How back strains become claims

A recent study completed by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute reviewed data on over 18,000 California work injury claims from accidents between 2000 and 2014 that resulted in one or more spinal fusions.

The data showed that 60 percent of the claims made involving spinal fusions started off with an injury that was initially reported as a simple sprain or a strain. In a majority of cases, spinal fusion surgery had to be performed within two years of the initial injury, and 20 percent required at least one additional fusion at some point further down the line.

Men accounted for more than 64 percent of the claims in each year that was reviewed, and men received more compensation through temporary disability and permanent disability, as well as more money for medical treatment than women did.

The second-leading cause for filing a claim after a back injury was cumulative trauma, including mental stress, which made up 14 percent of claims.

What is a spinal fusion?

Spinal fusions are major surgery procedures that seek to alleviate chronic back pain by ceasing the motion of a problematic vertebral segment. In simpler terms, spinal fusions join two problematic pieces of your spine into one larger piece that should, in theory, make chronic back pain better.

A spinal fusion may be necessary because of a degenerative condition that the patient has had since birth, or they may need one because of a traumatic injury that caused a serious injury to one or more of their vertebrae. In regards to this situation, workers who were injured on the job required spinal fusions years after they incurred an injury that they thought – or were told – was just a minor sprain.

Clearly, the spine is not something that can be healed from major injury just by resting it. Surgeons must perform hours of surgery and utilize bone grafts to join the two problematic vertebrae and stimulate a biological response to make the graft grow between the vertebrae, creating one fused bone.

Spinal fusions are incredibly difficult, finicky procedures that do not guarantee success, and may require additional surgeries later on in life. Twenty percent of workers injured in this study required at least one additional fusion surgery.

Hurt your back at work?

The more dangerous jobs in America – construction workers, electricians, utility maintenance workers, etc. – all come with a guaranteed risk of physical injury. Falls from high places consistently rank amongst the leading causes of injury and death for American workers, and such work-related danger can always pose a serious risk of injury to the back.

Back injuries are some of the most painful and persistent injuries a human can endure, as so much pressure is put on the back every waking hour of the day while we are upright, walking, working and even simply sitting in a chair.

If you have suffered a serious back injury – or an injury that was thought to be minor, but turned out to be serious – while performing your work duties, you have a right to workers’ compensation to help pay for any medical bills and to mitigate lost profits from being unable to work.

Even if you didn’t initially file a claim, if your injury develops into a more serious matter where a spinal fusion may be necessary, you may still be entitled to these benefits. The only way to know for sure in regards to your specific case is to consult with a team of legal professionals.

At Altman & Altman LLP, we have over 40 years of experience offering guidance to those who are injured on the job, and relentlessly seeking compensation for clients who are entitled to these benefits. We offer free consultation to go over the details of your case, and are available 24/7. Call today at 617-492-3000 or toll-free at 800-481-6199.


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