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Can I obtain compensation for a repetitive stress injury?

Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are some of the most common injuries that workers suffer across the nation. Anyone from a construction worker to a manufacturer or even an office worker is at risk of sustaining an RSI during their career.

RSIs can cause individuals significant discomfort and pain that could potentially limit their movement and ability to complete their work. So, is it possible to recover workers' compensation for these work injuries?

Virginia is the only state that does not cover RSIs

Unfortunately, Virginia's workers' compensation laws do not cover RSIs or any repetitive trauma. Employees can recover compensation only if the injury:

  • Happened at work
  • Resulted from or related to a work activity
  • Occurred in a sudden accident, at one identifiable time

Even if RSIs are the result of someone's work activities, they generally develop over long periods. So, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific activity or incident that caused the RSI. 

Technically, the law does allow workers to obtain compensation if repetitive stress injuries cause specific diseases. But the workers' compensation commission consistently does not allow this. 

So, what can workers do?

RSIs can cause long-term pain. Some severe cases might even require surgery. And without workers' compensation, the medical treatment and limitations can leave employees facing high physical, emotional and financial costs.

However, there are ways that Virginia workers can prevent or mitigate RSIs. Adopting ergonomics in the workplace can help employees work more comfortably and avoid the risk of RSIs. 

Ergonomics help adapt a workplace to the worker. Common adaptations include:

  • Cushioned floors to relieve pressure on workers' joints
  • Protective gear that reduces the vibrations from machinery
  • Adjusted keyboards or office chairs to reduce muscle strain

Workers can also help reduce the risk of RSIs by ensuring they maintain proper posture while at work. And workers should avoid overexertion, which commonly leads to RSIs. Taking regular breaks can also help workers relieve the physical stress on their joints and reduce the effects of repetitive work. 

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