Finger and hand injuries are all too common in the workplace. According to Occupational Health and Safety and data from the US Bureau of Labor – “Of the 286,810 non-fatal occupational injuries to upper extremities in 2018 involving days away from work in private industry, 123,990 involved hands, which is more than 43 percent.” Human hands have 27 bones and 30 muscles – so there’s a lot that can go wrong.
According to Industrial Safety and Hygiene News, almost 30% of workplace injuries are due to cuts and lacerations – and about 12% of those injuries involve the hands. While hand injuries may not be as life-threatening as other injuries like head trauma, hand injuries require a lot of medical care and often require that workers take substantial time off from work to treat their injuries. In the most severe cases, even young injured workers will be prevented from returning to their occupation due to severe hand injuries.
As of the 2012-2013 fiscal year, claims for hand, finger, and wrist injuries (according to the National Safety Council) averaged $22,384 per claim. This figure includes payments for missed days, the medical bills, and the time a business is shut down for OSHA investigations or local safety bureau investigations.
ISHN states that about 70% of injuries are due to workers not wearing gloves that are right for the type of work being done. For example, electricians should consider gloves that reduce resistance, are resistant to punctures, “protect from arc flash,” and still allow the electrician to manipulate small parts. Construction workers might want to focus on “back-of-hand protection and vibration-dampening palm padding.” Employers should provide the correct gloves for their workers.
Common types of finger injuries
Finger and hand injuries that can result in lost time from work include:
- Lacerations. While many cuts are minor and heal in a short time, some cuts may become infected. Some cuts may damage the nerves, tendons, or other parts of the anatomy. In severe cases, surgeries may be required.
- Fractured bones. If one or more of the 27 bones in the hand break, they normally require immobilization. If the fractures are compounded or there are other complications, surgery may be needed.
- Injured nerves. Nerves can be damaged due to cuts, breaks, or crushing accidents. Injured nerves, even with surgery, may never fully heal. Some workers live with chronic hand or finger pain.
- Amputation. In the worst cases, a finger, part of the finger, or more than one finger/thumb may need to be amputated which can directly affect the worker’s ability to return to work – since most jobs require some type of input from the hand or fingers.
According to Chesapeake Hand and Shoulder, tendon injuries are a common hand injury. Tendons are tissue that attach the muscles to the bones. Examples of tendon injuries to the hand include:
- Tendonitis. This is an inflammation or irritation of the tendon. It’s often due to repetitive movements.
- Extensor tendon injuries. These happen when the tendons at the rear of your fingers and thumb are “torn, cut, or detached.” “These tendons allow your fingers and thumbs to straighten and perform movements but can become injured due to trauma or arthritis.
- Flexor tendon injuries. These injuries happen “when the flexor tendons attached at the palm side of your fingers and thumb get cut or ruptured. These tendons allow your finger and thumb joints to bend, grasp, and perform fine coordinated movements.”
- De Quervain’s syndrome. This is a common type of overuse injury that can restrict your function and mobility. Unfortunately, with only a couple of exceptions, injuries that result from overuse are generally not compensable as workers compensation claims in Virginia or North Carolina.
- Trigger Finger/Trigger Thumb. This injury happens when the “tendons in the thumb or fingers do not glide smoothly. It causes the tendons to catch or get trapped when the fingers or thumb bend, making it difficult to straighten them back out.”
Burn injuries to fingers and hands are also quite common. Other types of finger and hand injuries include bruises, strains, dislocations, sprains, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
What are the causes of fingertip, finger, and hand injuries?
Injuries to the fingers and hands can happen in almost every type of work that requires repetitive movements. Finger and hand injuries are quite common when workers work with any type of machinery (especially moving machinery) or work with sharp objects such as knives, needles, and syringes. Picking up any type of hot object, working with stoves or other heat devices, and being near hot liquids are also dangerous for your fingers and hands.
Some of the professions where finger and hand injuries are common include:
- Industrial workers
- Construction workers
- Electrical workers
- Restaurant workers
- Workers in the medical profession
- Agricultural workers
- Autoworkers including auto mechanics
Treatments for fingertip, finger, and hand injuries
The treatments depend on the type of injury and the severity of the injury. Injured workers may require surgery which is often performed either by a hand specialist or an orthopedic surgeon. After surgery or instead of surgery, workers often need to treat with physical therapists and pain management doctors. Cortisone steroid shots may be provided. Medications such as anti-inflammatory medicines may help. Workers may need to use a brace or some method to stabilize the fingers and protect the hand during the healing process. Workers may need to learn to use voice-activation on their computer if they can’t type.
Compensation for fingertip, finger, and hand injuries.
In addition to normal compensation under workers compensation for time that the injured worker is out of work at the rate of 2/3rds of the average weekly wage, plus medical expenses, if the injured worker suffers permanent impairment to these body parts, then even if he or she should return to work, some additional compensation may be available. This is known as permanent partial impairment and is typically compensated by way of the authorized doctor’s opinion as to the percentage of impairment in that particular body part. This opinion cannot occur until the injured worker is deemed to have reached maximum medical improvement by his or her physician. It should be noted that if, because of the severity of the hand injury, the injured worker is unable to return to his or her occupation, then these partial impairments may become less relevant, because then compensation is based on the maximum number of potential weeks of compensation, namely, 500 weeks.
The maximum amounts for these recoveries for finger and hand injuries for permanent partial impairment in Virginia are set forth at VA Code 65.2-503 and are as follows:
|1. Thumb||60 weeks.|
|2. First finger (index finger)||35 weeks.|
|3. Second finger||30 weeks.|
|4. Third finger||20 weeks.|
|5. Fourth finger (little finger)||15 weeks.|
|6. First phalanx of the thumb or any finger
|one-half compensation for loss of entire thumb or finger.
|The loss of more than one phalanx of a thumb or finger is deemed the loss of the entire thumb or finger. Amounts received for loss of more than one finger shall not exceed compensation provided for the loss of a hand.|
So if we take an example, if the authorized doctor was of the opinion that the hand had suffered a permanent impairment of 20%, and the injured worker’s compensation rate (2/3rds of the average weekly wage) was $600.00, that would be 20% of 150 weeks, or 30 weeks, multiplied by the compensation rate of $600.00, or $18,000.00. Sometimes the insurance carrier will pay that amount in lump sum, other times they will do it over the 30 weeks.
Our skilled North Carolina and Virginia worker’s compensation lawyers have been strong advocates for injured employees for more than 30 years. We work with your medical team to fully understand your injuries, what treatments you need, how long you need for the treatments, and what functional use of your fingers and hands you’ll have (or won’t have) when the treatments are complete. We demand compensation for your rightful share of lost wages and payment for all your medical expenses. If you have a permanent disability, we demand additional compensation. To make an appointment, call lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or fill out my online contact form or our free electronic case evaluation.