Workplace Head Injuries & Concussions

A workplace head injury is one of the most serious of all on-the-job injuries. Most workplace head trauma is caused by falling objects, slip and falls, malfunctioning and broken equipment, and driving accidents. A brain concussion can cause loss of consciousness, or there may be no obvious symptoms at all. Common effects of a concussion are abnormal behavior, loss of equilibrium, blurred vision, nausea and confusion.

Common Causes of Workplace Head Injuries

The human skull serves as a protective shell for the brain. Inside the skull is a layer of cerebrospinal fluid that acts as a buffer between the brain and skull bone. The brain is composed of soft tissue which is quite delicate and easily damaged. A concussion occurs when sufficient impact to the head causes the brain to push through the cerebrospinal fluid and hit the skull.

Occupations with the highest risk for head injuries are:

  • Construction workers
  • Firefighters
  • Police officers
  • Race car drivers
  • Loading dock workers
  • Delivery personnel
  • Professional athletes

Head Injuries and Workers' Compensation

The two top priorities following any head injury are seeking medical attention and reporting the injury to your employer. Symptoms of a head injury don't always manifest right away, and failing to seek immediate medical care can be life threatening. Also, by not reporting a workplace injury as soon as it happens, a workers' comp representative could infer that the injury occurred outside of work.

An employee who suffers a head injury is eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Those benefits include rembursement for medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses (medications, bandages, hospital parking fees, etc.), and approximately two-thirds of lost wages.

Following a workplace injury, you must file a "first report of injury" form (DWC-1) with your employer as soon as possible. After completing the form, your employer should provide you with a list of approved physicians, and you'll choose one as your primary treating physician. These physicians are paid by the workers' comp insurance company.

The workers' comp physician makes an initial evaluation of your head injury. Because you sustained a blow to the head, you'll probably be refered to a head trauma specialist, such as a neurologist or neurosurgeon. If your doctor doesn't refer you to a specialist, contact your workers' comp representative and demand to see one. If a head trauma specialist isn't on the approved list, you should be allowed to see a private specialist of your own choosing.

There are two tests routinely used for diagnosing concussions and other head injuries. The first is a CT scan, which can identify hematomas, hemorrhages, and skull fractures. An MRI exam is normally used to evaluate brain function. A concussion is usually diagnosed when these tests show no evidence of more serious, life-threatening brain injuries.

To treat a concussion, a specialist often recommends several days of rest. Symptoms usually disappear within that time, and the brain returns to its normal function. With the diagnostic information in hand, your physician will make a final evaluation of your condition. When he believes you've reached a level of maximum medical improvement (MMI), he'll issue a return to work form.

In most cases, a brain concussion will not result in either a partial or total permanent disability. Once you reach MMI, you should be able to settle your workers' comp claim and return to your former job.

If you believe your head injury is more serious than a concussion, and you have not been provided proper medical care, you should seek the advice of an experienced workers' comp attorney. Most don't charge for an initial consultation and only receive a fee after successfully settling your claim.

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