North Carolina Appellate Court Affirms Award of 15% Disability in Knee Injury Claim

A key aspect of a workers’ compensation claim is to determine the severity and scope of the injury to assess whether the worker will be paid partial or total injury benefits as well as permanent or temporary injury benefits. This is a complicated process that involves a thorough examination of the employee’s work history, physical assessment, and other factors. As seasoned North Carolina work injury lawyers, we can help you ensure that you receive the amount of benefit payments that you deserve.

In a recent case, the North Carolina appellate court discussed the process for assessing whether a worker has sufficiently proven that he or she lost wages as a result of the work injury. The plaintiff owned a stump grinding business and fell while he was working in October 2012. He was diagnosed with a rupture to his quadriceps and required surgery. He had a second rupture in February 2013 that also required surgery.

Eventually, the plaintiff’s doctor concluded that he’d reached maximum medical improvement and that he had a 15% permanent partial disability in his left knee. A second opinion from another doctor concluded that it was a 20% permanent partial disability. An independent medical examiner concluded that the plaintiff could continue working in the same capacity.

At this juncture, the plaintiff also mentioned issues with his Achilles tendon that he had not mentioned to either of his treating doctors. One of the doctors attributed the Achilles injury to the October 2012 injury and the presiding Commissioner adopted this diagnosis. In his judgment, the judge ordered the insurer to pay Plaintiff for the 15% disability to his left leg and all other claims were denied, including the claim for his Achilles tendon injury. Both parties appealed.

The plaintiff argued that he was entitled to temporary total disability compensation including treatment for his Achilles tendon. The appellate court rejected the plaintiff’s position after finding sufficient evidence in the record to uphold the judge’s findings. It started by reviewing the standard for total temporary benefits, which requires the court to find that the plaintiff was incapable of earning the same wages after his injury in either the same or different employment and that his incapacity to earn was due to the work injury. The plaintiff has the burden of establishing these factors, as well.

According to the record, the plaintiff did not meet the burden of showing that his ability to earn the same wage was affected by the injury. The plaintiff testified that he had hired more subcontractors and performed less physical work since the injury. The business continued to operate in much the same fashion, even on the days that the plaintiff had surgery. The plaintiff’s testimony also supported thee findings, specifically that he arranged to have a subcontractor perform a job while in his hospital bed. As a result of these findings, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s order.

If you were hurt on the job, you should speak to a seasoned North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. At Maurer Law, we will assist you with each aspect of the claims process and help you ensure that you receive the fair outcome that you deserve. We know how intimidating this process can be, which is why we offer a free consultation to discuss your situation. Call us now at 888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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