North Carolina Appellate Court Issues Opinion in Right Shoulder Injury Case When the Worker Claimed Change of Condition

Injury accidents can result in a wide variety of conditions and disabilities. Some instances are relatively minor but there are occasions in which the victim is left with permanent disabilities that will impact their well-being for the rest of their lives. The workers’ compensation system is designed to provide injured workers with benefit payments and medical expenses reimbursements in the event that they are injured. When a worker’s injury changes over time, however, many insurance companies take this as an opportunity to avoid having to continue paying benefits. The diligent team of Charlotte work injury lawyers at Maurer Law are ready to ensure that you receive the fair outcome that you deserve.

In a recent case, the injured worker suffered injuries to her face, head, neck, and right shoulder during a work-related accident in 1995. She filed a workers’ compensation claim, which was litigated on numerous occasions during the following two decades to determine which expenses were compensable. An award in 2003 left open the issue of whether the plaintiff was entitled to permanent partial disability payments for her right shoulder injury until a doctor was able to conclude that the plaintiff reached maximum medical improvement.

The plaintiff underwent several treatments and exams regarding the right shoulder injury. In 2011, the plaintiff filed an occupational disease claim for upper extremity conditions she suffered due to the repetitive nature of her job duties. The commission denied the request and also concluded that she had failed to satisfy the standard of an occupational disease.

In 2016, the plaintiff filed a request for a hearing on the basis that there had been a change in her condition. She underwent an independent medical exam, which revealed significant degenerative changes and other injuries to her right shoulder including a partial thickness rotator cuff tear. Surgery was not recommended. The injury was linked to the 1995 accident. Another doctor, however, concluded that the injury was not related to the 1995 accident. Ultimately, the court denied the plaintiff’s change of condition motion and the plaintiff appealed.

On review, the appellate court reversed and remanded the case for additional findings on whether the plaintiff was entitled to disability compensation for her right shoulder injury. The lower court made inconsistent findings regarding the medical testimony and evidence from the two doctors. Based on this, the appellate court concluded that the insurer had failed to show that the current right shoulder condition was not related to the 1995 accident. The appellate court also concluded that because the case had left open the issue of whether the shoulder injury reached maximum medical improvement, it was premature to determine whether there had been a change of condition.

If you were hurt at work, you should speak to an experienced Charlotte work injury lawyer as soon as possible to explore your legal rights and options. Maurer Law knows how stressful this situation can be and how overwhelming the workers’ compensation claims process might seem while you are coping with the pain of your injury and countless doctors’ appointments. We offer a free consultation to discuss your situation and how we may be able to assist you. Call us as soon as possible at 1-844-817-8058 or contact us online to get started.