New York City Back Injury Lawyer

Back injuries are the most common workplace injury in all occupations, but nursing assistants, laborers, stock clerks, and materials movers sustain most work-related back injuries.

These injuries affect the earning capacity of workers and even leave them unable to perform their jobs.

Insurance companies are frequently skeptical of back injury claims due to their frequency and subjective findings regarding pain and limitations. This situation can make it challenging to navigate the workers’ compensation process and receive benefits.

Back injury claims demand the attention of a workers’ compensation lawyer who can present your case well and show that your injury is not a fluke but a severe condition that warrants medical treatment and financial support.

You can find an effective workers comp lawyer in New York City at Raphaelson & Levine. We are a personal injury law firm dedicated to helping injured workers secure financial compensation to treat their injuries, support their households, and move forward after an injury.

However, time is of the essence on these claims, and you need to act quickly after a work-related back injury or waive your rights to workers’ compensation benefits.

Call us today at (212) 268-3222 to schedule your free consultation and start the claim process.

Common types of back injuries

Back injury claims are not limited to physical jobs. The most common factors contributing to back pain at work include:

  • Force: Lifting or moving heavy objects frequently cause injury because it exerts too much pressure on your back.
  • Repetition: Constant lifting, squatting, reaching, twisting, and rotating, are repetitive motions that eventually take a toll. Office workers who seem to sit in a chair all day may injure themselves if a sudden twist or turn tears back ligaments.
  • Inactivity: Sedentary jobs still contain injury risks. Poor posture or muscle tone leaves bodies vulnerable to injury and eventually leads to chronic pain. This situation is especially likely in employment environments where managers limit breaks.

Some professions contain all elements of back injury risk. Truck drivers, for example, may injure themselves from awkwardly lifting heavy objects, but they are also vulnerable because of their sedentary driving time.

Likewise, the usually sedentary office worker may lift a heavy file box which leads to injury.

There are also different types of back injuries. They range from muscle sprains to spinal cord injury, and they include:

  • Herniated discs: You may also hear herniated discs as bulged, slipped, or ruptured discs. The discs act as padding between vertebrae and allow you to bend over and move your spine. But if a disc slips out of place (herniates), it irritates the nerves and causes extreme pain that radiates through your body. Activity worsens symptoms and often makes work unbearable.
  • Nerve impingement: This injury is also called a pinched nerve. If you have a herniated disc, it may pressure the nerve root and disrupt nerve signals. You may feel pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness. Herniated discs and pinched nerves in your lower back may cause pain to radiate down your legs.
  • Lower back sprain/strain: Sprains and strains result when you overstretch a muscle or ligament. Muscles become inflamed, and you experience spasms, reducing mobility and increasing pain. You will also see this called a lumbar strain.
  • Spinal cord injuries: These injuries often result from traumatic injuries that fracture the vertebrae. Symptoms are not always immediately apparent. They may include intense pain or pressure, weakness, paralysis, loss of bladder or bowel control, poor balance, difficulty walking, and numbness or loss of feeling in hands, feet, fingers, or toes. If you suspect a spinal cord injury, seek treatment immediately. The sooner you address this injury, the more likely you will recover.
  • Paralysis: This symptom arises from significant spinal cord injuries. It can include quadriplegia and paraplegia. Quadriplegia affects arms, hands, trunk, legs, and pelvis, and paraplegia describes paralysis to all or part of your trunk, leg, or pelvis.

Doctors diagnose back injuries with x-rays and physical exams. If they suspect herniated discs, you may undergo an MRI, CT scan, or nerve study to see if your discs interrupt nerve endings.

