There are more than 200,000 cases of spinal stenosis in the United States each year. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column that results in pressure on the nerves and resulting discomfort. It most commonly occurs in the neck (cervical stenosis) or in the lower back (lumbar stenosis). Though some are born with it, the condition typically results from some kind of wear-and-tear or trauma, such as a work-related injury.
Spinal stenosis symptoms include numbness and tingling in extremities, weakness, poor balance, pain and cramping. Symptoms may not appear right after an injury, but can develop and worsen over time.
How Does Spinal Stenosis Occur?
A dislocation or fracture of vertebrae due to a fall is one way spinal stenosis occurs. Falls lead to more work-related hospitalizations than any other type of incident in New York. Herniated disks, which can result from lifting something heavy, also can lead to spinal stenosis. Other causes may be tumors, thickened ligaments or overgrowth of bone.
What if Spinal Stenosis Occurs on the Job?
If you suffer a workplace injury such as spinal stenosis, workers’ compensation benefits may be available to you. New York State has a Workers’ Compensation Board that processes claims. The amount available is the same whether you or your employer was at fault for the incident, though you may lose benefits if it’s determined you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or intended to harm yourself or someone else.
Companies pay workers’ compensation insurance, and since claims drive up their costs, your employer may challenge your claim. It’s important to know your rights if you suffer spinal stenosis from a work-related injury.
First, if you suffer a back injury at work it’s important to receive medical attention right away. As noted, spinal stenosis symptoms do not always appear immediately but the condition is likely more visible on a CT scan or MRI. Obtaining a medical examination right after your injury may provide support for your claim that the injury was result of a workplace incident.
Your next step should be to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. These cases can be complex, and a variety of benefits may be available. Three primary types of workers’ compensation benefits are:
- Medical care
- Cash payments
- Supplemental benefits
New York’s workers’ compensation benefits cover “necessary medical care directly related to the original injury or illness and the recovery from his/her disability.” This can include diagnostic tests, treatments and medication. State law allows insurance carriers and self-insured employers, in some cases, to require treatment from specific providers. A attorney can help you understand your rights for obtaining treatment from your preferred providers.
Spinal stenosis treatments may include exercise, medication, cortisone injections and even surgery.
Note that injured workers may be asked to sign an A-9 form; this comes from the health care provider and states that if a claim is denied, the injured party could be responsible for payment.
If you’re not able to work for more than seven days due to spinal stenosis, you are eligible for a cash benefit. The formula is based on your weekly earnings and your level of disability. It is:
.67 x average weekly wage x percent of disability
For example, if your weekly wage is $1,000 and you are judged to be 75 percent disabled, you are eligible for $502.50 per week (.67 x 1,000 x .75). There is a maximum benefit of $904.74, however, and that maximum decreases as the date of the accident recedes into the past.
Supplemental benefits are only available to two groups of people:
- Those permanently and totally disabled in a work accident that took place before Jan. 1, 1979.
- Widows or widowers receiving death benefits due to a work-related death prior to Jan. 1, 1979.
The maximum supplemental benefit is $215 per week.
Death benefits and Social Security benefits also may be available to those impacted by a work-related injury.
Contact a Trusted Workers Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation claims may be filed online with the Workers’ Compensation Board, but don’t do it without first contacting attorney Paul Giamatti. A consultation is free — call or complete our easy online form.