Have you suffered an injury to your hand, fingers, or arm at work or while performing work-related duties for your employer off the work site? Then you are likely entitled to receive full workers’ compensation benefits from your employer’s workers’ comp insurer under state law. Don’t risk missing out on your benefits and being forced to bear the financial impacts of your injury on your own - by acting now, you will maximize your chances of getting the largest possible settlement.
At The Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm, we have a long history of helping those with work-related hand injuries in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California apply for workers’ comp, deal with all the paperwork and legal issues involved, appeal their claim if necessary, and ultimately win in or out of court.
Contact us today, anytime 24/7, by calling 310-956-4277 for a free legal consultation and quick attention to your case. We look forward to hearing from you and assisting you with your case!
The Seriousness Of Workplace Hand Injuries in California
Since everyone uses their hands to work every single day they are on the job, hands and fingers are constantly being exposed to dangers. It’s no surprise, then, that is one of the most common types of injury sustained by workers and filed for under workers’ comp. And hand injuries also often mean an immediate inability to work, or at least to perform up to pre-injury levels of production, and sometimes, a permanent partial or total disability.
There are many different varieties of hand injuries, ranging from a relatively minor cut or bruise to a hand being crushed under a heavy object, deeply lacerated, badly twisted, or severely burned. Third-degree burns, for example, are all too common among steelworkers, with electrical exposure being as likely a cause as actual contact with fire or caustic chemicals. And many workers even have to undergo partial or full amputation of one hand, both hands, or all or part of one or more fingers.
There are around a million hand and finger accidents resulting in injury in the US each year, and about one in five of these (200,000 incidents) are work-related. Thankfully, most of these injuries are minor cuts and scrapes that soon heal, but thousands of them are serious and may involve permanent damage.
The 5 most frequent hand injuries in the US are lacerations, crush injuries, detachments or near detachments, puncture wounds, and bone fractures or dislocations. Laceration injuries account for 60% of hand injuries, crush injuries for 13%, detachments for 8%, puncture wounds for 6%, and fractures for 5%. Burns, sprains, chemical exposure, and frostbite also are fairly common.
Even pushing a button, driving a vehicle, or lifting an object with any significant weight to it becomes difficult or impossible after such injuries. This results in much-lost income during recovery and lost earning ability after initial recovering, to say nothing of the pain, suffering, stress, and mounting medical bills. Clearly, hand injury is a very serious matter and is rightly covered by California workers’ comp insurance.
Workplace Hand Injuries Are Usually Preventable
Unlike some other injury types, the vast majority of hand and finger injuries were fully preventable. This fact only adds to the tragedy of the situation when a serious, life-changing hand injury occurs. While equipment malfunction is the number one cause, about two-thirds of hand injuries occur where the injured worker was not wearing gloves and a third where the right kind of protective glove was absent. Very frequently, wearing proper gloves would have made a big difference or prevented the injury altogether.
It only takes a second for a serious hand injury to occur. A sudden slip and fall - you land on your hand and dislocate hand bones. Machinery malfunctions and cuts off your finger. Chemicals spill or spray out of machinery and badly burn the skin of your hand. The list of causes goes on and on. Not always, but often, if the employer had been rigidly adhering to OSHA and other state and federal safety protocols, none of this would have happened.
You don’t have to prove fault to file for workers’ compensation in California, for it is a “no-fault” system. But to prevent future injuries to others, you may want to call for an OSHA inspection against your employer if you believe he was negligent. Employers must provide a reasonably safe work environment, proper safety gear, and sufficient safety training. Employees are also responsible to adhere to all safety rules while at work.
Repetitive Stress Injuries Commonly Affect The Hands
We have noted above already the many ways in which serious hand injuries can result from sudden, one-time accidents. But not all hand injuries occur because of a particular incident. Many times, hands are gradually injured through ongoing stress or abuse over a long period of time. This is called a “repetitive stress injury,” and it also is coverable under California workers’ compensation law.
This kind of repetitive trauma injury occurs in about 20% of all hand injuries. When particular muscles, tendons, and bones are overused or consistently forced to bear too much weight, they can gradually weaken. And because you work often, there isn’t enough time for the damage to fully heal, which means your hands get weaker and weaker - but the strain they must bear remains the same. This is a recipe for disaster, and it often has the end-result of carpal tunnel of the wrist or hand, tendonitis, or vibration injury to the hands and/or fingers.
As repetitive stress injuries are hard to diagnose and hard to prove as work-related, may require long recovery time, and typically cost a lot of money to treat, it is not surprising that employers and insurers tend to challenge these types of claims. If you win your claim, you receive replacement income, full coverage of all related medical expenses (including prescription medication and rehabilitation therapy), and help with retraining and finding a new job if necessary.
