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Back injuries are among the most common injuries that are suffered in the workplace. Regardless of whether your injuries were caused by an accident on the job or due to repetitive strain over time, the consequences can be devastating making it challenging for you to perform your job duties. Back injuries also have the potential to leave workers with chronic and debilitating pain, which could also result in long-term disability.

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.

What Is Considered a Back Injury at Work?

Back injuries on the job could be caused by a specific traumatic event such as a fall from a ladder or scaffold. Other types of back injuries could be caused by repetitive stress or strain as a result of performing repetitive tasks such as lifting, twisting, standing or sitting for an extended period of time. Employers who do physical labor such as farmworkers, those in the health care industry or construction face a heightened risk for both accidents and repetitive strain injuries.

For example, while a construction worker could suffer a serious back injury such as spinal fracture while falling from heights, a worker in the health care sector could suffer a back strain while moving a patient or lifting heavy equipment. Workers whose jobs require them to be sedentary for long periods of time are also at risk for serious back injuries. For example, when workers such as truck drivers sit for long periods of time and then suddenly move to lift or unload heavy items from the vehicle, they could injure their spine. Poor posture among those who primarily work in an office setting could also lead to back injuries or chronic back pain.

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.

Here are some of the most common types of back injuries at work:

Herniated disc: Also known as a "ruptured disc" or a "slipped disc" these injuries occur when the gel-like substance in the discs between the spinal vertebrae sticks out because the outer covering is damaged.

Nerve compression: This occurs when a nerve is squeezed at a single location. Symptoms include pain, numbness and weakness in the site of the nerve compression.

Spinal cord injury: This refers to damage to any part of the spinal cord that could cause irreversible damage leading to changes in strength and sensation.

Back strain: When a muscle or tendon in the back is strained, they may be twisted, pulled or torn. Tendons are essentially tissues that connect muscle to bone. This could also affect muscle function and movement.

Back sprain: This refers to the tearing of a ligament, which is tissue connecting two or more bones at a joint, thereby preventing excessive movement of the joint.

Paraplegia: This refers to paralysis of the legs and lower body, typically caused by spinal injury. Paraplegia often results in impaired mobility.

When You Suffer a Back Injury at Work

There may be a number of repercussions as a result of work-related back injuries. Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates back injury claims cost an average of $40,000 to $80,000 including medical bills, wage loss benefits and other expenses. However, if the back injury is serious or catastrophic, those numbers may be much higher.

When you injure your back on the job, you may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits, which provides injured workers with medical expenses and a portion of lost ages. Workers' comp insurance protects both the employer and employee. While employees get the benefits they need for medical expenses, employers get some immunity from lawsuits.

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.

Third-Party Compensation

In some work injury cases, third parties may be liable for a work-related back injury. A third party is an individual or entity other than the employer whose negligence may have caused or contributed to the worker's back injury. For example, if a construction worker tripped and fell at a worksite because of a dangerous condition on the property, the property owner can be held liable for those injuries as well. In such a scenario, the worker may be able to file a third-party claim against the property owner in addition to claiming workers' comp benefits for their back 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.

An experienced workers' comp attorney can help injured workers suffering from back pain receive all the benefits and compensation to which they are entitled. The experienced work injury lawyers at Greenberg and Ruby Injury Lawyers, APC have a long and successful track record of representing injured workers including those suffering from back pain and other disabilities caused by on-the-job back injuries. Call us today to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.

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.

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