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Hairdressers, Carpal Tunnel, and Workers’ Compensation:

            The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act recognizes two (2) types of work related injuries. The first type is called a “traumatic injury” and the second type is called an “occupational injury”. A traumatic injury involves a specific event such as a car accident, falling from a height, or injuring your back while lifting a heavy object. An occupational injury occurs over time from exposure to a hazardous condition. Occupational injuries include developing breathing problems or cancer from repeatedly breathing in noxious fumes, as well as orthopedic injuries from repetitive motion. This blog is about a specific type of occupational injury common to a specific class of workers.

            Just about every hairdresser I have ever met, who has been cutting hair for a decade or more, has developed numbness or spasms in her hands. In the worst cases, this develops into carpal tunnel or ulnar nerve syndrome, which is typically treated with surgery.

            New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Courts have consistently recognized these types of claims for hairdressers. However, it is a very important to notify your employer or employer’s Workers’ Compensation carrier as soon as these symptoms begin to manifest themselves. Failure to timely notify your employer or your employer’s Workers’ Compensation carrier could result in you getting stuck with paying hefty medical bills yourself, even if you have other health insurance that should provide coverage.

            You may wonder how you can blame your current employer for this injury when you’ve worked for multiple salons over the years and each job has contributed to the disability. The Workers’ Compensation Act provides that it is the insurance company for the employer where the injury first manifests itself that is responsible to pay Workers’ Compensation benefits.

            Workers’ Compensation benefits include having your medical bills paid 100% by the Workers’ Compensation insurance company. The Workers’ Compensation insurance company is also obligated to pay your lost wages if you are temporarily unable to work due to the condition. Finally, if the injury leaves you with a permanent disability, you are entitled to a monetary award for your permanent injury.

            If you believe you might have a carpal tunnel or ulnar nerve syndrome claim, but you have questions, feel free to call my office for a free, no pressure, and obligation so you can learn your rights.

            A word of caution, if you are a hairdresser or otherwise engaged in repetitive motion at work and develop one (1) of the conditions discussed in this blog, it is important to handle the matter properly or you could end up getting stuck with large medical bills when your health insurance decides that your injury is work-related. Although, health insurance presently covers pre-existing conditions, it does NOT cover work-related injuries. In my next blog, I will discuss what happens when work-related injuries are not promptly reported to your employer’s Workers’ Compensation carrier. This will be an important follow up blog which you should look for and read.