Workers in Maryland are entitled to compensation for work-related injuries. But the type of injury can affect their benefit eligibility.
Hernias are an example of how the state’s workers’ compensation laws treat some injuries differently. Lawmakers are now considering extending the period for reporting this injury.
Supporters of changing the law claim that the existing time frame for reporting a hernia injury is too short. Many injured workers are ineligible for benefits, according to these proponents.
Construction and firefighting are two occupations where hernias are common.
Currently, workers have 45 days after a work injury to file a claim involving a hernia. This period governs the traditional inguinal hernia involving a tear in the abdominal wall. The 45-day period also covers a sports injury or athletic pubalgia, which is a tear in the abdomen or groin area’s soft tissue that can develop over time.
A supporter of the change said that this 45-day period is too short for claiming either injury. Often, hernias are caused by a muscle connection that is slowly worn down and torn by repeated stress or trauma over time and ultimately ruptures.
The Maryland Professional Firefighters Association argued that many firefighters develop hernias over time from activities such as repeated lifting, sharp movements and heavy lifting. Nonetheless, they cannot file a workers’ compensation claim if they suffer a hernia developed over time from repetitive lifting or strain.
A state Senate bill, if approved and signed by the Governor, would extend the period for filing a workers’ compensation claim from 45 days from the accident injury to 45 days after the diagnosis of the hernia. This would allow eligibility for hernia injuries caused by repeated trauma and not by a single work injury.
This measure would treat hernias in the same manner as carpal tunnel injuries. Many employers could be liable for hernia injuries developed over time or a single employer may be responsible if the injury manifested itself at a particular time.