Our workers’ compensation lawyers in Gastonia and elsewhere want you to know how complex a workers’ compensation case can be and how important it is to hire an experienced attorney for your North Carolina work-related accident or illness.
Here is a summary of Blakeney v. Blythe Construction Inc., a recent case from the North Carolina Court of Appeals. We will illustrate the complexities and the length of a typical workers’ compensation case.
Let’s review how this case started:
The Plaintiff started working for a construction company at the end of September of 2007. His job duties included removing stumps and operating a large roller machine that is used to compact asphalt and dirt. About two months into the job the Plaintiff’s roller machine crashed into a fuel truck. It was a slow speed crash that caused no damage to either vehicle. The Plaintiff notified his supervisor right after the crash that he was not injured. The Plaintiff was fired and ordered home after this accident because he had been warned after a previous accident with the roller machine. Later in the day the Plaintiff went to Carolinas Medical Center-Union (CMC-Union) emergency room with a complaint of back and neck pain. The Plaintiff had x-rays taken and was given a diagnosis of cervical and back sprain/strain. He was given medications of Vicodin and Flexeril and was discharged without restrictions. The Plaintiff went to the emergency room 3 times between December 2007 and February 2008. At the December visit he was again given the diagnosis of a back sprain/strain and no additional medications were given. He was sent home with no restrictions. At the January visit he was given medications of Flexeril and Toradol for a lower back pain/injury. Kidney stones were the diagnosis at the February visit which was found unrelated to the November 2007 incident.
Further medical exams:
On the advice of his attorney the Plaintiff went to another doctor in April 2008 who performed a thorough exam that concluded with a diagnosis of back and neck strains. Anti-inflammatory medication was prescribed to relieve the swelling and pain and the doctor ordered an MRI. The Plaintiff did not show up to his follow-up appointment in May and it was later determined it was due to him being incarcerated. The Plaintiff continues to have lower back discomfort but the doctor does not give a disability rating to the Plaintiff’s back. A few months short of the 1 year anniversary of the accident the Plaintiff gets a second opinion. After a complete medical exam the doctor assigns a 4 percent permanent partial disability rating.
Filing for compensation and appeals:
A Form 18 was filed by the Plaintiff in January 2008 letting the Defendant know he was injured from the accident that happened at work in November 2007. The Defendant in late October of 2008 denied the workers’ compensation claim. A hearing was requested by the Plaintiff with the Industrial Commission because he felt he should be getting compensated for the permanent partial disability, medical expenses and missed days from work. The Deputy Commissioner in early December of 2009 gave an Opinion and Award that denied the Plaintiff compensation because he did not prove with medical evidence that the injuries he has were the result of the November 2007 incident. The Deputy Commissioner’s Opinion and Award was appealed by the Plaintiff. But the Full Commission sided with the Commissioner and the Plaintiff was denied compensation.
The Full Commission Opinion and Award was appealed by the Plaintiff for the following:
-the Commission wrongly applied the inaccurate legal standard when deciding that he wasn’t allowed compensation for medical care after January 2008;
-the Commission’s findings of conclusions and facts of law aren’t maintained by competent proof in the record;
-the Commission was wrong by failing to decide that the Plaintiff had a right to payment pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-31 (2009);
-the Commission wrongly failed to disclose facts regarding the Plaintiff’s complaints of discomfort in deciding the existence of a disability;
-the Commission was wrong by not finding that the Defendant didn’t have reasonable grounds to defend their action;
-the Commission erred by not assessing attorneys’ charges against the Defendant pursuant to North Carolina General Statute § 97-88.1 (2009).
After review the court sides with the Full Commission and the Plaintiff is denied compensation for his injuries. Whether the Plaintiff in this case had a strong case is irrelevant. What’s important to take away is that these accident cases can be complex and may last for years. Consulting an attorney as early as possible in such cases can help prevent you from being denied benefits.
If you or someone in your family has been injured at a North Carolina jobsite, contact the experienced team of workers’ compensation lawyers at the Lee Law Offices, P.A. Call 1-800-887-1965 for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights.
More Blog Entries:
New Bill Brings Complex Changes to North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, August 10, 2011
North Carolina Work Injuries Often From Job-Related Car Accidents, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, August 18, 2011