Hand Injuries Have the Potential to Interfere With Daily Activities and the Capacity to Work, Causing a Number of Collateral Issues. Explore the Avenues to Obtain Compensation in New Jersey.
We take for granted that our hands will always do their job picking up things, scratching that itch, and writing or typing homework, a memo, or a memoir. It only becomes apparent how essential our hands are to completing daily and lifelong tasks and endeavors when injured. Many people would be out of a job without using their hands, even just one hand. A chef would need help to keep up the pace of a busy kitchen with one hand, and a construction worker would not be able to handle tools and materials to do their job.
Hand injuries result from roadway accidents, work accidents, and slips and falls. And when accidents result from another’s negligence, the ones legally responsible must pay compensatory damages to the injured victims. Thus, an individual who slips and falls on pooled water on the aisle floor may brace their fall by extending their arm and sprain, fracture, or dislocate their hand or wrist. If the spill is due to a broken jar, the victim may suffer cuts to the hands.
Primary Causes of Hand Injuries in New Jersey
Motor Vehicle Accidents
In a vehicle accident, a victim may suffer cuts and bone fractures from broken glass, burns from fire, gripping the steering wheel on impact, or catching a hand in the door. Airbags cause injuries when they thrust vehicle inhabitants into the dashboard or steering wheel upon the impact of the airbags.
Hitting the ground from a toppled motorcycle can result in hand injuries when the rider braces their fall after being flung from the bike. The hands can suffer fractures, nerve damage, cuts, and scrapes at high speed.
Other injuries occur when handling machinery such as table saws or other tools at industrial sites that can cut, scratch, or amputate fingers, wrists, and hands-on impact. Working with caustic chemicals can cause burns, and healthcare and office workers suffer carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, lacerations, and puncture wounds.
Playing sports may also cause hand injuries when soccer players brace their fall with their hands or players step on their hands when they are on the ground. A sports player can jam, smash, or twist their hand by playing the game. All contact sports run the risk of hand injuries, like football, rugby, hockey, and baseball. But non-contact sports can also result in hand injury from stress fractures or tendonitis due to repetitive hand motion in golf, tennis, or ping pong.
Finally, negligent medical care can cause hand damage when carpal tunnel or other hand surgery goes wrong, leaving a patient with nerve damage or amputation. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional renders subpar service that causes a patient damage. Regardless of the cause, hand injuries can happen almost anywhere people are negligent in work and play.
Understanding the Complexity of Hand Injuries
Hand injuries encompass the hand structure, such as skin, bones, joints, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. The most common injuries are fractures, tendon injuries, sprains, and amputations. Hand fractures are common because of the many delicate bones and joints. Wrist and metacarpal fractures occur in many contexts. The small tubular bones between the wrists and forefingers are fragile and can break on impact, whether a boxer throws a punch or someone falls or suffers a car or machinery accident. Many fractures heal on their own, but some may need surgery.
Tendon strains occur when bracing for a car accident or a fall, especially the flexor tendons that connect the hand muscles and bones. Also, wounded palms or fingers may affect the flexor tendons, which may cause unbendable fingers and pain upon attempting to bend. Additionally, the tendons on the back of the hand, the extensors, are susceptible to puncture wounds and lacerations, which can sever or slice the tendons, causing numbness or droopiness in the fingers. Both types of tendon injuries may require reparative surgery and therapy.
And stretching a finger caught in machinery can cause the flexor tendon to detach from the bone and disable the finger’s ability to bend, a condition called Jersey’s finger. The opposite condition, boutonniere deformity, disallows the fingers to straighten. Mallet finger injury results from a tear in the tendon connected to the finger end joint. Hyperextending the finger end or thumb extensor tendon, playing sports, using tools, or fracturing the wrist can leave the finger end unable to straighten, requiring a stint. There is no treatment for a torn thumb extensor.
Ligaments, which connect bones, suffer sprains of varying degrees, from stretching the ligament to rupturing them, causing pain and restricted movement. And hyper or hypo extensions of the fingers can injure the joints neighboring the knuckle. Many activities may cause sprained or torn ligaments, fractures, and lacerations. Knife accidents at work or car accidents could result in sliced fingertips, tendons, or ligaments. Untreated or dirty wounds may cause infections, too. And smashed fingers can lead to breaks.
