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Getting medical care for a work-related back injury

Back injury treatment and workers' compensation

New York workers' compensation lawyers discuss medical care and compensation for a workplace back injury

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, back injuries are the second most common cause of missed days at work. They affect more than 38 percent of workers across all occupations, including:

  • 52.8% of nurses
  • 43% of laborers, freight workers and material movers
  • 45.7% of stock clerks and order fillers
  • 37% of janitors and cleaners
  • 42.5% of maintenance and repair workers
  • 32.4% of tractor-trailer truck drivers

Back injuries range from uncomfortable to debilitating, and some require extensive medical care. They usually occur due to:

  • Muscle strains in the back from overuse or overstretching
  • Ligament and tendon sprains and tears
  • Herniated or slipped disks (damage to the gel-like discs situated between the vertebrae)

These injuries often occur due to:

  • Heavy or improper lifting
  • Repetitive stress to the back
  • Blunt trauma to the back during an accident
  • Poor health and physical condition of workers

Types of medical care for a back injury

Never ignore unusual aches and pains in the back, especially after a work accident or a physically exhausting day. The mildest discomfort could be a sign that something isn't right. The back and spine are very sensitive components of the human body. It's important that you notify your employer as soon as possible if you're experiencing back pain. Then, get prompt medical care.

Initially, your doctor will perform an X-ray, MRI or physical examination to look for abnormalities in the back. Back injuries linked to musculoskeletal disorders are often treated with:

  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise and stretching
  • Applying heat and ice
  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture
  • Rest

If you don't notice any improvement after initial treatment, then you likely need a second opinion from another medical specialist. If you sustained a herniated disc or another spinal injury, you may need to get an operation. Physical therapy and rest will be necessary until you make a full recovery.

Cost of treating a work-related back injury

The cost of treating a work-related back injury varies. Simply seeing a doctor or receiving physical therapy can cost hundreds of dollars per visit. The cost of medical visits can also depend on whether or not you have health insurance. An operation for a herniated disc or another serious back injury can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars without health insurance.

If you sustained an injury on the job, it's important not to dwell on the cost of treatment. Getting medical care should be your first priority. Under New York law, employees are eligible for workers' compensation after sustaining a job-related injury and the insurance carrier is responsible to pay for all treatment.

How to pursue workers' compensation

Workers' compensation in N.Y. is a no-fault system. You don't have to prove the negligence of your employer or a fellow employee. You do, however, have to prove that your injury happened within the scope of your employment. Workers' compensation covers:

  • Medical costs: All reasonable current and future medical expenses.
  • Total temporary disability: Two-thirds of your average weekly wages (up to the maximum amount) if you are totally disabled on a temporary basis.
  • Permanent total disability: Two-thirds of your average weekly wages if you are totally and permanently disabled.
  • Partial temporary disability: Two-thirds of the difference between your average weekly wages and light-duty weekly wages. This is if you had to take on modified duties for less pay than what you earned prior to your injury.
  • Vocational rehabilitation: Vocational training provided to workers who can't return to their former jobs after an injury. Vocational rehabilitation helps recovering workers re-enter the workforce.
  • Death benefits: Benefits paid to the surviving spouse, children or other dependents if a worker dies from a workplace injury.

Recovering damages

The only time you must prove negligence is when a third-party causes your injury. This is someone who is not your employer or an employee working for the same company. Third parties are typically:

  • Contractors or employees from other companies working on the same site as you
  • Drivers of cars or trucks (if you were hurt in a crash while on the job)
  • The manufacturer of defective machinery or equipment
  • The owner of a property you visited while on the job

If you were injured by a third party, you may have a strong basis for a personal injury claim. This allows you to recover medical expenses, lost wages and non-economic damages from the at-fault party's insurance company. Workers' compensation doesn't cover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.

How to get started on your workers' compensation claim

To pursue a workers' compensation claim, you need to take the following steps:

  • Notify your employer of your injury in writing. Make a copy of the report and keep it for your own record.
  • See a doctor as soon as possible and mention that you were hurt on the job.
  • Get documentation of your diagnosis, X-ray, MRI and medical evaluation.
  • Speak to an experienced N.Y. workers' compensation lawyer who can help guide you through the process of filing a claim.

You'll need to fill out a C-3 form with the New York State Workers' Compensation Board and ensure that your application is error-free. The legal team at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP Attorneys At Law can help you accurately fill out the C-3 form.

Our law firm serves NYC and N.Y. State. We have a proven track record of helping injured workers get the compensation they need while they recover. Contact us online to get started on your claim. We offer remote legal consultations via Zoom, Skype, Facebook Messenger, or by phone.

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