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Scranton Workers' Comp And SSD Law Blog

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

If you use your hands to do any kind of repetitive work at your Pennsylvania job, you stand a good chance of developing carpal tunnel syndrome at some point in the future. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains that while the pain of CTS generally begins in your wrists, it almost always progresses downward to your hands and upward to your arms. Eventually it may affect your shoulders, neck and back as well.

In the likely event that you never took a human anatomy course in high school or college, it may surprise you to learn that your wrists really do each contain a carpal tunnel. The nerves and tendons of your fingers and hands pass through these tunnels on their way to your arms.

Who can you sue for an injury at work?

Workplace injuries can happen to anyone, which is why Pennsylvania law allows you to file for workers’ compensation benefits. With few exceptions, every employer must cover their employees for injuries that happen on the job. These benefits cover your medical bills and some of your lost wages, including temporary or permanent disability payments.

The good news about workers’ comp benefits is that you don’t have to prove your employer was negligent in order to receive them, and it does not matter if you were negligent, so long as you were not intoxicated and did not purposefully injure yourself. The bad news is that you cannot sue your employer for your injuries, which means you cannot receive full compensation for wage loss, pain and suffering and emotional distress.

Qualifying for Social Security disability due to depression

When you are struggling with psychological issues such as depression, many in Scranton may simply say that your problems are all "in your head." Yet rather than implying that your problem may be something biological, the term instead suggests that your issue is one that can (and should) be overcome, and thus does not merit any additional assistance. Fortunately, if and when your depression interferes with your life, there is the possibility of securing disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. Many in your some position often come to us here at Steppacher Law concerned that the lack of sympathy others often show towards their struggles will be reflected by those determining their benefits eligibility. 

If you share the same concern, you will be relieved to know that your eligibility is not based on opinion, but rather clinical evidence. According to the SSA's evaluation criteria, to qualify for disability benefits for depression, you must present clinical documentation showing that you struggle with at least five of the following criteria: 

  • Depressed mood
  • Limited interest in activities
  • Decreased appetite (evidenced by apparent weight loss)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Agitated or depressed mental acuity
  • Decreased energy levels

Am I covered by workers' compensation?

If you are employed in Pennsylvania, it is important for you to know about the laws related to your employment and the benefits you may have access to regarding or because of your employment. One type of benefits offered to most workers in the state is workers' compensation. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, this program is designed to help people after they have been injured at work, developed an illness related to a work environment or situation or have lost a loved one in a work-related incident.

Benefits are available to you beginning on your first day on a job. However, if your injury or illness is related to any illegal activity or drunkenness or if you deliberately hurt yourself in some way, you may not be able to receive workers' compensation benefits. If you work in the maritime industry, worker's compensation benefits may be provided to you via a different program. Any non-military federal employees, domestic help, railroad workers, volunteer personnel or agriculture workers may also not be covered under the state's workers' compensation program.

What is lateral epicondylitis?

There are many workplace injuries that can result from repetitive use of the upper extremities, which include the hands, arms and shoulders. One such injury is lateral epicondylitis. You may not recognize it by its scientific name, but you may be more familiar with its common appellation: tennis elbow. While playing tennis is one possible cause of lateral epicondylitis, it can result from occupational activities as well as recreational ones.

According to the Mayo Clinic, lateral epicondylitis results in pain around the bony prominence on the outside of your elbow. There is a tendon that attaches at this spot and connects the muscles of your forearm to your upper arm. When you use these muscles repeatedly to lift your hand or straighten your wrist, it can put stress on the tendon, which can result in a series of tiny tears. The damage to the tendon is what causes the pain of lateral epicondylitis, which can also radiate down to the wrist and hand.

Spotlighting the dangers of repetitive stress injuries

When Pennsylvania workers think of workplace injuries that are eligible for compensation, they may think of dramatic and catastrophic injuries like electrocution, brain damage, fire damage, or more. However, some of the most common injuries are also the easiest to get and can be sustained by almost anyone in the working force. These are repetitive stress injuries.

