Unless the expression “chained to the desk” describes your work situation, chances are you’re spending some part of your day on your feet.
In the most extreme cases, you’re logging as many miles every week as a race-day marathon runner.
Foot injuries in the workplace are common for those employees on their feet every day and even more so for workers carrying heavy objects and navigating the kind of obstacles and uneven terrain particular to construction or delivery jobs.
The National Safety Council estimates the average period of disability for a foot injury at 10 days among the more than 50,000 workers a year who suffer injuries that result in missed work.
Foot injuries are as varied as they are common, ranging from simple sprains to nagging conditions that require weeks or months to heal and can affect a person’s every-day quality of life as well as their livelihood.
For that reason, it’s important to treat foot injuries seriously and not just think of them as the necessary collateral damage that comes with getting out of bed and going to work every morning.
When injured, you don’t get points for “toughing it out.” And that coveted employee-of-the-month parking space is gone in 30 days.
Average Workers Comp Settlement for Foot Injury
According to NSC data, the costliest lost-time workers comp claims involve head and spinal cord injuries. Injuries to the lower extremities – foot and ankle – result in settlements below the average workers comp settlement of $42,000.
But settlements for foot and toe injuries are significant, averaging $28,309. Medical costs account for $15,841 of that amount with indemnity comprising the rest.
Settlement amounts can vary for any kind of injury, foot injuries included, based on the need for surgery or the type of injury. Katherine Antonello, President and CEO of Employers Insurance, calls that “two of many factors” that can affect settlement amounts.
- The injured employee’s ability to return to work.
- The extent of injury.
- The potential for permanent disability.
- The need for future medical treatment
“(Also) each state’s regulations surrounding workers compensation settlements,” Antonello added.
Settlement amounts can range from $1,000 for minor injuries (cuts and scrapes) to $60,000-$100,000 for torn ligaments, loss of use.
Types of Foot Injuries in the Workplace
The ankle and foot contain 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles. Times two.
That accounts for approximately 25% of the bones found in the adult human body. Since we’re actively engaging the infrastructure of the foot every time we take a step, many types of injuries are in play.
An injury to the bone that can happen in a number of ways, from blunt force in a car accident to a misstep off a curb. A severe break could result in plates, rods and screws implanted during surgery.
The plantar fascia is a thick ligament connecting your heel to the front of your foot. When inflamed the ligament causes severe heel pain and stiffness that can take months of treatment to fully resolve.
Most often happens when dropping an object or forcefully stubbing your toe. It can sometimes be remedied with over-the-counter medication but can also require a walking cast to fully heal.
Also known as drop foot, this presents as trouble lifting the front part of your foot while walking. Since it can be related to an overgrowth of bone in the spinal canal or something else pressing against a nerve, imaging tests typically are used to diagnose the cause.
In layman’s terms, this is a crushed heel bone that can occur from a fall in which the heel absorbs your full body weight. It can take three to four months to heal, even if surgery isn’t required.
A thickening of tissue around one of the nerves leading to your toes. You might feel a burning sensation in the ball of your foot, and sometimes it requires steroid injections or surgery.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
The tendon that connects your calf to your heel can rupture or tear with overuse and overstretching. It typically happens to recreational athletes, but anyone is susceptible. Whether it’s a partial or complete rupture could determine whether surgery is needed.
The buildup of calcium deposits under the heel causes heel spurs (and a lot of pain). Anti-inflammatories and orthotics are a common treatment.
Often a result of improper footwear (but not always).
It doesn’t take long in freezing temperatures to experience the effects of hypothermia.
Common Causes of Work-Related Foot Injuries
The category for things that cause foot injuries is even more extensive than the number of foot injuries one can suffer. Here is a list of common causes.
- Falling objects: Steel-toed shoes aren’t a one-remedy-fits-all for foot injuries in the workplace but nonetheless helpful in guarding against broken toes and bones in the feet.
- Moving vehicles: Not just automobile or truck accidents where drivers suffer the full force of collisions but also mishaps with forklifts and other workplace equipment.
- Loose nails or sharp objects: Punctures to the sole of the foot are common in factory and warehouse jobs.
- Traction issues: Slippery floors, debris in walkways, issues with poor lighting can all result in workplace foot injuries.
- Mis-steps or falls: Such as from ladders, scaffolding delivery truck ramps, etc. These falls can result in broken bones.
- Improper footwear: Appropriate footwear doesn’t just protect against falling objects but can be insurance against plantar fasciitis and other nagging conditions.
- Overuse: Standing or walking for extended periods (not even counting overtime) can lead to a number of foot injuries and problems such as bunions and fallen arches.
