Repetitive Strain Injury Compensation Claims

You probably know it as repetitive stress or repetitive strain injury (RSI), however, occupational overuse syndrome is another name for this disorder, characterised by pain, swelling and other uncomfortable symptoms, commonly in the arms and fingers.
How does it happen? What are the classic RSI symptoms? And what does the law say about claiming workers compensation for RSI injuries suffered at work?
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Common Causes of Repetitive Strain Injuries

The types of injuries that fall within the general term 'RSI injuries' usually result from repetitive movements or overuse of parts of the body, resulting in pain in the muscles, nerves and tendons. So, it's not surprising that repetitive strain injury are common in the workplace, and more in certain industries that others.

Occupations at particular risk are:

  • Office workers - working at a desk and on a computer
  • Construction workers - especially if they are doing manual tasks repeatedly, like bricklayers
  • Process workers and workers doing piece work

Repetitive Tasks for Long Periods of Time

As the name suggests, repetitive stress injury or occupational overuse syndrome is usually caused by performing tasks of a repetitive nature, especially for prolonged periods. Tasks that involve a repetitive motion can also cause these disorders, especially if the worker is required to do them while in an awkward position, or too quickly.

Appropriate breaks help to reduce the risk of RSI by allowing the body to recover. Smaller, more frequent breaks, rather than just a single long break, are recommended. Work should be planned with realistic deadlines and timeframes that incorporate suitable rest periods.

If a worker must perform a particular task that involves repetitive movements, alternating it with another task or activity involving different movements, or parts of the body, can also reduce the risk.

Talk with an experienced workers compensation lawyer to learn more about your potential entitlements.

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Poor Working Conditions

High impact accidents are frequent in the workplace. Whether it's a motor vehicle accident involving cars, trucks, or smaller vehicles like forklifts, they can result in serious occupational and industrial diseases and injuries. Workers who fall victim to these are often eligible to claim compensation.

Workers who operate industrial machines are also at risk. When workers get some part of their body entangled in industrial machines, it can result in dislocations, fractures, and in extreme cases amputations. Such workers may be entitled to workers compensation.

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Poor Work Environment Set Up

Sitting or standing with poor posture, especially for extended periods, can significantly increase the risk that a worker might develop RSI.

Employers can work with employees to improve environmental factors, so that workers:

  • Can reach the equipment they need without bending, twisting or reaching repeatedly
  • Do not stay in the same position for extended periods
  • Have workstations ergonomically assessed and ensure they are suitable for each individual worker
  • Are not required to work in an awkward position
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Repetitive Strain Injury Symptoms

A variety of conditions can be classified as an RSI, if they are caused by performing repetitive tasks.

Common injuries of this nature include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Tendinopathy or tenosynovitis - including 'tennis elbow,' 'trigger finger'
  • Raynaud's syndrome or 'white finger'

Even if your injury doesn't fall within these specific disorders, it can still be a repetitive stress injury or RSI, and may be referred to as 'non-specific upper limb pain syndrome' or something similar.

Regardless of the term associated, the symptoms can be serious and debilitating, affecting your sleep, enjoyment of life and ability to work.

Pain or Tenderness

Pain and tenderness are the most common of the RSI symptoms. In some cases, they are the only symptoms, though that doesn't mean they're not significant. Pain from an RSI may be so severe that it wakes the sufferer during the night.

This symptom is usually treated with painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications (or both), of suitable strength for the level of pain.

Pain may occur only when repetitive motions are being performed, and often this is the case initially. However, over time the condition can worsen so that pain is felt at other times, or all the time. For example, in 'tennis elbow' or lateral epicondylitis, pain may be felt when shaking hands or if something presses on the elbow, in the less severe cases of the injury.

Stiffness or Joint Restriction

Stiffness or joint restriction symptoms occur in some RSIs including 'trigger finger' and occasionally rotator cuff syndrome. In short, they involve an inability or reduced ability to move a part of the body, like a finger or arm. These symptoms are often accompanied by pain when moving or trying to move the affected part.

In 'trigger finger,' the tendon controlling the finger stops moving freely due to fact the walls of the tunnel it runs through have thickened, or are swollen. The sufferer is often unable to straighten the affected finger by itself and needs, for example, to pull it straight using the other hand. This condition may need to be corrected with surgery.

