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Overuse Syndrome is Not a Recognized Occupational Illness Under the Idaho Workers' Compensation Law

Workers’ Compensation In Idaho is Dependent Upon Sustaining a Work Related Injury Due to an Industrial Accident or Onset of Occupational Illness from a Mishap or Untoward Event

Under Idaho law, workers compensation benefits are available to workers who sustain either an work related injury arising from an industrial accident or an occupational disease such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

A butcher reports to work at a grocery store and begins to load meat onto some meat trays. There after he takes the trays to the meat counter and begins the process of unloading the meat from the trays into the meat case. It’s a busy Saturday and so his job is to make sure that the meat counter is sufficiently stocked through the course of the day. Midway through the morning of constantly lifting meat trays back and for from the refrigerator to the meat counter, his arm begins to tire and becomes sore. By the end of the day the arm feels like it is on fire. The next day, the butcher decides to go to the doctor and the doctor diagnoses the condition as "overuse syndrome." No isolated incident or occurrence was identified by the butcher to the doctor during the first consultation with the physician regarding the condition. He told his doctor that his arm just got sore from using the arm all day long. The surety upon receipt of the notice of injury denied the claim.

A Work Related Injury Must be Caused by An Industrial Accident Resulting in Violence to the Physical Structure of the body

In Idaho, the Idaho Workers compensation law defines an accident to be "an unexpected, undesigned, and unlooked for mishap, or untoward event, connected with the industry in which it occurs, and which can be reasonably located as to time when and place where it occurred causing the injury. An injury is construed to include only an injury caused by an accident which results in violence to the physical structure of the body. Injury means a personal injury caused by an accident arising out of and in the course of employment covered by the Workmen's Compensation Law." Perez v. J.R. Simplot Co., 120 Idaho 435, 437-438, 816 P.2d 992, 994-995 (Idaho 1991). See also Idaho Code § 72-102(14).

Cases Involving Repetitive Trauma are Compensable as Occupational Illness but Overuse Syndrome is Not a Recognized Repetitive Trauma Under Idaho Workers’ Compensation Law

Cases involving repetitive trauma such as carpel tunnel syndrome are considered occupational diseases which are subject to compensation under The Idaho Workers’ Compensation Law. Id. However, in the case of "overuse syndrome," the Idaho Industrial Commission found in Perez that the claimant has the burden of establishing that the injury was due to more than a mere onset of pain at work, i.e., that the claimant has the burden of establishing that the onset of pain was caused by an "unexpected, undesigned, and unlooked for mishap or untoward event, connected with the industry in which it occurred." If it were not so, a worker could claim benefits for a cluster headache merely because the onset of pain occurred at work.

As such, the Claimant would do well to identify the mishap or untoward event as to when the injury occurred and to identify it to a specific mishap instead of an unspecified complaint that "my arm got sore through the course of the day." An accident in such a case could be an injury incurred by bending, twisting and then loading the muscle causing a tear, sprain or strain. An isolated muscle strain, sprain or tear in the muscle or ligament would be considered a compensable event due to an "industrial accident." However, in the situation where the soreness occurred over a period of time rather than an isolated mishap such as in the case of "overuse syndrome" the onset of pain alone may be insufficient to carry the day as to the Claimant’s burden of proof. Overuse syndrom is not a recognized "occupational disease" for which workers compensation is available as opposed to the case where a specific instance of bending, twisting and lifting cause a "tweak" or sudden and immediate onset of pain in the muscle may be.

Workers’ Compensation Trial Lawyer Alan Morton has over 31 years of experience helping victims of industrial accidents seek workers compensation for their injuries.

Therefore, if you have been injured on the job by an industrial accident or by the onset of an occupational disease, you should notify your employer within 60 days from the date of the industrial accident or onset of occupational disease. But in light of the Perez case, it would be wise for you to consult with an experienced workers compensation lawyer. Boise Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Trial Lawyer Alan Morton has over 31 years of experience in handling workers compensation claims. You should contact Mr. Morton to schedule a free consultation at his office or your home, workplace, hospital or any other convenient location. Mr. Morton’s number is 208.344.5555, toll free at 888.716.8021 or complete the online contact form.

Alan Morton
Advocate for Justice/Trial Lawyer