Cumulative Trauma Injury for California Workers’ Compensation

Occupational Injuries


Speak to a representative at California Work Injury Law Center.

If you have a work-related injury or illness, your employer is required by law to pay for workers’ compensation benefits. You could get hurt by repeated exposures at work, such as hurting your wrist from doing the same motion over and over or losing your hearing because of constant loud noise.

What is a Cumulative Trauma Injury?

A cumulative trauma disorder, also known as CT, is defined as the excessive wear and tear on tendons, muscles and sensitive nerve tissue caused by continuous use over an extended period of time. CTs can develop from improper work positioning, repetition or force. Cumulative trauma are also known as repetitive strain injuries, repetitive motion disorders (RMDs), overuse syndrome and work-related musculoskeletal disorders. CTs are injuries of the musculoskeletal system, which includes joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels. CT’s can include mental trauma as well.

What are the Risk Factors Contributing to Cumulative Trauma Injuries?

  • Work Position
  • Awkward postures/Static postures
  • Force/Forceful exertions                
  • Repetition/Repetitive motions
  • Vibration
  • Lifting methods
  • Lack of sufficient recovery time
  • Mental stress

Cumulative Trauma That Leads to a California Workers’ Compensation Claim

Instead of the claimant having to prove that an injury is work-related as with a specific injury, an employer has the burden of proving that the CT injury wasn’t caused or contributed to in the course of employment. 

Determining the Date of Injury of the Cumulative Trauma

Labor Code 5412 specifies that the date of injury in cases of occupational diseases or cumulative injuries is “that date upon which the employee first suffered disability therefrom and either knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, that such disability was caused by his present or prior employment.”

Johnson 50 CCC 53 (1985) established that “an employee clearly may be held to be aware that his or her disability was caused by the employment when so advised by a physician. Generally, until he receives such medical advice, he is not chargeable with knowledge of his condition and its relation to his work…”

Pursuant to case law, an employee is not expected to know they have an injury, until a doctor informs them of an industrial injury.

When to Hire an Attorney to Handle Your California Workers’ Compensation for a Cumulative Trauma Case

If you feel that you have sustained a cumulative trauma from repetitive work duties, please contact California Work Injury Law Center. 

Common cumulative trauma injuries include:

  • Wrist carpal tunnel, which many employees can develop from frequent typing or the use of certain tools
  • Elbow cubital tunnel
  • Back and neck disc herniation
  • Heart disease from stress
  • Lung and breathing issues from continued exposure to dust or chemicals

Cumulative Trauma FAQs

As published in independent reports from the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB) & the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI)

  • 3% of all claims are now CT claims.  (WCIRB)
  • 61% involve multiple body parts (WCIRB)
  • Physical or mental injuries that arise over time from repetitive stress or repetitive motion exposures cost 53% more than claims that stem from a specific event or accident (CWCI)

How long do you have to file a workers’ comp claim in cumulative trauma?

The statute of limitations in California for a workers’ compensation claim is one year from the date of injury, which can be straight forward if you’re suffering from a specific injury. Ascertaining how much time you have to file a workers’ compensation claim can be challenging when you have cumulative trauma.

If your injuries have developed over time, the date of injury may be when a disability finally occurs, and the worker knew it was caused by work. It’s important to stress that the date of injury for cumulative trauma is not the date of exposure, but the date when the worker has knowledge of their injuries.