Repetitive Stress Injury Claims & the Workers’ Comp System

 In Workers' Compensation

In general, an employee is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits when he or she suffers a personal injury that arises out of and in the course of employment. This standard seems simple enough. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Workers’ compensation insurers and attorneys have found ways to unravel its “true” meaning of this statement throughout thousands of cases, and have opened the floodgates for interpretation to questions such as:

  • Who is an “employee”?
  • What is an injury?
  • When does an injury “arise out of” employment?
  • What does “in the course of” employment mean?

This begins to illustrate how a fairly straightforward requirement can be made into an injured employee’s nightmare. This becomes even more obvious in repetitive trauma cases, where new issues add even greater complexity.

Claiming Workers’ Comp for Repetitive Minimal Trauma (Gillette Injuries)

In Gillette v. Harold Inc., the Supreme Court of Minnesota dealt with two unique workers’ compensation issues:

(1)    Aggravating a prior non-work related injury, and

(2)    Injuries that occur from the cumulative effect of repetitive minimal trauma.

Specifically, Ms. Pauline Gillette was employed for 17 years as a clothing sales person. Her duties required her to be on her feet and walk what amounted to numerous miles per day. Years prior to her workers’ compensation claim, Ms. Gillette received a diagnosis of a deteriorative disorder on her left great toe unrelated to her employment. However, Ms. Gillette had medical testimony demonstrating that the continued use of the foot in bearing her weight aggravated the condition and caused her ultimate workers’ compensation disablement.

The Supreme Court of Minnesota concluded two things:

  • An employee may be entitled to workers’ compensation for an injury that is the result of repetitive minor trauma culminating in single traumatic occurrence which is completely disabling.
  • An employee may be entitled to workers’ compensation for an aggravation to a pre-existing, non-work related injury.

Pursuing a Repetitive Stress Injury Claim Today

The Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota decided Ms. Gillette’s case over 50 years ago. Today, cases involving repetitive minor trauma are referred to as “Gillette injuries” in the workers’ compensation field. Proving such an injury can be quite difficult, however, due to the added complexities of determining pre-existing conditions and the aggravating factors that lead to partial or complete disability.

If you believe that you have suffered a work injury as a result of repetitive trauma that has culminated into a single disabling condition, our workers’ compensation attorneys can help. Call us at 612-874-6109 or contact us online for assistance.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Ryan Finnie

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