What Employees Need to Know About Back Injuries and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation

Having a back injury not only causes physical pain, but it can also affect your mental health and work performance. Sometimes, people receive back injuries at work. These injuries can be minor, such as strains and sprains, or they can be as severe as spinal cord injuries or result in a loss of mobility.

You may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits if your injury is job-related. These benefits cover bills for medical and therapy visits, transportation costs to treatments and out-of-pocket expenses. They also provide for about 2/3 of your lost wages. If your back has suffered from a workplace-related injury, here’s what you need to know about  back injuries and how to receive Minnesota workers’ compensation.

Common Causes of Workplace Back Injuries

Workplace back injuries can be caused from actions, such as:

  • Lifting boxes and other types of heavy items, which can strain ligaments, muscles and disks that protect the vertebrae
  • Repetitive movements, including loading, pushing or pulling
  • Sitting incorrectly

Economic Compensable Damages

Economic compensable damages, also known as special damages, cover both past and future medical bills. They provide coverage for actual financial expenses from money that’s already been spent, in addition to future wages that an employee is unable to earn because of a back injury.

To determine damages for lost wages, your income history is examined, including vacations and sick time.  Financial coverage for economic compensable damages includes bills for:

  • Medical visits
  • Surgery
  • Medications
  • X-rays
  • Physical therapy sessions
  • Lifelong care when needed

Non-economic Compensable Damages

Non-economic compensable damages, also known as “quality-of-life” damages, are damages that don’t involve a monetary amount. These general damages provide compensation coverage to family members of severely injured workers, as well as for families with loved ones who have died from injuries.

  • Pain and suffering—To determine damages for pain and suffering, a pain multiplier is used. Your medical costs and lost wages are multiplied by a number, ranging between 1.5 and 5. For more severe injuries, the multiplier can be considerably higher, such as 10.
  • Loss of consortium—In some cases, back injuries can be so serious that a victim’s family can no longer enjoy a normal, loving relationship, such as a loss of marital intimacy or parental companionship. When this occurs, a loss of consortium damages may be granted.
  • Emotional distress damages—These damages may be included as pain and suffering damages, or they can be individually assessed.
  • Mental suffering, humiliation, a damaged reputation and a deterioration of previous injuries are other types of non-economic compensable damages.

Steps to Take If You Suffer from a Workplace Back Injury

  • Promptly report your back injury to your supervisor or employer—This initial report entails completing a First Report of Injury (FROI) form, in which you record specific information, including the date, time of day and cause of an injury.
  • Once you’ve reported your injury, your employer will provide you with a list of physicians. From this list, select a primary care physician who will be appointed to evaluate your condition, besides give you referrals to specialists, such as chiropractors, orthopedists and other healthcare providers.
  • You’ll be given a return to work form after your doctor decides if you have reached a level of Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). This is a document stating whether or not a patient has been cleared for going back to work.
  • Under Minnesota law, punitive damages, although rare, are available. In order to receive compensation, an injured person must show believable, clear proof that a person or company is at fault.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Back pain is either acute or chronic. Acute pain, although it can be excruciating, is temporary and typically improves within three to six weeks.
  • Unlike acute pain, chronic pain can continue for longer than six weeks and can last for years or even a lifetime in severe cases.
  • Pre-existing back pain doesn’t qualify for workers’ compensation as it’s not related to work. On the other hand, if you have to perform daily tasks at work that aggravate back pain, or if you have an accident at your workplace, you may have a case that your back pain is related to your job.
  • Get a second medical opinion if your doctor gives you a back pain diagnosis of degenerative disease, which simply means that “you’re getting old.”

Unfortunately, back pain claims are more likely to be disputed by insurance companies and employers because they can be harder to prove. Don’t hesitate to call the Law Office of Joshua Borken and learn more about our wide range of workers’ compensation services. Please contact us.