How Much Does Workmans’ Comp Pay for a Back Injury?

If you suffered a back injury at work, you may qualify for workers’ compensation. But how much does workers’ comp pay for a back injury? The answer depends on various factors, and you need to understand how the workers’ compensation system works and the calculations it uses to determine your benefits.

Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system that most employers must offer to their employees. The program provides certain medical benefits and lost wages to workers injured on the job regardless of who was at fault for causing the injury.

Although you likely have the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits, the process of obtaining benefits is complex and challenging to successfully navigate. This is particularly true for back injuries due to a high occurrence of fraudulent claims. Thus, you should retain a workers’ compensation attorney to help you understand how much workers’ comp will pay for your back injury and to get assistance and advocacy throughout the claims process to improve your odds of getting the benefits you deserve.

Back Injuries Can Severely Debilitate You

Back injuries often affect the body’s musculoskeletal system, including the soft tissue, cartilage, nerves, joint disks, spine, and even the spinal cord. Common back injuries that occur in the workplace include:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Herniated disc
  • Whiplash
  • Muscular strains

They can lead to all sorts of impairments in a victim’s daily life, including the ability to work or even move about properly.

Furthermore, back injuries can lead to additional injuries because of the contorted manner in which a back injury may force one to walk or stand. Jobs that include manual labor tasks are the most frequent sites for workplace back injuries. Beyond that, they can affect employees in jobs across all industries. In one year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics documented 97,990 lost time injuries caused by back injuries due to overexertion from lifting and lowering actions alone.

In the state of Florida, a study of workplace injuries revealed that 8,119 back injuries occurred over the course of a year, with the workers’ compensation insurers settling 2,057 of the claims. This process entails providing the injured employee with a one-time payment and concluding the case.

What Are Common Causes of Back Injuries in the Workplace?

Back injuries in the workplace are a common occupational health issue that can result from various causes. These injuries can be painful and debilitating, often leading to lost productivity and medical expenses. Common causes of back injuries in the workplace include:

  • Heavy Lifting: Improper lifting techniques, such as lifting objects that are too heavy or using poor body mechanics, can strain the muscles and structures of the back.
  • Repetitive Movements: Jobs that involve repetitive bending, twisting, or lifting, such as those in manufacturing or construction, can lead to cumulative trauma to the back over time.
  • Poor Ergonomics: Inadequate ergonomic design of workstations, chairs, and equipment can contribute to poor posture and back strain.
  • Slips, Trips, and Falls: Workplace accidents, including slipping or tripping, can result in sudden twisting or jolting of the back, causing injuries.
  • Overexertion: Excessive physical exertion, including pushing, pulling, or carrying heavy loads, can strain the back muscles and ligaments.
  • Awkward Postures: Maintaining awkward or uncomfortable postures for extended periods can cause stress and strain on the back, such as sitting improperly at a desk or working in confined spaces.
  • Vibration: Prolonged exposure to whole-body vibration, such as operating heavy machinery, can lead to back problems over time.
  • Reaching and Stretching: Reaching for items on high shelves or stretching for objects in an unsafe manner can strain the back muscles.
  • Falls from Heights: Jobs that involve working at heights, such as construction or roofing, can lead to falls that result in severe back injuries.
  • Workplace Violence: Violence in the workplace can result in physical injuries, including back injuries when employees are assaulted or attacked.
  • Inadequate Rest Breaks: Not having sufficient rest breaks or failing to alternate between tasks can lead to fatigue, which can increase the risk of back injuries.

Preventing workplace back injuries involves a combination of proper training, ergonomic design, and adherence to safety guidelines. Employers can implement safety programs and provide equipment that supports employee health and safety. Employees should also take responsibility for their own well-being by following safe work practices and using ergonomic equipment when available. If an injury does occur, prompt reporting and seeking medical attention are essential to ensure proper treatment and recovery.

How Much Compensation Will I Get for a Back Injury?

worker’s compensation settlement differs from a personal injury claim. Most notably, workers’ compensation does not provide benefits for non-economic damages like pain and suffering or lost quality of life. However, virtually all worker’s comp programs offer medical benefits and lost-wage benefits to injured workers.

Medical Benefits

As an injured worker, you may receive medical benefits from workers’ compensation at no cost. Benefits can even include mileage reimbursement to and from medical appointments from an approved medical provider as well as to and from the pharmacy and other covered treatment and therapy appointments.

In most cases, you must use an authorized medical provider for treatment. If you obtain medical care from an unauthorized physician, you may have to cover the costs of your medical bills and other associated expenses.

Lost Wages

Workers’ compensation will not compensate you for all your lost income. The amount you will get and how long you will receive benefits depend on the type of work-related injury or disability you suffered. Depending on the nature of your disability, you would receive up to 80% of your average weekly wages for as long as 104 weeks. The wages received are not taxable, so the amount of take-home pay should not decrease significantly.

Workers’ compensation insurance also offers vocational benefits in some states to help employees return to work.

Overall, the total compensation you could receive depends on the disability category you’re assigned to.

Categories of Workers’ Comp for a Back Injury 

Disability categories in worker’s compensation claims fall into the following types:

  • Temporary Total Disability prevents you from working for a limited amount of time
  • Temporary Partial Disability prevents you from doing some work duties for a limited amount of time
  • Permanent Total Disability prevents you from ever returning to work
  • Permanent Partial Disability is a permanent injury that constitutes a lifetime impairment from working

When your doctor has determined you’ve reached Maximum Medical Improvement, it means your injury won’t get better with further treatment, or they have rated you with some degree of disability. The insurance company may require you to undergo an Independent Medical Exam (IME) to verify your back injury impairment rating.

Insurance companies generally provide a one-time payment for any full or partial, long-term disabilities. The average back injury settlement is calculated from an employee’s weekly wage, the medical-determined severity of the disability, and the state’s compensation rate for various body parts and functions.

For example, suppose the examiner rates your impairment level at 50 percent and your weekly wage is $1,000, and in your state, the maximum payout is 500 weeks of earnings for 100 percent impairment. In that case, you’d be entitled to 250 weeks of $1,000 a week pay for having half the impairment fully recognized in that state.

So, what you’re looking at from worker’s compensation for a back injury is:

  • Coverage of your medical treatments and rehabilitative expenses
  • A cash settlement based on your foregone earnings due to the injury and calculated proportionally on how severe your back injury is.

How Can I Recover Workers’ Comp Benefits?

Recovering workers’ compensation benefits typically involves a specific process that varies depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of your workplace injury. However, here are some general steps you can take to initiate the process and increase your chances of successfully obtaining workers’ comp benefits:

  • Report the Injury: Report your workplace injury to your employer as soon as possible. The sooner you report it, the better, as there are often strict deadlines for notifying employers.
  • Follow your company’s procedures: Your employer may have specific procedures for reporting workplace injuries. Follow these procedures to ensure that your claim is properly documented.
  • Seek Medical Treatment: If your injury is severe, seek immediate medical attention. Your health and well-being should be the top priority. Inform the healthcare provider that your injury is work-related. This documentation is essential for your workers’ compensation claim.
  • File a Workers’ Compensation Claim: You will typically need to complete a workers’ compensation claim form provided by your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. As you complete the form, provide accurate and detailed information about the injury, including the date, time, location, and how it occurred.
  • Consult with an Attorney: Workers’ comp benefits are not guaranteed, and many claims are denied, particularly back injury claims. Consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can be beneficial, especially if your claim is contested or denied. An attorney can help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and advocate on your behalf.
  • Cooperate with the Insurance Company: The workers’ compensation insurance carrier will investigate your claim. Provide them with any requested information and documents. Attend any required medical evaluations or independent medical examinations (IMEs).
  • Receive a Benefits Decision: The insurance company will evaluate your claim and make a decision regarding your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. If your claim is approved, you will begin receiving benefits for medical expenses, lost wages, and any applicable vocational rehabilitation services.
  • Appeal a Denial (if necessary): If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal. This often involves a formal hearing or dispute resolution process. Consult with an attorney if the insurance company denies your claim to get help with the appeals process.
  • Maintain Documentation: Keep copies of all relevant documents, including medical records, correspondence with your employer and the insurance company, and any receipts for expenses related to your injury.
  • Comply with Medical Treatment: Follow your doctor’s orders and attend all necessary medical appointments to demonstrate that you are actively trying to recover.
  • Stay Informed: Understand your workers’ compensation rights and responsibilities. Familiarize yourself with the specific laws and regulations in your jurisdiction.

Keep in mind that the insurance company can be hesitant to cover back injuries due to their frequency and potential to be exaggerated or fabricated. When only muscles and ligaments are impacted, the extent of the injury is determined by the patient’s description. It is often difficult to diagnose back injuries, which can make it harder for people who have been hurt to prove their injury happened, thus reducing their chances of getting legal aid.

Insurance companies can sometimes dispute the seriousness of a back injury due to its subjective nature. This leads to questions about the benefits they should grant for the injury. This suspicion is unfair to victims, but it is simply the nature of the business of insurance companies.

The workers’ compensation process can be complex, and it’s important to ensure that you follow the procedures and requirements specific to your location. Consulting with an experienced workers’ comp attorney can be particularly helpful, as they can provide guidance, protect your rights, and advocate on your behalf to maximize your chances of a successful claim.

FAQ

Q: Why do states calculate the money given out by workers’ compensation based on lost wages?

A: Because it is the easiest way and least expensive for them to satisfy covering your injuries and foreseeable lost wages without having to go to the lengths of compensating you for pain and suffering and other intangible harms left by your injury.

Q: Why do insurance companies investigate the severity of your back injury so closely?

A: Because there is a high prevalence of fraud and feigned injuries when it comes to back injuries, insurance companies want to make sure they are paying to settle a valid claim.

Q: How do insurance companies determine how to classify your injury?

A: They look at reports from doctors and the circumstances your injury has put you in physically, then determine the severity of your injury from this information.

Q: Why can’t I just sue my employer instead of accepting worker’s compensation?

A: Workers’ compensation exists to protect employers from lawsuits while ensuring that injured workers get benefits. As a result, workers’ compensation laws prohibit lawsuits by injured employees against their employers in most circumstances.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

If you suffer work-related back injuries, you should not hesitate to reach out to an experienced team of personal injury lawyers for a free consultation. The skilled attorneys at Boohoff Law can advise you as to your legal rights regarding your workers’ compensation settlement amount and, if necessary, make an appeal on your behalf.

October 17, 2023
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