Fingertip, Finger, and Hand Injuries in Workers’ Compensation Cases

Posted on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021 at 10:05 am    

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 some cases, the injuries may be so severe that the injured worker may be unable to return to his or her pre-injury occupation. 

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. It should be noted that other than carpal tunnel syndrome, injuries that occur due to repetitive motion over time are NOT compensable in Virginia or North Carolina. 
  • 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. Again, overuse or repetitive use injuries are generally non-compensable. 
  • 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
  • Carpenters/Woodworkers

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.

Even if the injured worker returns to work after a hand or finger injury, he or she may still be entitled to some pay for permanent partial impairment  in the particular body part where the injury occurred. Any additional payout would be based upon a permanency rating that is given by your doctor. 

 

Each state has laws that set forth a number of weeks of compensation for the complete loss of each digit of each hand, and also a rating on the hand itself if the injury does not involve a finger or the thumb. In Virginia, the ratings are set forth at VA Code Section 65.2-503 (B) and are as follows for the fingers and thumb and are compensated at 2/3rds of the average weekly wage of the injured worker: 

 

Loss  

Compensation Period

 

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.

 

For the hand, the maximum amount you can claim is 150 weeks. 

 

As explained elsewhere, the loss is expressed as a percentage. So that if one loses the entire thumb, i.e. it is amputated in the accident, in addition to whatever time one misses from work, if the injured worker returns to work, he or she would be entitled to another 60 weeks of compensation for the loss of that body part. One may elect to receive the compensation in lump sum or on an ongoing basis during a 60-week period. 

 

If, on the other hand, one only lost half the thumb, then the doctor may express that as a loss or rating of 50%, in which case that same worker would only be entitled to 30 additional weeks of compensation for the permanent partial impairment due to loss of the thumb. 

 

Our skilled North Carolina and Virginia worker’s compensation lawyers have been strong advocates for injured employees for more than 31 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. Injured or ill workers in North Carolina and Virginia can also use our New Electronic Case Review