Visitor Question

Carrying trays led to neck injury?

Submitted By: Michael (Orlando, FL)

I began working as a busser for a fine dining chain back in February of 1991. Eventually I was promoted to food runner and then waiter. I was with this company for 7 years the first time. Then, after a 7 year hiatus I came back as a manager.

During my entire tenure I carried probably thousands of heavy trays, ranging anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds on average. Trays were oval in shape, approximately 31″ x 23″. Trays were carried with 1 hand, the right hand in my case, above the right shoulder.

To accomplish this, I would keep my head at an angle to the left, because the tray couldn’t be carried more than a few inches above my shoulder (due to the weight and for purposes of balance).

I never used to get headaches until I started working in the restaurant. Over time, these headaches got worse and worse. In the late 90’s the headaches were so bad I had a CAT scan to ensure nothing was wrong, and was told it was probably due to my 4 impacted molars.

I had those removed but still experienced consistent, excruciating headaches. After 7 years in fine dining I decided I should probably find a new line of work, so I went to work for a large multi-national technology firm and had a desk job for 7 years. Headaches were persistent and continued to increase in severity.

In 2007 I went back to the fine dining chain as a manager, figuring tray carrying would be less of my job, but because I worked at one of the company’s flagship stores, tray carrying was common even as a manager. I left a few years later and went to work in school districts.

As the headaches got worse I explored allergies, and had surgery to address polyps in the nose. This didn’t relieve the headaches. I also took allergy drops for 2 years, but headaches still didn’t subside.

I have been working a typical desk job now for 5 years. The headaches are so bad I’m on multiple migraine medicines, but with little relief; focusing at work is difficult – I frequently miss work because I’m laying in bed, unable to focus.

I went to the ER a few weeks ago because the pain was so intense, but again – CAT scans found nothing wrong in my brain. It’s now thought possible that I have cervicogenic headaches – headaches caused by neck injury that is referred to the head.

Could prolonged tray carrying have caused an injury which is years later becoming debilitating, and if so, what kind of recourse might I have? Could I file a workers’ compensation claim for this injury? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Michael,

It is entirely possible that carrying trays for a prolonged period of time may lead to neck injuries. However, the time for filing a workers’ compensation claim with the restaurant chain has long expired. The statute of limitations for a personal injury case in the State of Florida is two years.

While you maintain the injuries were caused during your tenure as a restaurant employee, you never filed a worker’s compensation claim at any time during that employment. Further, even if you could file a worker’s comp claim with the restaurant chain, they would maintain your injury was sustained or worsened after you left their employment.

You might consider filing a workers’ comp claim with your present employer. If there is any evidence your injuries worsened during your current employment, treatment for those injuries should be covered under your present employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.

If you file a claim you will likely be asked if the headaches are caused as a result of your present work duties. From the facts you present, that is not the case. Even if your company’s insurance company agrees to accept your claim, you will be sent to a physician who will ask you about the history of your headaches. When you tell the doctor the truth, your claim will likely be denied.

Learn more here: Workplace Injury Claim Guide

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


One comment on “Carrying trays led to neck injury?

  1. Bianca says:

    See a Chiropractor! I have been serving for 12 years now. I have been in so much pain with my left shoulder (the shoulder I carry my trays with). I have been getting really bad headaches as well! I have been seeing a Chiropractor and I am feeling better than I have in months.

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