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Do I Need a Lawyer for Work-Related Injuries?

Every year, employees across New Jersey suffer work-related injuries. The Workers’ Compensation system pays for medical treatment and provides wage benefits, but insurance companies often try to pay as little as possible. A Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation lawyer can work with any injured employee and their family. Work-related injuries range from mild to severe. Someone who was hurt on the job may be in a position in which they are afraid to report an injury. These workers might be afraid of losing their jobs, or they may not understand how Workers’ Compensation works.

Insurance companies get involved in these cases, expect injured employees to go back to work while still in pain, deny their claims, and even invade the victim’s privacy. A worker should speak with a lawyer as soon as an injury occurs. These situations can become tense very quickly, and injured workers and their families often do not know how to handle lawyers from the insurance company or employer.

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Common Work-Related Injuries

Although all injuries should be reported, workers must be aware of the injuries listed below. The following injuries can cause severe pain, put the worker on disability, or cause them to change careers:

Head and brain injuries: Head and brain injuries occur when workers are struck by falling objects or fall at work. Closed head injuries involve impact to the brain without an open wound. These might occur if the employee is struck by a falling box in a warehouse. Open head wounds involve an open wound and/or bleeding. Although workers would immediately call 911 for an open head injury, they should seek medical treatment for closed head injuries just as quickly.

These injuries can be avoided by wearing hard hats on work sites and inside factories or warehouses. Employees should make note of any slippery floors and let their employers know if certain storage racks are unstable. Traumatic brain injuries should be suspected when the worker experiences memory loss, headaches, a lack of focus, a cloudy feeling, or is disabled because their nervous system has been damaged. These injuries should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. It is not normal for someone to experience severe symptoms several days after an injury such as this.

Lifting injuries: Lifting injuries are mostly thought of as lower back pain or soreness in the shoulders. Although lifting injuries might include chronic pain that should be treated immediately, employees might also pinch nerves, break bones, or tear ligaments. Any discomfort or pain should be reported so that it can be diagnosed or treated. A pinched nerve, for example, will only worsen if it is not treated as soon as possible.

Workers can avoid these injuries by using back braces, lifting in groups, or using forklifts to lift heavy objects. Although employees may believe they are doing their due diligence by overworking, they should not attempt any strenuous lifting without the aid of a machine or a colleague.

Knee and leg injuries: Knee and leg injuries range from broken bones to cartilage tears in several different joints. Someone who had a bad fall or strained too much while lifting might tear ligaments in their knees or ankles. The worker might drop a box on their foot and suffer a broken toe. They might also feel strain in their hips because they have worn down cartilage in that joint. All injuries should be reported as soon as possible. Walking around to make the pain go away often is not successful.

Someone who has a noticeable limp should go to the doctor immediately, and anyone who simply cannot do their job without experiencing pain or discomfort should report these symptoms to a supervisor. Although aches and pains may be normal as workers get older, it is not normal to feel consistent and/or intense pain every day at work.

Broken bones: Broken bones include bruising around the break along with an inability to move that joint properly. Some people have a high pain tolerance, or the break is so minor that they do not notice right away. Broken bones can occur in the strangest of ways. Someone who lifts boxes every day in a warehouse could turn their wrist at an odd angle and accidentally break the bone. The same is true if an employee steps on a door stop and turns their ankle.

Workers are advised to go to the doctor as soon as possible after reporting their injuries. They should allow a doctor to complete a full scan or conduct imaging to show that the bone is broken, and that Workers’ Compensation coverage should begin.

Back injuries: Back injuries might include muscle strains or tears, spinal fractures, or spinal cord injuries. The employee should go to the doctor as soon as possible, or they should be transported to the hospital in an ambulance after an accident. These injuries must be treated before they lead to a lifetime of pain or impaired movement. In certain cases, workers with these injuries are often advised not to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk, a situation in which manual labor on the job is difficult.

If a co-worker was injured in a fall, they should not be moved by anyone other than an EMT. The injuries could worsen if well-meaning colleagues try to move the victim and make them comfortable. Fractured vertebrae make it difficult to move or even sleep and slipped disks might make it impossible for the worker to bend over at all. Although some people believe they can go to the chiropractor or take a hot bath to ease the pain, they must report their injuries and have the underlying condition treated by a doctor.

Workers should speak to a Workers’ Compensation lawyer when these injuries have occurred. The insurance company or employer might not believe the injury occurred at work, and a lawyer must show that these occurred while the employee tended to their job duties.

