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Back Injury at Work: What to Do in Virginia


Suffering a back injury on the job can be scary and stressful. You may be worried about getting the medical care you need or how you’ll support yourself and your family while you recover. The experienced injury attorney at Slominski Law is here to help you through this difficult process.

With over 30 years of legal experience right here in Virginia, Attorney Jaleh Slominski knows exactly what to do if you hurt your back at work. She can assist you with filing a workers’ compensation claim, negotiate for full compensation benefits, and advise you regarding your legal options.

Seeking Medical Care Should Be Your First Priority

If you suffer any type of back injury while performing job duties, your first call should be to emergency services or your doctor. Getting prompt medical attention can help minimize further damage and start you on the path toward healing. Be sure to:

  • Notify your employer immediately about the injury.
  • Get names of any witnesses to the incident.
  • Follow company policy regarding reporting workplace accidents.
  • Seek emergency care if the injury seems severe.
  • Make a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible.

The medical paperwork from your initial doctor visits will be important documentation to have on hand when you start your workers’ compensation claim. Attorney Jaleh Slominski can assist you with making a lost wages claim and getting your medical bills paid if your injury causes you to miss work for an extended period.

Understanding Virginia Workers’ Compensation Law

The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act provides wage benefits and medical coverage to employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses. Under the law, eligible workers give up the right to sue their employer in civil court in exchange for a more straightforward administrative claims process. Workers’ comp functions as a type of no-fault insurance.

To qualify, an employee needs to show an accident at work occurred and an injury resulted. Workers’ comp covers:

  • Wage replacement benefits for lost income due to the work injury
  • Payment of all reasonable and necessary medical treatment
  • Permanent disability benefits for serious, lifelong health issues
  • Vocational rehabilitation to help retrain for another career
  • Death benefits for surviving family members.

The state law has very strict time limits, however. In general, you must report your work injury to your employer within 30 days. To preserve your right to benefits, you’ll also need to file a formal Claim for Benefits with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission within two years of the accident date.

Given these tight deadlines, it is advisable to speak with an experienced workers’ comp attorney like Jaleh Slominski soon after you suffer a workplace back injury. She can discuss your legal options and start the claims process for you right away.

Common Causes of Back Injuries at Work

Back injuries often happen on the job for a variety of reasons. Understanding what led to your strained back can help when building a Virginia workers’ compensation case. Some typical causes include:

Lifting Heavy Items

Lifting, pulling, pushing, holding, or carrying heavy materials is one of the most common causes of back injuries at work. Weight limits set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggest healthy adults shouldn’t lift more than 51 pounds with two hands.

If your job requires repetitive lifting or handling awkwardly shaped or unbalanced loads, you may be at particular risk for a painful back injury.

Slip & Fall Accidents

Slips, trips, and falls were responsible for over 600,000 nonfatal workplace injuries requiring days off between 2021 and 2022, reports the National Safety Council. Sudden falls can easily damage muscles, tendons, and discs in your back. Common causes on the job include:

  • Tripping on extension cords or hoses
  • Losing one’s footing on slick floors or stairs
  • Falling off ladders.

To build a Virginia workers’ compensation case involving a slip, trip, or fall:

  • Report unsafe conditions to your supervisor.
  • Get witness statements.
  • Take photos of hazards.
  • Keep a record of accidents in the area.
  • Save video evidence if available.

By documenting ongoing safety issues, an experienced attorney can help prove that a work-related incident led to the back injury.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Employees who drive on the job or travel between worksites risk being involved in auto collisions. High-impact crashes easily damage vertebrae, rupture discs, or break the pelvis. Delivery drivers, sales reps, rideshare operators, and more may suffer lingering back issues after a work-related wreck.

Common Back Injuries and Workers’ Comp Claims

Different back conditions call for tailored workers’ compensation approaches under Virginia law. Having an overview of various diagnoses and treatments can help you understand what to expect from the claims process.

Herniated Discs

Slip-and-fall accidents, heavy lifting gone awry, and sudden twists or blows to the spine often cause discs between the vertebrae to rupture or bulge outward. Bits of the jelly-like discs can then leak out and irritate nearby nerves. This typically causes symptoms like:

  • Sharp lower back pain
  • Numbness or tingling down the legs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty standing up straight.

To diagnose a herniated disc, the doctor will likely order imaging tests like an MRI scan. Initial treatment involves rest, pain relievers, physical therapy, and special exercises. Surgery to remove damaged disc material may be necessary in more severe cases.

Your Virginia workers’ compensation claim can help pay wages while you’re off work recovering. Workers’ comp benefits can cover related medical bills and rehabilitation. If your injury causes permanent impairment, you may qualify for additional disability benefits.

Bulging Discs

Similar to ruptured discs, bulging discs emerge when the discs between vertebrae weaken and start protruding outward. However, the protective outer wall remains intact. A disc can bulge due to injury or simple wear and tear over time. Potential symptoms include:

  • Chronic lower back pain
  • Stiffness and decreased range of motion
  • Tingling or numbness if nerves get compressed.

Doctors diagnose bulging discs via CT scans or MRIs. Physical therapy helps strengthen core muscles for added support. Anti-inflammatory medication and steroid injections can ease discomfort. Surgery typically isn’t required except in the most severe cases causing leg weakness.

