North Carolina Court Upholds Denial of Workers’ Compensation Benefits When Employee Was Unable to Demonstrate that Injury Arose from His Job Duties

The North Carolina workers’ compensation system is complex, and there are many different requirements and legal rules that could affect your ability to recover benefits. At Maurer Law, we have the experience it takes to assist injured workers with receiving the fair treatment they deserve after a work-related injury.In a recent claim appeal, the court considered whether an employee’s injury was compensable in light of a dispute regarding whether it arose out of his employment duties. The plaintiff worked as a press operator for a manufacturing plant for 28 years. On the day of the injury, it was very hot, and he arrived for his shift in the afternoon after spending the beginning of the day tilling potatoes. Toward the end of his shift, the plaintiff collapsed. He did not remember what happened leading up to his collapse and loss of consciousness. The plaintiff received treatment at the hospital, and an MRI test showed that he incurred an injury to his right shoulder as a result of the fall, which required two surgeries.

The plaintiff filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits that was initially denied. The plaintiff sought a rehearing, and the Commissioner concluded that the plaintiff’s injury did not arise out of his employment, so the injury was not compensable. The plaintiff appealed.

On review, the appellate court first stated that an injury is compensable when it was caused by an accident during the course of employment and arose out of employment. When the origin of a fall or the reason behind a fall is unknown, the Commission must use an inference that the fall arose out of employment unless there is evidence that some force or condition independent from the employment caused the fall. According to case law, the appellate court noted that a blackout or loss of consciousness is deemed an explanation for a fall. Accordingly, the appellate court concluded that the trial court properly refused to apply the unexplained fall doctrine. The appellate court noted that the plaintiff was working in an air-conditioned environment and was allowed to eat and drink as much as he wished. He was also standing on level ground at the time of the fall and did not appear to be exerting himself in an excessive manner.

The appellate court also rejected the assertion that the Commissioner improperly relied on medical evidence in reaching the conclusion that the injury did not stem from the plaintiff’s employment.

If you were hurt at work, you may be entitled to benefits through a North Carolina workers’ compensation claim. We know that you are probably overwhelmed by the situation, including the seriousness of your injuries and your frustrations over whether you will be able to return to work. We provide a free consultation to help you understand the workers’ compensation system and how we may be able to help you claim the benefits that you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call us as soon as possible at 1-844-817-8059 or contact us online to get started.

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