Typically, these are individuals who are already receiving workers’ compensation benefits as a result of occupational injury, and then those injuries get worse. In some cases, the condition evolves into a permanent injury.
In North Carolina, injured workers have two years from the date their settlement is accepted in which they can re-open their workers’ compensation claim, assuming the settlement was based on their rating of disability. There are certain cases that may not be ripe for re-opening (i.e., those involving clincher agreements). But these are details injured workers will need to discuss with an attorney.
According to court records, plaintiff worked at a tire company for 30 years when in late 2009, he suffered injuries to his head, neck, back and right shoulder, hip and knee. He was thrown into a steel cage by an 800-pound roll of fabric.
The incident and injury was reported to his employer.
Ten days later, he was back at work when his left ankle gave out. As a result, he injured his left hand, knee, shoulder and ankle.
He filed a request for temporary total disability – which was awarded – and he underwent surgery on both shoulders, both knees, his back and his left ankle.
He requested a trial date on the following issues:
- Temporary total disability benefits;
- Permanent partial disability/ impairment;
- Continuing medical treatment;
- Pain management/ prescriptions;
- Whether he should be allowed to continue under the care of two specific doctors for depression.
Trial court entered an award for permanent partial disability benefits and disfigurement, but made no mention of the other issues, including ongoing medical treatment or prescriptions. Plaintiff did not appeal the order.
However, just 26 days later, he requested the case be reopened on the issue of continuing medical maintenance and asking that a portion of the permanent partial disability award be granted in a lump sum. Employer argued these issues couldn’t be tried again and plaintiff hadn’t properly preserved them.
At a hearing, the court determined the permanent partial disability finding was final and therefore the court had no jurisdiction over the matter. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed this. But the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed.
The court noted there was no transcript of the initial hearing on the issue of permanent partial disability, though defendant contended plaintiff never expressly asked for continuing medical maintenance at the hearing. However, it was noted on his initial complaint that he was asking for it.
This would have been grounds for an appeal to seek a correction, he did not do so. This meant the only recourse he had at that point was to re-open the case.
Employer had raised the argument of res judicata, which basically means the same issue can’t be litigated twice. However in this case, there was no evidence the issue of continuing medical maintenance was actually litigated in the initial hearing.
Therefore, reopening the case for this purpose was proper.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Loyd v. Michelin North America, Inc., April 26, 2016, Oklahoma Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Clark County v. McManus – Workers’ Compensation Appeal, May 2, 2016, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog