Will a Damaged Retina Qualify for Workers’ Comp?


Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Is a damaged retina making it hard for you to see eye-to-eye with your employer? Okay, pun fully intended but eye injuries are no joke. And they can also make it harder to do your job. Especially if you spend many hours staring at a computer screen. But does this condition qualify you for workers’ compensation benefits? Really, it depends on the circumstances.

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What Is a Detached Retina?

Retinal detachment is an eye injury that can lead to serious vision issues, especially if left untreated. It occurs when a thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye (the retina) pulls away from its normal position.

Symptoms of a detached retina typically include blurred vision, reduced peripheral vision, light flashes, and/or multiple floaters. Floaters are little specks or squiggles that suddenly appear drifting through your field of vision.

A detached retina is generally considered an emergency situation. Therefore, you should absolutely seek immediate treatment if you’re experiencing any signs or symptoms.

However, will your employer cover treatment for your damaged retina? That is definitely up for discussion.

What Counts As a Work Injury?

For an injury to qualify for worker’s comp, it must happen at and be a result of your work. This also holds true if the work environment significantly aggravates a pre-existing injury or illness.

And what exactly counts as a “work environment?” Well, pre-Covid, it probably meant the office where you worked. However, with so many people now doing work from home (WFH), a better bet is to follow federal definitions.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the work environment is “the establishment and other locations where one or more employees are working or are present as a condition of their employment. The work environment includes not only physical locations, but also the equipment or materials used by the employee during the course of his or her work.”

When Does a Damaged Retina Satisfy Work Injury Requirements?

Your damaged retina will only quality you for workers’ comp benefits if it happened while performing your usual job duties.

In other words, if your retina detaches because of a non-work-related accident — for example, a car wreck, or someone shining a laser pointer in your eye during a rock concert — then no, you will not qualify.

However, let’s say you’re a bus driver and another car smashes into you while you’re shuttling kids home from school. If you suffer a detached retina in this example, then yes, you will qualify for workers’ comp benefits. That’s because you are performing your job (driving kids) in your work environment (a school bus) when the incident occurs.

Lifting, pushing, or pulling heavy objects can also result in a detached retina. So, if you’re working from home and stacking heavy boxes while filing paperwork when your retina detaches, you’ll be covered. But, if you’re at the office and lifting dumbbells in the corporate gym during lunch, you will not qualify. Why? Unless you’re a personal trainer and lifting weights with clients is your job, then the injury did not happen while performing your regular duties during scheduled work hours.

Another important consideration is if your detached retina results because of ignoring work protocol meant to protect your health. An example would be if you must wear safety goggles on-the-job but don’t because they annoy you. If you then get something in your eye that leads to a damaged retina, you won’t be covered. You must follow all safety rules set forth by your employer.

How To Determine if You Have a Workers’ Comp Case

Basically, the bottom line is that an injury that stops you from working doesn’t automatically qualify you for workers’ comp. Even if it happens at work or during WFH. In the case of a damaged retina, the detachment must somehow directly result from the work you’re hired to do. And it needs to occur during work hours in your work environment.

Still unsure if your damaged retina might qualify you for workers’ comp benefits? Schedule a free consultation with a workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you determine whether or not you have a case. Because they’ll definitely have an eye for the details you might otherwise miss seeing.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online workers’ compensation case evaluation now!

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes toCosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit:www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann