Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common occupational injury among working-age people. According to the CDC, it occurs in every 6 out of 10,000 full-time workers.
But can you get workers comp for carpal tunnel syndrome?
The short answer is yes, you can get workers comp benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome. Like most work-related injuries, CTS is compensable under workers comp law as long as it’s work-related and affects your earning capacity.
Getting your workers comp claim approved, however, is another story. Due to the nature of carpal tunnel injuries, proving your eligibility for workers comp isn’t that easy.
To understand why, let’s refresh our knowledge of carpal tunnel injuries.
Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the median nerves are squeezed or compressed, especially for repeated periods. Median nerves allow your forearms, hand, and wrist to move and feel sensations.
According to the same CDC data above, women are three times more likely to suffer from CTS than men. The condition is also more prevalent in jobs involving manual labor like:
- textile, fabric finishing, and coating mills
- apparel accessories and other apparel manufacturing
- animal slaughtering and processing
- material movement
- office and administrative support
Unlike many occupational injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome is unlikely to go away on its own. It may even get worse over time.
While some cases can be treated with medications, most will require surgery. When not treated immediately, however, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to loss of sensation or severe weakness in the hands and fingers. It may even lead to a permanent dysfunction of the hands and wrists.
Common signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- tingling or “pin and needles” sensation in the fingers
- pain or numbness in the hands, which is especially worse at night
- weakness when gripping or holding objects with one or both hands
- general clumsiness in the hands (dropping things, difficulty buttoning clothes, etc.)
- occasional shock-like sensations in the fingers
- swollen feeling in the fingers
Most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome does not point to a single contributing factor. Instead, it’s often caused by a combination of factors like:
- sudden change in hormone levels (pregnancy, menopause, etc.)
- medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid gland imbalance, and rheumatoid arthritis
- flexion or extension of the hands and wrists for prolonged periods
- frequent and repetitive hand movements (typing, carving, flipping, etc.)
- injuries to the wrist (sprain, strain, broken bones, or inflammations)
How Long Are You Out of Work for Carpal Tunnel?
It depends on the severity of your symptoms. Some cases of carpal tunnel syndrome only involve very mild symptoms. As such, they may not affect your work.
If your condition requires surgery, however, it may take weeks of months before you can return to work. In general, the stitches are taken after 1 to 2 weeks. During which, the symptoms may worsen. Though the pain should start to subside. The recovery period, however can vary anywhere from six weeks to a year.
Workers Comp for Carpal Tunnel
As mentioned, it’s possible to get workers comp benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome. But as you know, carpal tunnel is usually caused by a myriad of factors. Plus, it can take time for the symptoms to become apparent. All these make it hard to get your workers comp claim approved.
You see, in the US, workers compensation is implemented at the state level. Meaning, each state has different rules and processes when it comes to workers compensation. But in general, an injured worker will only be eligible for workers comp benefits if:
- the injury is work-related
- their employer has workers comp coverage
- they must meet the state’s deadlines for reporting an injury and filing a workers comp claim
Because of the above eligibility requirements, workers suffering from carpal tunnel often find it extremely difficult to get benefits.
Unlike concussion or burns, carpal tunnel syndrome doesn’t result from a single accident. In addition to repetitive motions, it can also be caused by factors including genetics, pregnancy, and menopause. So unless you have very strong evidence, proving that your carpal tunnel injury is work-related won’t be that easy. Your employer or insurance company can easily argue that your CTS is due to your medical condition or family history.
Besides proving that your injury is work-related, you also need to report it in a timely manner. Most states have specific time limits when it comes to reporting work injuries. In Florida, for instance, you need to report your injury within 30 days after the accident or two years after you’ve known of your condition.
Since symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can take a long time to manifest, most workers fail to report it within the state’s time limit. Also, CTS symptoms usually begin with numbing and tingling sensations. And, as you know, most people don’t really pay that much attention to those kinds of symptoms, especially if they’re occasional.
By the time their symptoms are serious enough to warrant treatment, it’s already too late. The state’s prescribed time period has already passed and they can’t file a claim anymore.
That’s not to say, however, that claiming workers comp for carpal tunnel syndrome is impossible. It’s difficult, yes. But if you have an experienced workers comp attorney working for you, it’s very much possible to get a favorable settlement for your injuries.
How Much Can You Get for Carpal Tunnel?
According to Florida data, the average workers comp benefits for occupational diseases like carpal tunnel for 2021 is $23,117. In 2015, it even reached as high as $64,509. In most cases, however, how much benefits you’ll get will depend on the severity of your carpal tunnel injury. That’s because workers compensation typically cover both medical benefits and lost wages reimbursement.
Your medical benefits will pay for all medical expenses necessary to treat your condition such as:
- emergency treatments
- doctor’s fee
- medical supplies
- surgery (if necessary)
- rehabilitative therapy (if necessary)
Lost wages compensation, on the other hand, will pay for wages that you could have received had you not been injured. Depending on your injury, it can go up to 66 ⅔% of your average weekly wage before your injury.
In Florida, however, you’ll only be paid for the first seven days of your injury if your absence from work extends to over 21 days. It will stop once you return to work or reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), whichever comes first.
How to Get Benefits for Carpal Tunnel
If you’re planning to file a workers comp claim for carpal tunnel syndrome, here are some tips you can use:
1. Report Your Injury Immediately
As I’ve said, most states have time limits for reporting work-related injuries. So make sure to report your symptoms as soon as you’ve noticed it. Don’t wait for your condition to worsen before informing your employer. Otherwise, you won’t be able to get benefits for your injuries.
2. Prove That Your Injury is Work-Related
This is the hardest part of filing a workers comp claim for carpal tunnel syndrome. As I’ve said, you need to have a strong and irrefutable evidence that your injury is work-related.
For this, you may need to submit all your medical records and even your medical history. Your doctor’s testimony will also matter a great deal in proving your claim. Remember, however, that your treating doctor should be accredited by the insurance company. In Florida, you won’t be able to get benefits if your doctor isn’t on the insurance company’s approved list of medical providers.
In addition to your medical records, a detailed description of your job may also help your case. Jobs that repetitive hand motions like typing or hammering are more likely to result in carpal tunnel injuries. If you can prove that the kind of work you do causes wear and tear or strain to your wrist bones and ligaments, then it’s a step closer to proving that your injury is work-related.
3. Hire a Workers Comp Lawyer
Legally, you’re not required to hire a workers compensation lawyer. But doing so will greatly improve your chances of getting a fair settlement for your injuries.
An experienced workers compensation lawyer like Victor Malca knows the law like the back of their hands. He has already helped thousands of injured workers fight for their benefits and many of them involved carpal tunnel injuries. Thus, he already knows what evidence to present and how to argue your case, increasing your chances of getting approved for benefits. Call us now for a free consultation.
VICTOR MALCA – Florida Workers Compensation & Social Security Disability Attorney
Victor Malca P.A. has over 27 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success when fighting for his clients puts him among the most trusted workers’ compensation attorney’s in Florida. He specializes in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claiming lost social security disability benefits.
Book a free consultation today. Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are recognized by our past clients across South Florida.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.