Head Or Neck Injury While On The Job Led To A Chiari Malformation Diagnosis? Here's What You Need To Know

Law Articles

If you've had a work-related head or neck injury and seem to have developed other seemingly-unrelated symptoms throughout your body since your accident, you may have what is called a Chiari 1 malformation. Here's what you need to know.

Chiari Malformation

Chiari is a malformation of the cerebellum, which is located at the base of the brain near the brain stem and sits in an indented space in the lower back portion of the skull. Malformation of the cerebellum can occur when there are structural defects that can be congenital or acquired. It causes the cerebellum to herniate or fall into the opening for the spinal cord.

The most common symptom of Chiari is a headache in the back of the head with a lot of pressure. Other symptoms can include neck pain, numbness, difficulty swallowing, vision problems, sleep problems, hearing loss, balance problems, reduced coordination, and muscle weakness. As you can imagine, these types of symptoms could interfere with your medical treatment and delay your ability to return to work.

Chiari Is Progressive

Chiari is a progressive condition, which may prolong the amount of time you initially expected to receive workers compensation. Once the cerebellum is able to herniate into the spinal cord opening, it can worsen progressively. Think of your spinal cord as a fishing line and the cerebellum as a cork that sits on top of the water. When a fish bites on the hook, the fishing line pulls down on the cork.

Now, consider that a fish in this explanation can be anything that causes a sudden increase in movement of your spinal fluid or spinal cord, such as a medical procedure like a lumbar puncture or a spinal tap. This type of movement can also be from a sudden jerk, such as whiplash, a head injury, or trauma. The force upon your body when you ride a rollercoaster can have the same effect on a Chiari malformation.

Reevaluate Your Employment

Due to Chiari being a progressive condition, you have to consider the line of work that you do. For example, someone with symptomatic Chiari won't want to use a jackhammer all day because the force and vibrations could cause serious injuries, especially if the 'cork' pushes up against nerves in the brain stem or blocks the spinal fluid flow. Another example is when a roofing contractor experiences dizziness and balance problems and isn't safe at heights.

Fortunately, workers compensation laws allow employees in these types of situations to retain their employment if an independent medical examiner determines that they are no longer capable of safely fulfilling their duties and if there are other positions that may be more suitable. Of course, this may require retraining, which will be paid for by workers compensation. Speak with an attorney who specializes in workers compensation, such as Hardee and Hardee LLP, for more information.

Get Treated

You'll need to see a neurologist or a neurosurgeon for a Chiari diagnosis. After your diagnosis, speak with a lawyer about how to prove your case that your Chiari was caused by or aggravated by your injury. You will likely need to be seen by an independent medical examiner who will review your medical history and do a complete medical exam to determine whether or not your Chiari diagnosis is related to your injury.

There is no cure for Chiari, but neurosurgeons perform decompression surgery, which can help alleviate the symptoms and slow the progression of Chiari. In these surgeries, the neurosurgeon removes a portion of the skull to provide more room for the cerebellum so it doesn't put pressure on the brain stem and doesn't block the flow of the spinal fluid.

As you can imagine, your ability to return to work can be greatly reduced if you need surgery for Chiari malformation. In fact, you can expect recovery to take 4-6 weeks. It is important for you to keep adequate medical records and share them with a lawyer, especially when you receive workers compensation for your injuries.


8 April 2016

Dealing with Estate Planning When You're Single

Too many single people assume they don't need to plan their estate. My brother fell into this category, and his unexpected passing left our entire family struggling to deal with his home, belongings, and financial accounts. It took nearly three years for the courts to set up a deal because he left no paperwork detailing how he wanted his estate divided. The situation immediately convinced me to work on my own estate, even though I'm still in my early 30's and don't have children or a spouse to worry about. Since it's a little harder to pick beneficiaries and estate managers when you're single, I collected the resources I used for making my own decisions and decided to publish them here on my blog. Use these resources before talking to an estate planning attorney so you're prepared for making hard decisions.