The Workers' Compensation Act and Repetitive Trauma in Connecticut
The Workers' Compensation Act in Connecticut can help more than just employees hurt in a workplace accident on a single occasion. This is because, under Connecticut Workers' Compensation law, the term "injury" means more than just a one-time accident. The Workers' Compensation Act specifically states that the term "injury" includes, "in addition to accident injury that may be definitively located as to the time when and the place where the accident occurred, an injury to an employee that is causally connected with the employee's employment and is the direct result of repetitive trauma or repetitive acts incident to such employment . . ." 1 This means that degenerative conditions, often affecting an employee's major joints or spine, may be compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act.
What is Repetitive Trauma and How is it Determined to be Compensable?
Repetitive trauma, while not precisely defined by statute, often leads to or includes such diseases and conditions as degenerative disc disease, Raynaud's syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or synovitis, among others. 2 The benchmark for compensability of such conditions, under the Workers' Compensation regime in Connecticut, is the same as that for single-event accidental injuries: can a medical professional conclude that the workplace repetitive trauma was a significant contributing factor to the condition from which the employee now suffers. 3 That is, is the condition or disease from which the employee suffers causally connected to a repetitive duty they performed in the course of their employment?
Often repetitive trauma in the workplace is also accompanied or aggravated by prior or successive accidental injuries in the workplace. For example, an employee suffers from degenerative disc disease in is lumbar spine (lower back) as a result of repeated use of a jackhammer which is exacerbated by a herniated disc in his lower spine resulting from a slip and fall on loose rubble during operating of the jackhammer. While questions of causation for the injury may arise in situations such as this, and additional speculation by medical professionals may be required, such injuries are often still compensable. 4
How Long do I Have to Pursue a Repetitive Trauma Claim?
Generally, a claim for compensation under the Workers' Compensation Claim for a condition resulting from repetitive trauma must be made within one year from the last date of injurious exposure or three years from the date of first manifestation of the condition. 5 This timeframe provides a claimant sufficient opportunity to make a claim once they know, or have reason to know, that they suffer from a disease or condition which is attributable to their work or workplace environment. Thus, it is incumbent upon the employee to make a claim within the applicable workers' compensation district office as soon as they learn that they suffer from an injury which is linked to repetitive trauma at work.
1 Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-275(16)(A) (Emphasis Added)
2 CT Prac. Series , Vol 19 § 4:10 p. 150.
3 See Hatt v. Burlington Coat Factory, 263 Conn. 279 (2003).
4 CT Prac. Series, Vol 19 § 4:10 p. 150., See
5 Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-294c(a)