- Exposure to extreme cold: Hypothermia can lead to the amputation of toes or feet.
- Chemical solutions: If spilled or splashed can cause burns if the right safety footwear isn’t worn.
Filing a Workers Comp Claim for a Foot Injury
Workers comp attorneys and industry experts recommend reporting a work-related injury as soon as it happens. The deadline for reporting an injury to your employer and for filing a claim varies by state.
Filing the claim immediately after injury is recommended because the process is prone to twists and turns depending on the severity of the injury, the employer’s role in the claim and your state’s regulations.
Taking too much time to report an injury could result in the claim being contested on grounds that it may not have occurred in the workplace.
“Whatever your state’s time limit, it is in your best interest to do (report the injury and file a claim) right away,” said Juan Dominguez, CEO of The Dominguez Firm in L.A.
“Waiting to notify your employer can harm your workers’ compensation claim. If you wait, your employer’s WC insurance company may question if your injury happened at work. This is especially true if you have a history of problems. Also, given the tight deadlines and paperwork involved, starting the process right away is best.”
Reporting an injury immediately puts an obligation on the employer to “report the claim to their insurance carrier to start the claim process,” according to Antonello.
“It (also ensures) the employee receives appropriate medical attention as soon as possible,” she said.
By law, employers must post workers comp information in a public place frequented by employees during work hours, and provide the proper forms to file a claim.
One caveat: Most states require employers to carry workman’s comp insurance even if the company only has one employee. Dominguez points out that one state – Texas – does not require companies to carry workers comp.
Workers Comp Benefits for a Foot Injury
Workers comp benefits for a foot injury are dependent on certain factors, including the severity of the injury, its classification (temporary or permanent disability), the amount of wages lost due to injury, medical expenses incurred, and any prior disability benefit received.
- Medical treatment. “This includes surgery, rehabilitation, physical therapy and medications,” said Dominguez. So long as the treatment is approved as “reasonable.”
- Temporary disability. Paid when you can’t work due to your injury. State regulations determine the waiting period (usually one to seven days) for when temporary disability begins.
- Permanent disability. Dominguez: “If there’s no chance of a full recovery and you can’t return to your current job, you could qualify for permanent disability.” Again, each state has its own formula.
- Retraining benefits. “This allows employees (who can’t return to their previous position) to retrain and return to their employers in a new position or go into a different field altogether.”
“Every state provides benefits that cover any needed surgery,” Dominguez said. “None, however, cover any experimental treatments or surgery. These benefits are also meant to compensate you for your time away from work. No state will provide you with 100% of your current salary, but you will receive over 66% of it in all of them.”
Work Restrictions for a Foot Injury
Name an activity – walking, climbing, lifting, even just standing – and the repercussions of a serious foot or ankle injury are going to be felt every step of the way.
After suffering such an injury, there’s a pretty good chance your doctor will place some restrictions on you in the workplace. Your employer may then assign you a light duty job, if applicable. Or send you home if light duty work isn’t available.
You’re eligible for workers comp benefits that cover lost wages and medical treatment. Even if that part of the process goes smoothly, your rights and obligations in returning to work can be confusing.
Be careful not to take a job whose demands exceed your doctor’s restrictions on your return to work. “Light duty” is sometimes in the eye of the employer.
It’s important, if you’re under medical restrictions in the workplace, to continue your doctor’s prescribed therapy and do your part to return to full duties if possible.
Even though you’re not required to return to your job, if you refuse a suitable job offered by your employer you can lose your benefits.
Some serious foot and ankle injuries might prevent you from ever returning to the specific work you were doing for your employer. It’s in your best interest to be educated about length-of-time limits to receiving workers comp benefits in your state.
Injuries in the workplace can sometimes turn contentious between employee and employer. But even when they don’t, workers comp laws are often confusing – especially pertaining to your rights in returning to work.
A free consultation with a worker’s comp attorney is a smart way to protect yourself and your family’s earning power now and in the future.
About The Author
Bill Fay has touched a lot of bases in his 45-year career. He started as a sports writer, gaining national attention for work on college and professional sports. He had regular roles as an analyst on radio and television and later became a speech writer for a government agency. His most recent work is as an internet content marketing specialist. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.
- N.A. (ND) Work Injury Costs. Retrieved from https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/work/costs/work-injury-costs/
- N.A. (2017, September 25) The Most Common Foot Injuries In The Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.geraldbrodylaw.com/blog/common-foot-injuries-in-the-workplace
- N.A. (2018, December 3) Workers’ Compensation Statute of Limitations by State. Retrieved from https://www.findlaw.com/injury/workers-compensation/workers-compensation-statute-of-limitations-by-state.html