Knee injuries are one of the most common workplace injuries. Employees who suffer them often suffer from chronic pain and limited movement. This can make it hard to participate in work duties as well as everyday tasks and household responsibilities. Sometimes the damage caused to the knee ends up being permanent. The good news is that injured workers deserve workers’ compensation benefits to help pay their lost wages and medical bills. Fortunately, South Carolina workers’ comp laws entitle people who are hurt in workplace accidents to benefits. However, obtaining these benefits can sometimes be challenging. Hiring an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer can increase the chances that you will have your claim approved.
Knee Injury Statistics
While most knee injuries are minor and self-limiting, devastating knee injuries frequently occur in the workplace and result in significant morbidity, loss of function, and permanent impairment. Studies show that more than one-third of all knee injuries will require the care of an orthopedic surgeon, and 12 percent will require surgery. Knee injuries are classified as:
- Ligament injuries: 40 percent
- Miscellaneous: 25 percent
- Patellar injury: 24 percent
- Meniscus injury: 11 percent
Certain workers are at a greater risk of knee injuries than others. For example, employees who are constantly on their feet or standing during their work hours have a greater likelihood of suffering a knee injury. If they sustain a knee injury, they may need a significant amount of time off work to recover, as continuing to work will only exacerbate their injury. Other workers at high risk of suffering a knee injury include:
- Waitstaff, cooks, and bartenders
- House and office cleaners
- Construction workers
- Dock workers
- Workers in manufacturing industries
- Delivery workers
- Nurses and other medical care providers
- Carpeting and other flooring installers
- Carpenters, roofers, bricklayers
- Gardeners, landscapers, and outside laborers
- Auto mechanics
- Plumbers and electricians
- Truck drivers
Any of these employees could be eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits in South Carolina by law. The best way to get their claim started is to consult with an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney.
Common Work-Related Knee Injuries
The human knee is a complicated joint with many fragile tissues. Traumatic disorders of the knee occur because of external forces placed across or through the knee. Slip and fall accidents, overuse, a blow from a hard object, and even repetitive motion can cause a work-related knee injury. It’s not uncommon for these types of injuries to get worse over time. Injuries to the knee can damage the bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and liquid-filled sacs (bursae).
Common work-related knee injuries include:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury: Occurs when there is tearing of the ligament that connects the shinbone to their thighbone. Sometimes the employee can hear a popping sound when the tear happens. They may also experience swelling, pain, instability, loss of range of motion, and the limited ability to move. ACL injuries account for 46 percent of all knee ligament injuries.
- Fractures: Bones in the kneecap are frequently broken in a vehicle accident or a fall. Signs of a broken kneecap include pain, discomfort, swelling at or around the kneecap, trouble moving the knee, and difficulties with walking. Some fractures can be open, where the bone protrudes through the skin. In these cases, the employee should seek emergency medical care to avoid further complications.
- Torn meniscus: Tearing of the cartilage that lines the knee joint absorbs shock in between the shinbone and thighbone. Symptoms include pain and swelling of the knee, difficulty straightening the leg, instability, and trouble walking. A torn meniscus is quite common among injured workers.
- Knee bursitis: The bursae, or fluid-filled sacs within the knee, help the ligaments and tendons to glide smoothly over the joint. Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae on the outer portion of the knee joint. It leads to pain and limitations in movement.
- Chondromalacia: A condition occurs when the cartilage around the kneecap is damaged in a traumatic injury, overuse, or repetitive movements. Chondromalacia can cause workers to experience pain when going up and down stairs or sitting for more extended periods. They may also notice a grinding sensation in the knee, instability, popping, catching, or clicking.
- Knee dislocation: When the knee is dislocated about the tibia and the femur. This injury requires surgery within four to six hours to avoid severe and long-term consequences.
Treatment Options for Knee Injuries
Treatment for knee injuries is generally based on the type and location of the injury. Sometimes conservative treatment such as bracing or physical rehabilitation is best, and other times surgery might be necessary. If traditional treatments don’t work or stop working, your workers’ comp doctor may suggest something else.
Treatment goals for injured workers include:
- Appropriate, cost-effective, and efficient treatment
- Return the worker to their pre-injury activity level as soon as possible while maximizing functional outcomes
- Minimizing impairment
Treatment options for work-related knee injuries can include the following:
- NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Low impact exercise/strengthening program
- Bracing or taping techniques
- Avoiding high impact activity, kneeling, and squatting
- Compression therapy
Injections are also an option for some knee injuries and are given directly into your joint. Examples include:
- Corticosteroids: Helps decrease the symptoms of some knee injuries. However, these injections aren’t effective in all cases.
- Hyaluronic acid: Hyaluronic acid is a thick fluid injected into the knee to improve mobility and reduce pain. Mixed results have been reported as to the effectiveness of this treatment. However, relief from one or a series of shots may last as long as six months.
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP): Has a concentration of several different growth factors known for reducing inflammation and encouraging healing.
Workers’ Comp Benefits for Knee Injuries
Suppose you sustained a knee injury in the course of completing your job duties. In that case, you are entitled to several workers’ compensation benefits. First, you have the right to receive medical care. If you have severe pain or other urgent symptoms, seek emergency medical care. Workers’ compensation should pay for this care in an emergency. If you can wait to see a doctor, report your injury to your employee. At that time, you can find out which local doctors are contracted with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. Be sure to see one of those doctors so that your medical care will be covered.
Lost wages from being able to work for any amount of time can be particularly stressful. Workers’ comp insurance covers your lost wages while your approved doctor says you shouldn’t be working. Typically, there is a seven-day waiting period. If you need to be away from work for more than 14 days, you can receive payment for those first seven days.
Sometimes, knee injuries can be so severe that you will need to be off of work for an extended period or may never be able to return to work. If this is the case, you deserve ongoing disability payments for your injury.
Can Injured Workers File a Claim Against Their Employers?
Workers’ compensation insurance takes the place of being able to file a personal injury claim. It is a no-fault system and doesn’t consider what the employer might have done to contribute to the accident and generally doesn’t consider what the employee might have done. As such, you can’t bring a civil claim against an employer or a fellow employee for a work-related injury.
However, in some instances, you can bring a personal injury claim against a third party involved in causing your injuries. For example:
- If a defective product, such as a piece of machinery or equipment contributed to your injury, you might be able to file a claim against the product’s manufacturer.
- If your employer has contractors or subcontractors, and they played a role in your injury, you also might be able to file a personal injury claim against them.
To determine precisely what your legal rights are, meet with a skilled South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss the specifics of your case and injuries.
Get Help with Your Claim from a Knowledgeable South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
South Carolina put laws in place to protect its injured workers. Even still, employers and insurance companies work hard to deny claims or refuse to pay the total value of the shares they receive. For example, they might argue that you missed a deadline, didn’t sustain your injury at work, or other false points so that they don’t have to pay your claim.
If you recently suffered a knee injury in performing your work duties, contact a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney at David Aylor Law Offices. We work tirelessly to represent your interests and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve under South Carolina’s workers’ comp laws. Unfortunately, many injured workers in this state are unaware of their rights, and therefore, lose out on benefits they are entitled to receive. Don’t let this happen to you. Schedule your no-obligation consultation with an attorney by contacting us online or calling (843) 744-4444 today.