North Carolina Court Upholds Award of Benefits to Injured Grocery Store Worker

If you were injured at work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Our dedicated team of North Carolina work injury lawyers have assisted individuals throughout the region with a wide variety of injury types and legal issues. The workers’ compensation process can be very complex, which is why it helps to have an experienced legal advocate on your side.

In a recent case, the North Carolina appellate court considered a claim in which the worker hurt his back while working in the produce department of a grocery store. He was lifting watermelons from a bin which required him to bend over and scoop them out of the bin. He experienced a sudden onset of pain in his right arm and shoulder. A medical exam was conducted and the doctor concluded that the injury was likely neurological in nature. The MRI revealed acute and chronic damage to his spine with multilevel degenerative disc disease. The doctor attributed it to a sudden event but noted that MRIs do not indicate when an injury occurred. He also identified narrowing of the worker’s spinal cord.

He underwent further treatment, including a decompression surgery for his spine. One of his doctors testified that he could not give a medical opinion with a reasonable degree of certainty regarding whether the incident with the watermelons was the primary cause of his injury. The employer challenged the worker’s claim for benefits on the basis that the injury was chronic and not related to the course and scope of his employment. The Commission agreed with the employer and the worker appealed.

The full commission reversed the denial of benefits, finding enough evidence in the record and medical testimony to support a causal link between the work incident and his injury. The defendants appealed, arguing that the commission relied on an incompetent expert medical opinion in finding a causal relationship because the testimony was based primarily on the timing of the injury and the aggravation of his spinal condition. The appellate court first noted that medical opinions cannot be used as competent evidence where it is based on speculation and conjecture. It also noted that medical evidence based solely on the timing of events and symptoms does not rise to the level of competent evidence.

Turning to the case at hand, the reviewing court concluded that the medical evidence met the sufficient burden and was not simply reliant on the sequence of events related to the worker’s symptoms. The expert made some reference to timing, but the opinion as a whole was not based solely on the temporal connection between the injury and the symptoms that the worker experienced.

Work injuries can be extremely painful and stressful. Our seasoned team of North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers is prepared to answer your questions and to help assess your potential claim for benefits. We offer a free consultation so that you can learn more about our attorneys and how we can assist you during this difficult time. Call us now at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.

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