Smith v. Wake County Government Proves Need for Immediate Attorney Consultation for Workers’ Compensation

A man has lost his appeal of a North Carolina workers’ compensation claim when the appeals court affirmed an earlier ruling that he didn’t prove his injuries were sustained in the work accident, as opposed to in a prior incident.


Our North Carolina workers compensation attorneys believe this case, Smith v. Wake County Government, underscores the importance of having a lawyer who will examine all aspects of your case before taking it to court, as well as advise you of proper reporting procedure. Your attorney has to be prepared to prove not only that your injuries may be substantial enough to warrant compensation, but they must also prove, through the use of medical and industry experts, that your suffering is a direct result of a job-related incident or action.

The facts of this case are as follows:

Three years ago, Gregory Smith was working as a building inspector for the Wake County government. That summer, he arrived at the site of a private home that was under renovation. He was there to conduct an inspection. As soon as he got there, he took note that the back door was open. He walked inside, and stumbled upon a burglar, who was upstairs. When the intruder tried to run passed him, Smith grabbed him by the shirt. The burglar fought Smith’s grip and was able to free himself before taking off on foot.

Smith called both his supervisor and the police.

He testified before the court that at the time, he felt soreness, though he didn’t immediately report that to anyone. Over the coming weeks, however, pain in his arm, shoulder and neck began to amplify. This is not uncommon with certain injuries – it may even take months for the effects to become fully apparent.

The following month, Smith went to his doctor, complaining of serious pain in his arm. He didn’t mention the incident with the intruder, but an MRI found that a disc in his spine had been compressed and he had a torn rotator cuff. He was then referred to a neurosurgeon, who ended up recommending and conducting a series of shoulder surgeries. However, he never mentioned the intruder incident to the surgeon.

The surgeon later testified that while the injuries were most likely due to the incident with the burglar – which at the very least aggravated a pre-existing condition of a bone spur – he also testified that the Smith was inconsistent in his reporting of the incident to medical professionals.

This led a lower court to conclude that there was no definitive proof that Smith’s injuries were caused by the incident with the burglar.

So even though the doctor testified under oath that the injuries were acute and likely inflicted within six weeks of the initial visit – which would put it right at the time of the incident with the intruder – Smith’s failure to properly recount the incident to his doctors may have led to his not being awarded compensation for his injuries.

Early this month, the appeals court upheld this ruling.

Again, this case illustrates why it is so crucial if you have been injured in a work-related incident – no matter how minor – one of your first calls should be to an experienced workers compensation attorney.

If you, a coworker or a member of your family has been injured on the job in Asheville, Rock Hill or elsewhere throughout the Carolinas, contact Lee Law Offices, P.A. for a free and confidential appointment. Call 1-800-887-1965 to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney about your clai oday.

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