Workers’ Compensation award reversed by North Carolina Appeals Court

If you are involved in a North Carolina work accident in Charlotte or elsewhere, we urge you to hire experienced workers’ compensation attorneys that will protect your rights. As this case illustrates North Carolina workers’ compensation cases can be extremely complex.

After falling through a suspended ceiling and dropping over ten feet to a concrete floor, a welder and steel fabricator injured his back.
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He returned to work about two months later after receiving occupational therapy and medical treatment. He had also been given a medical authorization to return to work. Medical expenses were paid for by his employer through workers’ compensation benefits. During the following months his back discomfort persisted so he went to an orthopedic surgeon. It turns out the worker had bulging discs, extrusions and a herniation along his spine as revealed by two MRI’s.

Due to the severe nature of his back injury and because he was unable to return to his job, the worker applied to the North Carolina Industrial Commission for additional benefits. The worker was awarded temporary total disability in addition to medical expenses because the Commission felt his ongoing back problems were from the original injury.

The Commission’s decision was appealed by the workers employer based on a legal doctrine known as the Parsons presumption. A three-judge panel reviewed the case and concluded there was no previous ruling of a compensable injury by the Commission. The initial workers’ compensation benefits proceedings had only involved medical expenses. The Parsons presumption is only valid if one of three things has occurred: the employer was found to be responsible for a compensable injury, the employer acknowledged to compensability, or the employer and worker made a deal regarding compensability.

The Appellate court cited, Biddix v. Rex Mills, a 1953 case, that acceptance of a claim on a medicals-only basis “cannot in any sense be deemed an admission of liability.” Lacking the legal presumption, the court had to see if the worker’s orthopedic surgeon had linked the original injury to the chronic symptoms that developed later.

Sufficient evidence did not support that the current symptoms were caused by the previous injury. The Appellate Court sided with the employer and reversed the disability decision by the Commission.

If you are dealing with a work accident in North Carolina, contact the experienced attorneys at the Lee Law Offices, P.A. today for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-887-1965.

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