Common Types of Injuries
Certain industries are known for being dangerous, namely the construction, manufacturing, logging, and nursing industries. Even when workers are employed in less dangerous sectors, they can still suffer from occupational illnesses, or sustain injuries in car accidents, in falls, and from acts of violence among other causes.
Examples of common work-related injuries include:
- Back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries (falls, heavy lifting)
- Neck injuries
- Knee Injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Head and Brain Injury/Post-Concussion Syndrome
- Lung injuries/chemical exposure injuries (inhaling toxic chemicals)
- Burn Injuries/ Disfigurements
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Occupational diseases (exposure to toxic substances)
- Broken bones (slips and falls)
- Fatal Workplace Accidents
- Mental Stress Claims
- Amputation injuries (manufacturing, agriculture)
For a list of the most common work injuries, click here.
Back injuries are the most common work injury. They are medically very complex to diagnose since most people suffer from some degeneration to the back as part of normal aging.
Under Pennsylvania law, an injured worker is entitled to benefits even with a pre-existing back condition, if the condition was aggravated by the worker’s duties. However, proving that is a difficult job.
Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury can happen in a split second, yet the damage can last for a lifetime. Some settings for this type of injury include:
- a sudden fall from the roof of a home you were repairing
- a fall from collapsed scaffolding at a construction site.
- a blow to the neck or back when equipment falls in a warehouse.
As with any injury, there are varying degrees of severity in damage caused by a spinal cord injury.
- Quadriplegia (also called tetraplegia): This injury can cause paralysis of the upper and lower extremities. For some people, this means everything from the neck down is paralyzed. For other people, the hands and legs are paralyzed; yet some mobility may remain in the arms.
- Paraplegia: Paraplegia involves much less nerve damage than quadriplegia. However, a spinal cord injury that results in paraplegia can cause paralysis of the legs and lower torso.
- Sciatica. Spinal discs may "herniate" or "bulge", impinging on the nerves that run from the spinal cord to the arms or legs, causing pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness.
The lifetime care that required for someone with any degree of paralysis can be well over $1 million. Our detailed representation focuses on helping you recover the full compensation that is needed to cover medical bills, future rehabilitation, wheelchairs, home modifications, lost wages, lost earning capacity and attendant care.
Head and Brain Injury / Post-Concussion Syndrome
A head or brain injury may not be noticeable to the outside world. Only the injured worker and his immediate family may recognize the signs of head injury:
- memory loss or forgetfulness
- extreme headaches
- mood swings
- change in behavior
Early diagnosis and treatment can lead to a better outcome. Moreover, early diagnosis can also lead to an employer accepting liability for that part of the work injury, or increase the likelihood of having a judge recognize the head injury as part of the larger work injury.
Head and brain injuries may be permanent and may prevent return to the work force. These injuries may also require extensive medical treatment, surgery, attendant care, and other expenses that often last a lifetime.
Often the injured worker has sustained multiple injuries, and the last to be addressed is the head and brain component. Only when the physical injuries have healed does the worker or his family focus on the mental aspects of the injury.
If you believe a head or brain injury is associated with a work-place injury, it is important to speak with an attorney early in the process because workers' comp carriers are usually very skeptical about this type of brain injury claim.
On-the-job accidents that cause severe burns can happen in any setting:
- A worker’s clothes catch fire because of a defective power tool
- A worker sustains chemical burns because of contact with harsh chemicals
- Employees sustain severe burns after being trapped inside an office building, warehouse or downed airplane
- A worker sustains electrical burns because of contact with overhead power lines or a defective tool
Burn injuries on any part of the body can also be grounds for total disability or partial disability claims. In such cases, it is particularly important for the injured worker to be able to document and explain his intense pain and suffering, lost range of motion, nerve damage, and other disabling effects. Sometimes a mental disorder develops as a result of the burn, and this too must be addressed.
Burn injuries also require specialized medical treatment, such as:
- physical therapy
- skin graft surgery
- cosmetic and reconstructive surgery
- pain management
- psychological counseling
While the trauma of a severe burn may last a lifetime, some injured workers are able to return to work despite their disfigurement. If the burn injury causes permanent scarring or disfigurement, you are entitled to disfigurement benefits are based on the severity of the disfigurement as determined by a workers’ compensation judge. Unfortunately, under Pennsylvania law, though medical expenses are payable for all work-related injuries, disfigurement benefits are paid only for disfigurements of the face, neck or head.
Loss of Vision and Hearing Loss
Whether you lose sight in one or both eyes as a result of a workplace accident or exposure such as a chemical burn or flying object, you are entitled to special benefits under the Pennsylvania workers' compensation system.
Lost vision is a Specific Loss claim, paid regardless of whether you are missing time from work.
Hearing loss can be caused either by a specific traumatic incident, such as a head trauma, or by long-term exposure to loud noises, such as daily exposure to loud machinery. Workers who lose hearing are entitled to special benefits based on the percentage of hearing loss attributable to the work injury.
