Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) and Virginia Workers’ Compensation


So you’re at work, trying to complete your tasks, but the numbness and tingling in your hand and wrist are making it almost impossible. Suddenly you feel a sharp pain shoot through your wrist and arm while lifting an item. Chances are good that you have carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a progressive condition that occurs when a key nerve in the wrist is compressed. Now what?


Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome in Virginia. This article explains how to get a lifetime medical award for carpal tunnel syndrome and how to obtain the temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, and permanent partial disability benefits you deserve if your carpal tunnel syndrome causes you to miss time from work or have permanent impairment of the hand or arm.


If you have any questions about your case, or are looking for high-quality legal representation, contact workers compensation attorney Corey Pollard today: 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614. We help injured workers and family members in Virginia workers’ compensation matters across the state.


What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?


Carpal tunnel syndrome results when the median nerve, which is located at the palm side of the wrist and assists with the thumb side of the hand, is compressed. It is a common condition that may affect one or both hands. Many of our clients have experienced bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.


Workers with jobs that require repeated movements with the wrist extended, such as using a screwdriver or hand tool or typing on a computer, have an increased risk of being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.


Common symptoms of carpal tunnel include numbness, tingling, and pain near the thumb and wrist, even going into the forearm, as well as reduced grip strength.


Common Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Workers’ Comp Cases


Common treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome related to employment includes pain medication, corticosteroid injections, and surgery, which is called a carpal tunnel release. With carpal tunnel release surgery, bands of fibrous tissue placing pressure on the nerve and causing irritation and swelling are cut away.


What to Expect After Carpal Tunnel or Trigger Finger Release


We have spoken with many orthopedic surgeons who perform carpal tunnel or trigger finger release procedures on injured employees. Below are guidelines on how much time you may miss for your carpal tunnel and how long your recovery may take, both of which affect the value of your workers’ comp claim.


Following Carpal Tunnel Release: No heavy lifting, repetitive use of the hand, or grasping and fingering with the hand for 6 to 12 weeks. If you are unable to perform your job one-handed or without frequent use of the affected hand and wrist, then you will likely need to file a claim for temporary total disability benefits for this period.


One to Three Weeks Post-Carpal Tunnel Release: You will have minimal use of the hand and can lift less than 5 pounds occasionally.


Three Weeks to Eight Weeks Post-Carpal Tunnel Release: You will be able to progress to lighter or medium level use of the hand


Eight to 12 Weeks Post-Carpal Tunnel Release: You should be capable of full duty.


Remember – these are projections. Your recovery may take more or less time. And you may have permanent restrictions depending on your complications.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Workers’ Compensation Claims in Virginia


Virginia Code Section 65.2-400 defines occupational diseases under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. There is a specific part of the statute that addresses workers’ comp claims for carpal tunnel syndrome and states that carpal tunnel syndrome is not an occupational disease, but instead an ordinary disease of life as defined in Virginia Code Section 65.2-401.


Virginia Code Section 65.2-401 provides:


An ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed outside of the employment may be treated as an occupational disease for purposes of this title if each of the following elements is established by clear and convincing evidence, (not a mere probability):


  • That the disease exists and arose out of and in the course of employment as provided in Section 65.2-400 with respect to occupational diseases and did not result from causes outside of the employment, and


  • That one of the following exists:
    • It follows as an incident of occupational disease as defined in this title or …
    • It is characteristic of the employment and was caused by conditions peculiar to such employment


In other words, to receive Virginia workers’ compensation benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome, an injured employee must prove by clear and convincing evidence, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the carpal tunnel syndrome:


  • (1) arose out of and in the course of the employment;


  • (2) did not result from causes outside of the employment; and


  • (3) follows as an incident of an occupational disease or was caused by conditions peculiar to the employment.


An injured employee need not point to a single source of the carpal tunnel syndrome and exclude all other sources to receive Virginia workers’ comp benefits. He or she must, however, prove that the employment was the primary source of the carpal tunnel syndrome by reasonable medical certainty. This is a high burden of proof that may require the services of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.


Important Virginia Workers’ Compensation Cases Involving Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


First Am Metro Corp.First Am. Bankshares v. Dredske, No. 1205-93-4 (Ct. of Appeals Nov. 30, 1993): An employee must establish the primary source of the disease, but need not show the complete absence of other possible contributing causes. This is an important case for those of you who are diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome but whom use your hands for hobbies such as weightlifting, sewing, or using the computer at home.


National Fruit Prod. Co. v. Staton, 28 Va. App. 650 (1998), aff’d 259 Va. 271 (2000): A Virginia workers’ comp claim for carpal tunnel syndrome was found compensable where the only medical evidence was the opinion of the claimant’s treating physician, who opined that the repetitive nature of the claimant’s employment, combined with the years spent in the employment, created a high probability that the carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by her work. This case reveals the importance of medical evidence in winning a claim for carpal tunnel syndrome under an occupational disease theory.


Steadman v. Liberty Fabrics, Inc., 41 Va. App. 796 (2003): A claimant was not entitled to Virginia workers’ compensation benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome because her testimony that she had no activities outside of her employment was insufficient to exclude, by clear and convincing evidence, that her activities outside of work as the cause of her carpal tunnel. This case reveals that, at a minimum, in-depth testimony from the claimant is needed to exclude outside causes of carpal tunnel.


Cottrell v. Deroyal Indus., 2005 Va. App. LEXIS 351 (Sept. 13, 2015): A claimant was denied benefits because she did not tell her doctor about activities outside of work that may have caused her carpal tunnel syndrome. This case reveals that a claimant should specifically tell his or her doctor about non-work activities that may cause carpal tunnel syndrome, and ask the doctor if work was the primary cause of carpal tunnel, as opposed to those outside activities.


Contact Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Corey Pollard for Help Winning Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Carpal Tunnel in Virginia


If you are an auto mechanic, seamstress, baker, administrative assistant, truck driver, typist, cook, meatpacker, construction worker, or any other employee who frequently uses your hands and fingers to perform your job, you are at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. But workers’ comp benefits may be available, even if you use your hands at home for sports or chores like wringing clothes or folding laundry.


workers’ comp lawyer Corey Pollard is your “go to” carpal tunnel syndrome lawyer. He can help you get the medical care, wage replacement income, and workers compensation settlement for carpal tunnel syndrome that you deserve. Call 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614 for a free consultation about your carpal tunnel case, or complete the online form to your right. We’re ready to get started on your case.