Will a new law expand coverage for workers’ compensation after a hernia?
One of the many benefits of our workers’ compensation system is the ability to evolve. Lawmakers designed these rules so they can change over time, to adjust as we learn more information. This can include the ability to make changes to coverage available for work related injuries and illnesses. One recent injury that is receiving attention and calls for reform are hernias.
What do we know about hernias?
A hernia is an injury to the tissue that holds an organ in place. This can lead to pain and a noticeable bulge in the area. It will not heal on its own and, without surgical intervention, can result in serious complications.
In the past, we believed a hernia was an instantaneous injury — almost like a broken bone. The victim would experience a trauma that would immediately tear tissue inside their body and the doctor would diagnose a hernia.
We now know that these are not always immediate injuries. The accident that results in an injury to the connection between tissues can erode over time and eventually rupture or be the result of repetitive motions that wear down the tissue. Not surprisingly, this is especially true in professions that require repetitive heavy lifting and quick movements, like firefighting and construction.
What is the current law?
As currently written, the law allows for coverage if the employee reports the accident to an employer within a matter of weeks and can establish that:
- The hernia is a new injury; or
- A previously existing hernia was significantly worsened.
Unfortunately, as noted above, we now know that a hernia may not fully develop until months or even years after the accident that caused the damage or could be a slow progression.
The availability of this new information has led for many, including lawmakers throughout the state of Maryland, to push for an update to coverage.
How are lawmakers pushing for change to workers’ comp coverage for those who suffer from a hernia?
Lawmakers have proposed a new law that would change coverage for these injuries. If passed, the law would provide those who suffer from a hernia with more time to seek workers’ compensation benefits by allowing for a claim weeks after the diagnosis instead of weeks after the accident. Although it is making its way through the legislative process, the proposal is not yet law. If approved, it could go into effect as early as October 2023. We will provide updates on the bill’s progress as they become available.
In the meantime, the discussion serves as an important reminder of the many hurdles that can come with getting the coverage you deserve. Getting coverage is not always easy, even when the injury is clearly connected to your job. It is important that those who suffer a hernia and believe it was the result of an injury at work seek legal counsel to help better ensure they receive their benefits.