While vibration white finger, a disorder impacting the blood supply to fingers and the hands, tends to grab the headlines, carpal tunnel syndrome claims have also been a big issue in the workplace. In simple terms carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by vibration/regular pressure which can over time lead to compression of the nerves in the wrist with extremely painful consequences. This medical condition was prescribed as a disease from April 1993 and as a consequence is also recognised in the courts with regards to compensation claims.
Those who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome are regularly awoken during their sleep with excruciating pain in their hands. We will now take a look at carpal tunnel syndrome injuries in the workplace, why they occur, when they occur and whether you might have a valid carpal tunnel syndrome claim for compensation.
Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The median nerve at the wrist is responsible for physical sensation, such as a sense of touch, and it also carries nerve signals from the brain to the hand which controls movement. Carpal tunnel syndrome impacts the nerve in the wrist and disrupts the signals between the hand and the brain therefore impacting grip and sense of touch. In similar circumstances to vibration white finger, carpal tunnel syndrome is closely associated with the use of vibrating tools and repetitive actions in the workplace. Over time the tissue inside the tunnel can become swollen and the tunnel itself actually narrow.
While it is fairly easy to connect carpal tunnel syndrome claims with an array of workplace activities, various other issues can increase the risk of developing the condition. These include:
- Family medical history.
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, underactive thyroid and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Historic wrist injuries.
- Activities in the workplace.
- Playing musical instruments.
Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
There are a number of ways in which the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome can be addressed which depend upon the severity of the condition. You may see many people “shaking their wrist” to bring back circulation and feeling to their hands but this is not a long-term solution. Solutions vary from:
- Wearing a wrist splint for support.
- Physical therapy such as exercises and stretching with occupational therapists often brought in for advice.
- Corticosteroids injected into the affected area.
- Surgery as a last resort.
History shows us that surgery is a last resort and not always successful. Even successful surgery will likely mean an individual is immobilised to a certain extent for up to 3 months which will obviously add to any carpal tunnel compensation payments in the event of proving negligence against an employer.
Duty Of Care To Workers
Under the various Health and Safety Acts, all employers have a duty of care to their employees to ensure they are safe and secure in their working environment. Aside from the general duty of care there are specific acts which will assist when claiming compensation for conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. These include:
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
- Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992.
These three acts in particular ensure safe working conditions for employees together with suitable equipment and safety training. Issues such as safety training are not just a one-off occurrence, they need to be regularly updated and employees made aware of changes on an ongoing basis.
- Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992.
This particular act of Parliament offers health and safety guidelines in relation to display screen equipment, ergonomically designed chairs and other equipment required to avoid condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Over the years there have been many studies into the posture of employees, potential risks and long-term health implications. Thankfully, improvements in various pieces of equipment such as ergonomically designed chairs, etc has helped to reduce an array of associated medical conditions.
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Proving Negligence In A Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Claim
When looking to lodge a carpal tunnel syndrome compensation claim the claimant needs to prove negligence on behalf of one or more third parties. The general Health and Safety Acts, and the acts specified above, offer a basis from which your personal injury solicitor can consider any potential breaches by an employer. Since 1993 it has been easier to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome when it was officially recognised as a medical condition. Where negligence can be proven, due to:
- Inappropriate working conditions.
- Lack of protective equipment.
- Insufficient breaks from vibrating machinery.
- Lack of training.
- Lack of, or inappropriate, risk assessments.
It may well be possible to lodge a carpal tunnel claim for compensation as a consequence of pain and suffering not to mention related expenses.
Making A Claim For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Compensation
As soon as the more common carpal tunnel symptoms occur, such as numbness and lack of grip in the hand, it is vital that medical advice is requested. Since 1993 it has been fairly straightforward to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome and your doctor will advise on the severity of your symptoms. As the examination and any recommended treatment will be noted on your medical records, these can play an integral part in any carpal tunnel syndrome compensation claim.
It is then imperative that the claimant puts together a log of when the condition emerged, workplace practices over the years, training given, protective clothing offered and general health and safety implications. The likelihood is that if one person is suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome there will be others in the same workplace who undertook the same working practices over the years. It may be possible to bring a combined claim for compensation against an employer but in this instance we are looking specifically at individual carpal tunnel syndrome claims. Medical evidence together with details of the working environment, and potential statements from witnesses/colleagues, can all combine to create a strong claim.
Your personal injury solicitor will be able to advise you accordingly and if you have a strong claim for compensation they will likely offer a No Win No Fee arrangement. This means in our case that no legal expenses will be incurred until the claim is successful with any compensation payment split between the claimant and the company on a predetermined basis. While the vast majority of carpal tunnel claims are settled on an out-of-court basis there will be instances where a full court hearing is requested perhaps where liability is contested or there is more than one party potentially liable.
What Compensation Might Be Claimed For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
There are two specific types of compensation relevant to personal injury and carpal tunnel syndrome claims. These are known as general damages and special damages and cover a whole range of different issues surrounding specific injuries and the impact on a person’s life. If we look at general damages these specifically relate to:
- Mental trauma.
- Pain and suffering.
- Life changing injuries.
While each carpal tunnel claim will be treated on a case-by-case basis there are guidelines which cover compensation amounts carpal tunnel syndrome injuries.
- Carpal tunnel injury that recovers within three years, compensation would likely be in the region £1,675 to £8,175.
- A compensation payout for continuing but fluctuating symptoms from carpal tunnel syndrome may see between £11,300 to £12,425.
- Compensation for carpal tunnel syndrome that leads to permanent disabilities and loss of employment averages around £16,650 to £17,575.
This is only one element of the compensation system with special damages referring to historic expenses and future expenses relating specifically to the injury. These take in an array of subjects such as:
- Loss of earnings.
- Loss of future earnings.
- Additional transport expenses.
- Adaptions to the home.
- Medical expenses.
- Future medical expenses.
In regards to special damages it is simply reimbursement of expenses and funding for future expenses directly related to the carpal tunnel injury and consequences to a person’s private and working life. As you can imagine, a period of long-term disability can have a major impact upon a claimant’s earnings which will need to be compensated by the defendant.
Claiming Carpal Tunnel Compensation From Your Employer
It is safe to assume that the vast majority of carpal tunnel injuries incurred as a consequence of actions in the workplace are not reported. There is an obvious issue in the mind of an employee, when looking to report their employer, surrounding their long-term job security. This has been recognised by the government over the years with various regulations brought in to protect employees from bullying and intimidation in these specific circumstances.
The simple fact is that these types of compensation payments are covered by business insurance and it is the insurance companies which will pay out as opposed to the company directly. There may even be circumstances where the company goes out of business between diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome and the lodging of a compensation claim. In these circumstances the insurance company which had covered the business at the time of the injury will still be obliged to pay out on valid carpal tunnel syndrome claims.