Serious knee injuries, sometimes requiring surgery, can happen in the workplace even more often than they happen to star athletes in forlorn sports cities.
(You might’ve guessed I’ve lived in a few forlorn cities over the years.)
Of course, they can also happen at office Christmas parties, but dancing mishaps aren’t on the list of common injuries covered by workers comp insurance.
In a study published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace knee injuries account for 15-20% of lost time injuries resulting in 16 days away from work on average. The most common injuries in the workplace include sprains, strains, dislocations, tendonitis, meniscus tears and fractures.
“As the largest joint in the body, the knee is prone to many different types of injuries,” said Katherine Antonello, President and CEO at Employer’s Insurance, based in Reno, Nevada. “In order to decrease the risk of on-the-job knee injuries it is imperative to be aware of one’s surroundings, wear protective footwear, use proper form when lifting and wear knee protection.”
Strains and sprains account for nearly 40% of workers comp injuries.
More is known about biomechanics these days and how people can protect themselves from injury, whether in the gym or elsewhere. Employers have done a good job of passing on that knowledge, which in part explains why workplace injuries are on the decrease over the past decade.
But knee injuries are still among the most common types of work injuries and can be one of the more long-lasting setbacks for employees.
The American Osteopathic Association estimates nearly 65% of Americans ages 18-to-34 “have experienced chronic pain or someone they care for has experienced chronic pain during the past year.” In some jobs, that number is even higher.
Average Workers Comp Settlement for Knee Injury
The average workers compensation insurance cost for a knee injury is $33,153, according to the National Safety Council.
That includes $17,757 in medical expenses and $15,396 in other forms of compensation. Lost wages are the biggest factor in the “other forms” category of compensation.
Since workplace injuries vary from sprains to surgery, knowing the average compensation for a knee injury probably won’t inform your particular situation.
For instance, the low range cost of a case of tendonitis or bursitis could be $1,000 while the cost of more severe knee injuries such as torn ACLs and MCLs could start out at $35,000 and increase from there depending on severity.
For context, when an untreated knee injury develops into osteoarthritis and necessitates a knee replacement, workers compensation pays an average of $46,000 per knee replacement settlement.
“The need for surgery and the type of knee injury are just two of many factors used in determining a settlement,” Antonello said.
“Among those (others) include the injured employee’s ability to return to their prior vocation, the extent of the injury, potential for permanent disability, the need for future medical treatment and each state’s regulation and statutes surrounding workers’ compensation settlements.”
Types of Knee Injuries in the Workplace
Name a knee injury, it’s happened in the workplace. In jobs that require lifting, moving, twisting, turning, that injury you just named has probably happened on a regular basis.
The most common workplace knee injuries include:
Fractures of the Tibia, Patella, Femur
Think of the knee as an intersection for connecting bones. A head on collision could do some damage.
One tear might require ice and rest. Another could necessitate arthroscopic surgery.
What’s that saying? Minor surgery is what happens to someone else? Technology has made surgery to repair ACLs and MCLs quicker and easier but rehabbing those injuries is anything but quick and easy.
These are the connectors between muscle and bone. Ruptures and tears are not uncommon, especially in jobs where workers risk falls or land awkwardly.
These are cringe-worthy for good reason. A dislocation occurs when the knee bones come out of place, often after a significant impact such as a fall or collision.
The most severe cases could result in a partial or total knee replacement.
Common Causes of Work-Related Knee Injuries
Some types of employment lend themselves to knee injuries: Construction workers, auto mechanics, carpenters, general laborers who are carrying heavy objects (especially over uneven terrain) bricklayers, floor installers, farm workers.
The types of actions resulting in knee injuries:
- Falls: Workers climbing ladders, scaffolds, navigating steps, ramps.
- Overexertion: In many jobs that require repetitive motion, overexertion can cause pain, tearing of muscles around the knee and tendinitis.
- Hyperextension: A hyperextended knee can happen when landing awkwardly. Think of how it feels when you miss the last step on the stairs. Hyperextension occurs when your knee is bent backward beyond its limit.
