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Back Injuries in NJ Workers Comp: How Do They Happen?

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Back injuries are the most frequent and often most serious form of on-the-job injuries in New Jersey. The nature of the job is a key factor, with certain industries like construction carrying higher risks of back injury. Any job, though, can pose a hazard for a back injury, from poorly designed workstations to wet floors in the office.  

Patient holds his lower back in pain while a physician discusses the results of MRI test revealing herniated disc

Every day, hardworking New Jerseyans clock in to earn their wages. They lift, they bend, they twist, and in the process, their backs bear the brunt of the physical labor. It’s not surprising then that back injuries are one of the most common complaints we see in our office. And the consequences? They can be debilitating, impacting not just work but every facet of life.

Take, for example, Mike, a seasoned warehouse worker. Mike’s job involved heavy lifting, and one fateful afternoon, he felt a sharp, shooting pain in his lower back while hoisting a bulky package. He tried to brush it off, thinking it was just a muscle cramp, but the pain persisted. A back injury kept him out of work for weeks, struggling with pain and the paperwork that followed.

What’s in the Numbers? Not a Good Story

Let’s dive into some numbers to understand the gravity of Mike’s situation. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that year after year, back injuries are the most frequent injuries on the job. The NSC Injury Facts report details all body parts and the prevalence of back injuries with the occupation and nature of the injury in a graphical presentation.

These injuries aren’t just painful; they come with a hefty price tag. The costs are twofold – for the injured worker, it’s lost wages and mounting medical bills; for the employer, it’s increased insurance premiums and lost productivity. In the U.S., these expenses add up to billions annually.

Back injuries are, unfortunately, all too common. But being common doesn’t make them any less severe. For Mike and thousands like him in New Jersey, a back injury isn’t just about numbers; it’s about navigating pain, healing, and the intricacies of workers’ compensation law to protect their rights.

Injured workers can empower themselves in these circumstances. Reporting the injury to the employer promptly and seeking immediate medical attention is a good start. Documenting the incident, keeping track of medical records, and understanding the workers’ compensation process can greatly improve their chances of securing rightful compensation. When in doubt, seeking the advice of a knowledgeable New Jersey work injury lawyer can help guide them through this complex process.

So, how do these injuries happen? And why are they so prevalent in the workplace? Let’s explore this further.

Unmasking the Culprits: Common Causes
of Workplace Back Injuries

There are myriad ways a workplace back injury can occur. Some jobs inherently carry more risk due to their physical demands. Here are some of the most common causes:

Heavy Lifting

This is one of the most prevalent causes of back injuries, particularly in manual labor jobs like construction, warehousing, and moving services. Lifting heavy items without proper technique can strain the back muscles and ligaments, leading to painful sprains and strains. In Mike’s case, the heavy package he lifted at an awkward angle was the catalyst for his injury.

Lifting heavy items is a common requirement in many jobs, from warehouse work to nursing. Again, lifting heavy objects, especially without proper technique, can place a great deal of strain on the back. This is particularly true if the weight is being lifted repeatedly or if it’s being lifted at an awkward angle, as was the case with Mike.

Poor Posture and Ergonomics

Back injuries aren’t confined to heavy lifting jobs. Office jobs can lead to back pain, too. Poorly designed workstations can force workers into awkward positions for hours, causing undue stress on the back. Prolonged sitting or standing, especially with poor posture, can also contribute to chronic back issues.

Slip and Fall Incidents

Slips, trips, and falls can result in serious acute back injuries, including fractures, strains, or even spinal cord injuries. These types of accidents can occur in any setting, not just traditionally ‘dangerous’ workplaces like construction sites. A small spill on a restaurant floor or a tripping hazard in an office hallway can result in a serious fall. When workers fall, they may instinctively twist or turn to catch themselves, which can lead to an acute injury in the back.

Repetitive Strain and Overuse

Repetitive tasks, like continuously lifting items or repeating the same movement, can lead to overuse injuries. These injuries occur over time and can result in conditions like herniated discs and degenerative disc disease.

