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Once it is determined that you were injured on the job, it will be decided what type of injury you have suffered. An injury does not need to be the result of a sudden accident such as a fall. Injuries that result due to repeated physical motions while performing your job are also covered by workers’ compensation.

Types of injuries are defined in California Labor Code §3208.1: “An injury may be either:

(a) “specific,” occurring as the result of one incident or exposure which causes disability or need for medical treatment; or (b) “cumulative,” occurring as repetitive mentally or physically traumatic activities extending over a period of time, the combined effect of which causes any disability or need for medical treatment.


  • Specific Injury – A specific injury is an injury that has a definite time and place of occurrence. Examples of a specific injury are if you fell off a ladder while on the job and broke your leg or if you lifted a heavy box while on the job and sprained your back. These occurrences have established specific time and place attached to the event that caused you damage.
  • Cumulative Trauma – These injuries are also known as “repetitive” injuries. Injuries that occur over a period of time and are due to a repetitive action or exposure are cumulative injuries. Some common cumulative injuries are repetitive use of a keyboard, which leads to carpal tunnel syndrome, constant exposure to chemicals or toxins resulting in respiratory issues, or continuous heavy lifting of objects that leads to back problems.
    As this type of injury happens gradually over time, it can be tricky to determine the date the injury occurred. California Labor Code Section 5412 states 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.”
  • Psychiatric or emotional – A worker may have a claim against their employer for suffering mental or emotional injuries due to working in a stressful environment. However, pursuant to California Labor Code Section 3208.3, there are certainly complex and lengthy criteria that the employee must meet for this type of injury to be compensable.
    Additionally, an employee may be able to claim a mental or emotional injury as a result of the physical injuries suffered at the workplace. An example of this is that an employee has begun to suffer severe depression due to his or her inability to work after breaking a leg on the job. The employee cannot sleep or eat due to the depression that has stemmed from physical injury. While such a claim can be made, it is important to note that, with some limited exceptions, such psychiatric or emotional injuries are not compensable for injuries sustained in 2013 or later.

If you believe you have suffered a specific injury, cumulative injury, or psychiatric or emotional injury, it is important to speak to our knowledgeable and skilled workers’ compensation attorneys, as they will help you determine the type of injury you have suffered and which benefits are available to you.

Please contact us today for a FREE 30-minute consultation. Our workers’ compensation attorneys are available to meet with you during business hours, evenings, and weekends. Allegiance Law is located in San Francisco, but we will be happy to drive and meet you. You may contact Allegiance Law, at 415-404-6395. Or you may contact us by filling out the client inquiry form on this page.