North Carolina work accident claim upheld; apportionment disallowed in absence of medical testimony

The North Carolina Court of Appeals has upheld an award of temporary total disability to a tire inspector after ruling that apportionment between workplace and non-workplace injuries would have been too speculative in the absence of a doctor’s opinion, Risk & Insurance reported.

In this case, a North Carolina workers’ compensation claim was filed after a worker injured his left hand when a tire blew out and slammed his hand against a metal rim. He was placed on temporary, light-duty restrictions and sought medical care. He reported increased problems with his hand after returning to regular duty; his employer told him he must perform the required work or retire. He retired but began working as a teacher’s assistant six months later. The appeals court upheld the award of temporary total disability for the six months the employee was out of work.

The employer argued the ruling was unreasonable and that some of the employee’s injuries were not the result of the work injury. However, the court found that no doctors testified as to the proportion of injury that resulted from the work accident. In the absence of such testimony, any attempt at making such a determination would have been “speculative and improper.” The employer also argued that the employee failed to prove he was disabled, pointing to a doctor’s decision to release him from all restrictions prior to retirement. However, another doctor did not remove the light-duty restrictions until two months after the former employee began his job as a teaching assistant.

Employers often go to great lengths to avoid compensating an injured worker. Hiring an attorney can be an important step toward protecting your rights and the financial well-being of you and your family. In this case, the employee could have lost his disability status or faced a reduction in benefits if the employer had successfully argued that some significant portion of his injury was unrelated to the work accident.

If you are dealing with a work accident in North Carolina, contact the Law Offices of Lee & Smith today for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 800-887-1965.

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