What’s A Cumulative Trauma?

What is a cumulative trauma (CT)?

When you think of a work related injury, what comes to mind? A slip-and-fall? Something falling and hurting you?  Lifting a box and your back goes out?   It may surprise you to learn that not all injuries are due to one specific event. Many work related injuries happen over time due to your work activities or exposure to an unhealthy work environment.   

An injury that happens over time is called a Cumulative Trauma (CT) injury. A CT injury usually creeps up on you until your symptoms start interfering with your ability to work.  It might start as a dull ache at the end of the evening at home, then gradually becoming worse as the day wears on, until one day you are in full-blown pain.  Or, it might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back where everything seems fine until it isn’t.  Or, perhaps a medical condition that has slowly taken root because of the workplace environment, including chronic stress on the job.  These CT injuries occur gradually, most often due to repetitive activities or repeated exposure.  The length of exposure can be several days to several years, but they still happen over time. 

CTs in the Worker’s Compensation System

Cumulative Trauma injuries are treated exactly the same as a specific injury in the Worker’s Compensation (WC) system. The WC system does not differentiate the right to benefits or the type of benefits between specific injuries and CT injuries.  If you have suffered a CT injury, you are entitled to benefits under the WC system.  These benefits include, but are not limited to:  temporary disability (2/3 of your wage loss while recovering from your injury); medical treatment to help you get better or feel better from your CT injury; and permanent disability (payments for residual impairment up to $290 per week for several weeks to several years depending the severity of the impairment.) 

Complications with Cumulative Traumas in Worker’s Compensation

Proving that work contributed to a CT injury is more complex than a specific incident injury. There is no clear moment at work when the injury occurred. Thus, without the help of an attorney you may not receive the benefits, or full extent of benefits, that you are entitled to.  However, with several specialists in this field, the team at Ghitterman, Ghitterman & Feld is uniquely experienced with handling CT injuries in the California Worker’s Compensation system, and frequently help you convey and demonstrate how your employment contributed to your injury to get you the care you need as well as the best settlement possible for your Worker’s Compensation case.