Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel syndrome is a combination of parasthesia (pins and needles), numbness, and pain affecting all over the hand except the little finger and half of the main finger. This can be caused by a pressure on the median nerve that passes through the wrist which can result from continuous repetitive movements of the hand such as using a keyboard.
Who is most likely to suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Whereas much carpal tunnel syndrome-related media attention has, in the past, been devoted to employees whose tasks include monotonous data entry on computers, more ergonomically designed computer hardware has led to carpal tunnel syndrome becoming less of a problem in an office environment. However, employees still at risk of acquiring carpal tunnel syndrome at work include assembly line workers and those involved in manufacturing, sewing, cleaning, and food packing.
Women are three times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome at work than men – due to their naturally thinner wrists and consequently thinner carpal tunnels – and carpal tunnel syndrome is hardly heard of in people less than thirty years of age. It is estimated that carpal tunnel syndrome affects three out of 10,000 employees each year.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
Mild symptoms can usually be treated with home care. We would always advise consulting your GP in the case of any form of injury, however, you can also:
- Stop activities that cause numbness and pain. Rest your wrist longer between activities.
- Ice your wrist for 10 to 15 minutes 1 or 2 times an hour.
- Try taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
- Wear a wrist splint at night. This takes the pressure off your median nerve.
The sooner you start treatment, the better your chances of stopping symptoms and preventing long-term damage to the nerve. You also may need medicine for carpal tunnel syndrome or for a health problem that made you susceptible to developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Surgery is an option. But it’s usually used only when symptoms are so bad that you can’t work or do other things even after several weeks to months of other treatment. To keep carpal tunnel syndrome from coming back, take care of your basic health. Stay at a healthy weight. Don’t smoke. Exercise to stay strong and flexible. If you have a long-term health problem, such as arthritis or diabetes, follow your doctor’s advice for keeping your condition under control.
You can also try to take good care of your wrists and hands:
- Try to keep your wrist in a neutral position.
- Use your whole hand—not just your fingers—to hold objects.
- When you type, keep your wrists straight, with your hands a little higher than your wrists. Relax your shoulders when your arms are at your sides.
- If you can switch hands often when you repeat movements
What you should do if you display symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
If you think that you have carpal tunnel syndrome, your first course of action should be to visit your local doctor. Once you have advised him that you have symptoms that might be related to your occupation, he will conduct the initial tests and then refer you to a specialist for confirmation of his diagnosis.
If the specialist agrees that you have carpal tunnel syndrome induced by poor work practices, then you should see a solicitor in respect of claiming compensation for your carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a recognised industrial injury for employees who regularly use power tools and are involved in other aspects of manufacturing, and a solicitor will be able to determine whether your personal circumstances entitle you to claim compensation for acquiring carpal tunnel syndrome.
If it can be proven that work practices promoted by your employer have led to you developing carpal tunnel syndrome, you should be able to claim compensation for your injuries.
Claiming compensation for carpal tunnel syndrome is processed in exactly the same way as any personal injury claim, with an initial application to the Injuries Board Ireland (PIAB) and an independent medical examination.
Even though musculoskeletal disorders are covered in the Injuries Board Ireland´s “Personal Injuries Guideline”, you may wish to have a solicitor familiar with personal injury claims of this nature complete your application form to ensure that all aspects and consequences of your injury are included. As well as being able to claim compensation for the physical trauma you may have experienced through your carpal tunnel syndrome, you might also be able to claim special damages for any out-of-pocket expenses you may have encountered making doctor´s appointments and traveling to see a specialist.
Furthermore, when making a claim for carpal tunnel syndrome compensation against an employer, being represented by a solicitor makes it less likely that you will experience an awkward workplace confrontation when able to return to work. Even though the Statute of Limitations allows two years (from the date when you are diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome) in which to make a claim for compensation, you should not delay contacting a solicitor. Cases of this nature may often be complex and take time to resolve, and a lengthy preparation of your case due to medical tests may result in it becoming time-barred.
What to do if an accident occurs in the workplace?
1. Contact our accidents in the workplace solicitor
Our workplace injury solicitors are experts in advising clients on how to make these claims. Many people use a solicitor to aid with this application process as a lot of paperwork and filing are required, and our expert team is on hand to make the process as smooth as possible.
2. The PIAB Application
The next step is to make an application to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB). If your personal injury claim concerns anything other than medical negligence, some assaults, and some cases of entirely psychological injury, then your claim can be brought through PIAB. Examples of claims that PIAB covers include:
3. Submitting information and documents to PIAB
Your solicitor will obtain evidence, medical reports, and other expert reports required. And submits these documents to the Board for Assessment.
4. Consent to assess the claim
Once the application is made, PIAB issue a formal notification of claim to the defendant(s). The defendant(s) must indicate within 90 days whether or not they consent or not to the assessment of the claim. If the defendant consents, then PIAB will proceed to assess the claim. If they decline to have the case assessed, the PIAB will issue an Authorisation to allow the claimant to issue court proceedings.
5. Claim assessment time
If PIAB is assessing the claim, this will usually take about 9 months. They will then issue their Assessment of your claim, this amount reflects general and special damages awarded in respect of your claim. If the Assessment is accepted by both parties, the PIAB will issue an Order to Pay. The Order to Pay has the same status as an Order of the Court, and must be discharged by the defendant(s) within 10 days. A settlement cheque will then be issued to the claimant.