- Contact with objects: This doesn’t necessarily mean flying objects (think hockey goalies bombarded by pucks.) It can be unseen collisions with machinery, or repetitive contact with hard surfaces such as floors.
Filing A Workers Comp Claim for a Knee Injury
Antonello: “Employees should know the insurance company is there to deliver medical and indemnity benefits as outlined by their state’s workers’ compensation regulations.
“Following any injury, it is important for the employee to report the injury immediately to their employer. The employer is then obligated to report the claim to their insurance carrier to start the claim process.
“Timely reporting will ensure the claim handling process can begin and the employee receives prompt and appropriate medical attention as soon as possible.”
When you seek medical attention, be as specific as you can in detailing the injury to the examining medical personnel: when and how it happened, etc. If there’s no chance it’s an old football injury, don’t bring any old war stories into the conversation.
Proceed as if you will one day have to prove your claim. It’s hardly a given that you will, but you might. It’s always good to be prepared for unexpected turns in the workers comp process.
Be mindful that in certain situations your employer may be contesting the claim and investigating the legitimacy of the claim by monitoring your activity level.
In other words, If your claim details a serious knee injury in the workplace, avoid publishing a social media post showing you on the basketball court with your teenage son or daughter. (Avoid dunking especially.)
Your claim may not be contested at all, so begin the process with a timely reporting of your injury.
Your employer should help in the claim process. By law, employers must post workers comp information in a convenient location frequented by employees during work hours.
Workers Comp Benefits for a Knee Injury
Workers’ compensation benefits for employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses include:
- Medical care
- Lost wages
- Costs associated with retraining (if necessary)
- Compensation for permanent injuries
“Many knee injuries can be treated conservatively,” said Antonello. “Simple treatment measures include immobilization, physical therapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
“If conservative treatment isn’t enough to fully restore function, surgical intervention, either by arthroscopy or larger incision, may be necessary. Workers’ compensation will cover all reasonable and necessary medical treatment and time off work, as long as it is related to the employee’s on-the-job injury.”
Work Restrictions for a Knee Injury
Obviously, the severity of the injury will determine how long you are off work and what restrictions might be in place when you return.
The other determining factor is fairly obvious, too – the opinion of the workers comp doctor who treats you.
The medical opinion related to your particular injury could put you in one of three categories:
- No work. You simply are not ready to return to your job.
- Work with some restrictions.
- Fully capable of your regular duties without restriction.
Your doctor will likely base restrictions on the demands of your job, especially pertaining to the amount of lifting and carrying you do. Knee injuries often lead to restrictions on lifting, squatting, climbing, kneeling and even standing.
Make sure your doctor lists recommended restrictions in your workers comp paperwork.
Workers comp falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act, giving workers protection if what they’re asked to do in the workplace exceeds the restrictions put on their return to work.
Your employer can suffer consequences if the company asks you to do something above and beyond your return-to-work medical restrictions.
State workers comp rules can vary. What they do have in common state to state is that they can be complicated and confusing.
If your claim is complicated, or contested, or you feel filing a claim in the workplace has resulted in repercussions such as change of job status, you should contact an experienced workers comp attorney.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- N.A. (ND) Average Workers’ Comp Knee Injury Settlements and Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.krasnolaw.com/types-of-injuries/knee-injuries
- N.A. (ND) How Common Are Work-Related Knee Injuries? Retrieved from https://www.aspelllaw.com/how-common-are-work-related-knee-injuries
- Patel, R. (2022, January 30) How to get a Workers Compensation Settlement for your Knee Replacement? Retrieved from https://rplawcenter.com/how-to-get-a-workers-compensation-settlement-for-your-knee-replacement/
- Edwards, R. (2020, February 25) Employee Illness Or Injury? Go Directly To Human Resources. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2020/02/25/employee-illness-or-injury-go-directly-to-human-resources/?sh=74c4ec75db6b
- N.A. (ND) Working after a Workers Compensation Knee Injury. Retrieved from https://perkinslawtalk.com/blog/how-knee-injuries-cause-problems-returning-to-work/