Workers’ Compensation for Cumulative injuries

Workers who suffer multiple injuries at work or whose work-related disability worsens over time have complex workers’ compensation claims. Two very different cases illustrate how Pennsylvania law responds to chronic and progressive work-related injuries.

Two very different cases illustrate how Pennsylvania lawresponds to chronic and progressive work-related injuries.

Carpal Tunnel

A typist who worked for the City of Philadelphia was diagnosed with bilateral carpal tunnel injuries, but she didn’t notify the city of her injuries until more than a year after the diagnosis. Workers generally have 120 days to notify their employers of the existence of a work-related injury.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that with “cumulative trauma’ injuries, the typist had 120 days from the last day of injury at the workplace, not from the first day of injury, to give notice to the employer. The court stated: “We is suffered, which will usually be find that in the instance of a cumulative trauma, where credited medical evidence shows that each Eye infection day of work causes an aggravation In a somewhat similar case, a or new injury, the 120-day notice licensed practical nurse who period begins to run on the last day worked at a hospital suffered a herpes infection to her left eye when a herpes-infected patient coughed in her face. She was promptly treated in the hospital emergency room but did develop a herpes infection in her left eye.

For more than 27 years, the nurse suffered periodic infections in the eye, but none interfered substantially with her ability to work, and all the infections responded to treatment. Yet 27 years after the initial infection, while she was employed at a different hospital, she experienced an infection that did not respond to treatment, and, after a failed cornea transplant, she lost all sight in the eye.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that her former employer at the time of the initial infection incident was the responsible employer but that the much higher rate of pay she was earning at the time of the failed surgery was her pay rate for calculation of her Workers’ compensation Wage benefits. The result was that the original employer’s insurance company had to pay the claim at the much higher hourly rate of pay.

Employees whose injuries are related to cumulative trauma and employees who continue to Work despite injuries should keep careful records of their work activities, their employers, and their pay rates if they continue to work after their first sign of injury. An employee who continues to work and later files a claim must prove that a work-related aggravation occurred after the initial injury or that the injury did not become disabling immediately.

Likewise, employers must realize that the occurrence of a daily re injury to an employee keeps the clock running on the timeliness of the employee’s claim and can result in a claim raised many years after the initial injury.

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