In California, employers are required to provide no-fault workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their staff, both full-time and part-time. A person who was hurt on the job may be entitled to claim workers’ compensation benefits for a sudden onset injury (one that occurred in a specific accident) or repetitive stress injury (one that occurred with a gradual onset).

In California workers’ compensation claims, repetitive stress injuries are officially referred to as “cumulative trauma.” There are unique things that insurers and employers should know about when dealing with these cases. Here, our Salinas workers’ compensation defense lawyers discuss the key things to know about defending repetitive stress injury workers’ compensation claims in California.

What is a Repetitive Stress Injury (Cumulative Trauma)?

An RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury) is a type of injury that occurs due to repeated actions/movements over a period of time. These repetitive “traumas’ can cause damage to the muscles, tendons, and nerves. Some of the most common examples of repetitive stress injuries include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome;
  • Tendonitis;
  • Epicondylitis (tennis elbow);
  • Back injuries;
  • Problems with eyesight; and
  • Hearing damage.

California Workers’ Compensation Law: Cumulative Trauma

At a foundational level, the key thing that employers and insurers need to understand is that repetitive stress injuries are compensable under California’s workers’ compensation laws (Cal. Lab. Code § 3208.1(b)). An employee who sustained a repetitive stress injury (cumulative trauma) because of his or her job duties has the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits.

How to Defend a Repetitive Stress Injury Workers’ Compensation Claim in California

As stated previously, workers have a right to file for workers’ compensation benefits for a repetitive stress injury. Employers cannot thwart their applications or unlawfully retaliate against them. An employer should always take this type of claim seriously. That being said, not everyone’s repetitive stress injury workers’ compensation claim is valid or legitimate. Here are three key issues that should be closely evaluated when handling and defending a cumulative trauma claim in California:

  • The Scope and Severity of the Injury: Medical evidence is key in repetitive stress injury claims. Any cumulative trauma claim should be carefully reviewed to assess the scope and severity of the injury. 
  • Connection to Employer (or Lack Thereof); Workers are not automatically entitled to benefits because they have a repetitive stress injury. As part of their claim, they must assert and establish a connection to their employment.
  • Timeliness (Statute of Limitations): There is a strict statute of limitations in cumulative trauma workers’ compensation claims. A cumulative trauma claim must be filed within one year of the date a worker knew or should have known that they had a repetitive stress injury that is linked to employment. Benefits can be denied if a claim is filed too late.  

Set Up a Confidential Case Review With a California Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyer Today

At Yrulegui & Roberts, we are standing by, ready to protect your rights and interests every step of the way. Have questions about defending a repetitive stress injury claim? We can help. Contact our law firm now to set up a fully private, no strings attached consultation. Our law firm provides workers’ compensation defense support to clients throughout Northern and Central California.