Tingling or Numbness

Tingling or numbness generally occurs where a nerve is impacted by an inflamed muscle, tendon or tendon sheath (outer covering). For example, in carpal tunnel syndrome cases, tendons and a main nerve to the hand all pass through the same space. When the tendon becomes inflamed, it presses on the nerve and affects the way the nerve supplies feeling to parts of the palm and some of the fingers. This is experienced as a tingling or numbness in those parts of the hand.

Numbness or loss of feeling is also a characteristic symptom of white finger, which can develop in workers who use vibrating machinery for long periods or over many years.


A cramp is essentially a muscle spasm. These can occur from overuse of the relevant muscle, as well as from other causes like dehydration or stress. When a muscle cramps, it may be accompanied by pain and the muscle may feel hard. Writer's cramp is a repetitive stress injury involving a muscle spasm and often pain or discomfort.

Hand or Forearm Swelling

Swelling is a buildup of fluids in an area and can happen in response to an injury, as the body reacts to move additional blood and white blood cells to the area to start the healing process.

In RSI conditions, like carpal tunnel syndrome or 'tennis elbow,' the affected area or a related area can become swollen. For example, a person suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome may experience swelling in the fingers.

If the RSI isn't treated and the area continues to be used, swelling can persist for extended periods.

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What Evidence is Required to Make Repetitive Strain Injury Claims?

Like all personal injury claims, workers compensation claims for repetitive strain injuries require several types of evidence. A solicitor experienced in workplace injury claims can provide specific advice in your case. As a general guide injured workers wanting to make an RSI claim will need evidence proving:

  • How the repetitive stress injuries developed
  • The repetitive strain injury symptoms, treatment already provided and that will be needed in the future, any long term impacts of the injury, and the prognosis, or how likely they are to recover fully or partially - this will need to come from a medical professional
  • Medical costs, including fees for doctors and specialists, hospitalisation costs, medicines, likely future costs of rehabilitation
  • The worker's usual income and projected future earning capacity
  • The amount of pain and suffering endured by the worker

If the claim is run with an experienced law firm, the collection and acquisition of this evidence is helped significantly by the firm engaged.

Am I Eligible to Make a Repetitive Strain Injury Claim?

There are two types of claims for work-related injuries, they are:

WorkCover (Statutory) Claim

If your accident occurs in connection with your work, you are able to submit a statutory workers compensation claim. Each employer must have a workers compensation insurance policy, the most popular by far, being WorkCover in Queensland, however there are some companies who self insure, and those who utilise other schemes. The law says that a worker can make a statutory or WorkCover claim if the injury arises out of, or in the course of, their employment and the employment is a 'significant contributing factor' to the injury.

A statutory claim is one that does not consider fault, and provides benefits such as (benefits and criteria vary based on scheme and insurer):

  • A percentage of your weekly pay is provided when, due to the injury, you are unable to work
  • Funding for medical treatment in relation to the injury

For a workers compensation claim, an RSI injury will generally be determined to arise out of, or in the course of, your employment if it happens while you are at your workplace and performing your work duties, or if you are completing work elsewhere.

Common Law Claim

In addition to a statutory claim, where negligence has played a part in the injury, you may be entitled to additional compensation through a common law claim. A common law claim is usually run by a solicitor on behalf of the claimant, however it is possible to self-represent.

A common law claim seeks to claim compensation for:

  • Previous lost income and superannuation
  • Future lost income and superannuation
  • Previous medical treatment
  • Future medical treatment
  • Pain and suffering

Negligence is a type of legal claim that can be made where a person:

  • Owes you a duty of care or a responsibility to avoid doing you harm. The law states that your employer will usually owe you a duty of care while you are in the workplace or doing your work
  • Breaches the duty of care - this means your employer doesn't exercise the level of care that a reasonable employer would use in the circumstances
  • The RSI injury was caused by this breach of the duty care owed you, by your employer

Legal advice should be sought in relation to an injury to see if you may be eligible to lodge a common law claim.

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Is There a Time Limit for Making a Repetitive Strain Injury Compensation Claim?

Yes, there are strict time limits to make RSI claims, whether you make a statutory (WorkCover) or common law claim.

