What type of compensation can I receive after back surgery for a workplace injury?

Back injuries are very common among American workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that back problems are the leading cause of disability for those in their working years, with more than one million workers suffering a back injury every year. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that nearly a quarter of all paid workers’ compensation claims were filed because of injuries to the back, and the majority of these involved the lower back. These injuries often develop over time with repetitive behaviors, though some do occur as the result of a single incident.

Common Causes of Back Injuries for Iowa Workers

Back injuries occur commonly due in part to the structure of the body and in part to the nature of employment. The back is made up of many small bones, muscles, tendons, disks, and nerves. When any one of these small parts is strained, stretched, or pulled out of place, it can cause pain that can make it difficult to perform even simple tasks.

Additionally, there are many different types of conditions that contribute to back pain—from jobs that require a great amount of physical exertion to those that require none at all. Some common causes of work-related back pain include:

  • Inactivity. Sitting at a desk or standing in one position for a prolonged period of time can cause injury, especially for those with poor posture. It is important to sit on appropriately supportive chairs and take periodic breaks to move around.
  • Repetition. Performing the same movements over and over, especially bending and twisting, is a common cause of back injury.
  • Heavy lifting. One of the most common causes of back injury and pain, lifting and moving cargo or other goods can put extreme pressure on the back. Workers should use assistive devices whenever possible to help lift objects at work.
  • Vibration. Continued vibration, such as that experienced by truck or delivery drivers, can misalign the back or cause other injury.
  • Poor footing. Slippery or uneven floors and other conditions can lead to falls, trips, and slips that can injure the back.

Back Injury Treatment Options Can Include Surgery

When an employee is experiencing back pain, orthopedic doctors will typically perform a number of tests to determine the exact scope of the injury and decide on the best treatment option. It is often possible to address the injury with minimally invasive options. Many times, however, a back injury will require surgery. The most common types of surgery for lower back pain are:

  • Spinal fusion. This operation fuses together two or more vertebrae so they heal together to form one solid bone. Full recovery from this type of surgery can take up to year or more.
  • Disk replacement. This procedure replaces an injured disk with an artificial part, much like a hip or knee replacement surgery.

Both of these options, and others that seek to repair an injured back, are typically very invasive and can be accompanied by the normal risks associated with anesthesia and surgery. Recovery includes physical therapy and may be a slow process.

Iowa Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Back Surgery

If your back injury is the result of a work condition or accident, Iowa workers’ compensation can provide for your medical care and wage replacement while you miss work. The medical care benefits will cover the cost of:

  • Surgery.
  • Hospital stays.
  • Medications.
  • Rehabilitation.
  • Transportation to doctor visits and related appointments.
  • Medical devices for home and car if necessary.

Additionally, wage replacement benefits provide compensation while you miss work to recover. Temporary total disability benefits offer 80 percent of the injured worker’s spendable weekly earnings when you are unable to work at all following back surgery until you can return to work.

Unfortunately, in some cases, a full recovery will not be possible. When an employee cannot return to work or cannot return at the same level as before the injury, other benefits are available. Permanent total disability and permanent partial disability benefits also pay 80 percent of the injured worker’s spendable weekly earnings. Total disability benefits are paid continually, while partial benefits are paid on a schedule as set by the state commission.

If you or someone you love has suffered a back injury at work, you may be eligible for compensation, and the experienced legal team at the Pothitakis Law Firm may be able to help. Download a free copy of our book, 7 Things You Must Know If You Get Hurt at Work, to learn more about protecting your family today.