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  • Writer's pictureJohn Larrimer

Understanding Disc Disease in Workers' Compensation: What Is It and Who Can Claim

Suffering a workplace injury can be detrimental to a person's well-being and livelihood. Even the most careful workers in lower-risk environments can end up with lasting pain and discomfort due to injuries, illness, or other conditions.


Degenerative disc disease is one possible condition that can result from certain types of jobs and activities. What is it, and how can people claim for disc disease in workers' compensation?


What Are Workers' Compensation Benefits?

What Are Workers' Compensation Benefits?


Workers' compensation is mandatory insurance for employers that covers their employees in case of injury, illness, or disability caused by their job.


People who become ill or injured as a result of their job can obtain workers' compensation benefits to cover lost wages and health care, among other things.


The exact rules and requirements regarding workers' comp benefits vary between states- but most companies are required by law to provide at least basic insurance coverage (Texas is the only exception).


What Is Disc Disease?


Degenerative disc disease is a condition caused predominantly by heavy lifting and repetitive motion. Someone suffering from degenerative disc disease may experience intense pain- mostly in the lower back but also through the rest of their back and neck.


People usually develop degenerative disc disease later in life as age, wear, and tear weaken the spinal discs. That said, younger people who work in jobs with excessive repetitive stress can develop it sooner.


Disc Disease VS Herniated Disc

The symptoms of degenerative disc disease can feel similar to a herniated disc, but there are some key differences.


A herniated disc is caused by a sudden injury. There is no build-up or development leading to it, and the pain can usually go away with the proper treatment.


Disc disease, on the other hand, is degenerative- meaning it gradually worsens over time. There is no cure for this type of degenerative joint disease- only pain management and therapeutic treatment to relieve the condition.


How Do Certain Jobs Affect Degenerative Disc Disease?

Some people have disc disease as an underlying condition that doesn't cause them any pain. Certain tasks can aggravate degenerative disc disease to a point where people can no longer work because of the significant pain they feel.


Workers who lift heavy objects regularly throughout their day are at higher risk of developing degenerative disc disease- even if they are cautious to lift as carefully as possible. Other repetitive movements that worsen a pre-existing condition include bending, crouching, and twisting from the hips for long periods without sufficient breaks.


What Are Some Common Causes of Disc Disease in the Workplace?

  • Lifting heavy objects such as boxes and construction materials

  • Working on a factory line for long hours

  • Crouching and bending when working on construction sites

  • Traumatic injuries that make the symptoms of degenerative disc disease worse (a slipped disc or other back injury)

  • Wear and tear from working a physically demanding job for a long time


What Are the Possible Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease?

The treatment options for degenerative disc disease vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and how big an impact the condition has on a person's life.


Those who only have minor symptoms can treat it at home with light exercise, stretches, and hot or cold therapy to help with inflammation.


In most cases, healthcare providers will try non-invasive treatments for degenerative disc disease. The most common options are physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications. Other possible treatments include steroid injections around the spinal cord nerves and joints or radiofrequency treatment for pain management.


There are also many cases where those suffering from degenerative disc disease require surgery. When symptoms persist after being treated repetitively with non-invasive measures, and the person's quality of life is affected, surgery can be a good choice.


Surgeons use a variety of procedures to treat degenerative disc disease. All fall into the category of spinal decompression surgery, which works to relieve pressure and pain.


Is Degenerative Disc Disease Covered by Workers' Compensation?


If there is a correlation between a person's degenerative disc disease and their job, then they could be entitled to workers' compensation. Under the workers' compensation system, anyone who faces medical expenses or the prospect of permanent injury or disability because of their job can claim workers' comp benefits.


That said, the condition must be work-related in order to claim workers' comp.


How Does a Disc Disease Workers' Compensation Claim Work?


Workers' comp claims involve an employee claiming damages from their employer via the workers' compensation insurance company. There are two types of workers' compensation benefits:


  • Medical benefits (payments that cover medical treatment and expenses for injured workers)

  • Permanent disability benefits (payments that replace earnings for workers who can no longer work to the same capacity because of an injury, illness, or condition caused by their job)


Who Can Claim?

Any person working for an employer that provides workers' compensation benefits (almost every employer in Ohio) who suffers an injury, becomes ill, or develops a condition that can be directly tied to their job can make a claim for workers' compensation.


Who Is Liable?

Employers pay for workers' compensation insurance directly. There is no deduction from employee payroll to cover the expense- the law dictates (in everywhere except Texas) that employers must have this insurance and bear the costs themselves.


As such, it is the employer who is liable, and the workers' comp insurance company who pays to cover the damages.


It is important to remember that workers' compensation settlements work a little differently than personal injury claims. That said, an employer can argue that the injury was not work related.


With degenerative disc disease, for example, an employer could argue that out-of-work activities or lifestyle choices are to blame rather than the job.



How to Claim?

An injured worker suffering from degenerative disc disease can open a workers' comp case against their employer. The rules and process vary a little between states- but it generally involves documenting the details of the injuries and evidence to back the claim, reporting the injury to the employer, and the employer filing a claim with the insurance company.


In Ohio, there is no set time in which someone must inform their employer, but it is beneficial to do so sooner rather than later. Informing the employer is generally the first thing a person should do if they intend to file a claim for a work-related injury.


The injured party, their employer, their doctor, their spouse, or their MCO can file the claim on the injured person's behalf. Anyone on this list, except the doctor, can complete the claim online by filling out a First Report of Injury or Occupational Disease or Death form with the BWC. Alternatively, the claim can be filed over the phone.


The BWC then decides whether or not the claim is valid. It usually takes four weeks- during which time investigations are carried out. These include interviews with the injured party, their employer, and the relevant medical professionals involved in the treatment.


Claims for injuries or illnesses that result in extended periods of missed work way require extra paperwork and investigation. Degenerative disc disease can lead to extended time missed from work- especially if the condition requires surgery. In some extreme cases, it can even count as permanent partial disability.


It can become complex, which is where work injury attorneys come in.


How Can a Workers' Compensation Lawyer Help Injured Workers Win Their Claims?

How Can a Workers' Compensation Lawyer Help Injured Workers Win Their Claims?


An experienced workers' compensation attorney can help people navigate their claims for work-related injuries and conditions. Coping with the pain of degenerative disc disease is difficult enough- especially when combined with the stress of missing work and an uncertain future. Facing a claim alone is a mammoth task for anyone.


Workers' compensation claims are not always clear-cut. Conditions such as degenerative disc disease are covered by workers' compensation benefits, but there is room for doubt and argument if the employer wants to avoid paying or accepting responsibility.


A lawyer can gather the relevant evidence to support the claim- including witness statements, expert testimony, and medical records. They can then assist with the paperwork and work as an intermediary during investigations.


If the decision does not go the way of the injured person, an attorney can launch an appeal on their behalf- and help them through the next steps involved in disputing a claim decision. They can also explain how marijuana use can hurt your workers’ compensation claim.


Larrimer & Larrimer Fight for Injured Workers in Columbus, Ohio


Larrimer & Larrimer of Columbus, Ohio, is an elite legal team dedicated to seeking justice and fair settlement for injured workers. Years of experience fighting for workers suffering from conditions and ailments have sharpened this team's attack- making them the best choice to guide someone through a degenerative disc disease workers' compensation claim.


Contact the team today to arrange a free case review and consultation to discuss a specific case. Nobody should have to face such a difficult process alone. Larrimer & Larrimer is here to help.

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