Tag Archives: workers compensation

Work Related Back Injuries: The Nursing Conundrum

One thing that I have noticed during my career as a New York Workers’ Compensation attorney is the high rate of incidents involving nurses with back injuries. One may not immediately associate back injuries with nursing, but one need only stop to think for a second about all of the potential hazards nurses face during the course of their employment.

 

Lifting patients, having patients pull on the nurse, falls due to hazards in the room such as wet floors, and the strain of bending over numerous times to care for patients are all substantial risks for nurses. Amazingly enough, nurses suffer back injuries at a higher rate than construction, mining, or manufacturing workers! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released numerous studies supporting this claim.Image

 

When it comes to nursing staff who have more direct patient contact, such as orderlies, Licensed Practical Nurses or Certified Nurse’s Aides, the incidents are even higher. Unlike a registered nurse, orderlies, LPNs and CNAs do not have the ability to perform light-duty work. Their essential job functions require them to be able to lift patients. The practical effect is that when a nurse suffers a serious enough back injury, oftentimes they can no longer be the employed in that same line of work. Not only will they have a significant loss in immediate income, but they will also lose paid time being retrained into an area of nursing that does not require patient lifting or, sometimes, into a new industry altogether that would not expose the worker to further back injury.

 

From a Workers’ Compensation perspective, back injuries frequently result in the injured worker having a permanent partial disability. For nurses who are unable to be retrained, the damages to the wage capacity of the nurse are profound. Not only will the nurse have in excess of 560 weeks of compensation due to be paid to the New York Aggregate Trust Fund (ATF) at the time of classification for a permanent disability, but the employer is also responsible for the nurse’s lifetime medical expenses arising from the back injury. The medical costs for a back injury can skyrocket over the course of time. When there is an injury to a specific level within the spine, oftentimes the levels adjacent to that level eventually wear and require treatment as well. This can have the effect of increasing the classification rate and the additional exposure of the cost of that medical care. One estimate from the CDC in 2009 put the cost of back injuries to healthcare professionals at $20 billion dollars annually.

 

The CDC (http://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2008/09/22/lifting/) has released recommendations to limit exposure to back injuries. There are numerous methods that healthcare facilities can implement that will limit the possible risk of back injury to nurses. Unfortunately, even with the best standards of practice within the nursing industry, accidents will. Implementing  training on proper lifting, using Hoyer lifts, having multiple people lift patients, and spreading out the workload of the most difficult cases, are among the ways that healthcare facilities can reduce the possibility of back injuries. [i]

 

As most people are aware, the demand for nurses remains at an all-time high. By implementing these safety precautions, hopefully the industry can keep some of its most valuable assets.

 

Retraining injured healthcare professionals may be the best way to keep the person productive in the field, ease the need for qualified nurses and to increase the injured worker’s earning potential. I also believe that the healthcare facilities should be encouraging strengthening of back muscles and flexibility by offering free gym memberships or classes in their facility to facilitate prevention of back injuries. From a cost perspective, the potential for back injuries would be reduced from this ounce of prevention. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has had numerous studies to attempt to limit the occupational back injury exposure to nursing assistants, aides and orderlies. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8728153.

 

 

Frequently, there is no specific incident that causes the back pain. The injured worker may not even realize that his or her back pain is work-related. When a nurse is suffering back pain, he or she should not only contact an orthopedic doctor, but should also contact an attorney for consultation on whether the injury may be compensable under Workers’ Compensation laws.  The law imposes strict deadlines on claimants.   If the healthcare professional does not have his or her case pursued correctly from the beginning, the professional may not be able to bring the case later.

 

If you are a nurse and suffered back pain as result of your employment or a work injury, please contact an attorney near you to discuss bringing a Workers’ Compensation case.

 

This article is brought to you by the Snyder Law Firm, PLLC and authored by David B. Snyder, Esq., an attorney with over ten years experience in Workers’ Compensation Law. The Snyder Law Firm, PLLC located at: 6876 Buckley Road, Syracuse, New York 13212. The Snyder Law Firm represents clients throughout the Central New York region at the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board.   This article constitutes attorney advertising and is not intended to provide professional advice concerning specific Workers’ Compensation Claims.

 

[i] http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=8&ved=0CGAQFjAH&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.researchgate.net%2Fpublication%2F8397485_An_evaluation_of_a_best_practices_musculoskeletal_injury_prevention_program_in_nursing_homes%2Ffile%2F60b7d5220bdcc6d671.pdf&ei=2JKhU-eeEojQsQTP64CABg&usg=AFQjCNHRyXgQ4s4b_xSelFxQSsl22KgQtw&sig2=Y6s7si2CHZUDwbw-xJSwUg

 

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The 10 most important steps to take to protect yourself when you have a work injury under Workers Comp Law in New York.

