North Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Workers Compensation Award

NORTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS WORKERS COMPENSATION AWARD

When workers suffer injuries on the job, their options for recovering compensation for medical expenses and lost income are different from typical personal injury claims. Whether they are eligible for workers compensation or also have a third-party claim due to a work-related car or truck accident, a work injury attorney can explain the legal complexities.

A recent case before the Supreme Court of North Carolina reveals some of the challenges that may arise before a worker secures the right to benefits. In McAdams v. Safety Kleen Systems, a North Carolina truck driver’s temporary total disability benefits were reinstated after the Court of Appeals had reversed the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s initial award of $754 per week.

While the employer never disputed that the injuries were compensable, it appealed based on arguments over the extent of injury. The Court of Appeals reversed the award and remanded the case for further proceedings based on the driver’s inconsistent accounts of the accident as well as the absence of specific findings by the Industrial Commission regarding the nature of his injuries.

In the truck driver’s written report to his employer after the accident, he said that an oncoming car struck his truck when he was making a left turn across two lanes and the other driver veered out of her lane causing a collision. In the corresponding police report, the other driver confirmed that the truck driver had turned in front of her.

In a subsequent medical visit, the truck driver told his doctor that the other car had rear-ended his vehicle. While some medical reports confirmed that the truck driver had suffered injuries that made him unable to return to work, others concluded that he had not sustained a serious injury that prevented him from working.

The Supreme Court reversed, adopting the reasoning stated by one dissenting Court of Appeals judge who maintained that the Industrial Commission had sufficient evidence before it to support the conclusion it reached. The court also noted that weighing of the evidence is the sole responsibility of the Industrial Commission judges who conduct hearings.

Representing injured workers who need compensation for expenses and lost income

Most work injury cases do not require appeals to the state’s high court to ensure that the law is applied correctly. Nonetheless, a workers’ comp lawyer can help clients prepare all aspects of the case to avoid confusion, inaccuracy and potential delays in benefits.