Once they determine the extent and cause of your back injury, they may prescribe any of the following treatments:

  • Pain medication: Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium work well for minor pain, but if your pain does not respond to them, your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants and narcotic painkillers like oxycodone. Some antidepressants, like Cymbalta, prove effective for pain management too.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist will help you increase stress and flexibility so you do not reinjure yourself. For work-related injuries, you may also learn better lifting and posture techniques and ways to control pain if you have a flare-up while working. For more severe injuries, physical therapy helps you use mobility devices better and adapt to changed circumstances if your injury leads to permanent disability. Paralysis often means you have to modify your home and change the way you handle your daily activities.
  • Cortisone injections: If your pain radiates down your leg, cortisone decreases inflammation and reduces nerve roots pressure. This treatment may control your pain for one or two months, after which your doctor assesses whether you can benefit from another injection or need a different course of treatment.
  • Radiofrequency neurotomy: This treatment uses radio waves to scramble nerves and not send pain signals to your brain. You may feel less pain for a few months, and then you receive another treatment.
  • Nerve stimulators: These devices work beneath your skin to send electrical impulses to nerves and block pain signals.
  • Surgery: Doctors try conservative treatments first, but when those fail, surgery becomes an option. It is most common for structural spine issues like narrowing or herniated discs. Surgery may fuse discs to keep them slipping or move vertebrae back into place.

Recovery from back injuries varies widely. Sprains and strains may resolve within a few days or weeks, but other injuries, especially to the spinal cord, are often permanent.

You may qualify for full or partial disability if extensive injuries limit or eliminate your ability to work.

What to do after a back injury at work

If you sustain a back injury at work, immediately follow these steps:

  • Seek medical attention. Do not delay seeing a medical professional. If your manager wants to call an ambulance, do not argue with them--that can work against you to show your injury was never that bad. Do not try to continue working or see if you feel better. See a doctor, as the insurer will also use treatment delays as evidence against you.
  • Report the accident. You must report the accident to your employer or manager. Do this when your injuries are stable; you are not expected to make this report if you are in the hospital with paralysis or other serious injuries. When you make the report, limit the accident description to the specific incident and explain when you knew you were injured and how it made you feel.
  • Do not hide pre-existing conditions. Be open about previous injuries or other pre-existing conditions, but make it clear your current injury happened at work.

Once you reported your condition to your employer, that is an excellent time to get a workers’ compensation attorney involved. After that report, everything moves quickly. You will receive a list of company-approved doctors to evaluate you and the name and the insurance adjuster’s name and contact information.

Telephone calls, emails, and documents will start to overwhelm you. At this point, hire an attorney and delegate those tasks to them, so you can focus on feeling better.

We can ensure you meet vital deadlines, like the 30-day deadline to inform your employer and the deadlines associated with the Workers’ Compensation Board, including the employee claim form.

Your treatment continues until your doctor determines you reached Maximum Medical Improvement, meaning your injury will not improve with additional treatment.

If your doctor assigns a disability rating to you, the insurance company may order an independent medical exam (IME) to determine that rating’s accuracy.

Possible disability categories include:

  • Temporary total disability: You cannot work for now and need more recovery time to return to your job.
  • Temporary partial disability: You can do some duties of your job, but not all of it, for the short term. For example, your temporary partial disability may authorize you for light work, but not your previous heavy work position, or you may need to go from light work to sedentary for the next six months until you recover.
  • Permanent total disability: You can never return work for either your current or any employer.
  • Permanent partial disability: You sustained a permanent injury that limits your ability to work.  

The IME often indicates the insurance company is preparing to dispute your claim’s seriousness and limit your settlement. You may need legal advocacy to preserve your claim, especially since your risk of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time increases. Hiring an attorney early in the workers’ compensation process will reduce the chances of error and raise your likelihood of receiving benefits.

Workers' compensation benefits for workplace back injuries

Workers’ compensation awards only includes economic damages, like:

  • Medical bills
  • Physical therapy medical costs
  • A portion of your lost wages
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost earnings (if permanently disabled)
  • Vocational rehab or retraining

Economic damages are objective and proven through documents like invoices, medical records, and receipts. You only receive a portion of lost earnings, including future wages, if you are permanently disabled. Depending on your injury, you may get enough to help you finish your recovery and return to work. For partial or permanent disability, the focus also includes future lost income and medical care.