Cervical SpineHave you had an injury at work in New York? If you’re reading this, and you believe that you are entitled to Workers’ Comp, then this list is intended to give you some instruction on how to proceed with your claim. If you have a high risk job, then these are good things to keep in mind in the event you or a friend has an injury at work.

  1. Seek medical attention. If your injury is serious enough, don’t worry about the telling your boss, they will know. Your health is the most important thing you have. For instance, if you think you’re having a HEART ATTACK – CALL 911! Trust me, your life is worth more than the $50,000 potential death benefit your family will receive if your job causes your death.  If you can communicate that the injury happened at work, then be as detailed as possible when the pain started.
  2. Notify your employer. If your injury is not threatening life or limb, then take a moment before you go to your doctor to NOTIFY YOUR SUPERVISOR of the injury and how it happened. If you tell your supervisor make sure you note who you notified and when you notified them. [1]
  3. Keep written records. Follow up with written notice and keep a copy. Just to be safe in the event your employer does not take the necessary steps to ensure that the Workers’ Comp carrier is covering your injury. If your employer does not turn in the paperwork to the Workers’ Compensation Carrier, then this will be your proof that you timely gave notice.
  4. Report your injury to your healthcare provider. Follow up with your primary doctor and request a referral for the best physician for your injury type. As a general rule, any time you are seeing a doctor for your injury you should remind them that you are seeing them for a workers compensation case. If this is the first time that you are reporting an injury, then your physician can file a C-4 form to report the injury and get your case started. Ask to see your medical reports to make sure that your injury and causation is described. If the description is not accurate or is missing information, ask you provider to correct it. If the injury is an occupational disease, then your doctor’s report will likely be the first report of the injury.
  5. Seek the advice of a workers comp attorney. In New York, Workers’ Compensation attorney fees are set by the Workers Compensation Law Judge. Attorneys generally make less than 15% of money moving to the claimant. When compared to the 33% fee for personal injury matters, this is very reasonable. You do not pay your lawyer directly out of your pocket. In the event you claim is disputed, it is far better to have an attorney who is experienced handling your case than proceeding pro se. Even when your claim has been accepted, the carrier can make mistakes in the calculation of your average weekly wage, time calculations and degree of disabilities. Oftentimes, the lawyers provide enough added value to more than make up for the lost income.
  6. File your claim with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. The statute of limitations for filing a New York Workers’ Compensation Claim is 2 years. If you don’t receive compensation forms from the carrier indicating that your claim is accepted, then you may be in for a fight. If you believe that you are anywhere near the statute of limitations, you should file a C-3 form to report the injury to the Workers’ Comp Board.
  7. Keep a calendar/diary. Buy a small calendar book and keep your Workers Comp appointments in one place. You can write the date of your injury, the time you gave notice, court dates, doctor appointments and physical therapy times in one spot so that you can reference it in the future if necessary. * Remember you are entitled to reimbursement for your mileage, so by keeping the diary, it will give you another place to keep the information. The form for reimbursement is C-257.
  8. Maintain evidence of disability. Make sure you have medical evidence of your disability every 90 days. Your treating doc should know this and schedule you accordingly. If you don’t have evidence of disability, the carrier can cut your payments off. Do not give them an excuse to stop your payments by keeping your doctor’s appointments at least every 90 days.
  9. Look for work. If you have a partial disability, you have a duty to look for work within your restrictions. This doesn’t mean obtaining employment, but you must make an effort to look for
    work. Your employer may not have work within your restrictions, so you may have to look for work outside of your employer. You also have to keep track of your efforts.  C-258 is the form you have to provide. VESID is a great resource to help you find a job. You also may want to be careful around the house that you are not doing personal work outside of your restrictions because the carrier could have surveillance placed on you to attempt to prove that you are committing fraud. I don’t believe that you are necessarily committing fraud by overexerting yourself, but you may be playing a dangerous game.
  10. You may be entitled to a lump sum payment. You may be entitled to a monetary award once you reach maximum medical improvement for some injuries. This does not usually occur until one year after your injury or surgery, but this is something to keep in mind and to discuss with your physician and lawyer.

Attorney Dave Snyder maintains his practice in Syracuse, New York where he concentrates his practice in personal injury including New York Workers’ Compensation Law. If you have questions about a work related injury, please feel free to call Dave Snyder at 315-451-3040 or visit him at his website at www.syracuseworkerscomp.com. Copyright 2013.


[1] Workers Compensation Law Section 18. The failure to notify your employer timely has been confirmed by the Appellate Division 3rd Department to be prejudicial.

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Filed under Legal, New York Law, Personal Injury, Workers' Compensation