North Carolina Appellate Board Upholds Award of Death Benefits and Medical Expenses Reimbursement in Workplace Fatality Case

Sometimes work injuries result in serious consequences for the victims, including death. Although some work injuries are clear-cut when it comes to whether the work-related accident was the cause of the injury or unfortunate death, other cases are rife with issues regarding causation. At Maurer Law, our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers have handled many workers’ compensation claims on behalf of victims and grieving families, and we are ready to assist you in asserting your right to compensation.

In a recent appellate opinion, the court considered a workplace injury that eventually resulted in the death of an employee who suffered groin and abdomen injuries on the job. The injury occurred while the victim was attempting to lift a tire. He did not immediately die from these injuries. The employer and workers’ compensation insurer accepted the validity of the claim and filed a corresponding form that admitted the employee’s right to compensation. The insurer then began providing temporary total disability payments to the decedent’s estate in a certain amount until the victim passed away. The insurer also provided compensation for medical expenses that the decedent incurred, including surgeries, chronic pain, and extensive additional procedures, treatments, and medications.

Some time thereafter, the decedent was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent additional treatments and multiple surgeries to address this treatment, including chemotherapy. The decedent continued to experience pain and symptoms associated with his various conditions. One day, he reported to the emergency room, complaining of severe pain in his abdomen and difficulty urinating. He eventually underwent an emergency surgery to treat a catastrophic necrotic bowel, but he did not regain consciousness following surgery and passed away shortly thereafter. The primary cause of death listed was bowel ischemia.

The decedent’s widow filed a request for death benefits associated with the workplace groin and abdomen injury. The employer and insurance carrier objected, claiming that the decedent did not die as a result of the workplace injury. The judge assigned to the matter concluded that the workplace injury was the cause of the decedent’s ultimate death and awarded death benefits to the widow. The defendants appealed, and the reviewing board approved the award of benefits, finding that the bowel ischemia was a direct and natural outcome and consequence of the injury that the victim sustained at work. The panel also determined that the defendants were required to pay for the medical expenses associated with the decedent’s treatment, in addition to funeral and burial costs. The defendants appealed.

On review, the higher court upheld the lower judges’ decision and rejected the defendants’ assertion that the record lacked sufficient evidence to support the finding of causation and award of benefits. Although the decedent suffered from other medical conditions, including colon cancer, evidence in the record showed that the workplace injury remained a proximate cause and contributing factor to his death.

If you or a loved one were hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Understanding your rights and knowing how to proceed can be difficult. Our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers are standing by to provide you with compassionate, experienced, and responsive legal counsel during this difficult time. We represent clients throughout Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem. To arrange your free consultation, call us now at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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