North Carolina Appellate Court Reverses Denial of Benefits Based on Lower Court’s Improper Determination Regarding whether Employee’s Search for Work was Reasonable

When you are injured at work, you may be prevented from returning to your usual occupation either for a temporary period of time or indefinitely. There are many different rules in the North Carolina workers’ compensation laws that require an injured worker to make a reasonable effort to find suitable work in the event that he or she cannot return to his or her usual employment. One of the most common defenses that employers assert is that the injured worker did not perform a diligent search. At Maurer Law, we have substantial experience ensuring that workers are treated fairly in a workers’ compensation claim and that they receive the full amount of benefits that they deserve.

A recent North Carolina appellate opinion discusses the issue of reasonableness. The worker was injured in an accident involving a flatbed truck during the course and scope of his employment. He received emergency medical treatment and complained of pain in the left side of his back, hip, and knee. He received treatment for his injuries including physical therapy and pain medication. He eventually returned to work, but indicated that his back pain increased. The employee attempted to obtain different positions with his employer but was unable to qualify for the positions due to his back pain.

The worker continued to undergo different medical treatments and examinations for his back pain. He was eventually diagnosed with non-mechanical back pain and a spinal contusion.

The parties agreed that the worker was injured, but the employer disputed the extent of the worker’s injuries. The court awarded the worker temporary total disability benefits but did not award the full duration of benefits that the worker claimed based on its determination that the man had not made a reasonable effort to find suitable employment or that as a result of his injury and work restrictions a search would have been futile. The worker appealed on the basis that he was not required to search for employment positions outside of his existing employer. The employer argued that the plaintiff’s search was insufficient.

The appellate court first reviewed the standard for determining whether an employee has made a genuine effort for obtaining employment, stating that there is no general rule for assessing reasonableness. Instead, it is up to the Commission to decide what was reasonable. and that the Commission must make specific findings of fact to support its conclusions. The court then reviewed the Commission’s findings regarding the worker’s job search and concluded that the lower court failed to provide any explanation for its determination of whether the employee’s search was reasonable. Accordingly, the appellate court remanded the matter with instructions to the lower court to further examine the issue of reasonableness.

If you were hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation and benefits. The seasoned team of work injury lawyers at Maurer Law have assisted injured people throughout North Carolina with a broad range of injury types involving many different occupations. We know how stressful this situation is for you and your family and how important it is for you to have some sense of financial security as you cope with your injuries. We provide a free consultation so call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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