You can’t afford to be railroaded by insurance companies who are reluctant to pay. In the meantime, you could have difficulty receiving the right medical care in a timely manner. Delay can mean the condition will worsen, with nerve damage, chronic pain, and permanent loss of full motion of hands or fingers resulting. And the financial pinch put on your by what treatment you manage to obtain will be unbearable to most. This is why you should get a good workers’ comp lawyer to handle your case without delay. Realize you have nothing to lose as most such attorneys work on a contingency basis and take only a percentage of your settlement as their pay.
About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As carpal tunnel claims are particularly common under workers’ comp, we will look at them more in-depth here, even though they are only a variety of repetitive stress injury. Carpal tunnel syndrome involves damage to your median nerve, running through your arm and into the palm of your hand. Usually, the irritation point with carpal tunnel is at the point where the median nerve passes through the wrist.
Carpal tunnel symptoms include your hand and wrist going numb, experiencing pain, and feeling generally very weak. At first, the symptoms may begin slowly, but as they increase, an itchy, tingly, burning sensation will become more common. Aside from the wrist and palm, the thumb, index finger, and middle finger are often affected.
The exact cause of carpal tunnel is not always clear, but it is clearly related (in most cases) to repeated motions of the wrist, hand, and fingers. Some of the most likely causes include: vibrations from handheld power tools and hand-operated machinery, poor hand position on a keyboard, repeated hand and wrists motions in a factory assembly line, use of hammers and hand tools in construction work, long hours driving trucks and other vehicles for work, and constant use of a cash register.
About one in five US workers perform intensive hand actions for work at least 25 hours a week or more, which makes them susceptible to carpal tunnel. Women are around three times more at risk than men, which is due to the fact that women have smaller hands and smaller carpal tunnels for their median nerves to pass through. Thus, it is easier for the nerve to get compressed over time due to the intensive use of the hand in work.
If you suspect you have carpal tunnel, do not delay to see a doctor and have your hand tested. X-rays, lab work, a nerve conductivity test and examination of the hand for freedom of movement and numbness or pain may be part of the overall exam. An ultrasound can also be used to reveal if you have an abnormally sized median nerve.
Treating carpal tunnel may involve splints, prescription of pain relievers and corticosteroids, hand therapies, and avoidance of work and other activity that might trigger the condition to flare up. Surgery is not always needed, but when it is, post-op therapy may require 3 to 5 weeks and total recovery time over 3 months. You would also often need to see a specialist doctor. This means your workers’ comp benefits will need to cover all of this or you risk being overwhelmed with the costs.
Carpal tunnel often means that, when you return to work, you need to go on modified or light duty and avoid intensive hand motions and repetitive actions. An evaluation will have to be conducted, in accord with Chapter 16 of the AMA (American Medical Association) Guide to determine to what degree your hand has lost feeling, strength, and freedom of motion. This will be a large part of the basis of your disability rating, which will determine how much permanent disability (PD) benefits you get from workers’ comp.
Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome
Another specific condition we can delve into is vibration injury to the arms, hands, or fingers. Working with tools or machinery that vibrate violently and continually for long periods of time is the root cause. This can cause loss of feeling in the hands, blanching of the fingers, and loss of grip strength. Some people are more susceptible to this kind of injury than others. Some can work their whole life at a job where hands are subjected to vibrations every day and be fine, while others may develop a serious condition in only a few years.
Note that once hand-arm vibration syndrome has fully developed, it is too late to reverse it. You are literally stuck with it for life and can do nothing more than manage the symptoms. This is why it is critical to catch this condition early and not wait until it gets as bad as it can get. See a doctor earlier rather than later, and inform your employer as soon as you know that you have a developing condition. You may need to adjust your work routine, use different tools, or get a different position or different employer entirely to save your hands.
Construction workers, sheet metal workers, welders, electricians, and those in many other industries are impacted by hand-arm vibration syndrome every year. Younger or mid-aged men are often affected, though anyone can be. The damage to nerves, loss of motor skills, pain and cramping of the hands, and blanching of the fingers due to extreme temperatures can be very severe.
There are three main classes of injury involved: neurological, musculoskeletal, and vascular. Neurological injury begins with a numb or tingling sensation in the hands. Later, movement becomes impaired at times, and he or she begins to lose his grip and drop things accidentally quite often. This isn't always carpal tunnel as such - it can be hand-arm vibration syndrome instead. Damage to the musculoskeletal system may turn into arthritis or tendonitis eventually. Damage to muscle fibers and/or bones reduces your grip and results in severe pain. A vascular injury means damage to blood vessels in the hand or fingers, causing constriction or blanching. This may make your hands or fingers turn white at points, and there may be circulation problems and spasms.