High-Risk Occupations

Certain jobs carry a higher risk of back injury due to their nature. For instance, jobs that require manual labor, such as construction, agriculture, and healthcare, often have higher rates of back injuries.

Back injuries are so prevalent in workplaces because many of these risk factors are common across various industries. The risk is omnipresent, from the office worker hunched over their computer to the warehouse worker lifting heavy boxes. Moreover, individuals often overlook the importance of correct posture, lifting techniques, and ergonomically designed workspaces. This lack of awareness and physically demanding or repetitive tasks create an environment ripe for back injuries.

Recognizing these risks and understanding how to mitigate them is the first step toward prevention. However, if a back injury does occur, knowing how to navigate the workers’ compensation system in New Jersey can ensure that workers like Mike receive the support they need.

A supervisor grimaces in pain and grasps lower back with hand after lifting large piece of office equipment

Dueling Dangers at Work: Unpacking Traumatic
and Occupational Injuries

In the realm of workers’ compensation law in New Jersey, back injuries fall into two categories: traumatic injuries and occupational injuries. Understanding the difference between the two is crucial, as it can impact how a back claim is processed and the benefits an injured worker may receive.

Traumatic Injuries

These injuries are usually the result of a specific, identifiable incident or accident at work. They are sudden and typically easy to link directly to a work-related cause.

Consider Mike’s situation that we’ve discussed. His back injury happened in a flash – while lifting a heavy package during his workday. This is a classic example of a traumatic injury. The incident was specifically identifiable, and the injury occurred immediately as a result.

Claims for traumatic injuries are typically more straightforward because the cause-and-effect relationship is clear. However, that doesn’t make the workers’ compensation process less complex. A knowledgeable New Jersey work injury lawyer can be an invaluable ally in navigating this system.

Occupational Injuries

On the other hand, occupational injuries develop over time due to repeated exposure to certain activities or conditions at work. These injuries result from cumulative trauma and can be harder to pinpoint to a specific event or date.

Take, for instance, a supermarket cashier who develops chronic back pain over years of repetitive heavy lifting and is eventually diagnosed with a herniated disc. This didn’t result from a single, identifiable incident but from ongoing strain on her back. It’s an occupational injury resulting from the cumulative effect of performing her job duties over an extended period.

Claims for occupational injuries can be more challenging to prove since they require showing a clear connection between the job duties and the injury. But rest assured, New Jersey workers’ compensation law recognizes these claims. An experienced attorney can help gather the necessary medical evidence and effectively present your case.

Whether a back injury is traumatic, like Mike’s, or occupational, it’s essential to seek professional advice to navigate New Jersey’s complex workers’ compensation system effectively.

Infographic Summary of Article

Key facts of back injuries at work that a NJ workers need to know

"There are a lot of myths about my injuries. They say I have broken every bone in my body. Not true. But I have broken 35 bones. I had surgery 14 times to pin and plate. I shattered my pelvis. I forget all of the things that have broke."

Knowledge and Experience: A Winning Combination for Your Choice of New Jersey Work Injury Attorney

Knowing your rights as an employee about workplace injuries is very important. There are instances where insurance companies compensate you unfairly, intentionally delay the process, or even deny your compensation. Contact a workers’ compensation attorney now if you feel this is the case.

It would be best to have someone experienced and with the skills to protect your rights in the least stressful way possible. Excellent negotiation skills, for example, from your lawyer, are essential to avoid lengthy court battles in some cases.

John F. Renner has the experience and skills to fight for you on your behalf. With over 25 years of experience in workers’ compensation laws, Mr. Renner has developed the right skills to attain the best possible outcome for each client with the least hassle. Contact his office now at (856) 596-8000. We have your back.

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About the Author

John F. Renner is the founding attorney and principal of John F. Renner P.C. He has more than 25 years of experience representing injured workers in New Jersey. Mr. Renner guides his clients through the complex maze of New Jersey Workers Compensation Law for the best possible outcome.

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