Workers’ compensation provides income and medical support during your recovery. If your bulging disc is due to an on-the-job accident, experienced Attorney Jaleh Slominski can help you file a claim.

Degenerative Disc Disease

While not an actual disease, degenerative disc disease refers to age-related wear and tear that causes spinal discs to dry out, collapse, and shrink. Genetics, lifestyle factors, and work history all play a role. Degenerated discs don’t absorb shocks effectively, putting extra strain on your spine. You may feel stiffness and soreness, particularly with movement.

Unfortunately, the degenerative process can’t be reversed and often worsens gradually. However, various treatment options help manage discomfort, including:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Low-impact exercise
  • Losing excess weight
  • Assistive devices like back braces.

In severe cases, spinal fusion surgery may be required to stabilize sections of the spine most impacted.

Many Virginians ask if degenerative spinal disease is covered by workers’ comp. While this condition is usually age-related, it is possible to claim workers comp in many cases. An example is if a work accident aggravated or exacerbated the disease, or a work accident created a new point of trauma on your spine.

If an on the job accident  seems to have aggravated your degenerative disc disease, inform your doctor so it can be noted in your medical chart. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney like Jaleh Slominski can then help you file a claim requesting work restrictions, adaptive equipment, or vocational retraining.

Spinal Stenosis

This common back issue involves the narrowing of spaces within the spine, which puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. In addition to lower back pain, spinal stenosis can cause:

  • Numbness or cramping in the legs, hips, or buttocks
  • Balance issues
  • Bladder problems.

The condition frequently results from aging, arthritis, and disc degeneration. However, traumatic injury can also lead to inflammation and bone overgrowth. Doctors often recommend cortisone injections and physical therapy first. But if conservative treatments fail to open up space for the nerves, decompression surgery may be necessary.

Workers with very physically demanding jobs involving lots of bending and heavy lifting tend to develop symptoms sooner. If you believe your spinal stenosis comes from or was aggravated by a work accident, a skilled attorney like Jaleh Slominski can help you pursue a claim through the Virginia workers’ compensation system.

Tips for Documenting Your Workplace Back Injury

Proving that an on-the-job accident caused your back pain is essential for getting your medical bills paid and securing lost income benefits in Virginia. Having thorough records makes it easier to build a strong workers comp claim. Be sure to:

  • Report all accidents promptly: Inform your supervisor and follow company policy for reporting safety incidents. Give specifics on what happened, where it happened, what time it occurred, and the names of any witnesses. Get everything in writing and keep copies for yourself.
  • Take photos: Use your smartphone to take pictures of what caused your fall or other dangerous conditions at the scene. Photograph any visible injuries as well.
  • Keep a symptom journal: Document your pain levels, physical limitations, sleep disturbances, medication dosages, therapy appointments, and other experiences. Detailed notes help show how the back injury affects your everyday functioning.
  • Get doctor’s opinions in writing: Ask your physicians to document work restrictions and how job duties relate to your diagnosis in your medical file. Their opinions carry significant weight for determining benefits.
  • Keep paperwork organized: Save all accident reports, medical records, employer insurance paperwork, pay stubs, and other claim documents together in one place for easy reference.
  • Consult an attorney: Speaking with a skilled lawyer helps you understand your legal rights and responsibilities. They can also handle communications with insurance adjusters on your behalf.

What Factors Impact Virginia Workers’ Compensation Settlements for Back Injuries

If your back injury causes permanent impairment, you may be eligible for a lump-sum settlement under the Virginia workers’ compensation system. The settlement amount for back injuries depends on several factors including:

Extent of Medical Treatment

The more surgery, injections, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and other treatments you undergo, the higher the potential settlement value. Detailed medical records help quantify damages.

Severity of Physical Limitations

Settlement payouts directly relate to how much your strength, mobility, and daily functioning are affected long-term. Documentation of disability matters crucially when negotiating.

Lost Earning Capacity

If you can no longer perform your prior job duties and if vocational experts confirm reduced future wage-earning ability in your field, larger settlements may be possible.

Age and Life Expectancy

Younger injured workers have longer timeframes to account for in terms of future medical costs and lost wages due to permanent physical restrictions.

Why Hire Slominski Law for Your Work Injury Case?

Slominski Law offers personalized attention unmatched by big law firms. Attorney Jaleh Slominski genuinely cares about her clients. With over 30 years exclusively handling Virginia workers’ compensation and personal injury cases, she has the experience to get maximum compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and permanent impairment. Ms. Slominski will carefully evaluate your situation to develop a customized legal strategy. She can assist you with:

  • Reporting your on-the-job back injury to your employer
  • Gathering medical evidence to prove the work accident caused your condition
  • Submitting paperwork to start your VA workers’ comp claim
  • Communicating with insurance companies and physicians
  • Appealing denied requests for treatment or benefits
  • Negotiating fair settlements
  • Taking your case to court if necessary.

Slominski Law provides compassionate yet aggressive representation for injured workers across Virginia, including Lynchburg, Roanoke, Charlottesville, Bedford County, Campbell County, and beyond. We offer free case evaluations, so you have nothing to lose. For dedicated help after suffering a back injury at work, contact us today at (434) 384-9400 (Lynchburg) or (540) 554-3762 (Roanoke) to schedule a consultation.