Crush Injuries To The Hand
If your hand or finger has been crushed below a heavy object or because it was temporarily caught in heavy equipment, you should see a doctor without delay even if you don’t see immediate, obvious symptoms. These kinds of injuries often do internal damage to the bones, muscles, and other tissues - and it can take several days for symptoms to appear in some cases.
Crush injuries to the hand can be life-threatening, and they will often require immediate medical care. Besides broken and dislocated hand bones, cuts and bruises, tendon and nerve damage, and muscle damage, there is also the risk of dirt and other substances getting embedded into your hand tissues. This can lead to infection. Loss of use of a hand, temporary or permanent paralysis or even amputation are all possible results of a severe crush injury.
Many work environments make hand injuries very likely to occur. It may be simply the nature of the job, but it can also be a matter of poor safety conditions on the job site. In other cases, it’s a vehicle accident, a lack of good communication, the sudden breakdown of defectively built machinery or tools, or accidentally dropping something on your hands that causes the injury.
Emergency care, surgery, medications for pain and to avoid infection, and therapy both in the physician’s office and at home may all be needed. These should all be covered by workers’ comp. Don’t be intimidated by insurers or employers who don’t want to pay: reimbursement for lost wages and for medical bills for crush injuries and other hand injuries is your right under California law!
Hand And Finger Amputations
The ultimate severity in hand and finger injuries, aside from resultant fatalities, is the loss of fingers, fingertips, or a part or all of the hand through amputation. Doctors must be very careful to determine when amputation is necessary and how much and where to carry it out, but sometimes it is necessary to save your life or to avoid unbearable, constant pain.
Usually, it’s a part of the finger that is amputated, and quite often the fingertip. Loss of one finger can impact the use of the others and of the whole hand. This is because the tendons and muscles involved in moving one finger are also connected to the others, and loss of part of a finger will weaken the other fingers. It can affect the strength and the range of motion of much of the hand.
Also involved is normally hypersensitivity of the hand to extreme temperatures and humidity, but especially to cold. The immense bundle of nerves in the fingers mean that even slight touches or exposure to cold can cause great pain to an amputated finger. An amputation creates a permanent disability for which you should be compensated by your employers’ workers’ comp insurer.
Why You Need A Lawyer To Assist With Hand Injury Claims
Around 70% of all workers injured in work-related activities and seeking reimbursement under workers’ comp use a lawyer to handle their case. But about 80% of workers suffering from repetitive stress injuries hired a lawyer, and many hand injuries are of a repetitive stress nature. As repetitive stress is more difficult to prove as work-related or work-caused, the process can be a bit more challenging to the uninitiated - thus, it’s even more important to be legally represented by a hand injury and California workers’ compensation expert.
Even with a one-time incident type accidental injury, however, you stand a much better chance of securing your maximum benefits when you rely on an experienced attorney. Since medical expenses are partly out of pocket if you don’t get your employer and his insurer to cooperate with your claim, while lawyers’ fees are on contingency and not out of pocket, you have nothing to lose by contacting a good workers’ comp law firm.
Also, if there were no witnesses to your accident and it wasn’t caught clearly on camera in the workplace, this could complicate the legal process too. But experienced lawyers will be able to quickly gather all the evidence in your favor to ensure you aren’t pressured into accepting a low-ball offer from the insurance company or going without any compensation at all.
Why Is My Hand Injury Claim Taking So Long?
Don't be dismayed if the process seems to be taking "too long" when you file for a hand injury claim through workers' comp. Sometimes, disputes arise that can delay the final resolution of a case for 1 to 5 years. And many times, the delay is caused because of medical reasons. That is, if you are still receiving treatment and have not yet reached (according to your doctor) the maximal improvement level, then there is no way to diagnose your disability rate for PD (permanent disability) benefits.
You may continue to receive TD (temporary disability) benefits and see workers’ comp cover your medical bills and lost wages already, but a final benefit determination and settlement must wait till you recover from the injury “maximally.”
If you are handling all paperwork in a timely way and should already be getting PD benefits, but things are delayed, it could also be because the employer and/or insurer are exercising some "foot-dragging" concerning your claim. In that case, a good lawyer can force the insurance claim administrator to take action. We can bring "clout" to make them back down from unreasonable denials or too-low offers.
Contact A Top-Tier Workers’ Compensation Attorney Near Me
Looking to win your maximum claim amount for your hand, arm, or finger injury? We have the expertise it takes to make the workers' compensation system work for you. Our team of skilled attorneys has decades of combined experience and a long track record of winning for our clients in Los Angeles and Southern California.
Contact us anytime 24/7/365 by calling 310-956-4277 for a free, no-obligation consultation. We will answer all of your questions, address all your concerns, and can get started on your case without delay!