Back injuries are the most common type of injury suffered on the job, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. What’s more, the Maine Department of Labor reports the problem is getting worse here in The Pine Tree State.
Federal analysis indicates that in 2014, there were approximately 200,000 cases in which workers missed at least one day of work because of a back injury. That’s out of 1.15 million total instances of missed time for occupational injuries.
Meanwhile, the Maine DOL reports injuries to the lumbar spine (the lower back) represented 14.3 percent of all work-related injuries. Compare this to 2009, when lower back injuries comprised 10.7 percent of all work injuries.
Our Bangor workers’ compensation attorneys know lower back injuries are particularly pervasive among health care workers, who have the highest rates of injuries overall. Other workers who are often treated for occupational injuries include those in warehousing and transportation.
Still, many are surprised to learn that sedentary workers are also often susceptible to back injuries, including chronic back pain. Some workers assume that if there isn’t a definitive point of injury, they won’t be able to collect benefits. This isn’t true. What must be shown is that some condition of work either caused or exacerbated one’s condition. And while some employers will argue that back pain is simply a normal effect of aging, there is ample evidence many back aches stem from repetitive motion injuries or poor ergonomics – both of which are often work-related.
Proper ergonomics in a sedentary office setting calls for things like:
- Computer monitors at the correct height;
- Work stations that allow you to sit or stand throughout the work day;
- Opportunities for frequent breaks; and
- Seating that allows for proper posture.
Workers who are employed in a position that involves physical labor need to practice proper lifting techniques. In some cases, wearing a brace can help more evenly distribute the weight and pressure.
In any role, body movements that are repetitive or unnatural (i.e., excessive twisting, constantly looking down while texting, arms extended to a keyboard) should be avoided if possible.
Workers’ compensation law in Maine mandates that employer insurance companies cover on-the-job injuries. It’s a no-fault system, so it doesn’t matter if you failed to use proper ergonomics or you tripped on an obvious hazard. If your back injury arose in the course and scope of employment, it should be compensable. This does not mean employers won’t fight it, which is why it’s important to speak with an experienced work injury attorney.
Typically, the strength of a workers’ compensation claim for a back injury will depend on the opinions of treating physicians. This is why it’s important to seek prompt medical attention. These records will be a key piece of evidence for any future claims for benefits.
Per Title 39-A of Maine Revised Statutes, workers’ compensation benefits are limited to medical costs and a portion of lost wages.
Compensation for pain and suffering is not available for work-related injuries, unless there is some viable assertion of third-party liability by someone other than the employer or co-workers. In those instances, unlike with a workers’ compensation claim, the employee would need to show the defendant was negligent.
If you have suffered a back injury – or any other type of injury – on the job in Bangor, our workers’ compensation lawyers can help.
If you are a victim of a Bangor work accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Back injuries most common type of injuries for workers, Oct. 16, 2016, By Joe Lawlor, Portland Press Herald
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Maine Bicycle Accident Kills Local Doctor, Nov. 2, 2016, Bangor Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog