A lot of people associate workers’ compensation with injuries such as slips and falls. If you fall off a ladder while installing a ceiling fan for your employer, then it is easy to determine exactly when and how the injury occurred. Other types of injuries, such as Gillette injuries, add a great deal of complexity to a workers’ compensation claim.
What is a Gillette injury?
A Gillette injury is known by many other names: cumulative injury, repetitive injury, or gradual injury. Basically, this type of injury is not one that happens in one, definitive accident. Rather, the injury occurs over a period of time–usually because of a certain repetitive motion that is repeated often during the course of the person’s work duties. Eventually the condition deteriorates to the point of inability to perform job duties. At this point, workers’ compensation comes into play.
It received its name from the Minnesota Supreme Court case that first recognized this type of injury: Gillette v. Harold, Inc. That case first determined that injuries do not have to result from one specific event in order to be covered by workers’ compensation.
What types of work might this apply to?
Any worker that is required to perform repetitive motions during their work is subject to this type of gradual injury. Secretaries and clerical workers have been known to be highly susceptible to carpal tunnel, for instance. Other positions such as assembly line workers and construction workers can also be prone to a cumulative injury.
How does workers’ compensation determine which employer to charge?
One of the wrinkles with a Gillette injury is that the injury could have occurred and worsened over a long period of time, and in that time frame, a worker could have had many employers. So which one is responsible for the workers’ compensation claim?
In the beginning, courts held that the “date of injury” was the date of ultimate breakdown. This was defined as that point in time when an employee lost time from work due to the injury. Now, however, the courts have broadened that definition to include other events, such as the date of an MRI scan and a medical diagnosis of cumulative trauma.
Under case law the employer of the worker at the time of the “ultimate breakdown” is the own responsible for the claim. Courts have ruled that an employer of as short a time span as one month could be held liable for this type of injury. However, there have also been times where earlier employers are apportioned a partial responsibility, although these are extremely rare.
How do you prove you have a Gillette injury?
As with most workers’ compensation claims, the employer and insurance company are not simply going to take the employee’s word they have an injury. Proper medical attention, to include exams and any tests needed, will be required of the employee to prove that their injury has at least some type of connection to their employment, and not outside activities. In order to make that determination, a medical provider will have to understand the job duties of the worker in question.
If you feel you have a repetitive injury that is being aggravated or worsened by your current employment, your very first step is to notify your employer and complete an injury report. From there, your employer and workers’ compensation carrier will advise you on what medical examinations and tests you need to determine your claim’s eligibility.
Unfortunately, Gillette injury claims are not as simple as those that have a definitive incident resulting in an immediate injury. It may also be very hard for a medical provider to determine that your injuries are a result of work and not outside activities, especially if you lead an active life away from the office.
Because of the complexity of these types of claims, we recommend that you contact us at the first hint of a denial of benefits. We can help you work through your claim and become an advocate on your behalf to ensure that you receive the benefits due to you.