Yes. Carpal tunnel syndrome is often portrayed as a repetitive stress injury—for example, spending too many hours typing without an ergonomic keyboard every day. The truth is that this is only one way to develop carpal tunnel pain. People can also develop carpal tunnel syndrome from a sudden accident, including a car accident.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a sort of tube through the wrist. Wrist tendons, blood vessels, and a major nerve (the median nerve) all run through it. In this sense, it really is like a “tunnel,” hence the name. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) happens in two situations:
- If there is damage to the carpal tunnel itself, or
- If there is swelling or pressure pushing on the carpal tunnel
That’s why excessive typing can cause CTS—because overuse of the area puts repetitive strain and mild swelling on it. It’s also why dozens of other things can cause CTS as well. For example, sleep posture can cause CTS if you are sleeping on your side with the wrist bent, or with the wrist underneath your body.
But a sudden injury like a car accident can also cause it. If you have a sudden strain on the wrist during your car accident, it’s likely that there will be damage and/or swelling—leading to CTS symptoms that can last long-term. (The most common cause is bracing the hands against the steering wheel just before impact.)
These symptoms include:
- Pain in the wrists
- Burning, tingling or numbness in the wrists
- Feeling that your hands are “weak”
- Reduced grip strength
- Dropping things
If my car accident caused my carpal tunnel syndrome, will insurance pay for it?
In theory, yes. Georgia law says that the at-fault driver and their insurance must pay for all injuries caused by the accident. However, insurance companies are experts at avoiding paying. Here are some of the arguments they use against carpal tunnel syndrome claims:
- Pre-existing. They may claim your CTS is related to your job or other activities and was already there before the accident. (Note: you can still potentially recover money if you had pre-existing CTS and the car accident made it worse.)
- Not related. They may claim your CTS was caused by something else, not the car accident. This is especially true if it wasn’t diagnosed right away.
- You made it worse. If you didn’t seek treatment immediately, insurance may claim you allowed the condition to get worse and then offer to pay only a reduced amount.
- Lowball offers. Insurance may agree to pay for CTS, but argue that you don’t need treatment such as physical therapy—or try to get out of paying for your missed work time.
In other cases, they’ll just make a fast offer that seems like a lot at first, but turns out not to cover all of your costs.
You have a right to get the money you need for treatment and other losses. A good accident lawyer can help you.
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