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Specific Vs. Cumulative Injuries at Work

Workplace injuries can have substantial effects on both employees and employers, leading to lost productivity, financial hardship, and personal suffering. These occupational injuries generally fall into two key categories: specific and cumulative.

Understanding whether your injury is specific or cumulative matters greatly for workers’ compensation claims because it influences how you report the issue, what medical evidence is needed to establish a claim, and often the determination of benefits.

Specific Injuries

Specific injuries are the result of a single, specific incident or accident at work. These can include situations like falling from heights, sustaining cuts from machinery, or suffering an injury due to equipment malfunction.

The direct link between these events and the damages sustained is usually pretty clear, and this straightforward cause-and-effect relationship typically makes the workers’ comp claims process simpler for specific injuries. There’s less room for dispute over whether the injury is work-related because it’s much easier to connect the accident to the injury.

Cumulative Injuries 

Cumulative injuries, often referred to as repetitive stress or strain injuries, develop gradually. These sorts of conditions often arise slowly over time from repeated motions or ongoing strain in a work environment.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is an example typically arising from prolonged repetitive hand movements such as typing. Other cumulative injuries might include back issues related to consistent heavy lifting over time.

In a workers’ comp claim, these types of gradual harm can be more challenging to prove because it’s not as easy to pinpoint a direct cause since there’s typically no single, cataclysmic event to base the claim upon. Establishing that cumulative injuries are specifically related to workplace duties often involves demonstrating a clear connection through medical opinions and job duty analysis.

Those filing claims must provide evidence showing how their daily work responsibilities directly caused or exacerbated these conditions over time. Workers will need concise health records and sometimes expert testimony establishing this link before workers’ compensation benefits can be granted for such injuries.

Statute of Limitations For Work Injuries in California

For work injuries in California, the basic statute of limitations to file a workers’ compensation claim is one year from the actual date of injury. However, for cumulative trauma or repetitive strain cases, where it might not be evident that an injury has occurred or evolved during employment until later on, exceptions can apply. 

In such situations where an immediate point of harm isn’t clear due to its progressive nature, the statute of limitations varies. The timeline for filing these types of claims may be adjusted to reflect the worker’s realization and connection of their injury to their job – making it one year from the date of discovery.

The date of injury in cases of occupational diseases or cumulative injuries is that date upon which the employee first suffered disability therefrom and either knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, that such disability was caused by his present or prior employment.

For instance, a worker starts to experience slight wrist pain in January but does not seek medical attention until March when the condition worsens. At that appointment, they are diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and informed it is likely due to repetitive typing tasks at work.

Under California law for cumulative injuries, the statute of limitation would likely start from the diagnosis date in March. 

Navigating the timelines and complexities of filing for workers’ compensation claims in California can be challenging. If you believe you’ve suffered a work-related injury and have questions, contact our work injury lawyer in Los Angeles to schedule a free consultation.

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