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Are knee replacements work-related?

| Feb 5, 2021 | Workers' Compensation

More and more people are having knee replacements.  After all, most of our body parts are going downhill after high school.  As we age, joints deteriorate, which can result in pain, stiffness, cracking…and the need for medical care.

In many situations, a worker’s job duties or a traumatic injury can speed up the need for medical care or joint replacement for their knee.  The question: Is it work-related?

Knee replacements and workers’ compensation

Knee replacements certainly can be considered work-related, whether based on (1) a specific injury; or (2) a worker’s job duties.  Essentially, if a work injury or the job duties accelerated the need for a knee replacement surgery, the worker has the right to bring a work comp claim.

Traumatic injury

Even if the worker was having knee problems or would have needed a knee replacement at some point in their life, if a work injury aggravates, accelerates, and precipitates that pre-injury condition beyond normal progression, the worker has a claim.  This means that if the work injury caused the need for the knee replacement sooner than had the injury not occurred, the claim is likely compensable.  If the treating surgeon supports this medical causation, the worker should file for benefits.

Benefits include medical bills being paid, 2/3 of wages during weeks off work, and more importantly, a significant percentage of disability.  A Total Knee Replacement is “worth” 50% permanent disability benefits, equal to 212.50 weeks of payments.  In 2021, the rate is $362/week, meaning a 50% PPD to the knee equals $76,925.

Job duties/occupational exposure

If a workers job duties over a period of time played a material role in the progression of a worker’s bad knee, resulting in the need for a knee replacement surgery, they also have a claim for benefits.   If someone performs repetitive bending, squatting, standing, delivery, getting in and out of trucks (and many more duties), their work may play a role in a work-related knee condition.  It is helpful to explain to the treating surgeon what a worker did in their job.

Talk to your doctor

Many workers are hesitant to talk to their doctors about whether a condition is work-related.  I’d strongly encourage workers to speak with their doctors about their precise job duties.  Talk in detail about the repetitive tasks.  If the doctor feels work played a role in the condition, seek out legal assistance–as knee replacements can be work-related.

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