Medic must settle for eight weeks of temporary disability for soft tissue injury
Case name: Wilcoxson v. Woodward County EMS, et al., No. 106678 (Okla. Civ. App. 05/06/10).
Ruling: The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals upheld the Workers' Compensation Court's decision awarding a medic eight weeks of temporary total disability benefits for a nonsurgical soft tissue injury.
What it means:
Under Oklahoma law, a soft tissue injury does not include injury to or disease of the spine "where corrective surgery is performed." An epidural steroid injection is not a surgical procedure. As a result, where the employee sustains an injury to the cervical spine but does not undergo corrective surgery, her benefits are limited to eight weeks of TTD compensation.
A medic and her coworker were delivering an obese patient to a nursing home when the coworker got called away on an emergency. The medic opted to continue moving the patient by herself. Using a sheet, she transferred the patient, who weighed approximately 400 pounds, from a gurney to a bed. In so doing, she injured her back, neck and other areas of her body. The medic sought review of the WCC's decision limiting her benefits to eight weeks of TTD compensation, arguing that her neck injury was not a "soft tissue injury" because she had undergone a surgical procedure. The Court of Civil Appeals rejected her argument and upheld the award.
The relevant Oklahoma statute excludes from the definition of soft tissue injury an "injury to or disease of the spine, spinal disks, spinal nerves or spinal cord, where corrective surgery is performed." The distinction is critical because without such surgery, a claimant's compensation is limited to eight weeks of TTD.
The medic first contended that her neck injury was not a soft tissue injury because an epidural steroid injection had been recommended. The court disagreed that an injection would qualify as a surgical procedure.
The medic also challenged the WCC's order on specificity grounds, arguing that because it failed to state whether the award was being made pursuant to the soft tissue injury limitation, it was "too indefinite and uncertain for judicial interpretation." The court disagreed, finding that the facts and legal theory upon which the order was based were "readily identifiable."
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July 29, 2010
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