Professor Tompkins smiled as he looked across the lecture hall filled with community college students. “Today,” he announced, “we will have an exercise in thinking like a scientist.” He lifted a huge block of ice onto the laboratory table nearby.
“As you can see,” he said, “I have frozen a very expensive microscope in this 50-pound block of ice. The question I need you to answer is this: what is the best way to remove it?”
Gordon, a freshman on the wrestling team, spoke up right away: “Break the ice. Hit it with something hard.”
Emily, a literature major, piped up from the front row. “No, that might damage the microscope. Let the ice melt slowly, over time.”
The professor, though, wasn’t listening. “Would someone please call for medical assistance?” he asked. “I seem to have hurt my back picking up that big cube of ice. Tell them to bring a gurney.”
Sudden trauma or slow stress: How back injuries happen
Back injuries are the most prevalent work-related disabling injuries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have reported that such injuries cost industry tens of billions of dollars each year. The single bright spot is that almost no back injuries are fatal. Nevertheless, they represent an enormous physical toll in terms of human suffering and pain.
Sudden back pain caused by improper lifting is the classic example of a back injury, and it’s true that lifting injuries predominate among traumatic injuries of the back. But our opening story was meant to illustrate that back injuries can happen in two ways: an abrupt, acute trauma (Gordon’s “break the ice” technique) or slow degeneration over time (Emily’s “melt the ice” approach).
- Acute injuries. A sudden precipitating incident causes a rush of pain. This is the typical experience for someone undergoing an acute or traumatic back injury on the job. But that description may not be a complete picture. OSHA says that although “the acute injury may seem to be caused by a single well-defined incident; the real cause is often a combined interaction of the observed stressor coupled with years of weakening of the musculoskeletal support mechanism.” In other words, an acute back injury in Pennsylvania is often preceded by an extended period of damage that the worker has not felt.
- Repetitive stress injuries. If a job involves any action that twists the spine, simultaneous reaching while lifting, standing or sitting for extended periods or in unnatural positions, or many other regular strains on the muscles and bones, the body experiences microtrauma—damage that is too subtle to notice. Over time, these microtraumas accumulate faster than the body can heal, until the nerves send overwhelming pain messages. Repetitive stress injuries to the back may not follow from a workplace accident, but they are real job-related injuries, which fully qualify for a claim under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law.
How the law protects you…and doesn’t
If you have suffered a back injury on the job, you have the right to file for workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and a portion of your normal wages while you are too disabled to work. Your company has paid an insurance firm to give workers’ compensation benefits to all employees who were hurt at work. Unfortunately, sometimes those insurance companies try to withhold benefits in order to increase their profits.
When the insurance company refuses to pay for your hospital bills or prescription drugs, you may be stuck paying these costs out of your own pocket unless you hire a lawyer to fight for fair compensation. That’s where the Harrisburg workers’ compensation attorneys from Schmidt Kramer can be a huge advantage. We know how the insurance companies try to deny, delay, and derail your claim—and the insurance company representatives know us. We’re not afraid to go to the courtroom and demand you get your fair deal, if that’s what it takes.
Call Schmidt Kramer today if your back injury compensation benefits have been denied, or if you are facing any other complication in your Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case. You can reach us at 717.888.8888 or (888) 476-0807 toll-free to schedule a free, confidential case review. While you’re on the line, request a FREE copy of our informative book for clients, Who Pays The Bills When You Are Injured At Work? We’ll send it to you without obligation.