Cumulative Trauma & Repetitive Work Injuries

In general, there are two types of injuries a worker can suffer while at work.  First, there is the “specific injury.”  A specific injury is what most people think about when it comes to a work injury. For example, if you lift something heavy and hurt your back, if you fall off a ladder, or if you are involved in an automobile accident while making a delivery, these are all “specific injuries.”

The second type of work injury are the “cumulative trauma” injuries.  Cumulative trauma injuries are also known as “repetitive” injuries. These are injuries that happen gradually at work, over a period of time or during a course of repetitive action.  For example, if your job entails continuous heavy lifting and you gradually develop back pain, or if you use your hands repetitively at work and you develop hand/wrist pain, or if you do a lot of walking and climbing and develop knee pain, or if you are exposed to toxins and/or chemicals over a period of time and develop respiratory problems, or if you are exposed to loud noises at work and gradually develop hearing problems, these are all known as “cumulative trauma” injuries.

In addition to the above physical cumulative trauma injuries, you can also develop a cumulative trauma psychological injury.  For example, if you are exposed to ongoing stress at work that causes anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, or stomach problems you may have a workers’ compensation claim for a cumulative trauma psychological injury.  Often times, many people who really enjoy their job do not realize how the inherent stress in their job impacts their body and have cumulative trauma emotional injuries.  For example, police officers, who every day they go out in the streets and put their lives on the line, often have cumulative trauma injuries that affect them emotionally (the cumulative stress of not knowing if the person you are pulling over to issue a routine traffic citation to has a gun). These emotional injures often result in secondary physical injuries, as well.  Such secondary physical reactions to ongoing stressful situations include sleep problems, stomach problems, jaw problems form grinding your teeth, and even sexual dysfunction.

A cumulative trauma injury can also bring on (“light up”) or aggravate (make worse) a prior injury or condition. For example, someone who had a back injury many years ago and is required to do a lot of repetitive lifting at their current job may have an aggravation in their back symptoms.  Or, someone who has high blood pressure which is under control with medication, but is now subject to an ongoing hostile work environment may have a worsening (aggravation) of their hypertension, which now must be controlled with medications or requires an increase in the amount of medication they take.

In sum, a cumulative trauma injury is an injury which occurs over time.  A cumulative trauma injury is recognized in the California workers’ compensation system to the same extent as a specific injury caused by a particular event.  If you feel you may have sustained a cumulative/repetitive stress injury, or if you sustained a specific injury, please contact the Law Firm of Rowen, Gurvey & Win so we can discuss the matter with you.

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section of our website for further information on the California workers’ compensation system and the benefits to injured workers, provided under the California workers’ compensation laws.

For further information and a free consultation , please contact us: (818) 981-9960