Here’s what you need to know to get the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve for workplace knee and ankle injuries.
Knees are second only to backs as the most commonly injured body part from workplace accidents resulting days lost from work.¹ Ankle injuries aren’t far behind.
Workplace knee injuries can result from slip and falls, impacts with hard surfaces, repetitive motions, twisting or abnormal side to side movements, and unnatural turning or stopping.
The knee is the largest joint in the body, and because it’s also a load-bearing joint, knee injuries can have a long, painful recovery period.
Ankle injuries are also common in the workplace. Ankles are often injured when the bone is twisted too far to one side or the other. Common causes of workplace ankle injuries are overextension, twisting, jumping, and contact with hard surfaces.
Knee and ankle injuries can keep you off your feet and out of work for months, and some injured workers are never able to return to work. Here’s what you need to know.
Occupational Risk for Knee and Ankle Injuries
Workers with the highest number of knee and ankle injuries have jobs where employees spend most of the workday on their feet, such as:
- Construction workers
- Delivery persons
- Auto mechanics
- Waiters and waitresses
- Loading dock workers
- Professional athletes
Workers’ Comp Covers Knee and Ankle Injuries
On-the-job knee and ankle injuries are eligible for coverage by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp benefits pay medical and therapy bills, and approximately two-thirds of your lost wages while you’re unable to work.
Take advantage of these 12 Essential Tips to Maximize Workers’ Compensation Claims.
What to Do After a Knee or Ankle Injury
Seek immediate medical care for knee or ankle injuries at work. Don’t try to be tough. These injuries can lead to crippling joint problems later in life. Go to the emergency room or urgent care. Tell the medical provider you were injured at work, and how it happened.
Don’t make excuses like “old age” for your injury. You can qualify for workers’ comp even when your knee or ankle injury is an aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
Notify your employer as soon as reasonably possible after your injury. Ask for their workers’ compensation insurance claim forms and instructions for filing your injury claim.
File the completed workers’ compensation claim forms with the appropriate office.
Treatment for Knee and Ankle Injuries
Aside from emergency care for a sudden injury, you will be seen and treated by a doctor approved by the workers’ comp insurance company.
The primary physician evaluates your medical condition and the type of knee or ankle injury you sustained. After an initial diagnosis, the doctor may refer you to a specialist such as an orthopedic surgeon, podiatrist, or chiropractor for injury-specific treatment.
Insurance companies care more about their bottom line than what’s best for you. If your doctor needs expensive tests like an MRI to evaluate your injury or has recommended surgery and the insurance company won’t approve, don’t take “no” for an answer. Contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney right away to discuss your case.
Most workplace knee and ankle injuries are strains or sprains to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. More serious injuries can include torn cartilage and fractures. In severe cases of torn ligaments or fractures, surgery may be necessary, but it should always be a last resort.
Commonly prescribed treatments include:
- Resting, and keeping weight off the knee or ankle
- Elevating the area of the injury to reduce swelling
- Alternating ice and heat to reduce bruising and pain
- Compression dressings to restrict unnecessary movement
- Whirlpool treatment
- Hot soaks
No one likes to be injured, and most people want to get back to work as soon as possible. Surviving on partial wages can be stressful. Don’t rush it. Returning to work before you’re ready can delay your recovery.
Follow your doctor’s orders for treatment and physical therapy. Failing to follow your doctors’ instructions or missing therapy appointments can give the insurance company an excuse to cut your workers’ compensation benefits.
Getting Back to Work
If your doctor releases you to work with limitations, like seated-only tasks, you’ll be able to go back to work if your employer has a job that’s compatible with your restrictions. If not, you may have to wait until you fully recover to resume working.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee your old position will still be available when you’re ready to go back to work. In most cases, employers are not required to keep an injured worker’s position open until the worker recovers.
If your knee or ankle injury is diagnosed as a permanent partial disability, you may be able to return to work, but not to your former job.
Your employer may assign you to a position that accommodates your disability. When that’s not possible, you may have to look for employment somewhere else.
Compensation Settlements for Knee and Ankle Injuries
Handling a workers’ compensation claim for simple soft-tissue injuries like a sprained ankle won’t be a problem for most people. You’ll have a few medical bills that will be covered, and workers’ comp will pay wage replacement benefits for a few weeks.
Severe knee or ankle injuries can have a significantly different outcome, requiring extensive treatment, possible surgery, and a long, painful recovery. Many injured workers never fully recover from knee and ankle injuries and are fully or partially disabled for life.
Work injuries that result in permanent disability are high-dollar claims. Disabled workers can be eligible for lifetime wage replacement benefits, often paid in a lump-sum settlement, if you can get the insurance company to pay at all.
If you’ve suffered a serious knee or ankle injury on the job, you’ll need an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to get the full amount of compensation you’re entitled to receive.
There’s too much money at stake to trust the insurance company to do right by you. It won’t cost you anything to discuss your case with a workers’ compensation attorney today.
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