Having an understanding of the common ways workplace accidents can happen can help, but putting procedures and safety measures in place can help to prevent them. Still, even with good planning, many workplace accidents do occur. Workers are not required to prove a workplace accident was the employer’s fault in order to have a valid workers compensation claim. They need to essentially prove that they were an employee when the accident occurred, that an accident occurred during work or that an occupational illness happened due to work, and that the injuries were caused by the accident or occupational exposure that was unique to that occupation.
Joe Miller has fought for thousands of injured workers. He understands why accidents occur and what injuries result from each type of accident. He works with medical professionals to prove the injuries occurred, to show when the worker can, if possible, really return to work, what medical restrictions may be required, when workers will have to be retrained, and when workers will never be able to work again.
Workers who suffer a workplace accident due to a fall, a vehicle accident, an electrical failure, or any type of accident can suffer a broad range of injuries. Injuries normally flow from the type of accident. Falls typically cause broken bones and soft tissue injuries. Electrical injuries can cause death, shock, burns, respiratory failure, brain injuries, and other health problems.
Some of the common type of workplace injuries are:
- Head Injuries. No matter how this type of accident occurs (a falling object, a vehicle crash, or a slip and fall), head injuries can cause permanent brain damage and brain trauma which can affect the worker’s ability to think, see, reason or react. Many workers with head injuries suffer both physical and emotional pain. Head injuries can also include:
- Concussions are caused by some type of force applied to the head The effects are often temporary. A loss of consciousness may occur, but not always. Sometimes, there is a “blank spot” or memory gap relating to the facts of the accident. In some cases, long term damage may occur. Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a constellation of symptoms that typically lasts from 6-12 months after a concussion. Symptoms can include dizziness, headaches, short-term memory loss, and mood changes.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). A TBI occurs, according to the Mayo clinic, occurs when there is a violent blow to the head such as when part of the skull shatters. A mild TBI can cause brain cells to fail to function and includes a concussion. A severe TBI can cause bleeding, torn tissue, and other damage that can affect cognitive function, loss of coordination, slurred speech, memory loss, and other complications. A TBI can result in death or permanent injury that requires around-the-clock medical care.
- Skull and Facial Fractures. Broken skull or facial bones can cause brain damage and usually cause severe pain. In many cases, the surgery needed to repair the bones can cause disfigurement.
- Facial cuts and bruises. If these don’t heal properly, cosmetic surgery may be required. Permanent disfigurement may be the result.
- Neck and Back Injuries. Some neck and back injuries heal with time. Many times, though, the injury to the spine will require aggressive medical intervention to help reduce the pain. For many workers, neck and back pain is a permanent or long lasting conditions. Some specific medical problems a pain management doctor or neurosurgeon will need to address are:
- Herniated Discs. Discs are rubbery, gelatinous cushions that separate the bones in your vertebrae. A herniated disc occurs when some of the jelly part of the disc pushes through the exterior. This push can cause nerve damage, pain, and tingling. Surgery may be required to repair the herniated disc – also known as a slipped or ruptured disc. In some cases, the surgery is relatively minor, such as a laminectomy, where the offending portion of the disc is merely snipped and removed.
- In a more severe herniation, a complete removal of the entire disc may be required, with the introduction of bone where the disc once was. It also involves the use of metal screws and plates to encourage the bone to grow together, to create a solid, fused piece of bone in place of the disc. This is called a spinal
- Broken Vertebrae. If a broken vertebrae occurs, the damage to the spinal cord may be permanent; however, this depends on the severity of the fracture. Often times, surgery will be needed to repair the break. In other instances, such as compression fractures, the bone just requires time to heal.
- Other types of spinal cord injuries. In addition to severe physical pain; any damage to the spinal cord may cause partial or full paralysis, loss of bowel or bladder control, loss of sexual function, and other complications.
- This is a common result of a vehicle accident – especially a rear-end collision. It is a type of soft tissue injury to the neck that can take a long time to fully heal. Although made fun of in movies and popular culture, a whiplash or cervical strain, especially in older victims, is a severe injury that involves a tearing of the ligaments and muscles supporting the neck. The negative can be permanent, leaving scar tissue within the muscles and ligaments.
- Broken Bones. Many workers suffer a broken bone in a leg, arm, foot, hand, or other body part, In the best case scenario, the bone heals on its own or after surgery. In the worst cases, the bone must be internally fixated by plates, rods, and screws so that it heals properly. This can cause permanent pain. Broken bones can include hairline fractures and complex fractures. The pain from the break is usually quite intense. Sometimes, there are issues with the hardware loosening, which may result in additional surgery for removal of the hardware after the bone has healed properly. Otherwise, the hardware is usually left in permanently.
- Loss of Limb. Employees who drive or work with heavy machinery are always in danger of losing a leg, arm, hand, finger, foot, or toe in a workplace accident. Some amputated body parts can function with the use of a prosthesis. Any worker who loses a limb or has a body amputated is likely to suffer strong emotional losses in addition to the physical pain. A loss of a combination of any two limbs can mean lifetime compensation for the injured worker even if the worker can return to some form of work.
- Burns cause more than physical pain; They also usually cause disfigurement. Burns can occur due to a fire, an explosion, electrical failure, or exposure to toxic substances. In Virginia, if the burn did not occur to a ratable body part (typically a limb), and the employee has returned to work at full duty, then compensation may be limited to medical compensation and a maximum of 60 weeks for the disfigurement.
- Soft Tissue Injuries. Many workers who fall or suffer a workplace accident suffer muscle, ligament, and tissue damage, most commonly referred to as “strains.” These injuries, even when they heal properly, can cause a great amount of pain and can take weeks or often months to properly heal. Again, older patients are much more difficult to heal. In some cases, even a soft tissue injury in an elderly worker can be permanent, and can prevent the worker from returning to work in his or her former profession, especially if that profession involved heavy manual labor. Note: Many workers who are initially told they have a muscle “strain” later find out that their injuries are much more severe. If, for instance, you are suffering from numbness and tingling and/or shooting pains into your legs, arms, hands, or feet, you may, in fact, have a disc injury, and you should insist on being referred to an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon. An MRI should be administered to assess if you have a bulging or herniated disc.
- Mental injuries. Mental injuries often accompany physical injuries. Sometimes, mental injuries occur without physical injuries. An experienced North Carolina and Virginia work injury attorney can explain what benefits are allowed for mental injuries. Workers who suffer mental injuries often need to be treated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Many of these mental injuries are just as severe, if not more severe, than the physical injuries. We have represented numerous clients whose psychiatric injuries are so severe—such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or severe clinical depression, that the worker is no longer able to engage in any gainful employment.
In addition to workplace accidents, many workers suffer occupational illnesses. Occupational illnesses will be discussed in another blog.
Injured at work? Contact a tough work injury advocate today.
Joe Miller Esq. has been helping injured workers for over 25 years. He has helped thousands of North Carolina and Virginia workers get full compensation and strong settlements including past and future lost wages, medical bill payments, and permanent partial impairment. To make an appointment with attorney Joe Miller, call (888) 694-1671 or complete his contact form.