrutiny because of fraud and overreaching by employees.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there were more than 200,000 cases of occupational illness reported in 2012. Musculoskeletal injuries were even more common. Employers and insurance professionals must consider a number of issues when evaluating various types of non-traumatic workplace injuries:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders — Musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel, tendonitis and chronic back pain, can be difficult to diagnose and often develop over time rather than because of a single traumatic occurrence. This can make it difficult to evaluate the severity and cause of such an injury.
  • Occupational diseases — Occupational diseases, such as those stemming from long-term exposure to noise or chemicals, can manifest years after the last regular exposure. Employers must closely examine the alleged injury to determine if the type of exposure proven to cause it is possible considering the employee’s job.
  • Stress-related injuries — The psychological ramifications of physical injuries and the purely psychological conditions brought on by extraordinary work stress are potentially compensable. However, these types of claims should always be examined closely to determine if they are legally sufficient and to identify any possible non-work-related causes.

Employers and insurers must be vigilant about promptly paying legitimately injured workers. But they must also be prepared to investigate questionable claims with the help of an experienced California workers compensation defense firm.

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