Degenerative Disc Disease and Workplace Accidents

What is degenerative disc disease (DDD)?  

The vertebras of the spine are separated by discs, which as the shock absorbers.  They allow the spine to move, bend and twist.  Over time, the discs begin to wear and may shrink, bulge or herniate.  The time frame for when the discs begin to wear and the rate of wearing varies greatly from person to person.  As such, it is not a disease, but rather an aging process of spine and a degeneration of the discs.

DDD may cause pain which in turn may result in restrictions and limitations of spinal motion and your activities.  Conversely, just because there is no pain and/or limitations, does not mean that the DDD process is not occurring.  Many people have DDD and are “asymptomatic,” meaning there is an underlying progressive condition which has not yet resulted in symptoms or limitations.  However, like any other disease and/or injury, DDD can affect each person differently depending on their age and occupation.

If I have DDD, can I still injure my neck and/or back at work and receive workers’ compensation benefits for same?  

Generally, yes.  Underlying DDD does not preclude you from collecting workers’ compensation benefits in the event you have a work related accident.  A compensable work related accident and resulting injury to the neck and/or back may occur from lifting, bending, twisting and from slipping, whether or not you fall.

Should you have an accident while in the course of your employment, immediately notify your employer and seek medical attention.  If you did not already know that you had DDD, it is at this time that it will likely be discovered.  Where the DDD was symptomatic prior to the accident, the accident may result in an aggravation and/or exacerbation of the underlying condition causing the preexisting symptoms to become worse.

Alternatively, the work place accident may cause an underlying asymptomatic condition to become symptomatic which results in pain, restrictions and limitations.  In any event, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier will likely be responsible for payment of the medical bills associated with the accident; and if the symptoms rise to a level which render you disabled and unable to work, you may then be entitled to weekly workers’ compensation benefits.

The period and extent of benefits that you may be entitled to under the Workers’ Compensation Law and how you go about receiving them, like any other legal process, is difficult to understand and navigate.  Therefore, after notifying your employer of the accident and after seeking immediate medical attention, it may be in your best interest to contact contact an experienced Brooklyn NY workers’ compensation lawyer so that they may start the filing process to insure the timely and prompt payment of workers’ compensation benefits.

Thanks to our friends and co-contributors from Polsky, Shouldice & Rosen, P.C. for their added insight into Degenerative Disc Disease and workplace accidents.