Understanding Repetitive or Cumulative Trauma


Do You Experience Pain Doing Your Job?
By: Liza E. Lima, Esq.

Covered overseas employees, working pursuant to a U.S. government contract, are entitled to benefits when injured at work. These benefits commonly include medical care and wage loss compensation for their employment related disability. Various misconceptions often preclude overseas employees from seeking or pursuing benefits to which they are entitled.  For example, many employees believe an injury is only compensable if it arose out of a specific accident or incident.
Under the Act, compensable injuries are not only limited to traumatic events like a slip and fall, broken bones, or sprain/strains resulting from lifting heavy boxes.  While these injuries are surely covered, employees should be aware that their injury need not arise from a specific traumatic event.  Cumulative or repetitive traumas are also recognized under the Act.
Cumulative or repetitive trauma injuries are injuries that occur gradually over time without a specific accident or incident.  In most cases, the employee does not realize his/her body is being exposed to a series of events that will contribute to an overall medical condition.  Oftentimes situations that give rise to cumulative or repetitive traumas include repeated exposure to loud noise, the horrors of war, toxic substances or even repetitive physical movement.  A common example is repeated use of the hands over a long period of time that leads to wrist or shoulder pain, repeated lifting of objects leading to shoulder or low back pain.  Even the continuous wearing of heavy personal protective equipment or ill-fitting boots could lead, over time, to the onset of pain.  Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is not right.  If you experience any pain, be sure to seek medical attention and advise your Employer.  Keep in mind, although you may not have had a specific accident, your repetitive movement in the daily course of living and working overseas could lead to your symptoms.  Working overseas in a war zone involves special situations and requirements that are not common in the United States, or in your home country, and you should not ignore the physical or mental stress your daily activities may place on your body.
If you feel you have sustained a cumulative or repetitive trauma, please feel free to contact the attorneys at Barnett, Lerner & Karsen, P.A. by visiting our website at www.injuredoverseas.com.
Lesson Learned: Injuries under the Defense Base Act encompass a variety of medical conditions that stem both from specific injuries as well as cumulative or repetitive trauma.

J.S. v. CSA, Ltd., 2009-LDA-00387 (May 30, 2013).The Claimant, a diabetic, sustained a wound on his foot while working overseas in Kuwait.  After a period of time, the Employer-issued steel-toed work boots led to a blister that would not heal properly.  Eventually, after receiving emergency medical care, the blister became infected and ultimately led to the amputation of the foot.  The Employer/Carrier denied the claim in its entirety, based on the defense that the pre-existing diabetes led to the non-healing wound and need for amputation.  Judge Pulver found the medical evidence in the Claimant’s favor, including the Employer/Carrier’s own medical exam, and based on the “zone of special danger” doctrine, found the foot injury related to the employment.  Judge Pulver found the claim compensable and awarded the Claimant past-owed disability benefits, ongoing disability benefits, and appropriate medical care.

M.S. v. AAR Airlift, 2012-LDA-00548 (April 25, 2013).
The Claimant sustained severe psychiatric injuries as a result of exposure to the horrors of war while working in Iraq.  The treating mental health providers all agreed that the Claimant was psychologically disabled and in need of care.  However, the Employer/Carrier refused to provide authorization for medical care, and denied the claim in its entirety.  Mr. Barnett prepared the case for trial, and on the week of trial, the Employer/Carrier acknowledged the total lack of evidence to support the denial.  The Employer/Carrier conceded to the Claimant’s entitlement to past-owed disability benefits, ongoing disability benefits, and appropriate medical care.