The time frame for making a workers compensation claim is usually 3 years from injury date, however, there are some exceptions. Regardless of the time limit, it is generally more beneficial to commence a claim or engage a lawyer as early as possible after the date of accident.

These time limits can be relatively straightforward to work out if your injury is caused by a single incident. However, an RSI injury can develop over time so if you want to claim compensation it's best to get advice early. Speak to a solicitor in relation to any potential personal injury claim, where they can advise you about these time limits and discuss the claims process, specifically in relation to your circumstance. If you decide to proceed with a law firm, the law firm will ensure your claim doesn't miss any deadlines.

It's also important to remember that getting ready to lodge a claim for a repetitive strain injury can take time. Your lawyer will need to obtain and consider medical evidence, financial information, details of your employer and employment and other important material. Obviously, the first step after any workplace injury is to get the right treatment. However, seeing a solicitor specialising in personal injury law, once your doctor says you're able, can put your mind at ease, knowing your RSI claim is in good hands.

What are the Average Repetitive Strain Injury Compensation Payouts?

RSI injuries occur in different parts of the body and can range widely in severity. Some can be managed with simple first aid, rest and painkillers. The most serious need surgery.

To determine how much RSI compensation you are entitled to, WorkCover or a court will look at many factors including:

  • The seriousness of the injury
  • The physical impact of the injury, for example, whether it restricts your movement
  • Whether you are likely to recover fully or continue to be affected permanently - the extent to which you're permanently affected is called the degree of permanent impairment or DPI
  • Whether you can return to work and do your normal work duties, need to take a significant period off work to recover, or need to change jobs altogether
  • If your ability to work and earning capacity will be affected in the future, and by how much
  • Your medical expenses like doctor or surgeon's fees, ongoing medical treatment and rehabilitation costs, medicine and physical aids like braces or splints
  • Lost income like wages or self-employment income
  • An additional amount for pain and suffering

Given all these factors, it's difficult to give an average that would really help you understand how much compensation you might receive in a workers' compensation claim for repetitive strain injuries.

How Much Does it Cost to Lodge a Repetitive Strain Injury Claim?

There is no cost to lodge a repetitive strain injury claim with WorkCover or a self-insurer. For common law RSI claims, the fees depend on how much work is required to obtain you compensation.

How Long Do Repetitive Strain Injury Settlements Usually Take?

The average time to complete a repetitive strain injury claim is usually between 12 - 18 months however, length of time it takes to resolve your claim will depend on a vast number of factors including the amount of time it will take for your injury to reach maximum medical improvement, and the length of negotiations.

The statutory phase, within a claim, is usually resolved much more quickly, and payments are usually able to commence immediately after acceptance of the claim, rather than closure/settlement. This is initial response is usually provided within 20 business days, or a reason for delay is to be provided (these specific timelines apply specifically to WorkCover claims) This allows you to start getting payments for some of your lost wages and medical expenses to help in your recovery. Seeing a lawyer early about a no win no fee claim means that you become more educated in terms of your rights and entitlements and can make an informed decision in relation to your next steps.

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Can I Represent Myself When Making a Repetitive Strain Injury Compensation Claim?

It is possible to represent yourself when making an RSI compensation claim. However, many people find they appreciate the help of solicitors experienced in personal injury law to navigate the complexities of their claim, and also, the burden of the work and study required to self represent, is significant. Compensation lawyers are specialists who have significant experience in running claims, systems to efficiently manage the amount of work involved, years of study of the law in relation to personal injury claims.

Personal injuries compensation law can be complex, especially when further complicated by an injury that has occurred over time, as opposed to in a singular event, and wish to make a successful common law claim.

Speaking to an experienced lawyer, regardless of your desire to self-represent can provide context and expectation to what that may look like, more specifically to your situation.

Lodge A "No Win No Fee" Claim

If you suffer injuries whilst at work, and you are looking for further information in terms of making a claim. Here at Smith's Lawyers, we offer a free consultation for injured people looking to seek compensation. As mentioned before, we also have a "No Win. No Fee. No Catch." policy, which means you will never be out of pocket.

Get in touch with us today to give yourself the best opportunity to understand your rights.

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