Neck Injuries - Cervical Spine Injuries
Any injury to one's neck is a serious matter. Injuries to the cervical spine can range from minor neck pain, and minor limited range of motion to quadriplegia.
Like injuries to the lumbar spine, the cervical spine is also subject to various grades of wear and tear over the years. As people age, their spines can develop spinal canal narrowing, degenerative disc disease, and a host of other spinal problems. These conditions can lead to back pain, stiffness, and sciatica. Pointing to a preexisting, non-work-related condition is what the workers comp insurance companies love to do. Any time they can do this, they will. In fact, the will hire their own doctors (IME physicians) to examine injured workers and say just that; that their disability is related to preexisting non-work-related degenerative disc disease, as opposed to the acute injury at work that resulted in a cervical disc herniation.
If you've sustained an injury to your neck on the job, now matter how minor, report the injury right away! Then, go see a doctor as soon as possible. Be sure to be very clear in telling the doctor what happened, when, and how. The doctor should then incorporate this information into his/her office visit notes. Having a paper trail can make all the difference in the world, and is generally the best way to defeat an insurance company's argument that the condition is not work related.
As mentioned above, report the injury and see your doctor, regardless of how minor the injury may be. At the very least, send an email to your boss/supervisor/HR Department. Any paper trail is better than none.
M.G.L. Chapter 152, Section 1(7A) is the section of the MA Comp Law that deals with the issue of pre-existing, non-work-related injuries, combining with a work injury. This is quite common. For example, a 50-year old, lifelong carpenter falls at work and suffers a herniated cervical disc. Because of his age and work history, he likely will have degenerative findings in his cervical spine. The insurer will try to point to that as the cause of his current symptoms. Because of this, and pursuant to Section 1(7A), the employee must show that the work injury is, at the very least, "a major producing cause" of his/her disability and need for treatment. This is a higher standard that simple but/for causation. In other words, where there is a preexisting non-work-related condition, as described above, there is a higher standard of proof.
That is why reporting work injuries is so important. If you suffer a minor tweak to your neck at work and report that injury properly, then later have a severe neck injury, the earlier minor injury will serve to help defeat an insurer's "preexisting condition" argument. Prior work-related injuries do not trigger the 1(7A) standard, and makes it easier for an employee to establish causation.
The MA Workers Comp Law is Always changing
The MA Workers' Compensation law can be found at M.G.L. Chapter 152. This law was originally enacted in the early 1900s, and has since undergone countless numbers of amendments, revisions, and updates. Even individual cases handled at the Massachusetts Dept. of Industrial Accidents have the potential of how the law is applied going forward. Because the workers comp law is in a constant state of change, it is vital to have an experienced workers comp attorney by your side to ensure that your rights are protected. Many attorneys "dabble" in the field of workers comp law. Be sure to have someone who specializes in this field.
At Troupe Law Office, we have represented injured workers and their families for nearly 50 years. We are experienced workers comp lawyers, located on the North Shore of Boston, in Peabody. We serve injured workers all over Massachusetts and regularly practice cases in all MA DIA locations, including Boston, Lawrence, Worcester, Fall River and Springfield.
Call us any time and let us help you with your workers compensation case.