Repetitive Stress Injuries
Employees who perform the same motion over and over again at work are at risk for a repetitive stress injury. Repetitive stress injuries happen over time.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one such injury. This syndrome is often associated with manufacturing workers who perform assembly work and office workers who type or perform other repetitive tasks for much of the day.
Repetitive stress injuries are debilitating, progressive conditions that requires early treatment. Workers often spend years trying to work through the pain, worried about losing their jobs if they complain. Often by the time the condition is diagnosed, it has progressed to the point where the only treatment option is surgery.
Working with, or near, high-voltage power lines or other live electrical currents is dangerous work, even for trained professionals. Electric shock can cause workers to suffer severe burn injuries, nerve damage, or neurologic injury, brain trauma, heart attack, paralysis and other catastrophic injuries.
Fenner & Boles has represented construction workers, utility workers, factory workers, and others who have been injured in work-related electrical accidents, such as those involving:
- cranes or other construction equipment
- coming into contact with power lines
- subcontractors splicing faulty wiring
- electrical surges during a utility worker's repair work
- electrical fires in a manufacturing plant and
- mechanical failures in high power machinery
Occupational Diseases / Toxic Exposures
Occupational diseases are a special category of workers' compensation claims for illnesses stemming from workplace exposure to toxic materials and other health hazards.
Many claims for occupational disease involve workplace exposure to:
- coal dust, silica dust or asbestos
- methane, carbon monoxide or other gases
- solvents and fumes
- arsenic, mercury, lead or manganese
- dust, smoke or heat
- aircraft exhaust and oil
Some health conditions are listed as "enumerated claims," which presume a connection between certain illnesses and specific occupations (for example, silicosis from sandblasting work, and black lung disease from coal mining). For those conditions, there is a rebuttable presumption that your illness is work-related.
For other occupational diseases, an injured worker will have to prove the causal connection between the disease or condition and the workplace exposure under a "catch-all" provision. With the help of expert medical testimony and testimony of co-workers, and sometimes toxicologists, it is necessary to prove that:
- the worker was exposed to the disease by reason of his employment;
- the disease is causally related to the industry or occupation, and;
- there is a substantially greater incidence of the disease in that industry or occupation than in the general population.
Fatal Workplace Accidents
When workers die as a result of workplace accidents, their families may be entitled to death benefits through workers' compensation.
Workers' compensation benefits are available not only when a single incident causes immediate death, but also when a work-related accident leads to death in the days, weeks, months or even years following the accident. This includes complications of injuries such as hospital infection and post-surgery complication. Obviously in occupational disease claims, the disease may present itself after years of exposure.
Dependents of the deceased, such as the spouse and minor children, are entitled to workers' compensation death benefits.
Mental Stress Claims
Under certain circumstances, workers who develop psychological conditions as a result of some incident or experience at work, and who are unable to work as a result of those psychological conditions, are entitled to workers' compensation benefits.
Be aware that employers and insurance companies almost never acknowledge these claims without a court battle. Moreover, the standard of proof is very high, requiring the worker claiming injury to prove exposure to "abnormal working conditions.”
More commonly, an injured worker who is out of work for a significant time due to physical injury often develops depression as a result of the injury. In these cases, proof of the existence of abnormal working conditions is not necessary.
Amputation / Loss of Limb
An accident that leads to a severed limb is devastating to anyone, at any age. And no amount of money can ever make up for the loss.
However, when loss of limb is work-related, you are entitled to medical treatment, including surgeries and prostheses where appropriate. You are also entitled to a special type of compensation known as "specific loss benefits." Under Pennsylvania workers' compensation law, you are entitled to specific loss benefits for amputation or loss of limb. The amount of specific loss benefits will vary, depending on which part of your body was severed.
Strategic Legal Advocacy for Injured Workers
If you experienced a work-related injury, you should be entitled to compensation under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, which protects most Pennsylvania workers in the event of a work-related injury. When filing a workers' compensation claim, it's critical that you report the incident immediately and follow the proper protocol in order to expedite the claims process and strengthen your case.
Pennsylvania's workers' compensation laws provide compensation for: specific loss benefits, medical benefits, wage loss benefits, death benefits, penalties, and lump-sum benefits. Whether you were injured on a construction site, while working at a hospital, at an office building, in a transportation accident, or any other accident, we would like to help.
Serving Pennsylvania's Workers for Over 30 Years
If you recently experienced a work-related injury, we urge you to contact Fenner & Boles for dedicated, professional representation. For over 30 years, our Board Certified workers' compensation specialists have been helping injured workers and their families throughout Philadelphia.
Some of our awards & recognitions include:
- AV Preeminent® Rating from Martindale-Hubbell®
- Selected for inclusion in Pennsylvania's Super Lawyers®
- 10.0 Superb Avvo Rating
We urge you to contact our Philadelphia workers' compensation attorneys for relentless, strategic advocacy. We offer free case evaluations and are ready to offer you the support you need risk free.