N.C. Appeals Court Affirms Workers’ Compensation Award

The North Carolina Court of Appeals has affirmed a workers’ compensation award to a woman who sought ongoing compensation for medical treatment for pain in her lower back pertaining to an old work-related injury. gavel

In the recent case, defendant company/ insurer argued they successfully refuted the evidentiary presumption outlined in the precedent-setting Parsons v. Pantry, Inc. The court in the Parsons case held that if a plaintiff meets the initial burden of showing a causal relationship between the injury and a work-related accident or condition, she is entitled to the presumption that her current symptoms and medical treatment associated with those are directly related to the compensable injury. In North Carolina, this is referred to as “the Parsons presumption.” However, the appellate court ruled in this case that defendants failed to properly rebut that presumption, and that even if they had, plaintiff presented sufficient evidence demonstrating that her back pain and treatment for it is directly related to the compensable injury.

This case highlights the fact that even once workers prevail in obtaining workers’ compensation, they can’t always count on being able to keep it indefinitely.

In these situations, it’s necessary to hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Winston-Salem.

According to court records, plaintiff suffered a compensable work injury in 1998 when she sat down in a chair at work and heard a sudden “pop” and fell to the floor. The company accepted the workers’ compensation claim and covered her medical expenses and lost wages benefits after the injury.

She underwent an extensive course of conservative treatment for six months, but then ultimately at her doctor’s recommendation had back surgery. Still, she continued to experience debilitating pain and other symptoms, and was referred to another doctor for additional surgery that involved inter-body spinal fusion with metal plates.

By 2001, her doctors opined she reached maximum medical improvement, and assigned her a 20 percent partial disability rating to her spine. A few months after that, she started experiencing major pain in her left leg and left hip. A CT scan showed the bone graft material was compressing a nerve.

She and her employer agreed not long after that the indemnity part of her case (that which involves lost wages) would be closed, but the medical portion stayed open.

For a few years thereafter, her medical reimbursements were suspended due to alcohol and cocaine abuse and addiction.

However, she also sought treatment numerous times for falling down. She noted her back injury pain had gotten somewhat better, but she consumed an estimated 30 Tylenol a day. She sought various treatments for her musculoskeletal pain. However, when a surgeon recommended she undergo a surgical procedure to destroy the nerve roots in her back to help ease her pain, defendants refused to pay. A doctor hired by defendant to examine patient agreed the woman’s pain and the treatment was related to her original injury, but disagreed that it was medically necessary.

When defendants refused to pay for the treatment, plaintiff sought a hearing, after which a deputy commissioner ordered defendants to pay for all treatment related to plaintiff’s back injury, including the recommended treatment. Defendants appealed to the full commission which affirmed and also ordered defendants to pay a fee for failure to timely cover the cost of plaintiff’s expert witness fee. Defendants then appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which also affirmed.

Contact the Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Thornton v. C&J Carriage House, Jan. 17, 2017, North Carolina Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries:

Myles v. LMS, Inc. – Workers’ Compensation and Incarceration, Jan. 20, 2017, Winston-Salem Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog

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