Compensation Claims for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful and debilitating condition which can have a hugely detrimental effect upon the life of anyone affected by it. On top of the lack of facility and the potential damage to earning power inflicted by the decreased hand mobility which is such a part of the syndrome, it also causes chronic and long term pain which, if not treated successfully, can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve which passes through the wrist becomes squeezed and trapped. This nerve controls some of the muscles in the thumb and also transmits messages back to the brain from the hand. The effect of it being squeezed in this manner is to cause numbness, tingling, aching or pain in the hand which is being affected. The main parts of the hand affected are the thumb, index finger and middle finger, and as well as pain it can also lead to a weakening of grip, and an ache spreading up the arm. Sufferers often report being woken by the pain during the night, and a lack of sleep is just another of the distressing side effects of this all too common condition.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
The underlying reason for a person’s median nerve becoming compressed is sometimes difficult to pin down with complete certainty. Research has shown that there is a genetic component to the syndrome, and that those with a family history are more likely to develop it themselves. It can also be caused by certain hand injuries and by conditions such as an underactive thyroid gland, obesity, some types of arthritis and diabetes, whilst it also appears that pregnant women run a greater risk of developing the problem.
Clearly, if you develop carpal tunnel syndrome for one of the reasons listed above, then the only course of action is to obtain a diagnosis and the correct course of treatment at the earliest opportunity. Sometimes, however, carpal tunnel syndrome is brought about by the nature of the work which a person does, and if this is the case then you may well be in a position to make a claim for compensation.
Occupations associated with carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition which falls underneath the umbrella term of a Repetitive Strain Injury – something which is caused by having to make the same relatively small movements over and over again. Jobs which run the risk of leading to carpal tunnel syndrome include the following:
- Using hand tools which vibrate
- Inputting data
- Playing certain musical instruments
- Working on an assembly line
- Using certain pieces of machinery
- Writing longhand
As can be seen, there is a broad spectrum of occupations which can, if the correct precautions are not taken, give rise to this painful and distressing condition.
If you feel that your job has caused you to develop carpal tunnel syndrome then you have every right to make a claim for compensation against your employer. It’s not a question of cashing in or seeking revenge, it’s simply an issue of fairness. In return for the work you do, your employer has a duty to ensure that your working environment is as safe and free from risk as it possibly can be. This isn’t simply a moral duty or issue of fairness, either; it is a legal obligation, set out in legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
If your employer has failed to ensure that every step reasonably necessary to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome was taken, then they have let you down very badly indeed. Having suffered once in this way it’s clearly not right that you should go on suffering into the future, and any compensation you are awarded will be intended to recognise your pain and suffering and to ensure that it doesn’t lead to any financial hardship.
Since the kind of activities which run the risk of causing carpal tunnel syndrome are widely known, your employer has a duty of care to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk. These steps include:
- Making sure you have been properly trained in the use of any equipment
- Ensuring that the equipment you use, including any seat you sit in, desk you work at and keyboard utilised is designed to be ergonomically suitable
- Allowing you to take sufficient breaks between periods of activity
- Maintaining a reasonably warm atmosphere
If you use vibrating hand tools these precautions should also include using the right tool for every part of the job, ensuring that the rate of vibration is as low as it can be, keeping all tools fully sharpened and storing them in a manner which ensures the handles aren’t cold the next time they are used.
Many people resist making claims of this kind on the basis of not wishing to take money from the pocket of their employer, and thus from their workmates. In reality, however, every employer in the UK has the legal obligation to take out Compulsory Liability Insurance, meaning that any compensation awarded will be paid by the insurer and not your employer.
If you feel your carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by the negligence of your employer then you should contact one of our personal injury lawyers at the earliest opportunity. They will work with you to put together the strongest possible case. The building blocks of this case will include:
- Medical records detailing when the illness was diagnosed
- Details of your work station and work practices (including photographs if possible)
- The contact details of fellow employees who might be willing to testify on your behalf
- Details of any occasion upon which you have brought your condition to the attention of your employer
The Health and Safety Executive provides a comprehensive list of the steps which a diligent employer can take to reduce the risks of conditions of this kind. If your employer fails to behave in this manner, then you deserve to be compensated.
Any compensation you are awarded will comprise a lump sum designed to recognise the scope and severity of your condition, and another amount intended to reimburse you for any expenses incurred. These could run from immediate costs such as medical bills and prescription charges to any loss of earnings either now or in the future. With many cases now being taken on a no win, no fee basis there is little financial risk to starting a claim.