Colorado Workers’ Compensation for Back and Neck Injuries at Work
“I hurt my back at work. What are my rights?”
Workplace injuries are more common than they should be. Statistics indicate that over a million people suffer work-related back injuries every year. In fact, back and neck injuries account for 20 percent of the injuries that occur in the workplace.
Certain occupations are considered high risk for work-related back and neck injuries, such as:
- Freight workers
- General laborers
- Warehouse workers
- Nurses and nursing assistants
- Janitors and other individuals involved in the cleaning industry
- Maintenance and repair occupations
Regardless of how or why your back or neck was injured at work (or whose fault it was), Colorado law allows for you to receive workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced Colorado workers’ compensation attorney at The Babcock Law Firm can help make sure you get the maximum benefits you deserve.
Common work-related back and neck injuries
Back and neck injuries happen for many different reasons. Employees may lift heavy items without using proper lifting techniques, or they may not use proper safety equipment. Truck drivers, in particular, suffer from constant and extreme vibration due to their vehicles. Other employees remain in the same sitting or standing position for extended lengths of time without taking a break, which can result in chronic back or neck pain.
While there are many different types of back and neck injuries that workers can suffer on the job, these are the most common:
- Bulging, herniated or ruptured discs
- Facet injuries
- Fractured vertebrae
- Nerve damage
- Soft tissue fissures or tears
- Spinal cord injuries
- Muscle strains and sprains (overexertion)
Spinal cord injuries of the neck or back are particularly debilitating to workers, often requiring corrective surgery, long-term physical therapy and/or anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications. Serious injuries may lead to paralysis or lifelong disability.
What you need to know about workplace back and neck injuries
If you’ve filed a workers’ compensation claim involving your neck or back, here are a few things you should know:
- Injured employees may have the right to change physicians if they believe they haven’t received appropriate care, or if they were not provided a choice of physician at the outset of their claim.
- A physician outside of the workers’ compensation claim may testify to the level of an employee’s injury and impairment if the treating physician is not handling the claim appropriately.
- A recovering employee may work part-time or perform limited duties and still receive some workers’ compensation benefits.
- A preexisting condition does not disqualify an injured worker from obtaining benefits for a neck or back injury, so long as an incident at work aggravated that pre-existing condition.
- If the injury resulted in an inability to work 2 jobs, the employee may receive lost wages from both places of employment.
- Hiring an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation cases increases the likelihood of receiving benefits.
Colorado workers’ compensation laws
By filing a Colorado workers’ compensation claim for a work-related back or neck injury, you can pursue compensation for the following types of benefits:
- Medical expenses. Any emergency room, hospitalization, surgery, physical therapy, follow-up visits or medications that an employee needs because of a work-related injury are to be paid by the employer and their insurance company, not the employee.
- Temporary partial/total disability. Employees who miss more than 3 shifts (or 3 days) of work as a result of a work-related injury or illness may be eligible to receive a form of wage replacement compensation called “temporary disability.” Employees who are completely off of work and losing all wages are entitled to temporary total disability benefits, and employees who are able to work part-time or in a limited capacity are entitled temporary partial disability to make up for their partial wage loss.
- Permanent partial/total disability. Once treatment is complete, if an injured worker is deemed to have permanent disability, then they will be entitled to a permanent partial or total disability award. Employees who suffer a permanent injury but who are still able to work in some capacity are entitled to permanent partial disability benefits, while employees who are permanently disabled and completely disqualified from working in the future are entitled to permanent total disability benefits. Permanent total disability benefits are payable for the remainder of the injured worker’s life.
Why workplace back and neck injury claims are denied
Injured workers hoping to receive workers’ compensation benefits often encounter an initial denial of their claim. Statistics suggest that up to 63 percent of injured workers are denied workers’ compensation at the beginning of their claim. However, up to 45 percent receive benefits after fighting the denial and/or filing an appeal.
Insurance companies may try to deny your claim by arguing that you had a pre-existing condition. They might claim that you missed a filing deadline, or say that your injury wasn’t severe enough to warrant benefits. Or, if there were no witnesses to your injury, they might even try to deny that the accident happened.
In order to challenge a denied work injury claim, you’ll need to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney who has experience handling work-related back and neck injury cases.
How to prevent workplace back and neck injury
Of course, it’s always best to avoid neck and back injuries when possible. You can greatly reduce the risk of injury by implementing a few techniques, such as:
- Take breaks and change position regularly throughout the workday.
- Arrange work areas in an ergonomically appropriate manner so as to prevent excessive overreaching, bending or stretching.
- Use proper lifting techniques by holding items close to your body and lifting with your legs.
- Avoid twisting your spine.
- Wear protective gear or use mechanical equipment, if supplied.
- Don’t lift more weight than you should. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the average employee should not lift more than 35 pounds.
Taking all these methods into account is an excellent way to avoid a workplace injury in the first place; however, sometimes an injury or accident is beyond your control.
Consult an experienced Colorado workers’ compensation attorney
Workers’ compensation cases often become complicated and time-consuming. Injured workers can decrease their stress by consulting a qualified workers’ compensation attorney who has an abundance of experience and knowledge related to work-related injury cases and Colorado law. Legal counsel greatly increases the likelihood of hastening the claim process and receiving the appropriate level of benefits.