Occupational Diseases

Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation Lawyers protect the rights of injured workers throughout New Jersey. An occupational disease may be a respiratory disease related to chemicals used inside a factory. Workers may have been exposed to asbestos, or employees may have sores develop as a result of topical contact with particular substances. Exposure to mold, dust, smoke, fibers, and even radiation can cause the worker to develop different diseases. Occupational diseases include the following conditions:

Asthma: Occupational asthma is often caused by exposure to smoke, fumes, and toxic chemicals. The victim’s lungs often seize up because the air sacs inside their lungs cannot fill properly and their airways constrict. The worker will need to use a rescue inhaler when they feel they cannot breathe, and they may need to take additional inhaled corticosteroids and oral leukotriene modifiers that will help manage their lung function. In addition, the employee will likely not feel comfortable going back to work where their exposure to fumes, smoke, or chemicals will cause asthma attacks.

Someone who suffers from occupational asthma could experience asthma attacks because of heightened pollen and allergens in the air. These employees cannot take breaks around colleagues who are smoking, and even bursts of hot or cold air could cause airway constriction.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Occupational COPD includes coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness. This disorder is not the same as asthma. Asthmatics can go hours at a time without feeling any symptoms, but someone who suffers from COPD will experience these symptoms constantly to varying degrees. Because the condition is persistent, an employee may not have the energy to complete their daily tasks, even though they are physically capable. Walking up and down stairs may leave the victim breathless, and it may be difficult to walk across the room to grab a document from the office printer.

Dermatitis: Occupational dermatitis is uncomfortable for anyone who had contact with different chemicals or metals. Dermatitis causes redness and irritation that can make working impossible. Although treatments exist, the employee cannot return to work like they normally would.

Cancer: Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, but the cancer might not be diagnosed until decades after the employee’s exposure. Exposure to toxic chemicals can cause a range of other cancers. Employees might experience unexplainable pain or soreness, or they might feel breathless. Women may find lumps on their breasts, employees may discover odd moles on their skin, or a doctor might discover a tumor during an imaging appointment.

Employees should speak to a Workers’ Compensation lawyer when they are diagnosed with an occupational disease or believe their job has caused their current symptoms. A lawyer can speak to medical experts, review medical files, and investigate the employee’s exposure to toxic substances. The employer or insurance company may claim the employee was exposed elsewhere, and a lawyer must be brought in to show that Workers’ Compensation benefits should be awarded to the victim.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation Lawyers secure full compensation for workers impacted by repetitive stress injuries.Repetitive stress injuries include conditions, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and tendinitis. There are employees who believe that the repetitive nature of their work is not harmful. After all, employees go home at the end of the day. They have time to rest and recover. Even so, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and tendinitis are common work-related conditions. Tasks that lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or tendinitis include the following actions:

Typing: Data entry specialists, secretaries, copywriters, marketers, and editors spend most of the day typing. If the worker engages in this activity for years at a time, it is logical that they will suffer from some form of repetitive stress disorder. As soon as the worker starts to feel pain or discomfort in their shoulders, elbows, wrists, or hands, they should report their injuries and go to the doctor.

Operating a cash register or food preparation machine: Those operating cash registers in retail or food service establishments have the same problem. They use their fingers, hands, and wrists all day without much of a break. Food preparation machines require employees to push, pull, and constantly adjust each device. This work can take a toll on the employee’s joints.

Lifting, stocking, and packing: These activities require large motions that must be repeated throughout the day. Although the worker might not develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in their hands, they may develop tendinitis in their elbows and shoulders.

Sewing: Sewing requires a tight grip on a needle or exposes the employee to the vibrations of the sewing machine throughout the day. Tendinitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can easily occur in both situations. Hand tools, such as saws and drills, can cause tendinitis in large joints, but the employee might also develop these conditions because their fingers, hands, and wrists are always engaged.

Using pneumatic devices: Pneumatic devices, such as jackhammers, expose employees to vibrations that cause tendinitis, but these workers must also use a tight grip that can strain their hands, wrists, or fingers. Employees are encouraged to contact a Workers’ Compensation lawyer for help when it appears these conditions have developed.

Long-Term or Permanent Injuries

The following are characterized as long-term or permanent injuries:

Arthritis: This might be the result of a lifetime of manual labor. Although Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or tendinitis could occur, arthritis may also be diagnosed when the employee simply cannot move their joints as they did before the injury.