FindLaw takes a look at what causes a repetitive stress injury (RSI) and how the trauma can impact a worker's everyday life. These disorders are considered "chronic neuromusculoskeletal disorders", meaning they can affect the nerves, muscles, and skeletal system of a sufferer. These injuries typically occur in the hands, arms, neck, and back.

Social Security benefits for cancer

Were one to ask people in Scranton what they believe would be the typical person to receive Social Security Disability Benefits, the most typical answer might be one who has suffered a severe injury. Illness, on the other hand, might not be viewed as a common cause of disability because many believe it to be possible to remain working while dealing with sickness. Yet illnesses and disorders have been recognized as being one of the primary causes of people seeking disability benefits. Indeed, the National Institute of Mental Health lists cancer as being the third most common cause of disability in the U.S. 

The Social Security Administration does indeed include cancer among its list of disabling conditions. However, certain criteria must first be met before one can qualify for disability benefits due to this disease. As is the case with all disabling conditions, one must prove that cancer (and the effects of its treatment) have prevented them from being able to work for at least 12 months (or are predicted to keep them from working for that same period of time). For cancer patients, if the length of time healthcare professionals believe the condition may be disabling is not specified, the SSA may continue to offer benefits up the three years from the date of remission. 

Bar sued after off-duty employee dies in accident

Most in Scranton might view workplace injury cases as fairly simple matters to resolve: one is injured at work, they report the incident to the employers, and workers' compensation benefits kick in. That might sound well in theory, yet in actual practice workplace injury cases can be much more complicated. Questions surrounding the circumstances of an accident will often be posed that attempt to reveal who truly is at fault, for workers' compensation providers do not want to have to pay for something they consider to not be true workplace injuries. If any issue regarding the nature of an accident arises, employers and their insurers may look to deflect responsibility to pay for it. 

Such is the claim being made by the family of a Minnesota man who died due to an injury suffered at the bar he worked for. He was assisting his coworkers in forcibly removing two overly intoxicated patrons when he fell and hit his head on concrete, suffering a severe brain injury. However, one detail of the accident has been by his employer as a reason why it is not liable for his injury expenses: he was not technically on the clock when the accident occurred. 

Some differences between workers’ comp and personal injury claims

During the winter season, many Pennsylvanians will find themselves filing injury claims for one reason or another. It could be slipping on ice, terrible driving conditions or a crash from someone suffering from seasonal exhaustion.

However, there is more than one way to file an injury claim. Most of these are filed as “personal injury” or “workers’ compensation.” Even though both of these claims involve recovering from a terrible injury, they are drastically different in terms of what the victim can receive and what they can file the claim for in the first place. Since you have a higher chance to injure yourself during or outside of work hours during the colder months, you should know the primary differences between the two claims.

Defining musculoskeletal injuries

Many in Scranton may view the definition of disabled as being open to interpretation. For example, what you believe to be debilitating, others may view as being manageable. For this reason, many of those who come to us here at Steppacher Law questioning whether or not they may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits are surprised to learn that the Social Security Administration has very strict criteria for determining whether or not you truly are disabled. Understanding these criteria may certainly influence your actions and decisions in managing your condition going forward. 

The SSA has a detailed list of conditions it maintains to determine disability. This list covers many different types of both illnesses and injuries. Among the more common types of disabling conditions is musculoskeletal injuries. If you are suffering from the effects of such an injury, then the SSA states that in order to qualify for disability benefits, your injury must impair your ability to ambulate effectively on a sustained basis or inhibit you from performing fine and gross movements for a period of at least 12 months. This does necessarily mean you have to have been suffering these impairments for a year in order to qualify; confirmation from a medical professional forecasting such difficulties for at least a year may be sufficient. 

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Steppacher Law

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Scranton, PA 18503

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