How much money carpal tunnel syndrome is worth in NY workers comp will typically depend on Schedule Loss of Use. Schedule Loss of Use (known as “SLU”) refers to permanent injury due to a work-related accident or occupational disease. The Board Panel recently addressed a case involving a money award for carpal tunnel syndrome of the wrist/hand.
The Law Judge’s Decision
In that case, the Workers’ Compensation Board Panel addressed the value of carpal tunnel syndrome after surgery. The claimant suffered from right carpal tunnel syndrome as an occupational disease. The claimant also underwent carpal tunnel release surgery.
The claimant’s treating doctor found him to suffer from a 45% SLU to the right hand. Of the 45% SLU, 15% was attributable to carpal tunnel syndrome and 30% was due to range of motion deficits. In contrast, the insurance carrier’s consultant doctor found the worker to suffer from a 20% SLU to the right wrist. The carrier’s doctor attributed that percentage only to carpal tunnel syndrome. Thus, doctors disagreed over the value of carpal tunnel syndrome in the workers comp case.
The Workers’ Compensation Law Judge agreed with the claimant’s doctor. The Judge found the worker to suffer from a 45% Schedule Loss of Use to the right hand. The insurance carrier appealed the decision to the Workers’ Compensation Board Panel. The Board Panel reviewed the case to determine how much the permanent damage from carpal tunnel syndrome was worth.
How much is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with Surgery Worth in Workers Comp?
The Board Panel reviewed the medical evidence and testimony of both doctors. It noted that under the under the 2018 Schedule Loss of Use Guidelines, carpal tunnel syndrome is assigned an average of 10-20% Schedule Loss of Use. That range applies whether or not there is surgery. The Board Panel further found that the Guidelines do not include range of motion deficits in the SLU percentage attributable to carpal tunnel syndrome.
The Court explained how range of motion plays into how much carpal tunnel syndrome is worth. Specifically, for a SLU percentage to be included for carpal tunnel syndrome based on range of motion deficits, the hand/wrist must be established to the case. This means that the Board must have officially added the hand to the case as a site of injury, apart from carpal tunnel syndrome. The Board ruled that, without the hand/wrist separately added as a site of injury to the case, SLU should be limited to the condition of carpal tunnel syndrome only.
Here, because the wrist was not part of the case, the Board Panel modified the Law Judge’s decision. It found the worker to suffer from a 15% SLU to the right hand due to carpal tunnel syndrome only. That percentage did not include loss of range of motion. Notably, that percentage was below the opinion for loss of use given by both doctors.
This decision is an example of how much carpal tunnel is worth in workers comp and how important it is to have all sites of injury established in the case.