Knee replacements can be work-related.
And–importantly–knee replacements result in signficiant monetary compensation for injured workers. Any employee undergoing a knee replacement surgery should consult with their surgeon (and an attorney) to discuss whether or not the surgery should be filed as work-related.
Knee replacments can be compensable from two types of work-related “injuries”:
1) Occupational Exposure:
A worker’s job duties over a period of time can play a role in the degeneration or progression of a bad knee condition. Unlike a one-time traumatic event, this type of injury is based on the cumulative stress a worker places on their joints in their line of work. These are known as occupational exposure claims, and if a doctor indicates the job duties were a material, contributory, causative factor in the onset or progression of the knee condition, a knee replacement surgery can be compensable under the law.
A wide range of job duties could result in an occupational exposure knee replacement claim. Examples could include: prolonged standing; repetitive bending and squatting; repetitive up and down steps; long periods on concrete/metal flooring; repetitive lifting; and more.
Notably, if a worker has been employed by mutiple employers, the last employer whose work contributed to the medical condition is on the risk for the workers’ compensation claim.
2) Traumatic Injuries:
A specific one-time trauma certainly can be a work injury claim. Many initial injuries to a knee can give rise to a later need for a knee replacement. Specifically, a worker that has a work-related meniscus tear or ACL tear can have a surgery to repair the injury and then return to work. If that same worker continues to experience knee problems 2-5 years down the line, a doctor may recommend a total knee replacement surgery. That knee replacement surgery can still be work-related if the doctor believes the initial injury and surgery caused the worker to have a knee replacement sooner in their lives than the natural progression of a degenerative knee.
Note that the statute of limitations (for traumatic injuries after March 2, 2016) is six years–meaning the total knee replacement needs to happen within six (6) years of the injury or last compensation payment.
At a minimum, a knee replacement is “worth” 50% Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) to the knee. This entitles a worker to 212.50 weeks of PPD benefits at their date of injury permanency rate. For example, a work injury in 2018 that resulted in a total knee replacement would equal 212.50 weeks at the $362/week rate–totaling $76,925.00. Thus, knee replacements carry subtantial dollar values for the injured worker.
Any injured worker undergoing a knee replacement is advised to talk to an attorney about whether or not they can pursue a workers’ compensation claim.