Proof of Casual Relationship Required for Compensable Work Injuries

The lingering effects of a work-related injury can last a lifetime. If a worker has to undergo continuing treatment for that earlier injury, our Winston-Salem workers’ compensation lawyers will fight to make sure that the new expenses are covered.
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It’s important for workers in these situations tounderstand that proving correlation between current medical treatment and a previous work injury can be a complex matter. However, it’s imperative that there be ample and continuing documentation proving that the two are connected. Otherwise, an administrative law judge could reject your claim.

That’s what happened in the recent case of Bodily v. State ex rel. Wyo. Workers’ Safety & Comp. Div., which was reviewed by the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Court documents show that the claimant suffered a back injury that was work-related in 1996. He was 30-years-old at the time, an the emergency room report indicates that at the time of the injury, he was lifting and turning to place a muffler on a piece of heavy machinery. In the course of this, he began to suffer intense pain that then resulted in severe spasms.

For that incident, he received workers’ compensation and his medical bills were covered.

He eventually returned to work. In 2004, while employed by a different company, he injured his back turning and twisting, while carrying a box down a flight of stairs. He received treatment from a chiropractor. A radiologist indicated that he didn’t have any fractures or other spinal abnormalities, though the state’s workers’ compensation division did deem the injury compenseable and paid his medical expenses.

From that point on, he occasionally received treatment for back pain that was unrelated to his work.

Then in 2007, he sought the opinion of a surgeon for treatment of his back pain. The surgeon indicated bulging discs and some damage to nerves, but recommended steroid injections. Later, she agreed to perform surgery.

The employee sought to have these expenses covered. However, this time, the administrative law judge denied the request, ultimately finding that these most recent injuries were not related to the early work-related incidents. The worker appealed, arguing that all of his back injuries stemmed from injuries that occurred at work.

While the appeal was pending, the worker sought treatment from another doctor for severe, ongoing lower back pain. Another surgery was performed, and an artificial disc was implanted.

Subsequently, the state found that the testimony presented by the insurer’s expert regarding the source of the worker’s injuries was more persuasive than the evidence supplied by the worker. The expert testified that the worker’s condition was caused by continuing degenerative disc disease, rather than any work-related incident.

The worker appealed. The Wyoming Supreme Court upheld the earlier decision, as it found no reversible error.

Employees who claim that a second injury is compensable because it was causally related to the first bear the burden of proof in showing that a causal connection exists. That’s true in Wyoming and it’s true in North Carolina.

These cases tend to be more complex, and require a legal team that has extensive experience in handling worker compensation claims.

Contact the Lee Law Offices in Winston-Salem by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Bodily v. State ex rel. Wyo. Workers’ Safety & Comp. Div., March 13, 2014, Wyoming Suprem Court

More Blog Entries
Know Your NC Workers’ Compensation Rights, March 4, 2014, Winston-Salem Work Injury Lawyer Blog

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