If you suffer a back injury on the job, you may be wondering how to pay your medical expenses, but also how you would handle other household expenditures at a time when you're unable to work because of your injury. If you have suffered a workplace injury, you may be able to receive workers' compensation benefits through your employer, which does cover the cost of all medical expenses relating to your back injury, lost wages, and other benefits such as vocational training, if applicable.
In addition to workers' compensation, you may also be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party other than your employer whose negligence caused your accident and injury. Third party lawsuits are worth a lot more than workers' compensation benefits because in addition other losses, you can also claim non-economic losses such as pain and suffering. Since back injury claims can be complicated, it is crucial that you contact an experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyer early in the process so they can help you recover maximum compensation for your losses.
Understanding the Structure of the Spine
The spinal column is made up of 33 vertebrae or smaller bones. While 24 of these vertebrae move, nine are joined or fused together. The spinal column extends from the neck all the way to the tailbone. Each moving bone has a fluid-filled disc in between that acts as a cushion to absorb the shock from any type of trauma to the back.
When you are performing tasks such as lifting, pulling, pushing and twisting in the workplace, there is the possibility of dislocating one of the vertebrae. When you suffer a fall in the workplace, you even face the risk of breaking one of these vertebrae. Sudden trauma to the back can also cause the discs to slip out of place. This could cause the vertebrae to rub against one another causing pain and discomfort.
An injury to any part of the spinal cord can be painful and can affect an individual's ability to move and perform tasks. But, the most dangerous type of back injury that could occur at work is an injury to the spinal cord, which is essentially a bundle or nerves that transmits signals from the brain to the rest of the body. An injury to the spinal cord could result in paralysis or even death.
Common Types of Work-Related Back Injuries
While back injuries are mostly not life threatening, they are injuries that can leave individuals with chronic pains and other debilitating symptoms that can result in loss of productivity. It also leaves you with an inability to enjoy life. Back injuries at work could range in severity from a muscle sprain or strain to much more serious issues ranging from a herniated or bulging disc to fractured or dislocated vertebrae and compressed nerves.
Some of the most common types of back injuries suffered at work include injuries to the upper back (thoracic spine) and lower back (lumbar spine); herniated disc; and fractured vertebrae. In a worst-case scenario, a work-related back injury could result in catastrophic injuries such as paralysis where a worker may never be able to return to work and may need 24/7 care.
When You Suffer a Back Injury at Work
If you have injured your back at work, report the injury to your employer or supervisor as soon as possible. If your symptoms manifested or developed over time, report the injury as soon as you believe it was caused by your job. This helps avoid complications and issues when it comes to the workers' compensation process and receiving benefits including medical care. Under California law, you must report your injury within 30 days in order to receive workers' comp benefits.
If you've been injured on the job, get first aid medical treatment right away. Do not refuse treatment. If you believe you have suffered injuries that need immediate attention, go to the emergency room right away. Inform staff at the hospital that you suffered a back injury on the job. If possible, get in touch with your employer to find out what next steps you should take. It is also important that you seek prompt medical attention if you experience symptoms such as fever, nausea or vomiting, numbness in your legs or loss of bowel or bladder control. These are symptoms of a serious back injury.
You should also file a claim with the California Department of Workers' Compensation (DWC) to protect your rights and initiate the workers' comp process. Your employer is required to provide you a claim form within one working day after learning about your injury. If they do not give you a form, you can download it from the forms page of the DWC's website.
What Does Workers' Compensation Cover?
Workers' compensation in California covers the following:
- All expenses relating to your injury-related medical care and treatment including rehabilitative treatment and therapy.
- Temporary disability benefits if you are not able to work for a period of time because of your back injury.
- Permanent disability benefits if you will not fully recover from your back injury.
- Supplemental job displacement benefits to cover the cost of job retraining if you are unable to return to the job you had prior to your accident.
- Death benefits payable to a worker's family or dependents if he or she dies due to a job-related injury.
Why You Need a Los Angeles Work Injury Lawyer
In addition to workers' comp benefits, your Los Angeles work injury lawyer will be able to determine if you can file a personal injury lawsuit against another party or entity (other than your employer) who caused your back injury. For example, if you suffered your back injury in a motor vehicle accident while on the job, the negligent driver of the other vehicle can be held financially responsible for your injuries as well. Such claims will help you seek compensation for pain and suffering and lost earning capacity – which are not covered under workers' comp.
If you have suffered a back injury at work, one of the first steps you should take is contact an experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyer who will step in right away to preserve your rights and protect your best interests. Contact Greenberg & Ruby to schedule your free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.