Wounds, Bruises, and Workers Compensation Claims

Posted on Monday, June 22nd, 2020 at 8:46 am    

The Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System (OIICS) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies surface wounds and bruises according to several categories. Surface wounds are a form of traumatic bruise or injury that occur on the surface of the body and “generally do not involve open wounds.” “Generally, a traumatic injury or disorder is the result of a single incident, event, or exposure over the course of a single shift.” 

The OIICS guide is a useful resource for classifying a wide range of workplaces injuries and diseases. Cases that are categorized as traumatic bruises or injuries don’t need to be “consistent with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordkeeping definition of an injury or whether the employer reported the case as an injury or illness on the OSHA log.”

Some surface wounds such as mosquito bites and foreign object in the eye are categorized elsewhere in the OICCS. The subcategories for surface wounds are the following:

 

  • Unspecified wounds and bruises. 

 

  • Abrasions and scratches. This group includes “traumatic injuries where the skin, mucous membrane, or superficial epithelium have been removed or marked, usually as a result of rubbing, scratching, or scraping.” 
  • Blisters. This category includes “the localized collection of fluid in the epidermis associated with friction or impact.” The category includes blood blisters and friction blisters but doesn’t’ include blisters associated with burns which are categorized elsewhere. 
  • Bruises and contusions. This category includes “injuries that produce capillary hemorrhaging with the skin remaining intact.” Examples include bruises and contusions (with or without swelling), hematomas, “black eye, ecchymosis, hyphema, and contusions resulting from nonvenomous animal bites, bruised bones.” It doesn’t include concussions, non-traumatic and traumatic cerebral hemorrhages, and other related injuries which are categorized elsewhere.
  • Multiple surface wounds band bruises. This category includes multiple injuries and disorders of equal severity.
  • Surface wounds and bruises, n.e.c. This category includes mosquito bites and other minor nonvenomous insect bites

Other wound injuries may be categorized as

  • Traumatic injuries to bones, nerves, spinal cord
  • Traumatic injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, etc.
  • Open wounds
  • Burns and corrosions
  • Intracranial injuries
  • Effects of environmental conditions 
  • Multiple traumatic injuries and disorders
  • Other traumatic injuries and disorders 

Many workers in a variety of industries suffer surface wounds and bruises. While surface wounds and bruises may not appear serious on first inspection, they can become serious if not treated properly. Surface wounds and bruises can cause a worker to miss significant time from work.

What causes surface wounds?

Surface wounds and bruises are common work injuries. If they result from a workplace accident, an employee has the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits, in North Carolina and in Virginia. These benefits include ER care, follow-up medical care, and generally 2/3 of any income loss because the employee can’t do his/her job. Some workers may need to treat with a plastic surgeon. If the abrasions or wounds become infected or cause other related harm, the worker may need to treat with pain management doctors, infectious disease specialists,  nerve and ligament specialists, and other specialists. Workers may also need to treat with psychologists or mental health professionals if the wounds lead to scars or to unsightly physical damage which, in turn, cause emotional harm.

Some of the causes of surface wounds, bruises, abrasions, and related injuries include:

  • Car, truck, or vehicle accidents
  • Accidents due to handling or mishandling of machines, tools, and sharp objects. This includes machines that don’t have proper guards, tools, and machines that aren’t used properly, or if the safety equipment is faulty.
  • Accidents that cause a worker to slip and fall – causing the worker to hit/her head or to injury their arms or legs in an attempt to catch or reduce the impact of the fall

What jobs have a higher danger of causing surface wounds or bruises?

Some of the job categories that have a higher risk for traumatic injuries such as surface wounds or bruises include:

  • Police and security work
  • Firefighting
  • First responders and EMT responders
  • Workers in any type of construction trade
  • Agricultural workers
  • Workers who work in the oil and gas energy sector
  • Mining workers
  • Worker who work on assembly lines or work in manufacturing

Types of injuries that wounds and bruises may bring about or cause

Employees who suffer a wound or bruise may:

  • Develop infections
  • Suffer from internal bleeding
  • Go into shock
  • Develop a fever
  • Have nausea
  • Have some type of skin loss that will need to be treated
  • Have permanent scarring

Your rights if you have surface wounds or bruises

Generally, you must notify your employer or manager about any injuries of any kind as soon as possible. Workers with surface wounds and bruises normally begin their medical care by going to the local emergency room or by going to their family doctor. Whether the worker can return to work may depend on the type of job the employee has. Workers who have jobs that require a fair amount of physical labor may not be able to return to work promptly. Workers who have desk jobs often can return to work unless the wound prevents them from using their hands or eyes. A key factor is whether any complications result.

In all workers’ compensation cases, there is no requirement to prove the employer was at fault for the  injuries. Fault is not a factor in workers’ compensation cases. As long the accident happened at work, happened to an employee during the course of the employee’s job, and the accident caused the injuries – then they employee has the right to file a state work injury claim.

Scarring or Disfigurement

One thing that is important to note is that workers compensation does not compensate injured workers for pain and suffering. Compensation is generally limited to the effect the work injuries have on the injured worker’s ability to work and the medical bills. There may also be some recovery for permanent impairment in a particular body part. 

 One exception to those limits is if there is visible, permanent scarring on disfigurement on a body part that the injured worker hurt in the accident. It must be a body part that the injured worker is not otherwise claiming for impairment. For instance, if there is severe scarring from lumbar (back) surgery, and the injured worker wants to claim a permanent impairment in the lumbar spine in North Carolina (spine impairment is not available in Virginia), he or she would not also be able to claim scarring or disfigurement due to the surgical scars. 

What are the amounts that are available to be recovered? According to N.C.G.S. 97-31 (21) For serious facial scarring or disfigurement, an injured worker can recover up to $20,000.00.  For serious disfigurement to any other part of the body, up to $10,000.00. 

This may not seem like much, but it must be remembered that the workers compensation statutes are primarily concerned with how an injury affects one’s ability to work. So if someone is so severely injured that he or she is unable to return to work, that injured worker would be entitled to up to 500 weeks of benefits at 2/3rds of their average weekly wage, until he or she was able to return to work. 

If the injuries are sufficiently severe, and involve certain categories of injuries that prevent return to any gainful employment, depending on the nature of those injuries, the employee may qualify for lifetime weekly benefits. Even if the employee did not suffer injuries in those categories, if the employee can prove that the work injury has caused a total loos of wage-earning capacity, then after 425 weeks of benefits, that employee may apply for extended benefits, which is some cases may result in lifetime compensation. 

North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. works with your doctors and independent doctors to help document your injuries. He fights to get full compensation for all medical expenses for all workplace injuries and illnesses. He also fights to get workers the amount they justly deserve for lost income, for vocational rehabilitation costs, and for any incidental expense. For help with any workers’ compensation claim, call North Carolina and Virginia lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or fill out my online contact form to speak with a skilled work injury lawyer.