A Guide to Tennis Elbow Workers’ Compensation in South Carolina
Understand your right to compensation if you’ve suffered a work-related tennis elbow injury
Most people imagine competitive sports when they think of tennis elbow. In reality, the condition affects everyday people without regard to whether they’ve ever played tennis. Known medically as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow refers to inflammation that occurs when the tendons in the elbow become strained due to repetitive motions of the wrist and arm.
Employees who work with their arms and hands are at risk of developing tennis elbow. “Occupational overuse syndrome” is the general term for tennis elbow and other repetitive strain injuries workers suffer while on the job.
Fortunately, workers who develop tennis elbow may be eligible to receive South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits.
Symptoms of tennis elbow
If you’ve never experienced tennis elbow, you may have difficulty identifying the condition based on its symptoms.
Tennis elbow is characterized by elbow pain that radiates from the elbow to the forearm and wrist. Therefore, it may be easy to mistake tennis elbow for general wrist pain or forearm muscle strain. The combination of pain and resulting weakness can make it difficult to perform small but significant daily tasks like gripping and holding objects or turning a doorknob.
Initially, many people try to self-treat with remedies like icing the painful areas, resting the arm, and taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, to reduce pain and inflammation. But if you experience symptoms of elbow strain that persist despite resting it and taking pain medicine, be sure to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Jobs that often lead to tennis elbow
Any occupation that requires repetitive arm motion and constant gripping of tools or instruments puts workers at risk of developing tennis elbow. Examples of jobs that require repetitive arm motions include the following:
- Office workers
- Healthcare workers
- Delivery drivers
- Truck drivers
- Restaurant staff and food prep workers
Treatment options for tennis elbow
Tennis elbow may improve on its own; however, more severe cases require treatment. Doctors commonly recommend physical therapy if symptoms don’t resolve after self-treating. Physical therapists teach stretches and strengthening exercises to build strength in the forearm and surrounding muscles.
Doctors may also recommend wearing a forearm strap or brace to minimize stress on the injured tendons.
Other treatments may include the following:
- Injectables. Injectables may include platelet-rich plasma or Botox injected directly into the painful tendon. Similar to injections, dry needling is an alternative in which the therapist simply pierces the damaged tissue in multiple areas with a needle.
- Ultrasonic tenotomy. Also known as TENEX, ultrasonic tenotomy involves using ultrasound guidance to insert a needle into the damaged part of the tendon. Ultrasound waves rapidly vibrate the needle and cause the damaged tissue to liquefy. Once liquefied, the damaged tissue can be suctioned out.
- Surgery. The most severe cases of tennis elbow require surgery. Doctors typically recommend surgery if symptoms have not improved after 6 to 12 months of administering extensive non-operative therapies.
Can I get workers’ comp benefits for tennis elbow?
If a worker develops tennis elbow because of their job duties, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to cover all related medical expenses and supplement a portion of their lost income.
In South Carolina, most employers with at least 4 employees are required to provide workers’ comp insurance to their workers. With a few exceptions, most South Carolina workers are entitled to workers’ comp benefits as long as they’re classified as employees. Workers’ comp is generally not available to independent contractors.
To qualify for coverage, an injured worker must be able to prove that their injury is a direct result of their job duties or work environment. While this can be more difficult to do with injuries like tennis elbow that develop over time, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you gather evidence and connect you with medical experts that can help prove your claim.
What benefits are injured workers entitled to?
If you can prove your tennis elbow was caused by activities at your job, you’ll be entitled to medical benefits for all necessary medical treatment, including rehabilitation, surgery and medication, as well as rehabilitation. If your injury requires you to take time off work to heal, you’ll also be entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly wages during recovery.
Total workers’ compensation benefits are based on the amount of time the worker will need to be away from their job and the medical expenses they incur.
Steps to filing a workers’ comp claim in South Carolina
South Carolina law requires injured workers to take certain steps to obtain workers’ comp benefits. This includes informing their employer of a work-related injury within 90 days of the accident that caused it. Tennis elbow develops over time; therefore, workers may not be able to pinpoint their condition to a single incident. In these cases, state law allows workers to notify their employer within 90 days of becoming aware of the condition.
After receiving notification from the employee, the employer will file a claim with its workers’ compensation insurance provider. The insurance company will require the worker to be examined by an approved physician.
After the exam, the physician will create a treatment plan, which may include rest, occupational therapy and possibly other treatments or medications the doctor may see fit to prescribe. Injured workers are required to follow the approved doctor’s treatment plan and return to work according to the doctor’s recommended timeline.
If your workers’ comp claim is initially denied, don’t get discouraged. There is a process in place for filing an appeal, but it’s highly recommended that you contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you, as the process can be complicated and even small mistakes can greatly affect your ability to recover compensation.
Consult an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer
The workers’ compensation process technically begins when an employee notifies their employer of a work-related injury. However, injured workers should consider consulting an attorney before proceeding through the process.
An attorney can quickly overcome potential challenges that may arise and appeal doctor recommendations that may not be in the injured worker’s best interest. A workers’ comp lawyer can also negotiate compensation amounts on the worker’s behalf if the insurance company offers an amount that is not sufficient to cover their future needs.
At Smith, Born, Leventis, Taylor & Vega, we believe that every employee is entitled to a safe work environment. When injuries do occur, you shouldn’t have to worry about how you’re going to afford your medical care or pay your bills. That’s why our Columbia workers’ compensation attorneys offer free, no-obligation consultations to give you the help and information you need to get back on the road to recovery.
Contact us today to see how we can help you get maximum compensation for your claim.