CLASSIFICATION OF INJURIES UNDER THE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACT
There seems to be a real interest in learning more about the classification of injuries that are covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The following represents several categories of injuries that are typically found compensable under our current law.
Traumatic: A traumatic injury is generally considered as one that results from external force or violence. Typically these injuries include broken bones, wounds, bruises, bumps and other abrasions that are incurred by the body as a result of some outside force. For example, tripping, slipping, falling or being injured by machinery or moving objects are generally classified as traumatic in nature. These are the easiest injuries to recognize because most of the time they are the result of some accident that produced a readily identifiable result. For example, falling down a flight of stairs at work can result in broken bones and other bodily wounds and abrasions. Catching an arm or leg in a piece of moving machinery can produce external results. Being injured in a truck accident or a lifting accident at work where pain is immediately felt are also examples of traumatic injuries. Again, the chief characteristic of a traumatic injury is that it is readily identifiable.
Cumulative: Cumulative injuries are not as easy to identify as traumatic injuries. These are basically injuries that are the result of day to day stress on the body over a long period of time. For example, walking on hard concrete floors on a daily basis can produce certain bodily changes which do not become apparent until after many years. Occupational diseases which result from the inhalation of dust take years to develop. Arthritic problems that are the result of stresses placed on the body for prolonged periods of time are also examples of cumulative injuries.
Repetitive: Repetitive injuries differ from cumulative and traumatic injuries in that these types of injuries are the result of a systemic and predictable use of a bodily part that results in the development of a condition because of the simple repetitive nature of the job being performed by the worker. For example, repetitive use of the wrists and elbows (such as would be found in assembly line work) can produce carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis even after a short period of time. It is the use of the body part in a repetitive motion that seems to cause the problems in these types of cases. Although cumulative and repetitive injuries seem to be similar, they are in fact slightly different in that repetitive injuries do not necessarily take a long period of time to develop. Cumulative injuries on the other hand normally take longer to cause symptoms as a general rule.
The general classifications outlined above are merely to be used as a guide. There are other types of injuries that may be a combination of one or more of the above. For example, a traumatic injury to ones knee could produce arthritis which could be aggravated by continued use over a long period of time. The continued use (cumulative) results in continued stress being placed on an injured joint which could cause further deterioration and disability. Also, it should be kept in mind that injuries can result from the aggravation of a pre-existing condition, even if that condition is not work-related. For example, a person could have a non work-related arthritic condition that would be considered work-related if that condition is aggravated by certain work activities. The rule is that you do not necessarily have to sustain a traumatic injury at work in order for your condition to be considered compensable.
Whatever the nature of your health problem is, it would be good to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who is skilled in identifying the nature and cause of various problems that can develop from work activities. If you have any questions, please call us at 1-800-964-2667.