In earlier posts, I have discussed some of the factors which must be shown to establish whether an event at work qualifies as a “compensable” injury under Virginia’s workers’ compensation scheme. More specifically, I have discussed the necessity of showing that an injury arose occurred in the course of the employment and arose out of the employment. In this post and the one following it, I will take a more detailed look at the “injury by accident.”
A leading case defining an injury by accident is the Virginia Court of Appeals’ opinion in
An example of the sort of injury which results from cumulative trauma or gradual growth is carpal tunnel syndrome, defined as pain or tingling in the hand or fingers caused by pressure in the wrist on the median nerve. It is a common work-related condition which can be caused by forceful or repetitive hand movements, hand-arm vibration, or working for long periods in the same or an awkward position.
It was epidemic in the 1980’s when increasing digitization of workplace data required many employees to spend long hours laboring over their keyboards, and it was a key factor in the growth of workplace ergonomics, the design of workplace equipment to be more in line with natural movements thereby reducing stress on the body parts engaged in the activity. Since it is almost impossible to determine exactly when the cumulative effects of repetitive movement results in development of carpal tunnel syndrome, the Legislature enacted statutory language stating that carpal tunnel syndrome is not an occupational disease, but an ordinary disease of life. Virginia Code sections 65.2-400 & 401.
In my next post, I’ll look at a recent opinion from the VWCC which shakes up the common interpretation of the proof of an injury by accident.