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work injury over time

It is quite common in many different types of jobs to suffer a work injury over time, rather than suffering an injury from a single incident. Depending on the nature of the job, a work injury overtime may be covered under Minnesota workers’ compensation.  

Probably the most common example of developing a work injury over time comes from a manual labor job that requires the worker to constantly strain his back such that a gradual breakdown occurs. Office workers who do certain tasks over-and-over and regularly strain a body part may also develop a work injury over time.  

Prior to 1953 these type of injuries were not covered under Minnesota workers’ compensation because the law covered only those injuries that were “caused by accident.”  In 1953 the words “caused by accident” were removed from Minnesota workers’ compensation law.


Specifically, an injured worker may be entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits for injuries that occur as a result of repetitive minute trauma brought about by the performance of ordinary job duties.  

The main court case that covers a work injury over time is Gillette v. Harold, Inc. A work injury over time has now become known as a Gillette injury.  In that case, the court stated:

It is well established by the authorities that when the inevitable effect of an underlying condition are hastened by an injury that is sudden and violent or the result of unusual strain or exertion, the injury and its disabling consequences are compensable.  It should further be conceded, however, that injuries may arise out of and in the course of the employment which do not occur suddenly or violently.  In the course of one’s ordinary duties injuries may occur daily which cause minimal damage, the cumulative effect of which in the course of time may be as injurious as a single traumatic occurrence which is completely disabling.  We have been presented with no good reason why compensation should be paid in one instance and not in the other.

Prior to 1994, the burden of proof was on the injured employee to prove that “specific work activity caused specific symptoms leading to disability.” In 1994, in the case Steffen v. Target Stores, the standard was changed.

The court reasoned that because “by its very nature a Gillette injury may develop so inconspicuously as to not demand, perhaps until as late as the injury’s culmination, the sort of close attention necessary to identify any clear pattern of association between ‘specific’ activities and ‘specific symptoms’.

The court stated that the employee must only prove that a causal connection exists between ordinary work and ensuing disability.  Medical evidence is needed to prove the causal connection.


If you have suffered a work injury over time and question whether the injury should be covered by Minnesota workers’ compensation law, contact our Minneapolis/St. Paul workers’ compensation attorneys for a free consultation.  If it is determined that you suffer from a work injury over time, our lawyers will fight to get the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve.

Author Photo Joshua R. Stokka

Josh has been representing injured workers for over 10 years. Josh was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota, and attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminology. Mr. Stokka alson received his law degree from the Hamline University School of Law. During law school, Josh clerked at a Minnesota law firm specializing in personal injury and workers’ compensation. Prior to practicing in the area of workers’ compensation, Josh clerked for a judge in the 7th Judicial District in Minnesota. This valuable experience gave him insight into how judges think, do their jobs behind the scene, and how to frame a case in order to obtain a favorable result.  Now, he focuses 100% of his practice on defending injured workers in Minnesota.

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