North Carolina disability claim complicated by second work accident and subsequent car accident

A recent case involving two work injuries and a car accident over a three-year span illustrates the importance of having a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer to properly deal with a work accident claim. The North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a split ruling, which granted workers’ compensation benefits and attorney fees but found the victim unqualified for a previous disability award.

The case involved a May 2006 work injury in which a Taco Bell employee fell from a ladder after shocking himself while changing a light bulb. The employee sought treatment for lower back and leg injuries.

The employee was treated for a herniated disc and ultimately assigned a 15 percent permanent disability rating for the back injury. In December 2006, he went to work for IHOP in New Bern, North Carolina for pay that was $200 a week greater than what he earned at Taco Bell. Six months later, he re-injured his back while stooping over to pick up a spatula. He was unable to retain his position at IHOP as a result of work restrictions and later went to work at Wendy’s in Tarboro, North Carolina.

In June 2007, he was involved in a car accident, which he said had no impact on his back injury — However, a month later his pain was so severe that he went to the emergency room and ultimately underwent back surgery.

In a ruling by the workers’ compensation commission, IHOP was ordered to pay workers’ compensation benefits and attorney fees. On appeal, the court noted that the plaintiff bears the burden of proof in a workers’ compensation claim and that aggravating a pre-existing condition may result in the filing of a North Carolina workers’ compensation claim.

However, the court ruled that the victim remained employed as a manager in the fast-food industry, as he had at the time of the initial Taco Bell injury, and that he was therefore not qualified for a 15 percent back disability.

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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