Head injuries are one of the most serious and life-threatening workplace injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 10 percent of all workplace injuries in the United States each year are head injuries, resulting in concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Any kind of head injury can result in lasting conditions affecting one’s daily life and ability to work. Injuries that may seem minor at the time of the accident can worsen over time and can even have serious consequences if undiagnosed or untreated, including concussions and post-concussion syndrome.
What Is Post-Concussion Syndrome?
Impact to the head can cause serious damage to the skull and brain, typically resulting in a TBI which can result in a coma, state of amnesia, or in severe cases, a vegetative state. A milder form of TBI is classified as a concussion, which causes symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and nausea, among others. Though termed “mild,” concussions can have serious and long-lasting conditions.
Concussion symptoms generally last for up to two weeks. When symptoms last much longer the injured likely has post-concussion syndrome, which can last for months, years, or even become permanent. Since concussion-related injuries cannot be seen on CT scans or MRIs, diagnosing post-concussion syndrome can be difficult, especially since the symptoms are also common with many other injuries or disorders. Diagnosis is generally made when symptoms continue longer than what is typical for a concussive injury.
Common symptoms of concussion and post-concussion syndrome include:
- Light and noise sensitivity.
- Blurred vision.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Memory loss.
- Mood swings.
- Neck pain.
- Speech difficulties.
- Decrease or loss of taste and smell.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Balance problems.
What Are Common Causes of Head Injury at Work?
Head injuries can happen in virtually any work environment, but professions such as construction, manufacturing, and the trades, have higher incidences of accidents resulting in head injuries. Common factors of workplace head injuries include:
- Falling objects: Head injuries can result from an object above a worker falling and striking him. Depending on the weight of the object and the height it falls, serious head injuries can result.
- Slips, trips, and falls: Wet floors, unsecured cords, uneven surfaces and more can cause someone to slip and fall and strike their head. These types of accidents are the second most frequent type of workplace accidents.
- Falling: Workers who fall from a roof, off a ladder, or down the steps can suffer serious head injuries as they fall.
- Malfunctioning equipment: Tools, machinery and many other types of equipment can become very dangerous when defective or not working properly and can cause many types of accidents, including head trauma.
- Vehicle accidents: One of the most common causes of head injuries is a car accident. This type of work-related accident can affect multiple workers at once when groups travel together for work events, such as an off-site meeting.
Is Post-Concussion Syndrome Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ Compensation does cover post-concussion syndrome if the injury occurred at work. In New Jersey, Workers’ Compensation provides costs of medical care, vocational rehabilitation, other injury-related treatments, and partial salary benefits. The types of benefits you may receive from Workers’ Compensation vary depending on the severity of your injuries. Typical benefits are as follows:
- Temporary disability: You will be eligible for temporary total disability benefits (TTB) if you are not able to work for more than seven days as a result of your workplace injury. In New Jersey, these benefits cover 70 percent of your average weekly wage prior to the injury in addition to coverage of medical costs. Temporary total disability benefits continue until you are able to return to work, you have reached maximum medical improvement, or you have received 400 weeks of benefits.
- Permanent total disability: Once a physician determines you have reached maximum medical improvement, meaning you will not get better even with additional medical care, they will determine the extent of your lasting disability. If it is determined that you are permanently and totally disabled and unable to perform your job, you will be eligible for permanent disability benefits. You will continue to receive weekly payments of your temporary wage rate up to 450 weeks, at which time you will be reevaluated to determine if you are still unable to return to work. If you are not, benefits will extend through the duration of your disability, but will be reduced by any other wages you may receive if you are able to earn income through other work you are able to perform.
- Permanent partial disability benefits: If your injury results in a lasting medical condition or permanent impairment, but you are still able to perform work in some capacity, you may be eligible for permanent partial disability benefits. The amount will be based on the affected body part and the extent of the impairment. Workers’ Compensation sets specific dollar amounts based on a compilation of the body part affected by the injury, the percentage of lost function due to the injury, your pre-injury wages, and the length of time you will receive benefits.
- Death benefits: The spouse, minor children, or other dependents may be entitled to death benefits when an employee dies as a result of a work-related injury. The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation system provides up to $5,000 in funeral expenses for an employee who dies as a result of the workplace injury.
What Should I Do if I Suffer a Head Injury at Work?
As with any workplace injury, there are proper steps you should take to report the incident and file an injury claim, as follows:
- Report the injury: Inform your employer of your accident and injury, preferably right after it happens, but as soon as possible if you are unable to do so at the time of injury. Your employer is obligated to write a report of the incident and submit it to the insurance company. Request a copy of this report as it will be important to your Workers’ Compensation claim.
- Medical care: In some cases of head trauma, symptoms may not present for several hours or even days, so you may not feel you have suffered a serious injury. However, undiagnosed head trauma can have serious consequences if left untreated. Regardless of the extent of your injuries, it is imperative that you seek medical evaluation no more than 48 hours post injury. Medical evaluations will be a crucial component of your injury claim and without an evaluation, your claim may be denied. Maintain all medical records, treatment and prescription information related to your injury as well.
- Gather statements: If possible, gather contact information and statements from any potential witnesses and ask them to send you any photos or videos they may have taken of the accident. If your employer has security cameras that may have recorded the accident, request copies of those as well.
- Speak with a lawyer: Your employer is required to submit the report of the incident and your injuries to the state following your accident at your place of employment. While there are many Workers’ Compensation protocols in place to protect you, pay a portion of your wages, and cover your medical care, navigating a Workers’ Compensation claim can be very complex. Working with a lawyer offers you the best chance of recovering a robust compensation package.
Given the wide variety of symptoms, treatment for post-concussion syndrome can be challenging and may necessitate evaluation by a variety of specialists, such as a neurologist, an orthopedist, and a psychiatrist. This may be especially true in Workers’ Compensation lawsuits involving concussion-related injuries.
In such cases, keeping a daily journal of your symptoms, habits, new symptoms, and negative changes, can be very useful in a brain injury case. Though it will undoubtedly be challenged by the insurance provider, such detailed documentation of your daily abilities following injury can be extremely helpful to your lawyer.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Advocate for Clients Injured in Workplace Accidents
Work-related injuries can affect all aspects of your life. In addition to medical conditions, injuries can affect your ability to work, earn income, and care for yourself and your family. Head injuries can have catastrophic consequences that can result in permanent disability or loss of life. If you received a head injury at work, our experienced Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyers at DiTomaso Law are available to help. Call us at 856-414-0010 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Mt. Holly, Camden County, and Vineland.