Work-related medical problems do not always arise from accidents. Sometimes they arise gradually, over the course of months or years, as a result of the physical demands of particular jobs. These conditions are called “occupational diseases,” and in North Carolina, they are covered under our workers’ compensation laws.
The sonography profession has a particularly high rate of work-related occupational diseases of the hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders. This is well documented in the medical literature. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health specifically recognizes that the high levels of sustained force combined with the awkward postures required of ultrasonographers places undo strain on the structures of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder. This drastically increases the risk for diseases such as CMC joint arthritis, tenosynovitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis and bursitis. These risks are exacerbated by clinics that place pressure on sonographers to fit extra scans into their schedule, work longer hours, and complete more procedures with fewer rest breaks.
Unfortunately, in North Carolina occupational disease claims are fraught with pitfalls. One of the most significant is the “notice” requirement. If you seek medical care for hand, wrist, or shoulder symptoms, no matter how minor, and your doctor tells you it is related to your job, if you don’t let your job know within thirty days, any workers’ compensation claim you later file could be barred because you did not provide your employer with adequate notice. With over 80% of sonographers scanning in pain (according to the Society for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) the potential for the “notice” requirement to be a pitfall is significant if not handled correctly. The statute of limitations can also be a potential bar if a workers’ compensation claim is not filed promptly after work is missed as a result of an occupational disease.
There are solutions, however. Consider consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney early in the process to learn the lay of the legal landscape. Even if it is not time to file a workers’ compensation claim, speaking to an experienced attorney can help you leave your options open. There is no cost for such a consultation at Lennon, Camak and Bertics, and you are likely to leave with a far greater understanding of how the workers’ compensation system works, and how best to protect yourself. We are experienced at representing sonographers in occupational disease claims, including denied claims, and understand the particular challenges associated with these claims for sonographers.
Occupational diseases have the potential to be career ending, especially for ultrasonographers who have been in the profession for decades. If a claim is properly preserved early, it can mean the difference between financial security and hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost wages, medical copays, coinsurance, and doctor bills. If you are a sonographer in North Carolina who is scanning in pain, call us for free consultation. We can help you protect your health, and your livelihood.