How to Prove Repetitive Stress Injuries in Workers’ Compensation

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Many jobs involve repetitive motion, even those that do not require physical labor. When you use the same part of your body repeatedly in the same way, you are more likely to develop an injury over time. Repetitive motion injuries can include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common repetitive motion injury when the nerve in the hand is pinched, causing pain and numbness. Office workers who use a computer are at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Bursitis: The sacs between your bone and tendon can become inflamed with continuous friction.
  • Tendonitis: Overuse and overstretching can cause the tendons connected to the bone to become inflamed.
  • Neck and back injuries: Repetitive lifting and strain can cause damage to the disc and vertebrae. You can even suffer a neck or back injury from sitting for a prolonged period of time.
  • Stress fractures: Overuse can cause small cracks on the surface of the bone.

Repetitive Motion Injuries Are Painful and Debilitating

Repetitive motion injuries can cause you pain, and they may even leave you unable to work. Even if you can work, you may be partially disabled and unable to do the same work you did before you were injured. These injuries can require expensive medical treatments and even surgery. In the meantime, you may miss work while you recover (if you are able to recover at all) and for doctor’s appointments.

According to the law, workers’ compensation insurance is supposed to cover these injuries the same as it would for a workplace accident. It does not matter how the injury occurred – you can receive both coverage for your medical costs and lost wages when you are unable to work. In practice, things can be somewhat different when you suffer from a repetitive injury.

How Insurance Carriers Complicate Your Picture With Repetitive Strain Injuries

Workers’ compensation insurance providers can make your life difficult when you seek benefits for a repetitive strain injury. There are two ways that the insurance carrier can challenge your claim:

  • They can claim that you are not injured.
  • They can argue that your injury was not work-related.

In North Carolina, you are entitled to benefits when you suffer a work-related injury. The injury does not have to come from an accident. The injury can develop over time. However, when you are injured because of strain or physical stress, it gives the insurance company an opening to make your life more difficult. They will go over the proof with a fine-tooth comb because they are looking for ways to get out of paying claims to save money. They are much more likely to deny a repetitive strain injury than they are one that comes from an accident.

Proving That You Have Suffered a Work-Related Injury

With that in mind, you need to prove that you have suffered a work-related injury to qualify for benefits. Like any claim, the burden of proof will be on you.

Your medical records and diagnosis will be the key to your claim. The important thing is to get medical care as soon as you think you have been injured. Your doctor will examine you and provide you with a diagnosis. Without a written diagnosis, you expect the insurance company to take your word for your injuries. Most repetitive strain injuries appear on an x-ray or an MRI, although some may not. If you do not have the medical tests to back up your claims, you may struggle to prove that you have been injured.

The sooner you see a doctor after beginning to experience pain, the better the chance of connecting your injury to your job. If you have experienced the pain for an extended amount of time without seeking medical help, the insurance company will have an opening to challenge the connection between your injury and your job.

Your Doctor’s Testimony Is Crucial

Your doctor could testify that your work duties were the cause of your injury. Of course, you may have to contend with the insurance company’s own expert that would challenge your witness or give their own opinion about the cause of your injuries.

The doctor’s testimony must be clear and connect the injury to your job. Even if the insurance company has its own expert, you will help your case when you have convincing and definite testimony. In the end, a judge would decide whether you have carried your burden of proof if the case comes to them on appeal.

Repetitive strain injuries are considered some of the more difficult workers’ compensation claims. These claims may require more work because you must show a connection with your job. An experienced attorney can help guide you through the claims process and may increase your chances of receiving benefits.

Contact a Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have a complex workers’ compensation claim or your claim for benefits has been denied, the attorneys at Horton & Mendez can help you. Your first step toward getting legal assistance is to call us at (910) 668-8067 or send us a message online. We offer free consultations to prospective clients and do not ask for any money upfront. Your workers’ compensation benefits are too critical to leave anything to chance.


How long do I have to appeal a denial of my benefits?

You have 14 days to file a notice of your intent to appeal once the insurance company denies your claim.

What happens if the Deputy Commissioner rules against me?

You have 15 days to notice your intent to appeal to the full Industrial Commission, which would review the Deputy Commissioner’s decision. If the Commission rules against you, the Court of Appeals can review the decision.

Do I get back benefits if I win an appeal?

If you win your appeal, you will get back benefits from the day that you filed the initial claim.


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