What Is a Cumulative Trauma Injury?

Cumulative Trauma Injury

You may believe that a workers’ compensation injury is always the result of an on-the-job accident or incident. While these may garner the most attention, such traumatic events are not the only things that may lead an employee to make a workers’ compensation claim. Some work injuries develop over time and may not manifest for weeks, months or years. These cases may be classified as a cumulative trauma injury/injuries. The damage occurs due to the breakdown of an overused ligament, muscle or tendon. The repetitive use of a specific body part can result in excessive strain and degeneration to that area of the body. This is what is referred to as a cumulative injury.

How Does a Cumulative Trauma Injury Qualify as Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is insurance coverage that employers may have to carry under local state laws. If you discover that the pain you are dealing with over a few months is attributed to your regular work duties, then it could qualify you for workers’ compensation benefits. However, the nature of cumulative trauma injuries makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the damage, and you may wind up treating for months before your doctor connects the issue back to your job.

What Are Common Examples of Cumulative Trauma Injuries?

Some industries, such as construction or truck driving, are more prone to traumatic injuries than others. These professions are often considered riskier and have a higher rate of accidents in general. However, there are more instances of cumulative trauma injuries in certain other occupations as well. Some repetitive injuries also occur more frequently than others.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The most prevalent repetitive or cumulative trauma injury is carpal tunnel syndrome. This disorder develops as a result of the overuse of the hands and wrists. When the ligaments in the wrist become inflamed, they swell and put pressure on the median nerve that runs into the hand and is responsible for the function in your hand and fingers. The first sign of a problem is tingling and numbness in the fingers, which may come on at night. If the condition is not corrected through repositioning of the wrists or a break from the repetitive work, then the disorder may also cause:

  • Discomfort and pain in the hands and wrists
  • Loss of use of the thumb while working
  • A decrease in grip strength
  • Difficulty using the fingers
  • Pain radiating up into the shoulder

Carpal tunnel syndrome may require surgery to release the pressure on the median nerve and clean out the scar tissue caused by the degenerative condition. Positions most prone to develop carpal tunnel include assembly line worker, secretary and cashier.


When a person overuses a particular tendon, it becomes swollen and causes pain. Tendinitis is another common workers’ compensation cumulative trauma injury. It typically occurs in the wrist, knee, elbow and foot. If the repetitive task not stopped and the tendon is not rested, it may rupture, requiring surgery and resulting in long-term disability. The most common professions that experience tendinitis are carpenters and landscapers.

Cardiovascular Disease

Some professions may place pressure on a different area of the body over time: the heart. Cardiovascular disease may be linked to a person’s job if:

  • The position requires a great deal of sitting
  • The job is especially stressful
  • The job does not promote a healthier lifestyle

When workers begin treatment for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or any other cardiac-related issue, a doctor could possibly connect it to their profession. The jobs with the highest risk for developing cardiac problems include police officers and truck drivers.

What Is the Process for Collecting Workers’ Compensation?

The workers’ compensation process can be tricky to navigate alone. Fortunately, at any time a person may seek the assistance and the advice of a lawyer who deals with this type of process. A workers comp attorney will know and follow the typical steps in the workers’ compensation process.

1. See a Doctor

An injury cannot be reported if it is not first diagnosed. When doctors conclude that a patient has a cumulative trauma injury related to work, they can write a medical report documenting it.

2. File a First Report of Injury

Once there is a medical report, then an employee must report the claim to the employer. You need to file a cumulative trauma injury claim within a specific timeframe of your diagnosis. Otherwise, workers’ compensation may not have to pay benefits. Thus, it is always better to file sooner rather than later.

3. Go Through the Investigation

The insurance company will investigate the injury claim. During this time, a representative may ask you, your co-workers and supervisors questions about the work conditions and your job role.

4. Receive Continued Medical Care

Cumulative trauma injuries typically require ongoing medical care and treatment before they resolve. The employee should not stop getting treatment, and in some instances the workers’ compensation insurance company may start paying medical benefits during the investigation.

5. Collect Appropriate Benefits

There may come a time when the employee must stop working for the injury to heal. In some instances, surgery may be required to help correct the damage and relieve the pain associated with cumulative trauma injuries. When the workers’ compensation insurance company accepts the claim, it may start paying out temporary disability benefits. These replace a portion of an employee’s paycheck when the injury makes it impossible for them to work.

In extreme cases, a worker may not be able to return to the same profession or to any work at all. The workers’ compensation insurance company may need to pay for either┬ájob retraining or permanent disability payments.

Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer

Getting the medical care necessitated by a cumulative trauma injury is essential to providing relief. Healing from such an injury may take time, physical therapy and job modifications. When you are unsure how you will make it through, a local lawyer can help. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an attorney in your area!

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