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Back injuries: Leading cause of workers' comp claims

It's the most common complaint doctors hear from patients who have sustained an on-the-job injury: "My back hurts." Back injuries are the leading type of workplace injuries, according to the National Safety Council.

A recently released study shows that treatment of common back injuries varies widely from state to state. For instance, a worker who injures his back in Pittsburgh might be more likely to undergo surgery than a person who injures his back in San Francisco.

The study, "Why Surgery Rates Vary," shows that about one out of every five workers' compensation cases involve back injuries. The Workers Compensation Research Institute says that nearly 20 percent of the workers with injured backs in Tennessee and Oklahoma eventually wound up having back surgery. In California and Florida, less than 10 percent with the same diagnoses had operations on their backs.

Factors involved in the discrepancy include: local availability of surgeons, reimbursement rates by workers' comp for surgeries and local back-treatment norms.

Other common workplace injuries, the National Safety Council says, are slips/trips, falls from heights, reaction injuries (injuries caused by a worker's physical reaction to tripping but not falling), damage done by falling objects and injuries sustained when workers unintentionally walk into stationary items.

As many Pennsylvania workers can attest, employers and insurers will sometimes attempt to deny workers' comp benefits to deserving claimants. An attorney who has knowledge of the law and years of experience in dealing with Pennsylvania's compensation system can help deserving workers get the benefits they need.

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