Understanding Cumulative Trauma

February 5, 2019

If you are like most, you may believe that workers’ comp injuries are only caused by one specific incident or accident, known as a specific injury. This is mainly because it is easy to determine when and what caused the injury. But also, because no one can easily forget the sound of a branch cracking as you start falling from a tree that you are trimming, or the pain of having concrete fall on your foot, or even, the height difference of the item left on the floor of which caused you to slip and get injured. These types of injuries make it simple to determine whether they meet the AOE/COE definition. 


In work comp AOE/COE stands for arose out of employment and caused out of employment. In order for your claim to be a compensable work comp claim, an injury must be determined to be AOE/COE. This can prove to be most difficult with Cumulative Traumas (CT).


Cumulative trauma or CT injury is not due to one specific event or action. Instead, it happens gradually at work, over a period of time or during a course of constant and repetitive movements that by themselves, would not cause injury, but together, have caused considerable pain or a disabling medical condition. These injuries can also be considered a work-related injury, and can generally be considered to AOE/ COE because they happened through the course of doing your work activities. Therefore, they would be a work-related injury and fall under CA Worker's Compensation.


An example of this kind of injury would be someone who does manual labor and spends all day, every day, bent over shoveling or lifting. Due to the lifting and shoveling, this person develops lumbar back pain which requires medical treatment. If the work activities of lifting and shoveling contributed to his/ her back injury, this would be a repetitive injury work comp claim. Other examples would include: 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 types of injuries are labeled repetitive, or "cumulative trauma" injuries.


One of the difficulties of cumulative injuries is determining the date of when the injury occurred. The date of injury for a repetitive use injury, can be the first date you see a physician, the first day you become disabled or limited from the injury, or the last day you work, among other possible dates. 


If you suspect that you have a CT claim from your work activities, you should give notice to your employer immediately, explaining you have a medical condition which you believe is related to your work activities. Please remember to follow-up with your physician right away and describe in detail what your job duties were and how they seemed to cause or increase your symptoms.

A CT injury is most often initially denied by the work comp carrier. This is due to the fact it is difficult, without medical documentation, to prove this injury was AOE/COE and not some unrelated out of work activity. WCLC attorneys are familiar with CT injuries and what it takes to move them from denied to accepted injuries. As such we would be more than happy to meet with you to discuss the specifics of your claim.


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Understanding Cumulative Trauma

February 5, 2019

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© 2020 Riley & Associates. Representing Injured Workers with offices in Redding, and Susanville.

The materials on this website do not, nor are they intended to create an attorney-client relationship or constitute legal advice. All California Workers' Compensation claims are different.

For advice regarding your claim, please contact a workers' compensation attorney.