Repetitive Strain InjuryCompensation Claims

You probably know it as repetitive stress or repetitive strain injury (RSI) - occupational overuse syndrome is another name for this disorder, which is 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 causes are found where workers are required to perform repetitive tasks.
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.
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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 eligible to claim compensation.

Workers who operate industrial machines are also at risk of sustaining catastrophic injuries. 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 would be entitled to workers' compensation.
Poor Work Environment Set Up
Sitting or standing with poor posture or in an awkward position, especially for extended periods, can increase the risk that a worker might develop RSI.

Employers can work with employees to improve the environment so that workers:
- Can reach the equipment they need without bending, twisting or reaching repeatedly
- Do not have to stay in the same position for an extended period
- Have desks or workstations that have been ergonomically assessed as being suitable for that individual worker
- Do not have 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 called 'non-specific upper limb pain syndrome' or something similar.

Whatever it's called, the symptoms can be serious and debilitating, affecting your sleep, enjoyment of life, ability to work and even your future career.
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. But 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.
Stiffness or Joint Restriction
These symptoms occur in some RSIs including trigger finger and occasionally rotator cuff syndrome. Basically, 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,' that the tendocontrolling the finger stops moving freely because the walls of the tunnel it runs through have thickened or are swollen. The sufferer is 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
This symptom generally occurs where a nerve is impacted by an inflamed muscle, tendon or tendon sheath (outer covering). For example, in carpal tunnel syndrome, 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 the 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 supply 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, the swelling can persist for a long time.
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
Am I Eligible to Make a Repetitive Strain Injury Claim?
The time frame for making a workers' compensation claim and a claim for damages differs. If you want to make a workers' compensation claim, you must do so within 6 months of the injury. On the other hand, when making a claim for damages, you usually have three years within which to make your claim.
WorkCover Claim
Did your RSI occur at work? If so, you may be able to make a workover claim. 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.

Your employment will be a significant contributing factor if the work you do is a major cause of 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're doing your work elsewhere.
Common Law or Court Claim
You may be able to claim compensation by pursuing a common law claim. This type of claim for repetitive strain injuries will be made on the basis of your employer's negligence.

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 says that your employer will usually owe you a duty of care while you're in their 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 your employer's negligence

Compensation claims for employer negligence can be complex. To determine if you're eligible to make a claim and the likelihood of a successful outcome, you can see a specialist solicitor at Smith's Lawyers for a free consultation.
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.

A claim must be made to WorkCover within 6 months from when the injury occurred or when your duties are first linked to your workplace duties by a doctor.

Personal injury claims in the courts must be made within 3 years of the injury occurring. Before lodging a court claim there are certain steps you must take under the law to notify your employer that you intend to make a claim.

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. We offer a free consultation for any potential personal injury case, where we can advise you about these time limits and discuss the claims process. If you decide to proceed, we 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. But 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.

For example, a compensation claim for a minor RSI injury where you can return to your normal work duties fairly quickly, and have few medical costs, might amount to less than $10,000. But a very serious repetitive stress injury that causes a significant DPI could lead to an RSI compensation claim in excess of $1,000,000.
How Much Does it Cost to Lodge a Repetitive Strain Injury Claim?
There is no cost to lodge a repetitive strain injury claim upon 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?
Queensland workers compensation statistics show that the average time to finalise a common law or court claim is just under one year.

The length of time it takes to resolve your claim will depend on whether or not you can reach a settlement with your employer, or more precisely, your employer's insurance company, as they will usually be the ones paying the compensation. If you can, it will mean you get your compensation payment much more quickly than if your case has to go to a trial or hearing in court. Whether or not a settlement can be reached often depends on the strength of the evidence in the case and having a skillful negotiator on your side.

Statutory claims with WorkCover and insurers are usually decided much more quickly, sometimes less than 20 days after lodging the claim, if WorkCover is given all the right information. 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 you start receiving payments while you consider all your claim options, including the Common Law claim.
Can I Represent Myself When Making a Repetitive Strain Injury Compensation Claim?
It is possible to represent yourself to make an RSI compensation claim. However, many people find they appreciate the help of solicitors experienced in personal injury law to navigate the system. Compensation lawyers are specialists who can advise how much compensation you're entitled to and what evidence you need, and answer any questions you have along the way.

Personal injuries compensation law can be complex, especially if you have suffered a serious repetitive strain injury and want to make a Common Law claim.

Our lawyers will listen to your story and provide compassionate and straightforward advice and representation to help you through your RSI claim.
Lodge A "No Win No Fee" Claim
If you suffer injuries while at work, you don't have to worry about the whole process of making your claim or the legal fees involved. Here at Smith's Lawyers, we offer free consultation services for injured workers looking to kickstart their claims. As mentioned before, we also have a no-win no fee, no catch policy.
Get in touch with us to give yourself the best opportunity to receive the maximum compensation possible for your claim.
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