Personal injury claims include economic and non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, reduced quality of life, and loss of enjoyment. These damages are harder to prove, but they raise your settlement amount. You may also receive the full extent of lost wages, present and future, and ask for funds for services like domestic help and remodeling your home for accessibility.

There are cases where a personal injury action against your employer is appropriate. Examples of these cases include:

  • Use of defective products or equipment in your workplace
  • Employer intentionally or negligently created dangerous conditions that injured employees
  • Employer fails to address safety issues like proper lifting or provide safety equipment
  • The employer did not carry workers’ compensation insurance or save adequate assets for self-insurance

You may also pursue liable third parties who are not employees of your company. For example, if you have a car accident as a delivery driver and sustain back injuries, you have two claims. You can pursue a workers’ comp claim against your employer and a personal injury claim against the other driver.

When you schedule a case evaluation with us, we will review whether a personal injury, workers’ compensation claim, or both will work best for you. These accidents are not always a simple matter of a workplace injury needing medical and wage coverage; sometimes, there are multiple actors for potential liability. Our job is to maximize your settlement, which includes pursuing other parties responsible for your injury.

How much is the average workers comp back injury settlement worth?

Nearly 75 percent of workplace back injuries receive a workers’ compensation settlement. The average settlement amount for at-work back injuries is $23,600. Since back injuries are variable, workers' comp back injury settlement amounts range from less to $10,000 to over $60,000.

Sixty-eight percent of workers received $20,000 or less, while nine percent received more than $60,000.

Your settlement amount depends on the extent of your injury, required treatment, and impairment level. You are also more likely to maximize your settlement if you are honest throughout the process. Exaggerating symptoms never results in a good award and may even sabotage your claim.

Do not consider that a strategy for securing the best settlement possible.

Back injury cases resolve in an average of 17.9 months. It takes longer for back injury cases to resolve because workers stay in treatment longer. While it may be tempting to cut off treatment early to secure a settlement, that is more likely to ensure you remain in pain and never fully recover.

Finish your treatment, and once done, we will pursue settlement negotiations.

When a workers’ compensation claim falls through, it is often due to missing deadlines or failing to report the injury. Many workers become overwhelmed with treatment and paperwork, so something ends up neglected.

This oversight emphasizes why hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer is essential; by involving us early, you avoid mistakes that could throw out your claim.

Meanwhile, you can focus on treatment and recovery.

Appealing a denied workers' comp settlement for back injury

Back injury claims have a high initial denial rate. Nearly 63 percent of workers who received a settlement also had their claim denied at first.

Sometimes, an insurance company gambles and denies your claim, hoping you will not consult with a lawyer. It is not the end of your claim but a sign that you require legal assistance.

Common reasons for denial may include the administrative reasons described earlier. But also include:

  • Pre-existing conditions: 23 percent of at-work back injury claims receive denials based on pre-existing conditions.
  • Minor injury: The insurance company determines your injury was not extensive enough to require medical treatment or time off work.
  • Incident denial: The insurance company believes the accident or injury never happened or happened when you were not on-site or on the clock.

Insurance companies do not act in your best interest and work to interpret any evidence against you. Time records, GPS data, medical records, and witness testimony can dispute any of these reasons and show that you sustained an injury while working.

However, building these cases takes effort, professional expertise, and resources that may not be available to you. That is where our skilled workers’ comp lawyers come in and help you.

Hire a New York workers' comp lawyer for a your back injury

Workers’ compensation is a complex area of law, which is especially true for workplace back injuries. Even a lumbar strain can keep you from performing your best and require treatment, rest, and compensation for lost wages.

Do not underestimate your symptoms or assume you are not eligible for workers’ compensation. Investigate the possibility as it can reduce your financial stressors and help you recover better.

Call Raphaelson & Levine at (212) 268-3222 to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.

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Located near Penn Station in New York, NY, our law firm serves Nassau County, Rockland County, Suffolk County, Westchester and all of New York State, including the five boroughs of NYC: Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island.
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