Can I Make a Carpal Tunnel Injury Claim?

Your legal options if you're diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) due to your job or after an accident.

By , Attorney · University of Tulsa College of Law

Perhaps you're sitting at your desk, typing away on your computer. Or maybe you're standing on an assembly line, installing parts on complex machinery. You feel numbness or tingling in your hands and fingers. Or maybe a sharp pain in your arm. Is it just a temporary muscle tightening? Possibly, but there's also a chance that you are experiencing the initial symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a condition that's often considered a work-related injury, although CTS can also be caused by certain kinds of accidents.

The American Academy of Family Physicians has found that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affects approximately three to six percent of all adults in the United States. While the percentage may sound small, in real numbers it means that as many as 15 million people may suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Read on to learn more about this condition, and your legal options if you're thinking about making an injury claim over CTS.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), "carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist." The median nerve is responsible for controlling the movement in your hand of the thumb and first three fingers. This "pressing" or "squeezing" on the nerve tunnel makes that canal smaller, resulting in an irritation of the nerve. The condition can be quite painful and it is generally progressive, meaning that it gets worse over time.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be caused by a variety of factors, including disease and even pregnancy. However, the most common causes are repetitive motion and trauma.

Repetitive motion occurs where you make the same hand or wrist movements over and over. There are many different types of activities that may include repetitive hand or wrist motions, including some types of jobs. These include:

  • typing or data entry
  • assembly line work
  • playing musical instruments
  • working on a computer
  • sewing
  • mechanic
  • painter
  • agricultural worker
  • locksmith
  • cashier, and
  • jobs that require repeated use of vibrating tools.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can also be caused by trauma or injury to the wrist. A car accident, slip and fall, or work-related accident that causes broken or fractured bones may lead to CTS symptoms. Wrist sprains or strains can have the same result.

What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can vary from person to person, and also depending on the nature of the activity that caused the condition. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the thumb or first three fingers
  • loss of dexterity in the thumb or fingers
  • pain in the hand, even going up to the arm and shoulder
  • grip weakness or an inability to grasp or pinch, and
  • frequent dropping of objects.

Making a Legal Claim for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If you have been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome you may have a valid legal claim, meaning that you might be able to get compensation for your injuries and related losses (your "damages" in legalese). Keep in mind that not every diagnosis of CTS will give rise to a valid injury case. And no matter what kind of claim you pursue, the success or failure of your case will likely turn on your (and your doctor's) ability to determine the cause of your medical condition.

Workers' Compensation Claims. If your occupation requires repetitive motion or activities and you've experienced CTS symptoms, then you may have grounds to file a workers compensation claim. This is also true if you develop symptoms but have left that particular job. Repetitive motion injuries may take months or years to develop. The symptoms may not manifest until after you have left the job that caused the condition.

The workers' compensation systems in most states recognize Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as a compensable medical injury. Depending on the nature of your injury, and the state in which you live, you may be entitled to recover your medical expenses and lost wages, as well as compensation for any resulting level of disability. Get the details on workers' compensation benefits and the claims process.

Personal Injury Lawsuits. If your carpal tunnel condition was caused by an event unrelated to your job, such as a car accident or other traumatic occurrence, you may still be able to pursue a legal claim for your injury. It is not uncommon for drivers involved in car accidents to experience traumatic wrist injuries from, for example, impact that occurs when their hands are gripping the steering wheel. These wrist injuries sometimes lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Get the details on resolving a personal injury claim.

Social Security Disability. In addition to a workers' compensation claim or personal claim arising out of an event like a car accident, Social Security Disability Benefits may also be another avenue through which you may pursue a legal claim if you are experiencing symptoms of CTS. Learn more about filing for social security disability benefits.

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