What Are Cumulative Injuries?

Cumulative injuries, also known as repetitive strain or stress injuries, are conditions that occur over time due to repetitive motion, excessive pressure, or prolonged strain on a particular part of the body. They differ from other workplace injuries in that they are not caused by a single, identifiable incident but develop gradually over time.  

Cumulative Injury Examples 

These injuries can range from carpal tunnel syndrome, often seen in office workers who spend hours at a keyboard, to back problems experienced by manual laborers lifting heavy objects regularly. Other examples of cumulative injuries include:  

  • Tennis elbow 

  • Golfer’s elbow.  

  • Tendonitis 

  • Raynaud’s syndrome  

  • Rotator cuff tendonitis  

  • Hand-arm vibration syndrome  

  • Epicondylitis 

  • Ulnar nerve entrapment  

Risks Factors for Cumulative Injuries  

Cumulative injuries can be obtained over time and in various areas of employment. Some jobs, however, involve tasks and/or other factors that make the risk of obtaining a repetitive stress injury. Work-related risk factors for cumulative injuries include:  

  • Work that requires long hours  

  • Loud sustained sounds and noises  

  • Work involving heavy lifting  

  • Working conditions that are not ergonomic  

  • Working involving the use of significant force on parts of your body  

  • Any work that is repetitive  

The Impact Cumulative Injuries Can Have  

The impacts of cumulative injuries can be far-reaching, affecting both the physical and emotional well-being of individuals. Physically, these injuries can cause chronic pain, numbness, loss of strength, and limited mobility. Emotionally, the constant discomfort and inability to perform certain tasks can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. 

Symptoms of cumulative injuries vary based on the type and severity of the injury but may include recurring pain, stiffness or swelling in the affected area, tingling or numbness, and a decrease in flexibility or range of motion. If left untreated, these symptoms can worsen over time, leading to more severe health issues. 

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Cumulative Injuries?  

Yes, you can file a workers’ compensation claim if you have suffered a cumulative injury because of your work.  

In Illinois, you must file a workers’ compensation claim within three years of the accident or two years from the date you last received compensation—whichever is later. You are also required to report any injuries to your employer within 45 days of your injury. With cumulative injuries, these deadlines are typically linked to when you were diagnosed or discovered you had a repetitive stress injury.  

How to Prove Cumulative Trauma  

Proving cumulative trauma in a workers' compensation claim can be challenging because it requires demonstrating that the injury or illness is directly related to the work conditions and not other factors like lifestyle or age. Here are some examples of evidence that can help support your claim:  

  • Medical records. The first step in proving cumulative trauma is to gather all relevant medical records. These documents should clearly indicate the nature of the injury or illness, the onset, and progression of symptoms, and any treatments provided. 

  • Expert testimony. Expert testimony from medical professionals plays a critical role in establishing the connection between the work environment and cumulative trauma. These experts can explain how the work conditions could have caused or contributed to the injury or disease. 

  • Work conditions documentation. It is crucial to document the work conditions thoroughly. This may involve detailing the nature of the tasks performed, the frequency and duration of exposure to harmful conditions, and any safety measures (or lack thereof) in place. 

  • Timely and accurate reporting. Filing a timely and accurate report of the injury or illness is essential in a workers' compensation claim. Delays or inaccuracies can weaken the claim and even lead to denial. 

  • Proof of other workers suffering similar injuries. If people in the same role or a similar role are also suffering from repetitive strain injuries, you can use this information as evidence of the connection between your injuries and your work.  

Experienced Workers’ Compensation Claims Attorneys

For those dealing with a workers' compensation case for cumulative injuries, it is crucial to seek legal advice. A lawyer specializing in workers' compensation can guide you through the process, ensure your rights are protected, and help you secure the compensation you deserve. 

McHargue & Jones, LLC has been providing clients in Chicago and the surrounding areas since 2000. With decades of collective experience, our attorneys are prepared to help you file a workers’ comp claim if you have suffered a cumulative injury at work. From helping you understand your legal rights and options to fighting to protect your best interest, you can trust our firm with your case.  

Learn more about how our attorneys can help you by calling (312) 739-0000.