Appeals court denies Carolina workers’ compensation claim for teacher’s knee injury

A ruling by the Court of Appeals recently denied benefits to a school teacher who claimed her torn knee was a result of a North Carolina work accident.

This case illustrates the importance of consulting a North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible after being injured while on the job.

A Salisbury High School teacher, who had previously used an elevator to reach her second-floor classroom, began using the stairs during a six-week period in which the elevator was out of order. In December 2006, she reported her knee “gave out” while ascending the steps and she reported the incident to the school the next day.

She was directed to fill out a workers’ compensation form and was sent to a doctor. She reported having pre-existing degenerative arthritis in her knees, was diagnosed with a knee strain, and assigned climbing restrictions. After more than a year without improvement, she returned to the doctor and was diagnosed with a tear in her left knee. However, the employer denied her insurance claim and would not pay for surgery. Subsequently, she filed a work injury claim seeking relief.

The industrial commission found her injury was not the result of a work accident and that she was not entitled to compensation for her injuries. She appealed to the full commission, which voted 2-1 that “the act of climbing the stairs as opposed to using the elevator was an interruption of plaintiff’s normal work routine and introduced new conditions to plaintiff’s employment.” The commission then awarded her benefits.

The award was overturned on appeal. The Appeal’s court found that climbing stairs became a normal work routine and was not a new condition of employment. And that the injury was not the result of an accident.

If you are dealing with a work accident in North Carolina or are dealing with a worker’s compensation or disability claim, 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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