If you have been injured while working at your job, it can be very difficult to navigate the process for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
This process can become especially complicated because sometimes it can take days or weeks to notice an injury that occurred as a result of the accident. Some people may think they are not allowed to amend their complaints to include pain that surfaces later, but that is not always true. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals recently held symptoms that appear even months after an accident can still be considered as part of your worker’s compensation claim.
Mr. Ronney Stewart, a man who worked as a truck driver for almost his entire life, experienced this firsthand. In October of 2012, Mr. Stewart had an accident while he was working and was treated for a concussion and a head wound. In his worker’s compensation complaint, Mr. Stewart only cited pain in his “head, neck, back, left arm, and body as a whole.” Later, he amended his complaint to include injuries to his right arm and shoulder.
Medical records showed that Mr. Stewart began complaining about shoulder pain about five months after his accident. An MRI indicated that Mr. Stewart was at maximum medical improvement and was no longer considered to have any impairment. However, Mr. Stewart continued to experience the pain in his right shoulder, so he requested a panel of doctors to check him out as is required by workers’ compensation law. Finally, it was discovered that he had a tear in his right shoulder rotator cuff.
The doctor that found the tear believed it was the accident from 2012 that caused or contributed to the symptoms that Mr. Stewart was experiencing. Based on the doctor’s testimony, the trial court found this injury was compensable.
Alabama law established years ago that even though an employee might not immediately report the symptoms, symptoms may have been caused by the trauma if no intervening event has occurred and no other medical explanation is given. An intervening event is something that occurs after the first accident that could cause injury or harm.
For instance, if Mr. Stewart had been injured playing a game of football, a court might find that it was that event that led to the tear in his rotator cuff rather than his accident. Therefore, even though Mr. Stewart did not feel the repercussions from his injury right away, the Appeals court agreed the injury was still compensable.
Mr. Stewart’s employer also disagreed with the trial court about how long they should have to pay Mr. Stewart temporary total disability benefits. Mr. Stewart was fired on February 4, 2013 because his employer was unable to get him insurance coverage because of all the accidents he had on the job.
The trial court determined the reason for firing Mr. Stewart was related to the injury he sustained in the accident. If Mr. Stewart had had fewer accidents on the job, his employer was much more likely to be able to get him insurance coverage. As such, Court of Civil Appeals held that Mr. Stewart showed a link between his injury and his diminished earning capacity during the period of temporary total disability deemed by the court.
If you have filed a worker’s compensation claim and experience pain after your initial accident, be aware that that pain might still be allowed as part of your claim. An experienced workers compensation attorney can help you throughout process to ensure you are getting the most benefits you are owed.
Contact Alabama Workers’ Compensation Attorney, Joseph A. Ingram at Ingram Law, at (205) 335-2640. for all your questions regarding workers compensation claims.