North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Denial of Workers’ Compensation Claim in Psychiatric Injury Case Based on Improper Appeal Procedures

Many workers’ compensation claims involve physical injuries like strained muscles, broken bones, and chronic back pain. The workers’ compensation system also provides benefits and medical expenses reimbursement for injuries involving psychiatric conditions and mental health. Just like any workers’ compensation claim, however, it is critical to obey all the procedural and evidentiary rules that govern the compensation process. As seasoned North Carolina work injury lawyers, we are prepared to help you navigate the claims process smoothly and efficiently while ensuring that you receive the outcome that you deserve.

In a recent claim, the worker alleged that she suffered from bipolar disorder and depression as a result of working at a bank as a personal banker. The employer’s insurance carrier denied the claim as non-compensable. The plaintiff filed a request to have the denial reviewed and the commissioner who reviewed the claim denied it.

The plaintiff did not file an appeal. Instead, sometime later she filed a motion to set aside the denial based on newly discovered evidence. She alleged that she suffered the disabilities as a result of practices used by the defendant that she described as “sub-human” and alleged that these practices only became knowable after the statute of limitations had expired. Plaintiff’s motion was ultimately denied and she appealed.

On review, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiff failed to meet her burden of showing that the Commission abused its discretion in denying her motion to set aside the order denying her claim. The plaintiff’s new evidence consisted of excerpts of testimony from one of the bank’s executives in a hearing before Congress. According to the plaintiff, this testimony indicated that employees at the bank committed crimes in order to protect their job security and that she was required to abide by “sub-human” performance metrics like opening up an excessive number of new accounts for each established account holder.

In her appeal, however, the plaintiff did not assert the same arguments. Instead, she referred to one of the intermediary court’s appellate opinions questioning the sufficiency of the evidence upon which that judge relied to uphold the denial of her initial claim for benefits. Because the plaintiff had not appealed the denial of her claim for benefits and instead filed a motion to set aside the denial, whether or not the evidence that the intermediary court considered was sufficient to uphold its decision was not an issue that was properly before the present appellate court.

According to North Carolina law, if an issue is not properly preserved for appeal and maintained in the record, a party is barred from asserting any appeal arguments based on that issue. Had the plaintiff filed an appeal from the denial of her claim for benefits, the appellate court would have been able to review the intermediary court’s decision.

If you were hurt on the job, it is critical that you contact our knowledgeable team of North Carolina work injury lawyers to ensure that you start the process of protecting your legal rights correctly. We have handled a wide variety of work injury claims on behalf of residents throughout North Carolina, including psychiatric injuries. We offer a free consultation so that you can learn more about our legal team and how we can assist you. To get started, call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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