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Understanding Workers’ Compensation Claims Involving Frostbite and Hypothermia

New York State has cold, wet winters. For people who work outdoors, this frequent exposure to extremely cold temperatures can have serious consequences. If you suffered frostbite, hypothermia, or other cold stress injuries in New York during the course and scope of your employment, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Here’s what you should know about work-related cold stress injuries, potential benefits, filing a workers’ comp claim, and how a seasoned attorney can help you.

Common Cold Stress Injuries

Injuries associated with prolonged exposure to cold include:

  • Hypothermia. Caused by a severe drop in body temperature, hypothermia can result in shivering, dizziness, disorientation, loss of coordination, and loss of consciousness. It can eventually lead to slowed circulation and death if untreated.
  • Frostbite. This injury is caused by the freezing of the skin and underlying tissue, resulting in damaged blood vessels and a lack of oxygen that can lead to gangrene, amputation, or even death. Commonly affected body parts include cheeks, ears, fingers, toes, chin, and eyes.
  • Trench foot. Also known as immersion foot, this injury occurs when feet are exposed to wet, cold conditions on a prolonged basis and lose heat—causing the body to reduce circulation and blood flow to them. In turn, this can cause swelling, numbness, cramps, tingling pain, blisters, and gangrene. Extreme cases of trench foot can result in permanent tissue damage, gangrene, amputation, or death.
  • Chilblains. Also called pernio, chilblains are the painful inflammation of small blood vessels in your skin that is characterized by itchy, red patches, and swelling and blistering on your feet and hands. Pernio is the skin’s response to prolonged exposure to cold, but not freezing, temperatures.

If you experienced these or other cold stress injuries on the job, our knowledgeable and experienced workers’ compensation attorneys can help you recover fair benefits.

Workers at Risk for Injuries Caused by Cold Temperatures

Employees who work outdoors aren’t the only ones at risk for cold exposure injuries. Workers whose jobs require them to work in freezers, refrigeration units, and other climate-controlled cold environments may be subject to many of the same conditions. Some categories of susceptible workers include:

  • Construction workers
  • Roofers
  • Road workers
  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Snow and ice removal workers
  • Airport employees
  • Electrical workers
  • Laborers
  • Cold storage workers
  • Supermarket employees
  • Food prep and processing personnel

New York State Workers’ Comp Benefits

If you suffered a cold stress injury on the job, you could be entitled to medical treatment benefits, which covers all reasonable and necessary medical care related to your cold exposure injury. If your injuries keep you out of work for more than a week, you may also qualify for partial wage replacement benefits consisting of two-thirds of your average weekly wage.

Indemnity payments can continue until your condition has stabilized and you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) or for a specified number of weeks, depending on your injury. If you’ve lost a body part—or permanently lost the use of a body part—you may be eligible for a scheduled loss of use award.

Not sure which benefits may apply in your case? We can help.

What to Do If You Suffered a Cold Stress Injury at Work

If you’ve suffered a cold stress injury, it’s important that you take the following steps to protect your health and legal right to compensation:

  • See a doctor right away. You can see any doctor for emergency care; otherwise, the doctor you choose must be approved by the Workers’ Compensation Board.
  • Notify your supervisor of the cold stress injury, as well as how it happened, as soon as possible. Failure to notify your employer of an injury within 30 days may jeopardize your ability to collect benefits.
  • Complete Employee Form C-3 and file it with any Workers’ Compensation Board office. If this isn’t done within two years of your injury, you may forfeit your right to benefits.

Schedule a Free Consultation

The most important thing to do if you’ve been injured at work is to contact an attorney. Contact O’Connor Law PLLC today to schedule an appointment for a complimentary consultation. We look forward to discussing the details of your case.

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