Herniated Discs and Pennsylvania Workers Compensation

Unfortunately, herniated discs as work injuries in Pennsylvania are much too common. Often, herniated discs become a catalyst to Pennsylvania workers’ compensation litigation. Mooney Law has litigated and settled hundreds of herniated disc cases in Pennsylvania and we stand ready to fight for you as well.

What is a herniated disc?

Discs are located between the vertebrae (bones) of your spine. These discs have a soft, jelly-like substance inside the disc. In short, a herniated disc is a rupture in the disc which pushes this jelly like substance out of the disc.

I recently had a deposition with a spine doctor who explained herniated discs in a unique manner. His testimony centered around looking at a disc as a jelly donut. When impact or squeezing of the donut occurs, the jelly donut bulges, but the jelly does not yet come out. That is similar to what is called a disc bulge. If the impact or squeezing is hard enough, the jelly comes out the side(s) of the donut. That is similar to what is called a herniated disc.

Although herniated discs typically occur in the lower back, they can happen in any part of the spinal cord. Depending on the location, it can cause pain, numbness, or weakness running down your arms or legs.

Where can you herniate a disc?

Your spinal column runs from the base of your skull down to your buttocks. The upper spine, meaning your neck, is called the cervical spine and has 7 vertebrae (C1 to C7). The middle spine is called the thoracic spine and has 12 vertebrae (T1 to T12). The lower spine has 5 vertebrae (L1 to L5). Below your lumbar spine is the sacrum, which is several vertebrae fused together. You can suffer a herniated disc in your cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spines.

The cervical spine has nerves that run across the shoulder and down your arms into your hands. The lumbar spine has nerves that run down your legs into your feet. Depending on the injury, you can herniate discs in all three spine levels. They cause different type symptoms.

What are typical symptoms of a herniated disc?

When you herniate a disc, sometimes the symptoms may not be that bad or the symptoms may not exist at all.  You may not even know you have a herniated disc because you have no symptoms.  This occurs more as our spine degenerates over time as we get older.

Usually, with a traumatic injury that causes a herniated disc, symptoms that are common are pain in the area where the disc herniated. The pain may be sharp and constant. Symptoms may include numbness and tingling and pain shooting down your arms or legs, depending on where the herniated disc is located. Disc herniations can cause significant disability. This includes pain when walking, sitting too long, standing too long, lifting anything, bending and twisting, and pain with sneezing and coughing, and more. It can often be quite debilitating. The spine keeps our bodies upright and connects to other parts of our skeleton frame.  That is precisely why these injuries can be so debilitating.

Diagnosis of a herniated disc comes from your clinical examination with your doctor, your subjective complaints, and confirmed with a spine MRI or CT to show where the herniated disc is located.

Can you obtain workers’ compensation benefits for a herniated disc?

Yes, of course. It is common. However, these types of claims are usually heavily litigated. There are several reasons for that. First, insurance companies do not readily accept a herniated disc as a work injury, but rather they may accept a strain/sprain or a contusion. That allows them leeway to deny your claim, medical treatment, and wage loss. We frequently litigate description of injury in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation. Second, the insurance company may argue the disc herniation is degenerative in nature, meaning it did not occur with the work injury, that you had it before the work injury. Third, many injured workers are out of work due to the disc herniation, which creates wage loss liability for the insurance company. Finally, some herniate discs may require surgery to repair the disc, which is a large cost for the insurance company.

The good news is you do not need to fight for your rights to compensation alone. Workers’ compensation litigation is quite complex, which is why attorneys who practice in workers’ compensation usually limit their practice to just workers’ compensation. It is a specialty field of law. Understand medical terminology and how to take testimony from doctors is critical. Here at Mooney Law, I  exclusively handle workers’ compensation matters. I do not practice other areas of law.  My sole focus is on workers’ compensation litigation in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Mooney Law has recovered tens of millions of dollars for injured workers through settlements and winning litigation before workers’ compensation judges. It is simple. Call Mooney Law today for an absolutely FREE consultation at 717-200-HELP or 717-632-4656. You can also visit our website to complete a schedule consultation form. Finally, feel free to like and follow my Facebook page.

Mark Buterbaugh

Attorney representing injured workers and Social Security Disability clients in Pennsylvania and Maryland.