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Aggravation of preexisting condition prompts workers' comp

Most are probably aware that under many circumstances injuries suffered while working are eligible for workers' compensation benefits. But what if the part of the body injured in a work place incident suffered damage in a previous incident outside of the workplace? Recently the North Carolina Court of Appeals addressed this very issue. It determined that in certain situations, the aggravation of a preexisting injury did not necessarily preclude the receipt of workers' compensation benefits

The claim was sought by a woman who works in a grocery store. One day, while walking in her backyard she reportedly stepped in a hole which resulted in her twisting her left ankle. Approximately a week later she caught her left foot on something in a walk-in cooler which caused her to fall on her other leg, inflicting injuries. In addition to tearing her meniscus, she also reportedly suffered a bruised bone. 

Those injuries prompted the woman to seek workers' compensation benefits which her employer, the grocery store, denied. In its denial the store alleged that the injuries were actually due to the fall she had taken at home a week prior to the work incident. When a claim for workers' compensation benefits is initially denied, such as in this case, it is possible for a worker to appeal that decision. This is what the woman in this case did, causing it to end up at the North Carolina Court of Appeals. 

The court found in favor of the woman and determined that the work accident left her entitled to:

  • Temporary partial disability payments
  • Medical compensation
  • Average weekly wage compensation

In reaching that conclusion the court looked to several things. The first was information provided by the injured worker. In addition to saying the fall at home did not cause the injuries she suffered to her right leg, she also reportedly did not need to seek medical  assistance. In addition, a doctor determined that even if the worker had a preexisting condition, the workplace accident aggravated it. 


Source: Risk and Insurance, "Worker connects injuries with fall at work rather than incident at home," May 6, 2013

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