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, a progressive condition that occurs when a key nerve in the wrist is compressed. Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in Virginia. Virginia workers compensation lawyer Corey Pollard explains when you may have a claim for benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway for ligament, tendons, and bones at the base of the hand. The carpal tunnel houses the median nerve, which runs from the palm of the hand through the forearm. The median nerve is responsible for sensations to the thumb and fingers, as well as nerve impulses to some of the muscles that control movement of the fingers and hand.

Occasionally, irritated tendons cause swelling and compress the median nerve. This is carpal tunnel syndrome. The compression may lead to a number of symptoms, including weakness, numbness, or pain in the hand, wrist, and arm.

How does the Virginia Workers' Compensation Act address carpal tunnel syndrome?

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 Virginia 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 occupatoinal diseases and did not result from causes outside of the employment, and
  • That one of the following exists:

    a. It follows as an incident of occupational disease as defined in this title; or

    b. It is an infection or contagious disease as defined in this title; or employment in a hospital or sanitarium or laboratory or nursing home as defined in Section 32.1-123, or while otherwise engaged in the direct delivery of health care, or in the course of employment as emergency rescue personnel and those volunteer emergency rescue personnel referred to in Section 65.2-101; or

    c. 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 Virginia workers’ compensation attorney.

Important Virginia workers' compensation carpal tunnel syndrome cases

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 Virginia workers' compensation lawyer Corey Pollard for help winning workers' comp benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome

If you are an auto mechanic, seamstress, baker, administrative assistant, 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. Virginia workers’ comp lawyer Corey Pollard is your “go to” carpal tunnel lawyer. He can help you get the Virginia workers’ comp benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome that you deserve. Call 804.251.1620 for a free, no-obligation consultation.