Workers compensation has slid out of the public eye in Washington since the last election when it was the hot topic as employers and insurance companies made an aggressive move to privatize the Washington State Labor and Industries department (L&I). However, that still doesn’t mean that people have stopped being injured on the job and those injuries cost the system billions of dollars per year.

This has left the issue of the cost of on the job injuries on the table with few voices offering further solutions beyond privatization and method of getting workers back to work as quickly as possible to offset costs. But are these the best solutions?

As advocates of a safe work place, we support a more preventative method rather than spending the money to treat the personally injured worker after a possibly preventable accident has happened. We also seriously question the method of pushing workers back to work before they may be ready in order to cut costs.

Though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set workplace standards with prevention in mind, it seems that other less controllable factors may be involved. Now research shows that depression may play a potentially significant factor in workplace injuries.

Depression and Workplace Injuries

Part of the process of L&I and pretty much any workers compensation claim that is opened, the employee’s medical and psychological evaluation is vital to determining the validity and breadth of their compensation claim. There are many factors that could prevent the injured employee from returning to work with any expediency and depression is one of them.

There are few more pertinent or complex cases than those where on-the-job injuries are likely to incur psychological trauma as well. Various study results examining leading work-related disabilities such as musculoskeletal disorders and orthopedic injuries. Recent research reveals a very high likelihood that patients will experience psychological distress in the form of depressive disorders as a result of their physical injuries.

Musculoskeletal disorders include:

  • Repetitive stress injury (RSI)
  • Repetitive stress disorder (RSD)
  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • Repetitive strain disorder (RSD)
  • Repetitive motion injury (RMI)
  • Repetitive motion disorder (RMD)
  • Repetitive Injury
  • Overuse Syndrome
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD)

Orthopedic injuries include:

  • Back injuries
  • Hip injuries
  • Non-union of a fracture
  • Failed spinal surgery
  • Disorders of the spine
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Curvature of the spine
  • Leg, Knee and Ankle Injuries/Disorders

One study published last year in the Annals of General Psychiatry, researchers found a high incidence of depression in orthopaedic outpatients.

“Depression is common among general trauma patients and is associated with a poor outcome,” researchers wrote.

They found that depression was a result of socio-economic circumstances and the nature of bone pathology related to the worker’s disabilities.

In another study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Australian researchers pinpointed a similar tendency towards anxiety and depression in patients with work-related musculoskeletal disorders. This finding led them to conclude that the occupational rehabilitation needs of such patients may be underestimated on a frequent basis.

A Case For Full Rehabilitation

Many healthcare professionals and safe workplace advocates believe that when an individual sustains a musculoskeletal or orthopaedic injury on the job, physical rehabilitation is an essential step in helping them prepare to return to work. Moreover, if the psychological ramifications of those injuries are not taken into account during an initial medical examination, injured workers run the risk of receiving less-than-comprehensive care.

Workers may then find themselves struggling to perform at their former level even after considerable treatment and physical therapy. This has the potential of exposing the recovering worker to reinjury or further injury as a result.

As with any psychological work-related injury, depression or anxiety as a side-effect of physical trauma may be difficult to detect – and in some cases, such claims may result in accusations or perpetration of work comp fraud. Only a trained and experienced Qualified Medical Evaluator can determine the full breadth of a claimant’s alleged psychological injury.

Workers Compensation Lawyer

When a worker is hurt on the job, L&I is appointed with the task of investigating the accident to determine if there are any safety issues or violations by the company that facilitated the personal injury and subsequent workers compensation claim. The worker goes through the process of filing a claim, evaluation, and generally they receive benefits within 14 days of the industrial accident, but sometimes they may be denied. That’s when the worker needs help from an experienced legal professional.

If you or someone you know suffer a serious personal injury at work due to improper procedures or a hazardous workplace then you need a skilled attorney with experience in the procedures of workers compensation to get you the compensation you deserve. Call Phillips Law Firm for a free consultation.