1. If my injury happens at work, is it always work-related?

If an Employee is injured at work, it is not necessarily covered by workers’ compensation. In order for an injury to be covered by workers’ compensation, there must be a connection to the work activities the Employee was engaged in. Recent caselaw has suggested that if a person has an “idiopathic” injury, then it may not be covered by workers’ compensation. An example of an idiopathic injury is bending over to tie ones shoe while at work. If the activity being performed is not related to a person’s work activities, the injury may not be covered under workers’ compensation.

However, if a person is doing heavy lifting as part of their job duties and then becomes symptomatic as they bend down to tie their shoe, (assuming the heavy lifting work activity contributed to the injury), then it may be covered by workers’ compensation.

2. If my symptoms begin at home does that mean I don’t have a workers’ compensation injury?

Just because a person becomes symptomatic outside of workdoes not mean the injury is not covered by workers’ compensation. In order for an injury to be covered by workers’ compensation, the injury must be related to one’s work activities. For example, if a person had a particularly heavy day of lifting, bending, or reaching at work, but did not become symptomatic until the next day, as long as the injury is related to the recent work activities, it would be covered by workers’ compensation.

 3. What if I had no specific incident at work?

Oftentimes employers want to know the specific activity that caused an injury. Sometimes a person doesn’t know exactly what they did at work but knows the activities they were engaged in. For instance, one might have an injury while doing repetitive heavy lifting but can’t say exactly at exactly what point the injury occurred. Just because you can’t identify a specific incident doesn’t mean the injury is not work-related. The workers’ compensation laws in Minnesota specifically recognize Gillette-type injuries which occur over time from repetitive activities at work, such as repetitive keyboarding (carpal tunnel syndrome), repetitive bending and lifting, (low back injuries), repetitive kneeling (knee injuries), repetitive overhead work/looking up (shoulder and or neck injuries).

4. How do I determine if I am entitled to workers’ compensation coverage?

The most important issue is whether your activities at work contributed to your work injury. It is important for injured workers to be able to explain to their employer and their doctor what activities at work caused or contributed to their symptoms or injury. Therefore, when reporting an injury and/or treating for an injury, it is especially important that the injured worker promptly notify their employer and doctor what work activities they believe contributed to their injury.

5. What notice, if any, am I required to give my employer?

Verbal notice is, at a minimum, required to an employer within 30 days of a specific injury and up to 180 days of a Gillette (repetitive trauma) injury. Based on recent decisions by the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, prompt notice to an employer is essential. In addition, although employees are not required to provide written notice, without written notice, the issue of notice may become a “he said/she said” situation. Therefore, we recommend you always fill out a First Report of Injury, even for minor incidents. You are also entitled to obtain a copy of that written First Report of Injury for your records.

If you don’t know whether your injury is work-related and have questions, please contact us at the number below. We are happy to answer any and all questions free of charge. It is better to be safe than sorry and be proactive rather than reactive. Failure to document these things often comes back to “bite” injured workers later if they don’t follow these steps.