North Carolina Appellate Court Reverses Order Denying Benefits to Injured Employee in Pre-Existing Back Injury Claim

If you were injured on the job, there are certain rules and procedures that govern whether you are able to recover compensation and benefit payments. Knowing which documents to file and ensuring that you preserve your rights can be stressful on top of coping with your injuries and inability to work. At Maurer Law, our reliable team of North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers is standing by and ready to assist you in ensuring that you receive the full amount of compensation that you deserve.

In a recent appellate decision, the North Carolina Court of Appeal considered whether an injured worker filed a back injury claim within the appropriate deadline against a specific insurance company. The plaintiff suffered a back injury while she was employed as a nurse in 2007. She filed a claim seeking workers’ compensation benefits, and the insurer for her employer accepted liability on the claim. The plaintiff sought additional compensation a year later. Throughout the next five years, the plaintiff suffered additional accidents at work that caused her back injury to worsen. The insurer did not dispute whether these were compensable injuries and provided medical compensation until the plaintiff was able to return to work.

Also during the five-year time period, the workers’ compensation insurer for the defendant changed twice. In January 2012, the plaintiff suffered another injury and was diagnosed with recurrent back pain. The current insurer denied coverage for an MRI that her treating physician recommended. The insurer claimed that the plaintiff needed to file a new claim for benefits with the new insurer reflecting the new injury. The insurer overall challenged whether the new back injury was causally related to the original back injury. After additional hearings and proceedings, the Commission concluded that the new back injury was not causally related to the existing back injury. Since the employee did not file a claim with the new insurer within two years after suffering the new back injury, the Commission dismissed her claim for benefits.

The plaintiff appealed, and the reviewing court reversed the finding that the claim was untimely. The appellate court stated that it is the employer that is liable for the injury and that the employee need only notify the employer that a work-related injury has taken place. The court also noted that once a successive injury occurs that irritates an existing condition, the employer is liable for both injuries. The appellate court further underscored the fact that the employer had immediate notice of the new back injury.

If you were harmed at work and believe that you may have a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, it is essential that you explore your rights as soon as possible. There may be rules and time limitations that apply to your claim and that could jeopardize your right to recovery if they are not followed appropriately. At Maurer Law, we offer a free consultation to help you learn more about your legal options and how we can assist you. For a free consultation, call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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