Skier’s Thumb Injuries
Finger and thumb sprains and dislocations from falls or sports injuries cause swelling and stiffness, which can take time to heal and affect the functioning of the fingers. Skier’s thumb is an injury to the ligament connecting the thumb to the metacarpal-phalangeal joint responsible for thumb movement. The condition occurs from repetitive stretching of the ligament in sports, such as hockey or soccer goalkeepers, or from falling on the thumb, say, from a skiing fall. When the joint separates, it is a dislocation, typically arising from a sports or car accident.
Hand Nerve Injuries
Finally, nerve injuries in the hand or wrist cause loss of hand functioning but can recover with treatment. Nerves contain fibers responsible for communicating messages from the brain to the hand. When nerve damage occurs, the fibers can no longer do their job temporarily or permanently. For example, a victim of nerve damage from carpal tunnel syndrome due to repetitive hand movements or brachial plexus (nerves from the neck to the arm) damage may experience numbness or muscle weakness. Some nerve injuries are correctable with surgery.
How to Tell the Difference Between a Broken or Sprained Hand Injury
Many are unsure whether they broke or sprained their hand when injured. It may be hard to tell due to pain and swelling in either case. A break is significantly more painful when using the hand ordinarily to grip, squeeze or move the hand, like holding a cup or unscrewing a cap. Even moving fingers may be excruciating. Swelling, tenderness, bruising, and crooked or bent fingers may be signs of a fracture. Numb, stiff fingers or hand are also symptoms of a broken hand bone or finger.
Hand Injury from a Worker’s Compensation Standpoint in NJ
When a hand injury occurs, an employee reports the damage and files a workers’ compensation claim to cover treatment, lost wages, and permanent disability compensation. Dependents of employees killed on the job can also recover death benefits. Employers pay for workers’ compensation insurance to cover accidents at the workplace, and an employee is limited to a workers’ compensation claim for work-related injuries. However, a worker may file a workers’ compensation claim against the employer and a personal injury claim against a third party who caused the damage, such as a propane supplier who sold a defective bottle to the employer, injuring the employee.
Hand Injuries from a Personal Injury Perspective
When an injury occurs outside employment, or a third-party supplier of services or products is responsible for the employee’s damages, the injured party may file a personal injury claim against the responsible party and proceed with a settlement or lawsuit in the superior court. Typically, a personal injury claim begins with contacting the responsible party’s insurance company, for example, an automobile insurance adjustor for the negligent driver. Barring a settlement compensating the injured victim for their medical bills, future medical care, permanent injury care, lost wages, future lost wages, and pain and suffering, the victim must litigate their suit against the negligent party in court. And when a victim dies, their dependents may recover the loss of the financial and personal relationship benefits.
The most significant difference between a workers’ compensation and a personal injury claim is proving fault. An injured employee does not have to prove the employer caused the employee’s injuries. In a personal injury claim, the injured party must prove that the negligent individual or entity owed them a duty of due care that the party breached by the negligent conduct, and such breach resulted in injuries and losses to the injured party.
Hand Injuries and Comparative Fault in New Jersey
An injured party can receive compensation for their losses up to the total losses when they are not at fault for their injuries. In a comparative fault state like New Jersey, a plaintiff may recover for their injuries up to 50% when the injured party is up to half responsible for an accident but not when they are 51% or more liable. Their recovery is offset by the percentage of their fault for the accident.
Compensation may also be affected by the injured person’s actions after the accident. Waiting too long to seek treatment or not following a doctor’s or therapist’s orders may affect a compensatory award. A defendant may claim the extent of damages is due to the injured party’s failure to mitigate their damages and not the defendant’s negligence. A jury can offset the damages attributable to the plaintiff’s fault.
Consult with the Talented Hand and Wrist Injury Lawyers at Cohen & Riechelson to Discuss Your Claim Today
Since New Jersey has a statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims, an individual with a hand injury due to another’s fault should immediately contact a personal injury attorney. Some deadlines to file a claim are shorter than others, for example, when suing a governmental entity. Seeking advice and representation from a personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyer early helps the case by preserving essential records and facts that may affect the timing of a case resolution.
When you suffer a hand injury resulting from another’s negligence or experience a hand or wrist injury in the workplace in New Jersey, contact the skilled team at Cohen & Riechelson for immediate assistance. We provide free consultations and look forward to preserving your interests when hand injuries have adversely impacted you or someone you love. Our firm serves clients throughout Hamilton, Trenton, Princeton, East Windsor, Lawrence, Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, and throughout Burlington and Mercer County. Call (609) 528-2596 or reach us via online form to explore your options for recovering compensation.