When the metal boom hits a worker’s helmet and knocks it 2 feet on the ground, one would think that that would be evidence of a serious injury. However, in the recent case of Blue vs Michels Corporation, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission correctly denied benefits as not being related to a workplace accident.
How is this so if both sides did not dispute the fact of the incident?
Herndon workplace injury Lawyer Doug Landau points out that, “it is not enough to have had an incident at work, that incident must produce an injury, and there should be contemporaneous proof supporting an injury by accident in the course and scope of employment.” Landau adds that “not every single workplace event is covered under the Virginia Worker’s Compensation act.”
In the Blue case, the accident occurred December 15, 2020, and the claimant continued working on the day of their injury, but did not report his symptoms till several days later. His testimony before the Deputy Commissioner was that he received medical treatment right after his symptoms began. However, the first medical record submitted by the claimant in support of his case was dated January 11, 2021 – nearly a MONTH after the accident. It included a full duty work releaseeffective January 14, 2021 and made no mention whatsoever of any work accident that occurred a month earlier. The injured worker also submitted a hospital bill dated December 29, 2020, showing that he may have received medical treatment there for his injuries. However, there was no medical record to go with that bill, and therefore no competent evidence to support that he suffered a disability because of the December 15th accident. The first medical record that even mentioned a workplace injury was dated February 12, 2021. This was NINE days after his termination from Michels Corporation, and nearly 2 months following the work accident.
The Court of Appeals had the transcript from the trial level hearing before the Deputy Commissioner and the opinion of the Virginia for Commission on Review. They were impressed by the fact that his neck MRI revealed degenerative (gradual, not acute or sudden) changes in his anatomy and that his shoulder MRI revealed a low-grade partial thickness tearing of the infraspinatus with varying degrees of tendinosis and osteoarthritis. These findings, osteoarthritis, tendinosis, and degenerative disc disease, are often from long- standing, chronic conditions.
The Court of Appeals noted that there was no medical evidence attributing the middle boom hitting the claimant to show these conditions. Furthermore, while the claimant’s neurologist mentioned the December 15 incident in her note several months later, she admitted that she had no prior records to review. She was unable to make any comparisons, and unable to say whether they were pre-existing conditions at play. She concluded that the injured worker’s exam was normal and recommended no work restrictions. The Court of Appeals of Virginia concluded that the totality of the evidence “did not establish any of claimant’s conditions resulted from the work accident. “
The Virginia Court of Appeals found that the worker testified to having those symptoms following the incident and he was able to continue working. The Appellate Court also noted that they don’t weigh the credibility of witnesses, which is a function for the Worker’s Compensation Commission. In other words, the Court of Appeals will generally not go behind the lower courts’ witness testimony credibility findings. The injured worker did not meet his burden of proving a causal connection between his alleged disability and the agreed-upon work incident that occurred on December 2020. Therefore, the appellate court upheld the full Commission in denying any benefits whatsoever to injured Mr. Blue.
This case is good illustration of what things are needed in order to successfully prove a compensable injury by accident before the Virginia compensation board. If you or someone you care for has gone through a similar experience or has any questions about a workplace accident, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (703) 796-9555.