If the Assessment is rejected by either party, an Authorisation will be granted by PIAB to bring court proceedings.
How much compensation you receive for an accident in the workplace is dictated by two legally binding documents known as:
The “Book of Quantum” and
The recently published Personal Injuries Guidelines by the Judicial Council of Ireland.
The Book of Quantum dictates how much compensation you are owed if your Authorisation was received from PIAB prior to the 21st of April 2021. In all other cases, compensation in respect of general damages is assessed with the aid of the Judicial council’s Personal Injuries Guidelines.
The Book of Quantum sets out general guidelines as to the amounts that may be awarded or assessed in Personal Injury Claims. The guidelines are divided into sections depending on what category of injury was suffered, e.g., head injuries, neck injuries, back injuries and spinal fractures, upper limb injuries, lower limb injuries, and body and internal organs. The Book of Quantum sets out 4 steps to assess what compensation is appropriate for the suffered injury. These steps are as follows:
- Identify the category of injury
- Assess the severity of the injury (through medical reports and records)
- Research the value range
- Consider the effect of multiple injuries
The Personal Injuries Guidelines were adopted by The Judicial Council on the 6th of March 2021. Similar to the Book of Quantum, this legal document sets out guidelines for assessing compensation in respect of general damages. The general principles for this assessment centre on three criteria:
- Awards of damages must be fair and reasonable to both the claimant and the defendant(s)
- Awards must be proportionate to the injuries sustained
- Awards must be compared on a scale of injuries that are both of a lesser and greater magnitude
One of the most substantial differences brought about by this update is that the average level of damages awarded has been reduced. The new guidelines have, however, provided more detail and more explanation for claimants, which is overall a welcomed change to the process of making a personal injury claim.
Injury at work employer responsibilities
Employers’ responsibilities to workers have evolved over the years in the civil courts, and the employer’s duty of care to each of his employees can be reduced to five headings.
Put simply, the employer must provide:
- Safe systems of work,
- A safe place of work,
- Plant and machinery that is safe to use,
- Competent supervision and/or suitable training and,
- Care in the selection of fellow employees.
All claims involving accidents in the workplace (employer liability cases) must be submitted to Personal Injuries Assessment Board before starting legal proceedings.
Employers must ensure the minimum health and safety standards in order to prevent (as much as possible) their employees from being injured due to an accident at work.
Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, employers have a duty to ensure their employee’s safety, health, and welfare at work as far as is reasonably practicable.
In order to prevent workplace injuries and ill health, you are required, among other things, to
- Provide and maintain a safe workplace, machinery, and equipment
- Prevent risks from use of any article or substance and from exposure to physical agents, noise, and vibration
- Prevent any improper conduct or behavior likely to put the safety, health, and welfare of employees at risk (“horseplay” and bullying at work come within these categories)
- Provide instruction and training to employees on health and safety
- Provide protective clothing and equipment to employees (at no cost to employees)
- Appoint a competent person as the organisation’s Safety Officer
Claiming compensation for a work accident
There are four main components to an injury compensation settlement.
1. Compensation for general pain and damages
Compensation for general damages is calculated using the recently published Personal Injuries Guidelines by the Judicial Council of Ireland. (a publication that lists a variety of injuries and assigns them a financial value depending on the severity of the injury)
2. Compensation for the non-financial changes
Compensation for the non-financial changes you had to make in your life as a result of the injury – e.g., unable to complete domestic tasks, unable to participate in leisure pursuits or enjoy social events that would be a part of your normal routine, loss of amenity – such as being unable to care for your young children or elderly, or if you’re depressed due to incapacitation.
3. Compensation for any emotional trauma
Compensation for any emoitional trauma that you may have been diagnosed with due to the nature of the accident, how the accident had occurred, or development while you were in recovery. These are known as psychological injuries. It typically takes time to manifest and the consequences can be debilitating.
4. Compensation for special damages
Compensation for special damages to recover any expenses you may have incurred or may incur in the future as a result of your injury – such as loss of income, medical fees, therapy costs, pharmacy costs, using other forms of transport due to being unable to drive, and even restructuring your home if your accident has left you confined to a wheelchair. These are generally the main examples of compensation under the four main components of an injury compensation settlement.
It is advisable to speak to a solicitor to determine which type of expenses can be recovered, and it is highly recommended to keep all receipts for anything you spend on (such as medical fees, pharmacy costs, transport costs, etc.) during the recovery of your injury at work. Having the receipts will smoothen the process of your solicitor negotiating the best and fairest possible settlement for you in all circumstances.
Statute of limitations
You have two years from the date of the accident within which to issue proceedings. If you are under 18, a separate set of rules apply, and we would recommend you contact our solicitors to discuss these. Learn more about the statute of limitation
If you have experienced injury or an accident in the workplace and have questions surrounding the incident, please contact our workplace injury solicitors at Coleman Legal to find out if you have a potential legal action against your employer. Our dedicated team has a collective experience of over 30 years, and we are ready to advise and assist you with your claim.
If you want to take legal action over an injury, you should consult our accidents in the workplace solicitors, who are members of the Law Society’s injury accreditation scheme and clinical negligence accreditation scheme.
Coleman Legal LLP
84 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
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