Traumatic brain injuries, concussions and head injuries at work in Arizona
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of death in the United States.
Approximately 1 quarter of all brain injuries occur in the workplace, according to the National Institutes of Health. In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, traumatic brain injuries that led to hospitalizations, emergency department visits and death increased by 53 percent between 2006 and 2014.
But first: What qualifies as a head or brain injury in the workplace?
Let’s break it down.
Common types of traumatic brain injuries in the workplace
The most common type of brain injury that occurs in the workplace is concussions. Unfortunately, many people ignore the seriousness of a concussion, thinking it is just a minor bump on the head.
A concussion is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly side-to-side or back and forth. The sudden movement can cause your brain to twist, stretch or strike the side of the skull, leading to brain damage.
You may also suffer a contusion, a condition where the brain is actually bruised. Other common workplace brain injuries include skull fractures, penetrating head wounds or an injury where the brain is deprived of oxygen, known as an anoxic brain injury.
Questions and answers about compensation for a job-related accident, injury or illness in Arizona
Common causes of workplace head injuries
Construction workers face the highest risk of suffering a brain injury than other professions, although those who work in an industrial setting are also at higher risk. Remember that any employee in any industry can suffer a traumatic brain injury in the workplace.
An employee could trip over loose carpet or on a patch of ice in the parking lot. You could hit your head on an open file drawer, or you could suffer several small blows to the head over time. If this happens, you are at higher risk of developing permanent brain damage, even though the repeated blows to the head appeared to be minor.
Signs and symptoms of traumatic brain injuries
It is possible to have a concussion and suffer relatively minor symptoms, which is why it is often called an “invisible injury.” However, if you suffer a loss of consciousness or are dizzy or nauseous after a blow to the head, it is critical that you seek medical attention.
Other symptoms of a brain injury are if the injured person responds to questions slowly or doesn’t understand what people are saying. They could experience sensitivity to light or suffer from memory loss. Headaches are also common with a concussion.
Brain contusions have similar symptoms, including headache, confusion, sleepiness, dizziness, coordination difficulty, ringing in the ears and seizures. If you suffer a skull fracture, you may have tenderness at the site of the injury, swelling, deformity, bruising around your eyes or ears and clear fluid leaking from your nose or ear.
If your brain has been deprived of oxygen for too long, you may have a headache, blurred vision, changes in sensory perceptions, changes in sleep patterns and difficulty with coordination. Any of these symptoms require medical attention as soon as possible.
What to do if you suffer a head injury at work
If you suffer a head injury while performing your job duties, you need to seek medical attention immediately. As mentioned, a concussion may seem minor initially but the injury to your brain could lead to swelling if left untreated. This means you may not notice that the injury is severe until hours later.
Visit an urgent care clinic or emergency department immediately. Anyone who suffers a brain injury should rest and avoid any type of exertion. In most cases, you can return to work within a few days, unless the injury is severe.
Be sure to note anyone who witnessed the accident and take photos of the accident location as well. File a workers’ compensation claim with your employer so that your injury is documented as quickly after it occurs as possible.
Workers’ compensation and traumatic brain injuries
If you suffer a head injury at your workplace, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. If so, your employer must cover your lost wages, medical bills and other costs associated with the injury. This is the case even if you were responsible for the injury as workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance program. There are some exceptions, such as if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the injury occurred.
If the brain injury is severe, your employer may be required to cover the cost of job training if you are no longer able to perform your original job duties after the injury. Your employer may require you to visit a doctor of their choosing, but you are only required to visit that doctor once under Arizona law. Once you submit to that examination, you may visit the doctor of your choice to treat your injury.
Brain injuries are difficult to recognize and diagnose. This could make it a little more difficult for you to get workers’ compensation benefits.