I get a lot of calls from folks about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (or CTS) and they want to know if they can be covered by Virginia Workers’ Compensation benefits. The confusion that they have is that Virginia work injury laws do not cover repetitive motion injuries, but CTS is the one exception (but this answer requires explanation to be understood).
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
CTS can be caused by blunt force trauma; however it has become a much more common diagnosis for people who work on a computer, in factories, or with power tools that cause vibrations in the hands and wrists (depending on which medical information you read).
So, the question is – If Virginia does not cover repetitive stress or overuse injuries, can my CTS be covered under workers’ compensation?
The short answer is, yes. But bare with me folks, this gets messy.
If you get CTS as a result of a specific immediate injury (for example, a box falls on your hand and breaks your wrist and then you develop CTS) then Virginia work injury laws state that it can be covered like any other injury at work.
But for a repetitive injury, Virginia does have an exception that covers ONLY CTS if it is caused by the work environment. Sounds ok, right? Well, Virginia has specific requirements that must be met in order for the CTS from repetitive motion to be covered – here is the messy part…
The diagnosis must be for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, any other diagnosis (bursitis, tendonitis, a pinched nerve or inflammation) will end up being denied as a repetitive stress or overuse injury that is not covered in Virginia.
Clear and Convincing Evidence
There has to be clear and convincing evidence that your CTS came from your work environment – simply saying that “I work with my hands all day” is not going to cut it! We all use our hands for work, for play, for everything, really – so what is so unique about your work environment that it would have caused your CTS (like using vibrating power tools 40 hours a week for 15 years)? Also, (this is what the insurance company will look into) do you have any activities outside of work that could have caused or aggravated your CTS (yard work, laundry, video games, sports – the list goes on and on)?
The doctor has to back you up! The opinion of the medial professional is paramount for a CTS claim to be covered by Virginia workers’ compensation. Just because you feel it came from work does not mean it is covered, the doctor must agree and say that in his or her medical opinion, your current CTS was a result of the work environment. Sometimes, depending on the information a person has given the doctor about their work place, work duties, or their outside of work activities, some doctors may be reluctant to make such a bold statement.
So, long story short, yes, CTS is covered in Virginia work injury claims, but it is very hard to prove. Sadly, in most cases that I have seen, the insurance companies are well aware of this and typically will try to fight these claims. You will most likely need a lawyer to help you in obtaining benefits.
If you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia”, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.