Did you or a loved one injure your back or neck on the job?
Our Georgia work injury lawyers can ensure you get the full benefits you’re owed.
It’s important for Georgia workers to understand that workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning you are entitled to compensation for a work-related injury regardless of who or what caused your injury. So even if you improperly lifted a heavy box and strained your back, you should still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
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There’s a reason why people refer to someone or something that is difficult as a “pain in the neck.” Neck and back pain is annoying, irritating and bothersome. Nobody wants to experience pain in this part of the body. Unfortunately, each year, thousands of hardworking Georgians suffer from back and neck injuries caused by their job.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 1 million American workers suffer back injuries each year, accounting for 1 in 5 workplace injuries and illnesses. The only condition that causes more days of lost work is the common cold.
At the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson, we commonly talk to nurses, construction workers, movers, janitors, landscapers, truck drivers, warehouse workers, grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, meatpackers and food processing workers who have suffered back and neck injuries on the job. But rest assured that back and neck injuries can happen to anyone. Even office workers can experience lower back pain due to bad posture while sitting at a desk for hours and poor ergonomics.
Regardless of what your job is, the good news is that Georgia has a no-fault program to provide timely financial compensation to injured workers for their medical expenses and lost wages caused by a work-related injury or illness. This compensation is paid by your employer under the system of workers’ compensation.
However, injured workers must meet certain deadlines and submit the right forms in order to receive the compensation they are entitled to. Even still, employers or their insurance companies often reduce or deny a worker’s benefits anyway for technical reasons — or for no reason at all.
For over 50 years, our Macon workers’ compensation attorneys have represented hundreds of injured workers throughout the state. For example, we were able to secure $550,000 in compensation for our client who was struck in the rear by a tractor-trailer truck, causing him serious injuries that required surgery to repair a herniated disk at 2 levels in his lower back.
We can help you take the right steps and negotiate on your behalf. We have the experience, knowledge and commitment to see your claim through to the end and secure the best possible outcome. We’ve done it for past clients with similar injuries and we can do it for you.
Occupational back/neck injuries and pre-existing conditions
In Georgia, most employees who are hurt on the job are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits as long as it can be proven that their injury or illness was due to work-related activities. The challenge with back and neck injuries is that there may be debate over whether or not the injury was actually work-related, or if it was caused by a pre-existing condition.
While back and neck injuries can suddenly arise in traumatic accidents such as a slip and fall or a car accident, more commonly, the pain comes gradually. Back and neck pain may develop over a long period of time due to repeated stress or physical labor. Or perhaps an accident at work aggravated an old condition or ongoing medical problem.
In Georgia, workers’ comp benefits are owed to injured workers even if they have a pre-existing condition. However, the employee does have the responsibility of demonstrating that their pre-existing condition was aggravated or re-injured at work.
For example, let’s say you suffered a lower back injury while playing basketball years ago that required surgery and physical therapy. Then, one day while working as a delivery driver, a car slams into the side of your truck. Days later, you start experiencing lower back pain again and go to the doctor. The physician says your old injury has come back as a result of the collision.
In this example, you should still be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits because the car accident occurred while you were on the job and aggravated the pre-existing injury.
Workers’ compensation benefits for neck and back injuries
In addition to reimbursement for your medical bills and travel expenses, workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia should cover a portion of your lost wages from not being able to work. Wage loss benefits are typically paid in the amount of two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage, and are categorized as follows:
The injury results in temporary but total disability, during which time the injured individual is unable to work at all.
The individual is able to return to work with modified job duties, reduced hours and wages.
The injury results in permanent loss of function of a body part or bodily system.
The injury results in complete and permanent disability.
In cases of severe neck and back injuries that leave a person partially or totally unable to work, they may also be eligible for disability benefits through Social Security. If a person was killed in a fatal work accident, their surviving spouse, children and dependents may be compensated for funeral and burial expenses.
It’s important to note that injured workers may not be compensated for pain and suffering or emotional distress caused by their work-related accident. In addition, workers’ compensation is an “exclusive remedy,” meaning employees generally cannot sue their employer for on-the-job injuries unless the employer’s behavior was malicious or grossly negligent. Workers’ compensation is typically the only path allowed to injured workers in Georgia to recover damages.
Common types of work-related neck and back injuries
Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. Examples of back and neck-related injuries, diseases and conditions that commonly plague Georgia workers and residents include:
- Spinal disc fractures (cervical, thoracic and lumbar)
- Herniated disc
- Muscle sprain, strain or tear
- Cauda equina syndrome
- Complex regional pain syndrome (reflex sympathetic dystrophy or RSD)
- Degenerative disc disease (DDD)
- Failed back syndrome (post-laminectomy syndrome)
- Pinched nerve (cervical radiculopathy)
- Spondylosis (spinal arthritis)
Common causes of neck and back injuries at work
Back pain doesn’t just impact the elderly. Men and women of all ages can suffer from a neck or back injury. In fact, experts estimate that up to 4 in 5 people will experience back pain at some time in their lives. Here are the most common causes of neck and back injuries in the workplace:
- Overexertion. Overexertion is the cause of 60 percent of lower back pain injuries, mostly caused by heavy lifting, pushing or pulling. Back and neck injuries caused by overexertion can range from a mild strain to a serious tear that incapacitates the person for some time and requires extensive physical therapy.
- Repetitive motion injuries. Repeated and forceful movements that put strain on your back or neck can cause chronic pain. This pain may be minor at first, but can gradually become more severe over time. Left untreated, repetitive stress injuries to your back or neck can worsen and leave you disabled or unable to perform basic movements without excruciating pain.
- Auto accidents. If you drive for work and are involved in a serious car or truck collision, you may suffer a serious injury to your back or neck upon impact. Common examples of crash-related injuries include whiplash, lumbar sprain, slipped disc, dislocated or fractured vertebrae, spinal stenosis and pinched nerves.
- Slip and fall. Whether you work on a construction site, in a grocery store or elsewhere in Georgia, slipping and falling on your back or twisting your neck can result in chronic pain and debilitating injury. Slips, trips and falls are one of the most common causes of back and neck injuries at work.
- Improper lifting technique. To avoid putting strain on your back when lifting heavy objects, you’re supposed to bend at your hips and knees, and keep the load close to your body. Avoid turning or twisting while holding a heavy object. If this technique isn’t followed, it can put excess strain on your back and result in an injury.
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“Great staff. Very professional and knowledgeable. Staff went out of their way to accommodate us in every way possible. Made the whole process less painful. They made sure we understood everything that was going on and would answer any questions a hundred times over if needed.”
The resources needed to win
Unlike some work injury attorneys who settle all of their cases, we are not afraid to appeal a denied claim if needed. Our firm has the resources needed to thoroughly prepare, try and win complicated cases.
We are dedicated to doing everything legally and ethically possible to obtain the best results for our injured clients. Hard work and dedication have allowed us to recover millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients in workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.
Hurt on the job? Our South Georgia lawyers will serve you and your family
If you are experiencing back or neck pain due to a work-related injury, or a pre-existing condition that was aggravated by your job, we strongly recommend contacting our Macon attorneys as soon as possible to learn about your legal rights. These types of workers’ comp claims are often contested and the insurance company will use any tool they have to deny or reduce your benefits.
If you have questions, give us a call or contact us online for your free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer. From offices in Macon, Albany and Warner Robins, we help injured workers throughout Georgia. Don’t settle for less, get more.