Hearing loss: This occurs when employees are exposed to loud noises throughout the day with little to no hearing protection. Someone who wears hearing protection could still suffer some form of hearing loss because the vibrations of loud noises affect their skulls and the tiny bones inside the ear canal.

Vision Loss: An employee could be injured and lose their sight. Someone who loses an eye because of flying debris or chemical exposure is impaired because they do not have a complete field of vision. For example, someone who welds with substandard equipment could damage their eyesight. Computer screen glare might even become an issue as someone stares at a screen 40 hours a week for several years. Blurry or deteriorating vision should be diagnosed and treated by an ophthalmologist.

Employees should contact a Workers’ Compensation lawyer when these long-term or permanent injuries must be addressed. In some cases, the insurance company or employer will claim that they are not liable for an injury that occurred at work over a long period of time.

How Does the Insurance Company Get Involved?

Medical care can be expensive. Treating a work injury may involve hospitalization, diagnostic tests, surgery, physical therapy, medication, doctor appointments, and home medical equipment. With few exceptions, it all needs to be approved by the employer’s insurance company. Instead of getting the benefits they need, injured workers often run into resistance from the employer’s insurance provider. The insurance carrier might question whether the victim needs a specific test. They may say the employee is ready to return to work, even though that employee is obviously still in pain.

The insurance carrier may even delay the approval of needed treatment or medication. Insurance companies also like to seek full access to the victim’s medical records. The carrier is hoping they will find something they can use against the worker in a claim. There is no reason for this type of violation of one’s privacy. That is why a Workers’ Compensation lawyer must fight to limit the scope of such requests.

How Does an Injured Worker Find a Doctor?

Under New Jersey law, the employer gets to choose the doctor treating any injury. The problem is that the doctor has the employer’s best interests in mind, not the employee’s interest and well-being. The insurance company may use consultants to help determine the care that is needed. In most cases, these are consultants who live miles away and have never even met the employee.

Employers typically post a list of all approved doctors, and it is best for the employee to visit the doctor with whom they are most comfortable. In emergencies, the employee can go to any doctor they want for immediate medical care. The injured worker should reach out to the employer to tell them which doctor they prefer to visit. The employer may acquiesce to this request, or they may force the employee to visit a new doctor. A Workers’ Compensation lawyer can review the case and communicate with the employer or insurance carrier when it is clear they do not have an injured employee’s best interests in mind.

How Does an Injured Worker Receive Compensation?

When workers are injured, they should report their injuries to their employer. The employer must file a report and file an insurance claim. The insurance company takes the claim and assumes all liability for the worker’s injuries. Workers’ Compensation in New Jersey might include temporary partial or total disability at 70 percent of the workers’ pay. There is the assumption that the employee will go back to work at some point, but the employee should return to work only if they are cleared by a doctor.

If the worker cannot recover fully, they will be placed on permanent partial or total disability at 70 percent of their pay. Unfortunately, the insurance company might disagree. If treatment is denied by the insurance company, the lawyer will appeal immediately. If a doctor says an injured employee is ready to go back to work, but they are still experiencing difficulty, a lawyer can arrange for an independent medical evaluation. If there is a delay in approving treatment or medication, a lawyer will take swift action or go to court if necessary.

In the case of occupational diseases, workers may not discover they were infected until many years later. Workers should speak to a lawyer about their situation because they may have the option to file a claim against a bankrupt company’s trust. A Workers’ Compensation lawyer can be consulted when disability payments have been stalled or denied by the insurance provider.

Why Should Workers Hire a Lawyer After Suffering a Work-Related Injury?

A team of lawyers on a Workers’ Compensation case should include those who are board-certified in the area of Workers’ Compensation law. Certification comes from the New Jersey Supreme Court, which is a lengthy and difficult process. Former defense lawyers on staff will know how insurance companies try to minimize Workers’ Compensation benefits and can add their insight when required. Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed if the employee died during an accident. If the insurance carrier wrongly denied coverage, it could also be sued for its inaction that subsequently caused the worker’s death.

Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC Help Injured Workers Receive the Benefits They Deserve

If you suffered a work-related injury, speak to the Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC. We fight vigorously for the rights of our clients after they have been hurt at work. We do what it takes to obtain the benefits you deserve. Call us at 856-751-7676 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Trenton, and Vineland, New Jersey, as well as Trevose, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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