Workers Compensation For Benefits When You Injure Your Arm

Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2021 at 4:14 pm    

There are very few jobs a worker can do if his/her arm is injured. Your arm is also known as your “upper extremity” in workers’ compensation terms. Workers need their arms to serve food, treat patients, drive, operate machinery, do construction work, or type at a computer. Arm injuries-which often  include shoulder injuries – are due to either an acute or chronic injury. Acute injuries are normally injuries due to a specific event such as a workplace accident. Chronic injuries are typically wear and tear injuries where the deterioration just becomes too difficult to work with. Unfortunately, under most circumstances, “wear and tear” injuries are not compensable unless they are made symptomatic by a specific, identifiable, traumatic event such as a slip, trip or fall. In Virginia, a sudden, severe pain, accompanied by a “pop” or some other clear indication of a single event—even without a slip, trip or fall— may be sufficient, so long as it was caused by a risk associated with your employment. 

Experienced North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyers work with your doctors to fully understand why you can’t use your arm, what your injury is, what treatments you need, and what your medical diagnosis is. We fight to help you obtain all the work benefits you deserve including:

  • Payment for all your medical bills including the cost of any surgeries, diagnostic tests,  braces and medications
  • Your share of wage loss benefits (generally about 2/3rds of your salary)
  • Payment of any permanent impairment in one or both of your arms

We also fight to ensure that you are not forced back to work before you can work or that the workplace restrictions (such as limiting the weight of objects you can carry) are clear.

What are the common types of arm injuries

Workplace accidents include:

  • Repetitive stress injuries such as:
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome. Pressure on the nerves in the wrist area.
    • Bursitis. According to the University of Michigan Health department, this arm injury is “pain and swelling of the sac of fluid that cushions and lubricates the joint area between one bone and another bone, a tendon, or the skin.”
    • Tendinitis. “Pain and swelling of the tough, ropey fibers that connect muscles to bones.”
    • Stress fractures. These are hairline cracks in the bones of the arm.
    • Sprains and strains.
    • Rotator Cuff Tears- a tear in the tissues connecting the muscle to bone (tendons) around the shoulder joint. This can come from either repeated stresses or a single incident. 
  • Fractures. Broken arms are often due to falls or some type of forceful impact such as a crushing injury or having your arm pinned.
  • Arm and should injuries due to excessive pushing, pulling, or lifting.
  • An arm amputation. This injury can be caused by a vehicle accident, when an arm is pinned, a machinery failure, or getting your arm caught in a machine such as an electric saw or any cutting device.
  • Bruises or contusions. This type of injury occurs due to falls, bumps, or other causes. These injuries occur when there is a tear or rupture of the blood vessels under the skin. The blood seeps into the tissue cause discoloration – such as yellow, red, or purple bruises.
  • Dislocations. This injury occurs when the bones in the arm push or pull their way out of their normal position in relation to other arm bones. 
  • Ruptures. The arm muscles (such as the biceps are triceps) may rupture.
  • Strains. These are pulled muscles.
  • Burn injuries. When toxic chemicals spill or when workers work with hazardous products, their arms are often affected because workers use their arms to work and because their arms often aren’t covered by clothing. 
  • Shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff tears- a tear in the tissues connecting the muscle to bone (tendons) around the shoulder joint. This can come from either repeated stresses or a single incident.
  • Elbow injuries- weakened or fatigues muscles or injuries to the ulnar nerve, which passes around the end of the upper arm bone. 

There are three bones in the arm – the humerus, radius, and ulna. The arms also contain muscles, joints, tendons, and tissue

Acute arm injuries may be due to a direct forceful blow, a fall, or a penetrating injury. Acute arm injuries may also be due to an abnormal movement or bending of the arm

What are the treatments for arm injuries?

Workers with arm injuries may start their medical review by seeing an emergency room doctor or their family doctor. In many work injury cases, the workers will see an orthopedic doctor – especially ones who focuses on arm injuries.

Generally, workers in North Carolina and Virginia must see physicians that are on a list approved by their employer, although if you must undergo emergency surgery immediately after your arm injury, then the surgeon will usually stay on as your authorized treating physician. 

We are all familiar with folks who break their arm and end up in a cast, but many upper extremity injuries can be far more severe. If the fractures in any of the bones of the arm are severe, then an Open Reduction Internal Fixation surgery may be required to fixate the bones into position so they can heal. If there are nerve injuries, frequently in the wrist or elbow, then the nerves may need to be decompressed via surgery. If the shoulder is injured, then arthroscopic surgery may need to be performed such as a rotator cuff repair. If the damage is too extensive or severe, you may even require a reverse shoulder replacement. 

Some of the diagnostic tests your health providers will use include:

  • X-Rays. This imaging test is used to determine if you have a bone fracture or a fractured joint. 
  • MRIs. A magnetic resonance imaging test may be used. This test, among other uses, can help assess if you have a tear in your arm or shoulder. 
  • EMG/NCS (Electromyogram/Nerve Conduction Studies). Your physician may use this test to see if you have a compressed nerve.

When can workers with arm injuries return to work?

The answer to this question depends on different factors such as the type of injury, the severity of the injury, the functional use of your am, the type of work you do, and the amount of pain you have.

Generally, you are not required to return to work at full capacity until you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is when it is clear that additional medical treatment won’t improve the health of your arm. Once your arm is at the point of maximum medical improvement, your doctor will evaluate whether you have a permanent injury, whether you can return to work with restrictions, or whether you can return to work without any restrictions.

The insurance company for the employer may request an independent medical examination be conducted at some point in your recovery if the treating doctors think you haven’t reached the MMI stage or the treating doctors think you have a permanent arm injury.

In addition, you will typically undergo a Functional Capacity Exam (FCE) which will evaluate your work capabilities. In addition to the “work capability” FCE, you may also undergo a separate FCE for the purposes of determining whether you have any permanent partial impairment in the arm. This may result in an impairment rating, which could entitle you to additional funds. 

North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller represents workers who suffer any type of workplace accident or occupational illness. For more than 30 years, he’s helped thousands of employees obtain just work injury recoveries. He has the experience and resources to help you get justice and to help ensure you get the medical care you deserve for an arm injury or any other injury. To discuss your workers’ compensation claim, call lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or use my online contact form to schedule an appointment. 

North Carolina and Virginia workers now also fill out our New Electronic Case Review. The link is a new way of communicating with clients that we’re offering – to allow workers to contact us remotely during the pandemic.