The National Safety Council (NSC) recently published its 2014 edition of Injury Facts, a publication detailing national and global safety statistics and trends. Injury Facts has been published for over ninety years. One of the more surprising statistics is that poisoning, including that from unintentional opioid-based prescription painkiller overdoses, was the leading cause of death in 18 states and Washington, D.C. This may help explain why Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick recently declared a public health emergency, announcing various actions to be taken to address opioid addiction in Massachusetts. Another sobering statistic is that the most costly workers’ compensation claims (in terms of time away from work) are those involving injuries to the head or central nervous system (CNS).
CNS Injuries Can Be Debilitating
The CNS is comprised of the brain and the spinal cord. Any injury to the central nervous system is a serious injury; in some cases, these injuries can be fatal. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is just one type of injury that can occur to the CNS. A TBI occurs when there is a bump or blow to the head, or when there is a penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain activity. For example, a heavy tool or piece of material falling on top of a person’s head, or a fall from any height in which the person strikes his or her head on the ground, can result in a TBI. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2001 and 2010, there was a notable increase in the total combined rates for traumatic brain injury-related fatalities, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations. The CDC also found that in 2010 there were 2.5 million TBIs. TBIs can be “mild” and cause a slight change in mental status or consciousness (“seeing stars” after a blow to the head), or they can be “severe” and result in extended periods of unconsciousness or amnesia.
The spinal cord can also be damaged, disrupting the series of nerves that carry signals and stimuli from other parts of the body to the brain. A fall is a common way in which the spinal cord is injured; however, a person’s spinal cord can also be injured in a vehicle crash (which may also result in a TBI) or by overexertion. Depending upon what part of the spinal cord is injured, the entire body or just a portion of the body can be affected. Severe cases of spinal cord injuries can result in paralysis.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits Available for Those Who Suffered CNS Injuries on the Job
The costs of treating a CNS-related injury can be astronomical. For instance, a survivor of a severe TBI can pay millions of dollars in treatment costs over his or her lifetime. The CDC estimates that TBIs alone result in treatment costs of $10 billion annually. In addition to direct treatment and rehabilitation costs, CNS injury victims typically face reduced or lost wages, the need for caregivers, and payments that must be made to receive some social services.
It is important to remember that a worker who suffers a CNS injury while on the job may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits to assist with the costs of treatment and rehabilitation and offset lost wages. If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, contact us today at (508) 755-7535 for a free consultation.