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You're going through your work day, lifting boxes and doing other chores. Suddenly, you feel a pain in your side, and there's a bulge in you abdomen or groin area.
You may have a hernia. Can you get workers' compensation for a hernia?
A hernia is an injury that occurs when an organ or fatty tissue is pushed through a weak spot or a tear in surrounding muscle tissue. There are several common types of hernias: inguinal (inner groin), femoral (outer groin), umbilical (belly button), and hiatal (upper stomach).
A hernia can occur when tissue weakness combines with pressure to push an organ through a tear or opening in the tissue. Hernias often occur after heavy lifting, persistent coughing or sneezing, diarrhea or constipation, or a fall. Obesity, poor nutrition, and smoking can also increase the risk of hernias.
Eligible for Workers' Compensation
To be eligible for workers' compensation, you must be able to show that your hernia is a work-related injury, meaning it was caused by an accident while doing your regular work duties, caused by the conditions of your work, or, if pre-existing, aggravated by the conditions of your employment.
For some occupations, such as firefighters and police officers, some states have laws that declare a hernia occurring while employed is presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment. Usually it's your job to prove that your injury is work related. These presumption rules shift the responsibility onto the employer to prove that the injury is not work related.
In California, the presumption can last up to 60 months, depending on how many years you were employed, after you've ended your employment as a firefighter or police officer. So if you've developed a hernia two months after you quit your firefighter job, this presumption would still apply to your workers' compensation claim.
File a Claim
If you've experienced a hernia, go see a doctor as soon as possible. Also, do not wait to notify your employer of any injury, and file a claim. Most states have statutes of limitations on when you can file your claim.
Since workers' compensation law can vary from state to state, consult with an experienced local workers' compensation attorney to assess your options.